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Coromon (PC)

Coromon (PC) - Review

by Issa Maki , posted on 14 April 2022 / 3,429 Views

Pokêmon was never the phenomenon to me it is for everyone else - it was simply the last GameBoy game I bought. A commendable RPG by any standard, since then my history with the series has been relegated to observing the hate/hate relationship between the fanbase and essentially everyone who touches the property. I'm not saying it hasn't been amusing, but millions of sales each year isn't exactly sending the message of dissatisfaction people seem to believe it does.

I won't pretend to have the accolades expected of a pocket monster enthusiast, but I can recognize a damn fine game when it's presented before me. Not only is Coromon the best indie I've encountered yet, it's one of the most challenging all-round titles I've played in years. The Pokêmon faithful might agree – if they can accept that the game in front of them isn't exactly what it appears to be.

Even a fossil like myself sees the obvious parallels with Pokêmon Red/Blue. After saying goodbye to your mother and choosing one of three starting Coromon, the player embarks on their career path as a 'Battle Researcher' for tech-giant Lux Solis. Following an attack that results in the loss of technology needed to find six elemental 'cores' (which create Coromon), a race ensues to prevent alien invaders from terraforming the land of Velua. Fortunately for the player they have access to the most destructive force in the known galaxy: the ability to raise diminutive beings who compete in mock battles for everyone's amusement.

Before we proceed, let's address the 'cute and cuddly' side of the equation, as it's bound to give impulsive buyers the wrong impression. Those thinking they're going on some sort of nostalgia trip are in for a very rude awakening. I mean it with all seriousness when I say that Coromon has the most difficult ordeals I've come across since The Talos Principle. This is just as much of a puzzle game as it is an RPG, but the latter is what people are going to focus on, so we'll start there. In that respect, Pokêmon diehards will know what they're looking at better than myself; as an outsider, I'll do my best not to sound like a bumpkin, though I freely admit my yokel roots.

There are 114 Coromon that fall into seven 'types'; add another six elements distributed across monster abilities and there are a total of 13 different colors of crayons in the box. Those growing up on namebrand standards might turn their nose up at the 'limit' imposed here, but necessity breeds invention. With a smaller pool of elements, most Coromon are weak to (and resilient against) at least two opposing types, creating mismatches at unexpected moments. If your squad can't handle Fire using Ice, a Wind spell can keep you rounded. Several Coromon come standard-equipped with abilities that help cover their weaknesses, adding a layer of complexity when attempting to counter-pick. Various held items (chronologically the last holdover from Pokêmon I recognize) alter battle parameters beyond their typical predictable patterns. The well might not as deep but its waters are still plenty intoxicating.

A significant improvement to the system is the 'Potential' meter and the implications it brings to the metagame. In addition to regular experience points, each Coromon has a second gauge that gives players three stat points to allocate as they see fit. Want to go against the grain and turn a Slitherpin into a defensive presence, or shift a Fire type into a ringer specializing in Heavy? The possibilities resulting from this alone are intriguing, and there's more to consider.

Traits can define a Coromon even moreso than its type, drawing distinctions between members of the same species. Fully Rested (which grants a 40% damage reduction at max HP) turns an already defensive stalwart into a wall able to endure the most inclement weather. Lucky increases the chances of scoring a critical hit by 25%, allowing multi-hitting attacks to shift momentum efficiently. With three grades of rarity (influencing a Coromon's base attributes and growth rates) and 'Skill Flashes' that teach normally unlearnable techniques, the amount of customization that can go into each team formation is inspired. Not knowing what you're up against next becomes an addiction in itself, and I have to imagine it's been this way with Pokêmon for decades.

More impressive still are the levels of detail Tragsoft allows the player. The Traitformator will reroll any Coromon's Trait for another in its eligible category, possibly turning a good monster into a great one. Resetinators can revert some (or all) previously gained Potential Points, essentially allowing for a respec to shape older acquisitions along the lines of new strategies. Combined with the Potentiflator that has a small chance to upgrade the rarity of a Coromon, obsessive perfectionists have all the tools they need to spend months crafting the best squad possible.

The dedication to quality permeates all aspects of Coromon's production. Normally, I'm the first person to throw shade at indies for SNES-era graphics, but when they're done this well, there's no complaining. From the beautifully-animated monsters, to footsteps appearing (briefly) in sand, to reflections in mud puddles, the glow of an oven, escalators rotating, and computer data streaming, the art direction is the best I've seen from a game of this caliber. 

Furthering the immersion is the dialogue between characters – the irony is that it stands out because it doesn't stand out at all! Aside from a single phrase and the invading 'Wubbonians', there was little plot-wise or from a writing perspective that made me question the game's humble origins, which is much more of an accomplishment than it sounds (the phrase 'enemies nearby detected' from Blackwind is still etched into my eardrums). Speaking of audio, the soundtrack is one of the strongest I've heard from any budget of game in years. One of the duel themes in particular ranks up there with 'Last Surprise' in Persona 5 or 'Omnis Lacrima' from Final Fantasy XV in terms of RPG battle tracks, and if any pharoahs are out there in the afterworld, their memories are still being honored with music they probably find stereotypical at this point. It can't match Everhood in terms of sheer quantity, but the attention afforded to each piece is evident.

