If there’s one thing Pokemon clones are good at, it’s keeping the specific genre of creature-collectors alive in fresh ways. Coromon, the latest in a long line of creature-collectors looking to imbue the genre with something exciting, accomplishes the job charmingly. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel – nor does it need to – but it instead bridges the gap between the pixel-era Pokemon games with the modernity of contemporary indie gaming features into a fun nostalgic adventure.
Like most Pokemon clones, you play a young blank character from a small town with big dreams to explore the vast world. This time, it’s Velua, a vibrant pixel world that doesn’t look too far from the Kanto or Johto regions. Velua offers gamers a number of biomes and environments to immerse themselves into, with each one featuring gameplay quirks unique to the biome. For example, the murky region of the Soggy Swamp has a mushroom-collecting sidequest that allows players to craft unique scents. The Scorching Sands of the Wostin Desert require players to take shade under the various tents on the map to avoid getting knocked out.
Where Coromon first diverges from Pokemon is the kind of story it tells. The early Pokemon games lean heavily into the sport of it all, centering on the Elite Four tournament and player rivalries whereas Coromon keys into the environmental and scientific duties of creature collecting. Instead of a trainer, the character you play is a Battle Researcher for the Lux Solis Campus, a think-tank whose goal is to preserve nature. The story takes a sci-fi Star Trek-inspired turn when a race of aliens called the Wubbonians arrive to threaten the ecosystem of Velua. It falls upon the main character to explore the world and investigate the invasion before it’s too late. It’s not quite the classic sense of adventure and glory associated with the genre but an interesting approach to the genre nonetheless.
Coromon’s most exciting change is the way it fuses modern quality-of-life features and RPG elements into the decades-old gameplay loop of Pokemon. The number of options the game offers players to customize mechanics is staggering; players can decide whether a knockout releases their Coromons permanently back into the wild or whether they can capture multiple versions of the same Coromon. Battle mechanics can also be tailored to the player’s skill level. If a player is interested in a challenge, they may tinker with mechanics such as limiting the use of the Trainer Hub, the Pokemon Center in Coromon. If they want something easier, they can activate the feature that allows Coromons to revive with any healing item and not a revive item. There’s an option for everybody.
Such options would leave any lesser game massively imbalanced but Coromon surprisingly manages to keep everything level. Even with a generous Potential system that lets players handpick which Coromon stats to improve, the game features a hefty difficulty curve. Cheesing and spamming aren’t always viable solutions as many elements come to play in combat. Each Coromon has a certain Trait that acts as curveballs during battles; these Traits range from affecting the battle arena which debuffs/buffs Coromons to a protective Trait that poisons the attacking Coromon on physical contact to a survival trait that allows the Coromon to survive a killing blow with 1 HP remaining. Skills are rarely binary and oftentimes have nuances to them. Certain skills synergize with other skills from other Coromon so players will be switching Coromons frequently during any given match. The difficulty of Coromon is no more evident than in its boss fights which can take a while to get through. However, once you win through strategy, it’s immensely satisfying.
On top of the mechanical flexibility, Coromon lets players dress and style their character; from the hairstyle to the design of the gauntlet, a device that helps you traverse the world. Throughout the game, more clothing options are offered to the player. Furthermore, the game constantly rewards players with consumable items through its Milestone system, a feature that incentivizes players for catching more Coromon, fighting other Battle Researchers, and exploring the world in general. Gamers looking to experience a more personalized version of Pokemon will be very happy with Coromon.
Lastly, there’s the Coromons. One of the more exciting aspects of playing a brand new creature-collector is the novelty of seeing these monsters for the first time, guessing what level they evolve, and hoping that they evolve into something amazing. Coromon delivers mostly in that regard with exciting and ingenious creatures despite there not being a plant/leaf element in the game. There are unsettling monsters that look straight out of the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona series. Some of the monsters inevitably look like Pokemons but Coromon’s unique pixel art and animation are what splits the difference. It’s so easy to see the love and attention poured onto the animations and it’s frankly the game’s greatest selling point.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the classic Pokemon games yet are looking to experience something outside of that world, Coromon is a must-buy.