App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Nexomon is a game that is trying really hard to be a true Pokémon-like game on mobile. Instead of trying to capitalize on the uber-popular Pokémon GO's augmented reality gameplay formula, Nexomon opts to simply return to the roots of what made Pokémon successful in the first place. The result is a completely serviceable turn-based role-playing game about collecting and training monsters that isn't quite Pokémon, but is mostly fine enough.
I want to be the very best
If you've played any of the classic, handheld Pokémon games, Nexomon's opening should feel very familiar. Due to a set of contrived circumstances, you are simultaneously given a mission that sends you on a journey through the world of Nexomon and a monster companion that helps defend you on this adventure.
Along the way, you'll meet a lot of Town Overlords (much like Gym Leaders in Pokémon) and tons of random trainers and wild monsters for you to battle along the way. These battles are also unsurprisingly Pokémon-like. You can hold a lineup of six monsters at any given time and the key to winning confrontations is through elemental, “rock-paper-scissors”-style, turn-based combat. While this is certainly a formula that works, it's still simplistic, slow, and pretty grind-heavy, much like Pokémon games.
Gotta catch 'em all
Because certain monster types are stronger against others, players in Nexomon must make sure they capture a bunch of monsters to make a well-rounded team. Catching monsters in Nexomon involves fighting wild monsters, draining their hit points to a low level, and tossing Nexotraps at it until it's caught. Again, if you've played a Pokémon game before, not much here is different.
If you're a completionist, you may also just want to catch every unfamiliar monster you come across in Nexomon. Nexomon sports over 300 monsters for you to catch, train, and evolve, and each of them has a rarity rating. In my time with the game, it appeared that the rarer monsters not only showed up in the wild less often, but were also generally stronger than more common ones.
Slick, but still slavish
Most of what Nexomon has to offer is ripped whole-cloth from the Pokémon playbook, but there are a few things here and there that differentiate the game. Most notable is the fact that Nexomon looks really crisp and is full of nice animation work. Even if you aren't looking at Pikachus and Squirtles, Nexomon has a lot of monsters and look and move better than the ones in most Pokémon titles.
Other than this nice coat of paint though, Nexomon's other changes are mildly exciting at best. It's nice that you can see where wild monsters are hiding and that you can transfer saves between multiple devices using iCloud, for example, but neither of these things really moves the needle in terms of the core experience here. Other changes include some in-app purchases available that–while not necessary–certainly help smooth over the inherent weak spots in Pokémon-like games. These include things like experience-share between monsters, skates for faster movement, and even loot boxes for getting some of the rarest monsters.
The bottom line
It would've been nice to see a Pokémon contender like Nexomon set out to fix some the series's problems (e.g. long grinding sessions, general slow pace, simplistic battles, etc.), butNexomoninstead opts to provide a very straightforward translation of Pokémon to the App Store. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little disappointing. All of that said, Nexomon is definitely your best bet for playing something like classic Pokémon on your phone. There may be other titles out there that try to do this same thing, but none pull it off quite as well as Nexomon.