Now we get to the puzzles, which are going to be the biggest point of contention, because if you don't know what you're getting into then Coromon is going to embarrass you. This isn't cutting a bush or waking up a sleeping Snorlax, this is some brain-wracking, time-consuming, 'where's the pen and paper?' problem solving. I have no doubt the Power Tower (which is only around the 15% mark) will shut down a percentage of players, and with a randomly generated answer for each attempt, there's no looking up the answer online – the solution is to figure it out. The mines of Mt. Muspel are a series of inter-locking railtracks, creating a visual maze manipulated by a series of levers. Remember the Ice Cavern from Ocarina of Time? Imagine a longer, more challenging 2D version of that, and you'll have an idea of what it's like up north in Avari. With each new location, expect to spend anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour figuring out how to properly navigate it. Overall reaction to these challenges are what's going to draw the line for most people (I loved them), and if you're not prepared to utilize that mental toolbox, get ready to open a browser and admit defeat into the search engine of your choice – just remember it won't work for everything.

Coromon goes beyond mere tests of the mind. The guard house in Darudic and the Pyramid of Sart will evaluate reflexes and judgment with almost frame-perfect timing. A mandatory battle pits the player against an exact copy of their own party, the ultimate test of 'know thyself'. The Light Sensei makes you capture three new monsters to take him on in a fight – with no grinding allowed beforehand! Coromon expects players to be masters of many forms of gameplay. A well-rounded skillset is on demand and the way it all blends together is masterfully done.

The amount of side content is also great. Swurmy Rush is an Angry Bird ripoff that I deemed lazy, but 20 minutes later I made sure to keep an eye for any hypocrite-flavored food products at the grocery store the following day. Out in Soggy Swamp are a number of mushrooms that grow at random intervals. Specific combinations can be turned into scents that prevent random encounters or increase the odds of finding a rare monster. Throughout Velua are pots used to grow fruits for battle, saving valuable funds. Most unique are 'Drill Shovels', which initiate a mini-game akin to 'Hot and Cold' or Minesweeper, where gems are found and sold for cash. This can be attempted on any screen, almost guaranteeing a source of income. Also of note are Milestones, rewards for achieving set goals like discovering Coromon or defeating trainers in duels. Ultimately, all paths lead to Coronet for the true end-game: epic online 6-on-6 showdowns against other users' teams! Coromon's quality production values can only be matched by TRAGsoft and Freedom Games' ambitions. Should they succeed, it could very well set a new standard moving forward.

There are two issues currently keeping Coromon from being a strong GOTY contender, and the first relates to its delay on Switch, which is in turn limiting what Coronet is capable of. Coromon's advertised claim to fame is its ability to cross-save between PC and Nintendo's handheld, keeping the entire ecosystem united under a single banner. As of this writing, the Switch version has been delayed, but if I'm able to migrate my team across systems by the end of the year, you'll be hearing back from me in December. Until then, we'll have to appreciate what this could unlock for the community down the road before Pokêmon Scarlet satisfies fan appetites.

My biggest complaint with Coromon concerns the slow rate of speed when it comes to battle. Now, I understand the adherence to old-school aesthetics and respecting the work that went into the animations – but damn. Watching three enemies cast 'Sleep' on an already unconscious minion or sitting through two rounds without a successful hit gets old fast. Some kind of 'short animations' option, double-speed, auto-battle – after almost 30 years of turn-based RPGs, I would have taken anything. I hope you happen to have some TV to catch up on or a passion for drink, because about halfway through Cormon I was wishing for either. This could be a non-issue for some (and I know it isn't a race), but it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to ignore wasted time in games – especially when they milk it just enough to be an inconvenience.

In a year where Horizon: Forbidden WestElden Ring, and Gran Turismo 7 release within a week of each other, the fact that I'm praising Coromon above them all amuses me no end. But to watch TRAGsoft hold its ground against giants like FromSoftware or Guerilla Games is a cause for celebration, plain and simple. I knew Horizon was going to be great, and that I would enjoy Elden Ring – I was not expecting a Pokêmon clone to rise among them in my eyes, but that's the magic of gaming. Coromon isn't an RPG, it's a mental and physical skillcheck masquerading under the veneer of a beloved children's title. Should you go into it with a thinking cap on instead of nostalgia goggles, you'll walk away with a consistently great game in search of a strong player. If not, be prepared for a '7/10 – too many puzzles' mindset that'll only get you as far as the most recent Trainer Hub.

And for those who have complained on social media for years about how Pokêmon, Game Freak, and The Pokêmon Company refuse to mature with their fanbase: here's your chance to prove those brains are as big as those egos. Coromon is a litmus test of the mind, and at the moment the main thing holding it back are its own aspirations. TRAGsoft assuredly has an audience in its sights, but time will tell if its aim hits the mark.


VGChartz Verdict


8.5
Great

This review is based on a digital copy of Coromon for the PC, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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3 Comments
SuperNintend0rk (on 14 April 2022)

I wasn't expecting this game to score so high. It might even be in the running for GOTY with Elden Ring and Horizon.

  • +2
ireadtabloids (on 16 April 2022)

I’ve been watching this for a little while. I don’t think I was aware of the greater focus on puzzles during the story mode. Interesting choice to make.

  • +1
KLAMarine (on 14 April 2022)

A mature Pokemon? Not sure I want that. I like the cutesie, throw-your-cares-away aspect of Pokemon...

  • +1