Ever since the dawn of Pokémon over 25 years ago, there have been numerous other games that sought to capitalise on its popularity. No doubt you’ve heard of series like Digimon, Monster Hunter Stories, and maybe even Dragon Quest Monsters – all popular videogame series that have drawn inspiration from Game Freak’s iconic monster-battling franchise. If you dig deeper, there’s an entire world of what’s called “ROM hacks” – fan made games that build upon existing Pokémon assets to create brand new experiences of their own. These range from simple sprite swaps (Moemon, anyone?) all the way through to incredibly impressive standalone titles like Pokémon Fire Red: Rocket Edition and my personal favourite, Pokémon Uranium.
But what if a game that seemed like a ROM hack managed to become a series of its own? That’s exactly what I expected from Nexomon, the blatant Pokémon rip-off that harkens back to the golden era of Pokémon and makes no attempt at hiding its similarities to the source material. What initially released as a mobile game in 2017 has since gained a cult following and seen enough success to be ported to numerous consoles, now including Nintendo Switch with the release of Nexomon: Extinction and now the original Nexomon. And you know what? This is one of the best Pokémon games I’ve played in years.
Centuries ago, humans and Nexomon waged a mighty war to establish dominance, with the King of all Nexomon, Omnicron, leading the assault on humanity. Lasting thousands of years, the Human-Nexomon war ravaged the lands, claiming thousands of human and Nexomon lives with it. That was until the appearance of a legendary hero known as Ulzar, who ultimately defeated Omnicron and put an end to the war. It was thanks to his efforts that humans and Nexomon now live alongside each other in peace, learning to exist harmoniously at last.
Centuries have since passed, and humans have since forgotten about the incredible power of Omnicron and the terror he once caused. However, rumours are circulating of the return of the ancient Nexomon King, whose power could once again ravage humanity. The most powerful tamer in the land, known simply as the “Nexolord“, is on a mission to resurrect Omnicron and take the entire world hostage. With a team of trained Overseers under his control and scattered across the land, the last hope of humanity rests upon the shoulders of…
…a child. How can a small-town kid hope to conquer all those who stand in his way, and overcome adversities to prevent the resurrection of a god? Well, with the power of Nexomon at their side, of course!
This is a game that is unashamedly Pokémon-esque – almost every single aspect of the gameplay draws inspiration from the classic monster-battling series. Honestly, there are very few differences between Nexomon and earlier Pokémon titles, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery!
Players set off an an adventure not unlike Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, tasked with investigating a mysterious organisation and pursuing the evil Nexolord. Though there’s no way you’ll be able to achieve this by yourself – you’ll need to recruit a team of powerful Nexomon to fight at your side! Over the course of the game, you’ll travel across the lands, searching far and wide, for Nexomon that hide in rustling bushes. Once an encounter with a Nexomon is triggered, you’ll need to whittle down their health before capturing them in a “Nexotrap” (blatantly an X-shaped Pokeball). With a full team of 6 Nexomon, battles will progressively allow you to level-up and evolve your team until strong enough to defeat the
Gym Leader Overseer in each town.
If you’ve played even a single Pokémon game, no doubt you’ll immediately recognise the familiar combat and exploration. However, there are some differences that simplify the gameplay, for better or worse. TMs and HMs do not exist – instead, players can swap back and forth between any 4 moves that their Nexomon have learned. Wild Nexomon feature a rarity rating, ranging from Common to Mega Rare and Legendary, which is a simple touch that allows players to prioritise which ones to catch. There are also only 7 elements of Nexomon, each with their own type advantages/disadvantages, making combat quite simple in comparison to Pokémon.
While I could spend this entire review drawing comparisons between Nexomon and Pokémon, there is one major component of Nexomon that far surpasses any game I’ve played in the Pokémon series: the humour. Dialogue is often very tongue-in-cheek, sometimes a bit risqué or self-deprecating, and often pokes fun at stereotypes and tropes within monster-battling RPGs. The game isn’t afraid to make fun of itself and this makes for an overall light-hearted, enjoyable experience. Enjoy some of the game’s excellent one-liners!
As you’ve already seen from many of the images in the review, there’s nothing particularly impressive about Nexomon’s visuals. Despite having a clean and vibrant visual style, there are still many elements of being a mobile game that remain. The user-interface in particular feels very much like a mobile game and many aspects of the game’s visuals are clearly rip-offs taken from the series on which it is based. Take for example the design of the game’s “Healing Center” – seem familiar?
There are definitely redeeming features to the visuals though. Many of the Nexomon have interesting designs, even those that are clearly inspired by existing Pokémon. Many of the powerful Overseers and their Nexomon are shown off in cutscenes as still-frames, which provide an added level of detail not seen during regular gameplay. The aesthetic definitely feels like Pokémon on a budget, but it works well overall, especially when played in handheld mode on the Switch.
Considering its origins as a low-budget mobile game, it should come as no surprise that the music to Nexomon isn’t quite as impressive as its triple-A counterpart. What seems strange though about the soundtrack to Nexomon is that it’s so inconsistent. There are some tracks like the ones below that are incredibly catchy and a pleasure to listen to, and then many others that feel like generic royalty-free music that are easily-forgettable and occasionally tedious. Here are a couple of the better tracks from the game:
Outside of the main story, there’s not much additional content to keep players invested. If you’re a completionist, you may gain a sense of satisfaction from trying to tame all 300 Nexomon, but there’s not much of a reward for doing so. Unlike Pokémon there aren’t any minigames like Pokémon Contests or Game Corners, it’s pretty much entirely focused on the battles, which honestly isn’t a bad thing.
Though like any self-respecting Pokémon knock-off, there is some post-game content. After completing the main story, players will be given access to a brand new area that was previously off-limits, featuring more powerful Nexomon and an added level of challenge. It’s a nice added bonus, as I wasn’t expecting a reason to come back after finishing the story.
With an engaging story, plenty of clever humour, and typical monster capturing and combat that fans have grown to love, this is a game almost certainly made to appeal to Pokémon fanatics. While it is obvious that many aspects of Nexomon draw heavily from Game Freak’s series, once you look past these similarities, you’re in for an excellent standalone adventure over the course of a 20 hours story. It would be easy to be judgemental and dismissive of Nexomon as a mere rip-off, riding on the coattails of Pokémon, but I guarantee if you’re a fan of monster-battling RPGs, you should be giving Nexomon a chance. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed Nexomon, and will certainly be playing Nexomon: Extinction next.
So, why should you play it?
- Are you a fan of Pokémon? This game is made for you!
- You enjoy the older Pokémon titles, particularly Ruby & Sapphire.
- Simple combat and gameplay that feels immediately familiar.
- Legitimately funny humour and dialogue.
But why shouldn’t you play it?
- Overly critical of Pokémon similarities? Maybe give Nexomon a pass.
- No multiplayer or trading aspect – purely a single player experience.
A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.