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Editorial

6 Indies Like Pokemon

Pokemon has always been one of those series I’ve given credit to for starting my love of video games. The idea of going your own way in a grand world, making friends with the creatures you meet along the way, has always been appealing to me. Beyond that, the completionist whom I share this fleshy prison with also happens to love Pokemon for its focus on “catching ‘em all”. Combine all of this together and it’s easy to see why millions of people around the world love this series.

So with Pokemon’s 9th generation on the way, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight six indie games with creature collecting mechanics. There’s a range of goods here, and I’m all but certain they’ll keep you busy until Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet arrive (hopefully) in late 2022. 

  1. Temtem

Temtem is an MMO that melds the social features of online games with the addictive nature of creature collecting. Sporting a distinct art direction and creature designs that hit a wide range of archetypes, Temtem excels at visual distinction. Beyond its replication of the tried and true creature collection formula, Temtem also stands on its own as an enjoyable social experience. Staples of the MMO genre can also be found in troves, such as player housing, guilds, co-op, and competitive play. Temtem is definitely a one of a kind take on the creature collecting formula, and one to consider if you’re a Pokemon fan.

  1. Monster Crown

Monster Crown is a creature collecting adventure that pays homage to the GameBoy era of Pokemon games. I admittedly haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked to with Monster Crown, but from what I’ve played, the game feels like a more mature Pokemon. Specifically when it comes to the dialogue in Monster Crown, which is much more grim in its subject matter (people even say bad words). It also has a free-for-all breeding mechanic, meaning you can slap any pixel thing you’d like with another pixel thing and end up with a wide range of hybrid-pixel-things. 

Just don’t go pointing the blame at me when PETA comes knocking at your door. 

  1. Nexomon: Extinction

Nexomon: Extinction is the follow up to a mobile take on the Pokemon formula. Now before you go booing this one, just know it doesn’t commit the same sins as its father. Instead, this sequel to 2017’s Nexomon released as a full-fledged console drop. With a distinct chibi style, and over 300 Nexomon for you to collect, there’s plenty on offer here for you to sink your gamer-teeth into. What really helps Nexomon: Extinction stand out from its contemporaries though is its focus on difficulty and player choice. The game scales with you, meaning you’ll never outlevel or easily outpace wild creatures levels. In addition, you aren’t necessarily gated into one path of progression, meaning you are more than welcome in whichever direction you’d like. Nexomon: Extinction is one of the lesser known creature collection indies, but it’s also one I’d recommend any Pokemon fan check out.

  1. Monster Sanctuary

Monster Sanctuary answers the age-old “what if” of what it’d be like to have a Pokemon game with only 3v3 battles. Featuring a steady difficulty curve and a heavy focus on story, Monster Sanctuary does a lot to stand out from the competition. One particular favorite distinction of mine is the amount of customization you have over your monster’s potential as a fighter. Stat point allocation is a welcome addition to the genre that isn’t seen too often. Add to that Monster Sanctuary’s metroidvania-style gameplay progression (which relies on using specific monsters to reach certain areas) and the uniqueness becomes even more apparent. Trust me when I say that Monster Sanctuary is an indie any fan of Pokemon should consider.

  1. Coromon

If you were to ask me which generations of Pokemon resonated with me the most, I’d probably tell you generations two and three. Even though I began with gen one, something about the series’ transition into more color and more detailed sprites solidified my love for it. If that opinion sounds relatable in any way, I strongly suggest you give Coromon a try. This game is easily one of the closest emulations of the Pokemon series I’ve seen, all while managing to stand out in its own way. From customizable avatars to varying difficulty levels, creative creature designs, online battles and more, Coromon has a lot to offer.

  1. Slime Rancher

Slime Rancher may not be the first thing to come to mind for many when talking about indie games inspired by Pokemon, but it’s one of the best indie games ever made. Which means I will talk about Slime Rancher any chance I get.

