Coromon Review: Half-Shined
I love monster-collecting games. I’ve been a fan of them my entire life, and my love for them has only gotten stronger as I’ve gotten older. Naturally, I’m no stranger to Pokémon. In fact, it’s one of my favorite series. Like, ever. It’s a really, really good series in my opinion—but it’s not perfect. Like any other series out there, it’s got some problems—quite a few, actually. And, because GameFreak caters to a younger, more casual crowd on average, a lot of the problems that I (and many others) have with the game probably aren’t going to be ever be handled in a way that could be considered “satisfactory.” But, what can you do? Well, for me, nothing—I just play the games and enjoy them the best that I can (which is still quite a bit). But some people out there—like the people over at TRAGsoft—saw fit to try to take the situation into their own hands. And that’s why we have games like Coromon.
Coromon is certainly an interesting title. It’s very obvious that the people that made this are—or at least were—big fans of Pokémon at some point, and their love for the series and/or frustration toward where it was heading (most likely a combination of both) resulted in them attempting to create something that would cater toward an older, more hardcore fanbase. And I applaud TRAGsoft for that. I think that we should have options for more randomized, hardcore experiences in monster collecting games. But I think that a lot of people—the developers of this game included—forget why we want to endlessly replay Pokémon games—because the base games are really, really good and genuinely fun to play through. And, when you strip Coromon down to its basics, there’s not much that it has to offer against its competition.
From Hatchling to
In my opinion, a monster-collecting games don’t really need a gripping story to help carry them along. But it’s always nice if there is a story and, to its credit, Coromon has a pretty solid one. At least in the beginning, anyway. Coromon takes place within a region of the world known as Velua, in which (as far as we know), only those officially certified by Lux Solis as “Battle Researchers” are allowed to handle the mysterious and powerful creatures known as Coromon. And, as luck would have it, you’ve just been accepted! Things begin pretty normally with you being introduced to your new duties as a Battle Researcher and you begin your journey across Velua in a fairly low-key manner. However, you eventually find out that the balance of the very world is about to be thrown off—and it’s your duty as the newly-chosen Preserver to set things correctly once more. Talk about a rough first few days on the job!
Coromon‘s story was almost fine. I thought that I was going to get through it and would be satisfied with the ending. Sure, there were a few times where I was forced to sit through a few instances of referential humor (please stop using referential humor in video games), but a few bad decisions wouldn’t ruin the story. But, then I got to the end of the game. And, uh, it was very bad. The entire time I’ve been playing Coromon, it’s been building up this huge plot. You had living embodiments of Coromon Types, and evil aliens, and all kinds of cool science-y stuff, and it was leading up to something great—all for it to drop you into the most pitiful endgame sequence I’ve seen in quite some time. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting something amazing, but when the end of the game was literally a few lines of dialogue followed by “Thanks for Playing,” I’m going to take issue. There was zero payoff in the way you tied everything up. On top of that, you bait players with post-game content dialogue and then don’t deliver. Seriously, devs, I was embarrassed for you on that one.
A Real Straight Shooter
I know that I just spent the last paragraph complaining about this game’s story, but that’s not really my main issue with Coromon. In fact, if everything else were fine about the game I don’t think I’d care that much. Cormon does have other issues, though, and, sadly, they’re bigger than anything plot-related. My biggest issue with Coromon was something that kept popping into my head over, and over again as I went through the entirety of this game—”Coromon isn’t a monster-collecting RPG. It’s an RPG with monster-collecting mechanics.” On the surface, that might sound like semantics. I promise it’s not, though—and I’m more than happy to break things down.
When playing through a game like Pokémon—literally any of them—the story isn’t the focus. It’s a conduit for player exploration. The story’s the reason that you go from place to place, and the game constantly entices you with optional areas—like Routes 13, 14, and 15 in Kanto or the Wild Area in Galar—in hopes that the player will really make the adventure their own. And it’s not just Pokémon that does this. Series like Yo-kai Watch and Dragon Quest monsters also use their story to entice the player to explore areas around them. Sure, you might save the world, but that’s not supposed to be the goal of a monster-collecting game. The goal of a monster-collecting game is to go off the beaten path looking for monsters that you know you’ll never use but want because you’re a perfectionist. It’s a formula that works, and, most of all, it’s a formula that’s fun! Strangely, however, it’s also a formula that Coromon doesn’t seem to want to use.
Despite being a literal Pokémon clone in terms of most of its battle mechanics, Coromon seems to have completely failed when it comes to the whole “explore the world” part of the monster-collecting genre. Coromon is probably the most streamlined monster-collecting game I’ve played in at least decade (and I’ve played Nexomon: Extinction!), and it really makes the game a lot less fun. To be fair, there are some fun gimmicks strewn about here and there. The Soggy Swamp has mushroom foraging, you can go back to a previously visited town to plant fruit (this game’s equivalent to Berries), and you can even start digging around for burred treasure but that’s about it it. I can think of two, possibly three, instances where I was able to backtrack in order to get something that I wasn’t previously able to get—and those were just items. When it comes to actually hunting down Coromon in order to create the perfect team or fill up your database (which you can’t actually do by the way, because there’s currently no way to catch Coromon #108), all you have are the story-related areas. There’s also no post-game whatsoever. So, yeah, between the “save the planet” storyline and the overly linear world, Coromon basically feels like an old-school JRPG with some monster-collecting mechanics shoved in.
