Coromon is an upcoming pixel-art RPG that bears more than a small resemblance to the Game Boy Color-era Pokémon games. That’s not a bad thing. With so many beloved franchises moving into the third dimension over the past two decades, it’s fun to see other devs imagining what those series might have become had they stayed two-dimensional pixel-art games.

Just look at what Stardew Valley did with the Harvest Moon formula; that’s a good analogy for what Coromon is doing with Pokémon.

In the week leading up to E3, I was able to virtually meet up with two of the devs on Coromon, Jochem Pouwels and Marcel van der Made of TRAGsoft. Marcel played through a demo (which I was able to play on my own later on) and talked me through it.

Now, there is a demo for Coromon available on Steam right now, but the version I was shown (and got to play) was made exclusively for E3. It features a segment of gameplay that happens much later in the game than the Steam Demo (I was told that this section was about 15 to 20 hours into the game, and that I should expect the final version of Coromon to be about 40 hours long).

Coromon - Swurmy Rush

The demo begins in traditional Pokémon fashion, with your character being awoken by their mom. At this point, the player can work their way through a pretty robust (for a pixel-art game) character creation system and explore their bedroom for as long as they’d like. Marcel explained to me that the game features all sorts of tiny details and secrets, and as an example he showed me that you can walk up to the character’s computer and play an endless-runner-style minigame called Swurmy Rush.

When you eventually go downstairs, the character’s brother (named Dexter) will brag about beating your score. I asked if your actual score in Swurmy Rush matters enough to change this dialogue, and Marcel told me, “That is the plan. It doesn’t work yet, but it is the plan that it changes.” He then showed me that if you stand in front of the TV, Dexter will shout for your mom, tattling on you for being in his way.

Coromon - Swurmy Rush

He also pointed out that the clock on the wall is actually synced with your computer’s clock. I don’t think I would have ever noticed that on my own, but I love the attention to detail here. Marcel explained: “We always like to find those little details [when we play games], so we focus on that in our game as well.”

At this point, we fast-forwarded later in the game. Here, Marcel pointed out that the game has four difficulty settings, and he was made to choose one, though he said that in the normal game, you would choose a difficulty setting much earlier than this.

Marcel entered a desert-like region and explained that there will be several different biomes in the full game, “so it’s always a new experience, a new discovery, where you’re going.” He proceeded into a trap-filled dungeon called the Pyramid of Darudic. There is a Titan lingering inside this pyramid, and you, the player, must capture its essence.

Coromon - Pyramid of Darudic

The Pyramid of Darudic features some fiendishly clever traps. There were your classic step-on-a-tile-and-trigger-a-dart traps, and then there were some timing-based dart traps, which force the player to navigate around pits while dodging darts. Later on, there’s a segment that combines both mechanics — the tile-based darts and the timing-based darts — to create a neat little challenge.

The later trap segments can be quite difficult, forcing you to focus on the timing of several different darts at once. Marcel was pretty adept at dodging darts, but I died an embarrassing amount of times when I was playing the demo myself.

It was also here, in the Pyramid of Darudic, that I got to witness my first Coromon battle. These are turn-based affairs, very similar to classic Pokémon battles, where the player has access to six Coromon but only one will be deployed at a time. Marcel called upon a squid-like Coromon called Squidma, which had a small arsenal of fire-based attacks. I was, of course, expecting Squidma to be a water-based Coromon, so this came as something of a surprise.

Coromon - Squidma

Like Pokemon battles, there is a stamina system in place here where each move costs a certain number of stamina, and if your stamina drains completely, that Coromon won’t be able to attack again without regenerating some stamina. This also impacts enemy Coromon, so the game features various types of stamina-draining attacks. Is an enemy hitting too hard? See if you can drain their stamina to prevent them from being able to use their more powerful attacks!

One interesting thing to note here is that in this battle, there were two different color variations of the same enemy Coromon. I asked if one was sort of like the Coromon version of a shiny Pokémon, but Marcel explained that this wasn’t quite right. See, there are different rarities of Coromon, and rarer Coromon will have a higher “potential.” A potential has to do with how you allocate that Coromon’s stats, and the higher the potential, the higher that Coromon’s stats. You can level up a Coromon’s potential, which allows you to allocate bonus stat points based on your preferences.

In this particular battle, we encountered one Coromon with a potential of 1, and one with a potential of 20, hence the two different colors. Marcel told me there is an even stronger variety as well, which would show up in game as a third color variation. Yes, there are three different color variations for each Coromon.

So how many Coromon are there? Well, apparently there are currently 120, but Marcel said they could possibly add more later. I wouldn’t take that as confirmation that more will be added, though — expect 120 at launch.

Coromon - Pyramid of Darudic

After all this, we encountered a puzzle where you have to adjust segments of a wall to form a hallway to the next room. After solving that, the game fast-forwarded to the battle against the dungeon’s Titan: Sart, the Bender of Sands. I won’t spoil anything, but I did mention during the demo that the Titan had some animation effects that I really liked.

Oh, and I should mention that there’s a feature called Modules that they showed me. This gives you one active “skill” that you can trigger with a button press (you can see the fire icon next to the shoe icon in the image just a little bit above this paragraph — this is what I’m talking about). You can reassign this Module at will. Marcel showed me one called Push, which allows the character to push rocks around (to solve puzzles), and mentioned one called Stink, which will clear all of the Coromon from a patch of grass (in case you want to avoid random encounters).

Personally, I think Coromon looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I can tell from the little bit that I experienced that a whole ton of love went into this, and that it’s made by folks who truly love the genre. As influences, Marcel and Jochem cited Pokémon, of course, but also Chrono Trigger, The Legend of Zelda, and EarthBound — it’s a pretty well-rounded batch of games from the mid-to-late-1990s.

I like what I’ve seen so far. I can’t wait to see more.

Coromon is due out Q1 of 2022 for both PC and Nintendo Switch. While you wait for it to arrive, you can wishlist it on Steam and check out the trailer below.

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