Nexomon: Extinction, while maybe not perfect, is perhaps one of the better monster catching games that I’ve played in a long while. Doing away with taking forever to get to the point, you, an orphan who seems to continuously get into trouble set out on a journey into the world when the world itself seems to be coming to an end.
I love the Pokemon series. I own just about every iteration that I could get my hands on over the years and in certain cases own doubles that I had gotten for ex-partners so that we could challenge each other and so that my own copies’ progress would be safe. That said, from the new direction of Sun and Moon to the more modern takes of Sword and Shield, it takes FOREVER to get anywhere. There’s tons of long winded dialog, did you knows, maybe we should show yous, and follow me I’ll recap everything that I’ve literally just told you because, we need to hold your hand before submitting you to a brutal 40 hour grinding RPG where you capture creatures and make them fight for you.
Starting off with a scene in which things clearly went wrong sometime down the line in the future, you’re brought backwards where you can both select your name and what you look like. Kicking events into gear, it turns out that “today” is graduation day at the orphanage where several orphas are picked in order to go out and capture their very own Nexomon in order to become tamers and be able to head out into the world on their own. Over the top and quite amusingly, it doesn’t take long for things to go entirely sideways, get attacked by a dragon, obtain the first of your Nexomon as way of a “starter”, and then get some quick training via a ghost as your cat companion that speaks for you tells her that obviously all you need to do is weaken it and throw a trap. So you do and then things are put into your hands.
It’s quite clear that Nexomon is based off of the giant and current reigning king of Pokemon, but that’s about where things kind of stop. This isn’t a journey of self discovery. It’s not a journey of being #1 and catching them all. Instead, it’s a journey of survival as the world is seemingly coming to an end between the recent activity of the Dragons and beings known as Tyrants that are super power Nexnomon that have been decimating humanity for some time now. Only adding to this premise is that you can see the destruction in multiple places as cities now lay in ruin as you walk by them on the way to your next goal, or, if you want, in the complete opposite direction for some side adventuring of your own because why not? The world is ending, why listen to some adults that let it happen?
And just this one aspect made Nexomon that much more than a “clone” could have been. That one decision to allow you to explore at your own pace makes this more an RPG and there are a ton of side quests both big and small that help to reinforce this. So, instead of following what I was told, I explored a bit, found out I could head to a paradise island and found myself getting a variety of Nexomon that could only help me out later with the wide range of elements that they provided. Side to this, because of the amount of time that I spent on this island, I came to realize a few other things about Nexomon that fixes so many issues that I’ve had with the Pokemon series over the years. Remember that trainer that you defeated hours ago on your first trip out? They want payback and their Nexomon? They are fairly well leveled and ready for a rematch.
Instead of simply making a world and keeping it stagnant which is an unfortunate railroading mechanic like some DM that just can’t be bothered to make something up on the fly for what’s down the other path, this world continues to move in a variety of ways. The first, as stated right above is that you can reface other trainers on the roads a number of times which really helps to level up your Nexomon a lot faster than fighting against wild ones would. The next is that because of how easy it is to go back and forth, the wild Nexomon will level up over time which means if you need another element that you don’t currently have? You can go back, capture them and not need to level up fourteen or twenty levels in order to get them to catch up to the rest of your party. More often than not, you’ll simply need to get them to catch up by a few levels which doesn’t waste your time.
On that though, battling is another area where a lot of fluff has been removed. Moves take a second to perform and if you’re confident enough with the first ability in the list you can simply spam it and be done allowing you to move on. Changing Nexomon takes another second and you get to continue though that particular system does have an issue but more on that in a second. Finally, instead of dealing with Power Points (PP) for individual moves making some rather useless over time or needing to make you head back out and heal, each Nexomon instead has a stamina bar and each of their four moves simply require a specific stamina amount to be used. Doing away with the PP system allows for a more creative use of Nexomon in battle as if you do run out? A Nexomon will flag that it’s tired but at least restore a bit of Stamina on their own allowing you to use an Ether to further restore it for them.
Now while using an item feels like it would be the proper use of a turn as you restored either health or stamina, healed a burn or the frozen status, switching Nexomon at any point will get you hit. I’ve no other descriptor than it being “dirty” that this system is in place. Whether you are switching a Nexnomon out on the fly or one faints, yours or theirs, you can keep attacking regardless. This means if you or your opponent only have near fainting Nexomon? Game over as the second you switch in the two, three or four of them, the opponent if they have enough stamina will simply wipe them all out. While being able to continue pulling off moves while switching mid battle, there should have been a way in order to get your “next” Nexomon onto the field without being destroyed in two seconds.
Unfortunately even with the smoothness of the battle system, the hilarious dialog and RPGness of the adventure, Nexomon: Extinction suffers from a few unoptimization issues on the PS4. Playing on a PS4 Pro, there are a lot of times once I was out of the starting area that the screen wouldn’t even just lag behind as I walked to another part of it but flat out freeze making me wonder if the game crashed. This was a very big issue when in the icy lands where I honestly had to factor in freeze times to wonder how long to hold the movement buttons as you could keep moving, you just wouldn’t see it. On top of that visual issue there also could have been some smoothing in the audio as tracks simply stopped and restarted instead of having a smoother loop or a fade-in and fade-out. I’m not sure how the other three platforms handle this, but for the PS4, it took away from a lot of the charm as in a lot of cases you weren’t really hearing and seeing things properly.
Issues aside, I do really have to hand it to the development team and the writers on everything else. Nexomon: Extinction not only takes inspiration of an extremely well established style, but it makes it its own with an actual story to follow that is more than simply go defeat the eight gym leaders and be #1. Instead, the world is coming apart and you’re thrown into the mix in order to try to help as best as you can while also having to worry about how others may be using you for their own agendas like the ghost of the old man who wanted me to go and delete his browsing history so he could move on in peace. Like we needed that quest and those implications ghost person. But it’s these small skits that make the world feel more believable than simply being told by every second or third person that you must fight them because you have Pok… err, Nexomon!