Tame ’em and Train ’em
Being a heavily inspired by Pokémon, there are actually a lot of things that I don’t really need to touch upon when it comes to Coromon‘s battle mechanics. If you’ve played Pokémon, I’m sure you understand things like trainer battles, wild Pokémon battles and how to capture Pokémon, how Type effectiveness works, Abilities, and held items. Hopefully so, because you can literally take all of that and apply it 1:1 to Coromon. The mechanics worked well in the source material, and Coromon has successfully integrated all of that into itself as well. Being as heavily inspired by Pokémon as it is, I take no issue with how closely Coromon mirrors the basics of battle, and I personally think that it does a good job with utilizing these tools effectively.
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s move onto what makes Coromon stand out from its competitions. When it comes to battles, Coromon puts a unique spin on things in two primary ways—SP and Typing. Rather than having each move have its own number of uses a la Pokémon, Coromon instead utilizes a more traditional SP system wherein each attack uses up a certain amount of SP. And, if your Coromon happens to run out of SP mid-battle, no problem at all—just have them rest for a turn and they’ll get half of their max SP back! All-in-all, I think that the SP system is a neat idea, and I really like this game’s specific handling of it.
Coromon also utilizes its own typing method which, while unique, leaves something to be desired. Technically speaking, there are 13 different Types in this game. Some of them are pretty stock standard—like Ice and Fire—but then there are some really cool and out-of-the-box ones like Foul and Heavy. However, rather than creating Coromon with each of these types, the devs relegated a whopping six of them to being attack-exclusive. I honestly don’t get what the point of this was. STAB is very much a thing in this game, meaning that half of the game’s types will never receive a same-Type bonus, which inherently discourages players from picking these Types over the seven others. On top of this, there was a serious missed opportunity to add dual-types in this game. I could easily see things like Silquil being Normal/Wind or Otogy being Ghost/Foul. Type diversity is half of the fun in games like Pokémon. You shouldn’t have limited yourselves here, guys!
Last, but not least, I’d like to talk about something that’s only tangentially related to battles—the Coromon themselves. They are absolutely, positively, gorgeous. Not only are the sprites incredibly well-made, but they move. And we’re not talking about crusty Gen V Pokémon movement, either (as my favorite gen, that was very hard to say). Whomever was in charge of this put in an overwhelming amount of effort into animating each and every creature within this game and it shows. I may have problems with certain parts of Coromon, but the creatures themselves are immaculately designed and animated.
A Collector’s Conundrum (But, Like, in a Good Way)
I’d like to round this review out by taking a look at yet another mechanic that Coromon handled very well—Potential. Simultaneously taking the place of both EVs and IVs in Pokémon, Potential is a unique mechanic that gives players direct access to bonus stat points. While Coromon accrue EXP and level up just as you would expect them to, battling also nets then experience in a second gauge which, when filled, levels up their Potential by one. Each time a Coromon’s Potential level increases, the player is able to distribute three stat points into any stat as they see fit (although there are caps after a while). I’m sure some of you out there might be thinking that that sounds way too easy. And I’d be inclined to agree with you… if it weren’t for the fact that not all Coromon have the same amount of Potential!
Similar to IV values, A Coromon’s Potential value ranges anywhere from 1 to 21, with higher Potential values allowing a Coromon to have more Potential level-ups as they grow. That in itself is a very cool mechanic that I like a lot. But Coromon ups the ante just a bit more. You see, every Coromon in this game—every single one—is divided into three thresholds depending upon their Potential level: Standard, Potent, and Perfect. This means that you basically have two different kinds of shiny Coromon to catch. And, while Perfects are a little easier to catch than their shiny counterparts, they’re still not easy to find by any means. But, hey, at least you know that their stats—much like this mechanic—are amazing when you do find them!
The Potential is There
I’ve scrutinized Coromon pretty thoroughly, I’m not going to deny that. But I don’t think that my decision to do so was unfair. When you’re going to directly compare yourself to something that’s already been established, you open yourself up to the criticism, both positive and negative, that comes along with it. And, truly, there was a bit of both when it came to my outlook on Coromon. Was there a bit more negative than positive? Sure. I think that this game has a way to go (perhaps via means of a sequel) before I could truly say that I’m satisfied with it. But is the potential there? Yeah, absolutely. Between the gorgeous creature spritework and the way that the game simultaneously handles stat distribution and “shiny” hunting via the Potential system, there are some true moments of brilliance tucked away with in this game. And I’d like that brilliance to, *ahem*, shine bright. But it’s going to need some work to get to that stage. And only time will tell if it ever actually gets there.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Freedom Games; Developer: TRAGsoft; Players: 1 (Offline); Released: March 31, 2022; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.