Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is Bandai Namco’s latest offering in the Digimon franchise, published on both PS4 and PSVita. There has been a lot of hype among fans surrounding the franchises’ return to the west after a string of mediocre games leading to recent Digimon titles not making it to western shores. Many people have been pleading for Digimon’s return, with so much interest in recent Japanese releases, one of which has even had a fan translation released on the internet. With a petition of over 65,000 signatures urging Namco Bandai to localise this title as well as a host of others, fans were ultimately given the news that Digimon would be returning to the west in the form of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, a JRPG with a strong a strong visual and audio style reminiscent of the much loved Persona series of games.
One of the first Digimon releases, Digimon World, is easily in my top 5 PS1 games of all time, and the internet agrees. Bandai Namco has been excellent in its social media presence and communication with their fan base. As a huge Digimon fan growing up, even I felt the hype. It’s time to reunite with my old friends Andromon and Metalgreymon, and hopefully make a few new ones along the way!
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a JRPG set in a future Tokyo. The world has welcomed EDEN, a virtual world that people can log into and experience a second life. EDEN is a digital reality that allows people to be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do.
You’re introduced to EDEN as your characters’ chat avatar. Things start with your chat group being interrupted by an unwelcome guest, a hacker. Hackers are EDEN’s biggest problem, with the community fearing for their personal information and data being stolen. The protagonist of this story (you can choose between a male or female avatar) gets caught up in a series of events leading to their becoming a Cyber Sleuth, a digital detective who takes on cases regarding digital and real world problems presented by the general public. The story starts at a slow pace and continues this way for quite a while locking you into slow game play at the start. You’re introduced to many different characters and there are a lot of explanations of events and different technical names that you need to get your head around at first, but once settled into the game world, this digitopia opens up into a brilliantly delivered RPG experience with a likable cast and an aesthetically cool game world. The real world Tokyo is very true to real life and immersive, while the digital world is sleek and colourful in contrast.
Although Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth may start slow, the pace does pick up and the story grips you without you noticing how involved you are at times. Digimon could be called a children’s franchise by observers, but the developers have done a fantastic job making Digimon appeal to its original fan base (who would be in their late 20’s/ early 30’s now!) with an in-depth, interesting and mature plot containing plenty of twists and some great character interaction. On the rare occasion the game has issues of writing being ‘lost in translation’. This comes in the form of obscure references to Japanese culture, so you’ll undoubtedly be lost for moments at a time wondering what they’re talking about or being asked a question about Tokyo that players in the west would have no clue about.
Side quests take on the form of cases that you solve for clients who post them to a bulletin board, but there isn’t really anything to ‘solve’ as most of these cases are “go here do this” type missions, with a battle to fight or an item to find for someone. Maybe with future titles in this particular series this is an area the developers can explore and expand upon so players actually feel like a detective. JRPGs can run into a habit of putting in ‘filler’ quests to bulk out the game’s content. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth sadly features many of these terribly monotonous side quests not required to progress the story. You could find yourself tuning out of the game at these points. With some unclear indications where to go and no map markers, these quests lack any real content to hook the player as much as any story mission. It really is a minor complaint though as the bulk of the gameplay is very good, and these quests provide an excellent opportunity to train your Digimon in-between story plots.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth sticks to a pretty tried and true JRPG experience, but shines where it’s supposed to with its incredibly addictive monster raising and battling. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, players can take Digimon and battle them against each other gaining experience, A digimon is then able to ’Digivolve’ once they’ve reached a certain level of potential. Unlike its often compared cousin, Pokémon, Digimon have multiple ’Digivolutions’, as well as the ability to revert back to previous forms and explore other Digivolution options. This means a player’s Digimon can learn different moves from multiple Digimon and then digivolve into a Digimon they want to use.
There’s something great about seeing a rookie Digimon become a champion, seeing them enter and emerge from a stream of data as a new Digimon.
There isn’t a wrong way to build a Digimon and players have the freedom to explore any option they so choose. This is very useful for covering a Digimon’s weaknesses or surprising an enemy, making every Digimon in the game have an unpredictable move set. Every option you choose in training can basically be undone, which is great for new players who aren’t sure what direction to take a Digimon. It is especially interesting to see what players come up with when engaged in online battles.
Players new to the franchise will also enjoy the reward of raising a baby Digimon into its mega forms, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’re likely to have had in recent gaming and there is definitely an attachment to the Digimon you’ll train. There’s something great about seeing a rookie Digimon become a champion, seeing them enter and emerge from a stream of data as a new Digimon. Returning players to the franchise will be surprised how familiar the game feels, even in a new format. There isn’t much in the way of a tutorial however so you’ll have to play around with the system, and there are some confusing abbreviations and stats, but it isn’t detrimental to the game. It’s nice to see a title sticking to older JRPG roots and challenging the player.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth really has thought about new players entering the series, with core mechanics being pretty easy to come to terms with. Combat is turn based, much like classic Final Fantasy or modern Persona titles. Digimon can utilise various skills in battle, from flashy iconic signature moves (each different and unique to that individual Digimon), as well as a mix of damaging, restorative and buff spells. There is a handy turn metre on the right hand of the screen indicating who is next up. It’s great to be able to plan ahead and is relatively simple once you get your head around Digimon weaknesses and types.
Digimon always uses 3 main categories of species (Data, Vaccine and Virus) each with a weakness, strength and neutrality to one of the 3 (Think Rock, Paper, Scissors), and an elemental subtype to add some more depth. This type mechanic will seem daunting at first, but once you have it memorised you’ll appreciate the depth a layered weakness system brings to the core gameplay. With type match ups in place, it is essential to bring a balanced team in to any fight to make sure all your bases are covered.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth also boasts an online battle mode where players can battle other players from around the world. From personal experience there are some really good players and I got destroyed, but the battle experience was good, no latency issues and it got my heart racing making tough decisions. While it may not have the popularity of Pokémon’s battle spot, this adds something to extend the longevity of the title.The bulk of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth’s battling takes place in the games multiple dungeon style levels. All encounters are random and can happen at any time. With so much walking around and with no way to avoid random encounters (until endgame and you have a team of mega level Digimon, then you can use a skill to turn them off), the pace of the game or just traversing around, might leave you feeling a bit frustrated exploring the world. In past titles there were visual enemies to choose to avoid which added a little bit more life into the game world and was noticeably missed this time around.
Visually Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth really shines, bringing the Digimon World to life like never before. The game was developed on Vita and ported to PS4. There are a number of noticeable low resolution textures on buildings and objects in the world because of this, but the quality of the Digimon far overshadows any visual flaws in the game’s lesser important objects, being a port it’s actually surprising how good the game looks. Digimon signature skills are particularly stunning to watch and bring a great feel to the intensity of combat. Underneath its visuals lies a subtle electronic soundtrack that’s generally enjoyable to listen to and accompanies the entire menu system without being offensive. Sometimes the soundtrack can be a little lacklustre or repetitive but it really shouldn’t be an issue for most.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a definite must buy for any Digimon fan, as well as being possibly the best game in its genre on the PS4 right now. It’s always good when a game lives up to the hype and Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was a joy from start to finish. Although you’ve seen a lot of what it has to offer in many titles before it, its highly addictive training your favourite Digimon team from its roster of 242 digital monsters. Even if you don’t know the Digimon franchise, any JRPG fan will feel right at home saving the digital world!