I remember my first experience with Digimon back when I was younger. I’d been totally obsessed with Pokémon, both the video games and the TV series. The whole concept of catching and raising monsters just really appealed to me and I’d lose hours trying to amass my own complete collection of monsters. Pokémon wasn’t enough though and I needed an extra fix of monster catching – enter the Digimon anime on the Fox Kids TV channel. I watched one episode and was hooked.
That obsession eventually led to me purchasing Digimon World on the original Playstation, a game I have so many fond memories of. Sure, I remember not being particularly good at the game, but I had a great time playing the Tamagotchi-esque adventure. I’ve tried my best to keep playing Digimon games ever since, but I just haven’t sunk as much time into them as I did Digimon World – that was until the release of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, the latest video game set in the Digimon universe.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was first released in Japan on the Playstation Vita in 2015, and it was never actually guaranteed to release in the West. Yet, less than a year later the game has hit the Western market not only on the Playstation Vita but also on the Playstation 4. With a lack of JRPGS on consoles at the moment its arrival is appreciated. The question remains though – is Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth actually any good, or is this a digital adventure to be avoided?
Whilst people will always compare the similarities that Digimon shares with Pokémon, the Digimon series has always seemed to appeal more to a more mature audience. Character interactions have always felt more adult and the monsters actually have the ability to speak and interact as opposed to being restricted to simply crying out their own names. This more mature approach is apparent in the narrative of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth.
The game is set in a future where humans are able to enter a digital world called EDEN, an almost futuristic like Facebook-esque environment where you’re able to interact and socialise with friends and the other folk who use the platform. Your character (who can be either male or female) is exploring the virtual world with two friends when an incident occurs that leads to your character gaining the ability to hack and use Digimon, a digital monster that is considered a sort of virus by humanity.
Of course, this is a video game – it can’t be as simple as gaining a really cool ability and then just living happily ever after. You instead encounter an Eater, a grotesque squid like creature that causes your character to get forced out of the virtual world and back into real-life Tokyo, minus their physical consciousness and in a strange digital form. Fortunately you’re assisted by Kyoko, a young lady who runs a detective agency. Kyoko not only helps you piece together your physical self, but also shows you that you’ve actually been affected by an illness known as EDEN syndrome. In the hope of finding a cure you join Kyoko in her detective agency as a Cyber Sleuth and take on a series of different cases, all whilst working to solve the bigger mysteries of the Digimon world.
The story of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth goes into a lot more depth than that, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it here – there are plenty of twists and turns to discover as you make your way through the bulky story that the game offers. Some of the themes the game explores actually hit a little close to home, such as the origin of the Digimon themselves and the way they are treated by humans. It all works together well, offering a narrative that will hook you in and keep you interested as you progress between chapters.
The dialogue is really well written in the game too. There’s such a colourful cast that all feel individual and unique, something owed to the quality of the localisation. One thing I did find odd though was the protagonist’s responses in conversations – for the most part your character would be silent similar to the likes of Legend Of Zelda’s Link or Half Life’s Gordon Freeman, whilst other times their response would appear on the screen. It was odd and I’d have preferred they’d gone exclusively with either your character responding all the time or not at all.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth’s missions see you travelling both in real-life Tokyo as well as the digital space of EDEN. There’s a lot for you to see in both environments and they span across a good variety of locations. Impressively, the environments actually manage to look great – I played the Playstation 4 version and was expecting somewhat lacking visuals given that this was a Vita port, but I actually thought the graphics were impressive. Sure, there was the occasional texture that looked a little rough and there are much better looking console releases out there, but the game managed to re-create the aesthetic design of the Digimon world perfectly.
The combat of Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth plays out like a turn based RPG, allowing you taking up to three different Digimon into each battle with you. Your Digimon and your enemies take it in turn to each perform actions, with the order dictated by a bar down the side of the screen. Each Digimon has access to standard attack actions as well as a selection of special attacks that typically inflict more damage.
Whilst the battle system is fairly simple, there are a few things to take into consideration if you want to ensure victory. Digimon are categorised under a specific type – ‘vaccine’, ‘data’ and ‘virus’. They’ll also have an elemental attribute assigned to them. The game follows a sort of ‘rock-paper-scissors’ mechanic in that each type and element will have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, Digimon categorised as a ‘virus’ type will be strong against ‘data’ types, whilst on the other hand ‘vaccine’ types will be strong against the ‘virus’ types. The same works with the elements – for example, ‘fire’ based Digimon are stronger against ‘plant’ types, but ‘water’ types will annihilate ‘fire’ types.