I mean, why shouldn’t I? Few games have managed to mix the creature collecting of Pokemon games with the farm management of Harvest Moon as well as Slime Rancher has. It’s truly a one of a kind experience, where you take on the role of a young rancher in her home away from home. Here you’ll care for a wide range of adorable slimes, all for the sake of profiting off of their poop!

Slime Rancher is a cozy game bursting with charm that any Pokemon fan should consider (and then subsequently buy multiple times because it’s amazing and oh my god, I cannot wait for the sequel to come!).

And there you have it! My list of six indie games worth exploring if you’re a fan of the Pokemon series. Or creature collecting/battling games in general. Pokemon may have started a trend in the 90s and remained a household name even in this day and age, but the genre it cultivated has come a long way. It’s refreshing to see such a wide range of different takes on the formula, as well as all of the tweaks and changes that have been suggested in the process. 

It’ll be exciting to see where the niche (yet astounding successful) creature collecting indie game space goes next!

Categories
Reviews

New Pokémon Snap Review

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

Pokémon Snap is one of my favorite games on the N64. One of the most unique games in existence, it tasked players with using their problem solving skills and quick trigger finger to take the best pictures of Pokémon that they possibly could. To this day, I can’t think of a single other game that’s combined puzzle solving, first-person shooting, and quick reflexes all at once. Now, over two decades later, Nintendo has finally released a sequel, appropriately called New Pokémon Snap and it was absolutely worth the wait!

You play as a new research assistant, helping Professor Mirror and his band of generic anime characters in their efforts to learn more about the Lental region while hunting down the mysterious illumina Pokémon, previously tracked by a famous explorer. New Pokémon Snap is, at its core, identical to the N64 title in many ways. The main objective in each level is to ride through an environment on rails, taking the best pictures of Pokémon possible, with the professor scoring your images at the end based on factors like size, positioning, and pose. Aiding in this effort are the various tools unlocked along the way- food to attract Pokémon, a scanner to unlock new details about the environment, illumina orbs to activate special behaviors in the Pokémon, and the Pokéflute getting them to dance. The gameplay loop of going through levels, finding different Pokémon, and unlocking new types of poses with the tools is just as addicting as before.

There’s also a few new mechanics to keep things fresh. First is the addition of a star rating. Each Pokémon has 4 different star levels of pictures to take. Each of these is counted separately from one another and given its own score, so while getting a super-rare action shot of a Pokémon will net you four stars, a well-shot picture of the same Pokémon will usually be worth more points. This mechanic is novel, but it does take away some value from the tougher shots, so it might have been better for each star rating to automatically give higher scores, but also have higher thresholds for getting diamond stars. There’s also the addition of research levels, unlocking new Pokémon and routes in the same environment after getting enough points. It’s cool seeing how different setups in the same environments can change the gameplay, with a maxed out level often being seriously tricky to reach without the help of a guide.

However, there are some issues. While the game is beautiful overall, many of the textures in the environment can be GameCube-level resolution, standing out amongst the otherwise well-designed levels. And the pop-in and low framerate in some areas is really distracting. There’s also the addition of illumina spots, where players will need to figure out how to take pictures of gigantic Pokémon throughout a single level. While additional routes will have more Pokémon, the first run throughs are often incredibly long and boring since you can only show one picture per Pokémon to the professor at a time. Which brings me to the worst offender in the game- its pacing. The game really wants to convince players that they got their money’s worth out of their purchase, stretching what should have been a 6 to 8 hour campaign out to 12 or more. For one, players don’t unlock the speed boost until the very end, meaning that until then they’re stuck at the slowest speed on additional runs. And those runs will be necessary since each star rating still counts as a picture of a single Pokémon, meaning that at least 4 runs are needed to get every kind of shot. The game definitely should have allowed players to at least show the professor one star rating per Pokémon, but instead forces the player to replay the same levels over and over again.

With all of that said, New Pokémon Snap is still an absolute joy of a game on the whole. Despite the repetition, it’s guaranteed to have you coming back for more and making a new discovery is always worth the effort. I’m glad the series is back and can only hope that it doesn’t take another 20 years for the next game to arrive.