It’s a simple premise that you would’ve seen a thousand times before in any other RPG, but it plays such a big role in battles that you have to try and take advantage of it – the game actually encourages you to take a team of varied Digimon types into battle so that you’re never at too much of a disadvantage. You wouldn’t want all ‘fire’ types in your team if you were going to take on a ‘water’ Digimon after all. Fortunately, you’re able to keep some Digimon on the bench and swap them out in battle, so as long as you have a variety of benched Digimon you should be fine.
For the most part Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a fairly easy game. Most standard enemy encounters you’ll finish with ease, regardless of what type each Digimon is. However, the back-end of the game is home to some nasty difficulty spikes. You’ll feel like it’s smooth sailing only to reach a boss encounter that will absolutely destroy you. It comes out of nowhere too, with the game lulling you into a false sense of security with most random encounters typically always going your way. It’s not a problem by any means and most boss encounters just take proper preparation in order to survive – it doesn’t stop it being a shock to the system though.
Of course, the most important part of any Digimon title is the actual monsters themselves and that’s an area that Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth excels in. There are well over two hundred monsters on offer in the game, including all your favourites like Agumon, Leomon and WarGreymon along with many, many more. It’s a fairly easy process to capture Digimon too – all you have to do is encounter each Digimon a certain amount of times and then you’re able to develop them in the DigiLab. There’s no unnecessary ball throwing in Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth.
Capturing Digimon quickly becomes addictive and you’ll find yourself constantly grinding battles in order to build up your collection. Back at the DigiLab you’re able to either digivolve or de-digivolve each Digimon too, though there are certain requirements to be met first. Each Digimon can follow different paths in the evolution chain, though it won’t always be clear what each evolution will lead to unless you’ve encountered that Digimon previously – keen Digimon fans may recognise the darkened silhouette of their favourite digital monsters though.
You also have access to a DigiFarm that can be inhabited by a selection of your Digimon. Here, they can raise levels, find new items or even uncover new cases for you to complete in the detective agency. You’re able to upgrade your DigiFarm too, allowing even more boosts for the Digimon that inhabit the area. It’s a neat addition and it’s pleasant to explore your farm, though the interaction there is a little limited –those hoping for something similar to the Chao Garden in Sonic Adventure will be disappointed!
For the most part Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth is great fun, though it does come with some flaws. I found that I often got lost during missions, not knowing where each objective is. There were so many times I was left looking all over Tokyo for my mission objective, and there’s no ‘mission information’ or map marker to help you out either. There’s also the Digiline, a sort of messaging system that you use with your Digimon. Whilst it does offer useful information at times, I found in the end it was a constant steam of pointless and repetitive messages. It’s not game breaking by any means – just a nuisance.
Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a big game and offers plenty for the player to do. Besides trying to unlock every Digimon in the game there’s also an abundance of side missions to complete, optional difficult bosses, collectible medals to find and even a multiplayer mode to take on your friends or players around the world. Be warned though – my multiplayer experience saw me getting constantly destroyed by other players. You may have better luck than me, but I’d recommend you go in prepared with a diverse, well levelled team.
Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth offers something that will appeal to both hardcore Digimon fans and those who have no experience with the franchise whatsoever. There’s a deep, mature story on offer that keeps taking twists and turns until the very end, an enjoyable combat system that’s easily accessible to RPG veterans and newcomers alike, and best of all a huge assortment of Digimon for you to discover and collect for yourself. Whilst it’s not a flawless title by any means, Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth offers a solid RPG experience that’ll keep you hooked to your console for a long, long time – don’t expect to be satisfied until you’ve completed your collection of Digimon!
– A mature story that keeps you intrigued until the end
– Enjoyable combat mechanics that’s easily accessible to all players
– A huge collection of Digimon to discover and collect
– A great entry point for newcomers to the Digimon franchise
– It could be difficult to keep track of objectives at times with the game offering no real indication of where to go
– Difficulty spikes will catch you off-guard
Developer: Media.Vision (www.media-vision.co.jp)
Publisher: Bandai Namco (www.bandainamcoent.com)
Release Date: 05/02/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (reviewed), Playstation Vita