- Developer: Media.Vision
- Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
- Release Date: 10/18/19
- Price: £54.99 / $49.99
- Review code provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
I’ll be upfront: I had never watched or played a second of Digimon before getting my hands on this game. Since the ’90s, I’ve written the entire franchise off as a cheap Pokémon knockoff. The following is a lesson in the classic saying, “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.”
Plugging Into EDEN
Immediately upon booting Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition up, you have to choose which of the two stories to experience first. They happen separately but simultaneously, with many characters appearing in both tales. (No pressure on which you start first – you can start the second story at any time, and your saves will link into one file.)
Both stories revolve around the online realm of EDEN, where people can socialize in virtual reality. EDEN – owned by a huge, dubious corporation – is completely enmeshed in the modern day-to-day: people go there for both business and pleasure; one’s actual self-worth is tied to their avatar’s reputation; online terminals are sprinkled throughout the real world, ensuring that access to this online utopia is never far from reach. It’s fun to talk to NPCs and hear about what role EDEN plays in their lives. With the way these characters have to take their online presence so seriously, one can’t help but relate to it through the lens of smartphones and social media.
In EDEN, hackers can be good or bad – but they all share a deep knowledge of code. The Digimon which mysteriously appear in the virtual world are especially good at manipulating code, so humans often team up with them.
Both stories see your character assume the role of a “good” hacker early on in order to track down people who caused their problems. Your character in Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is stuck in a half-digital state, while your character in Hacker’s Memory is looking for the hacker who stole his identity in an account raid.
You soon discover that the digital world is beginning to blend with the real one in bizarre ways…
Becoming a Hacker
Each character meets an expert who takes them under their wing and teaches them how to be a hacker in order to solve their issues. Help doesn’t come for free, though – your benefactor in each story makes a living using their hacking skills to solve problems in EDEN, and you’re now their newest recruit. Between story points, you’ll get to pick from increasingly harder quests – which usually just consist of “investigating” by talking to people or battling a meddlesome Digimon. Most quests take you to EDEN’s dark underbelly, Kowloon.
While exploring in Kowloon, the player will randomly encounter Digimon, and the occasional hacker or item chest. It’s fairly empty for such an objectively exciting world, though. No matter which part of EDEN you are exploring, you are in for a bland visual experience – with the same blue designs everywhere, and few defining features to tell one level apart from the next. It’s a shame, considering the real-world areas in the game are rich with colour, detail, and interactable objects. While you won’t find Digimon or freebie chests while doing quests “IRL,” you will find pretty public areas buzzing with NPCs who have interesting things to say. No matter where you go while you quest, funky techno music will follow you and keep things upbeat.
You’ll eventually find that these largely unrelated quests slowly start to lead your character in the direction of his or her goal. During storyline quests, conversations with important NPCs feature sharp 3D animated portraits and fully-voiced dialogue in Japanese. I loved this touch in particular because it makes the setting- which includes real-life places in Tokyo- feel more immersive.
Before all of that happens, though, your patrons help you partner up with Digimon for the first time.
Exploring Kowloon requires a balanced team of Digimon. Each has its own type – Virus, Data, and Vaccine – as well as elemental types and attributes which also have strengths and weaknesses (similar to my all-to-familiar Pokémon games.) It took me a while to get the hang of this system, but the bottom line is that a balanced party is a happy party.
Combat in this game is balanced but ranges from way too easy to surprisingly difficult, and there is usually little warning as to what you’re in store for. So, I made a habit of carrying a high-level muscle-’mon with me at all times, just in case. (NOTE: So, after writing this sentence, I did a Google search out of curiosity, and there is actually a Digimon called “Musclemon.” I’d like to take this moment to point out the very imaginative names that Digimon have.)
The details of Digimon attacks and abilities can make or break a battle, so it’s worth digging into the menus and reading about what you’re working with. The game makes sure to remind you of this several times through NPCs but doesn’t force you to do so.
The creatures themselves boast unique designs, and it’s lovely to see that there are decent animations as well. In fact, the first three Digimon in your party follows your character around in EDEN! As you digivolve your sickeningly cute blobs, they will eventually become scary, souped-up behemoths (with silly names.)
Dip Into the DigiLab
To manage your ‘mons, you’ll utilize a handy room in EDEN called the DigiLab. Here, you can heal your party and go through your storage. New Digimon can be scanned in after encountering them a few times in battle. You can also leave inactive Digimon to train and do small tasks for you at the Farm, an area similar to the Poké Pelago in Pokémon Sun and Moon. They can even dig up new cases for you to solve while they rack up experience.
Digivolving or de-digivolving is also a snap in the DigiLab, and costs nothing as long as your desired Digimon meets the level and stat requirements. Just note, although they will be stronger after digivolving, they’ll go back to level one. It’s fun to explore different possibilities through digivolving and de-digivolving, and it helps to create a balanced party for battle. Not to mention, there’s something addicting about the need to – dare I say it? – catch ‘em all.
Overall, using the DigiLab as a central hub for Digimon management is a big plus. There are terminals sprinkled throughout EDEN that allow you to warp there in a pinch. My favourite feature here is actually a very small one: if you ever forget where you are in the story, you can talk to the woman who runs the DigiLab, and she will remind you what your next goal is. It’s a godsend for someone as forgetful as I am.
Balancing Two Tales
Buying this title for your Switch is the equivalent of buying yourself two quality companion games – which is, in and of itself, a great deal. As in games like Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories or Birth by Sleep, each side of the story runs parallel, but takes you to unique places, unravelling a different part of the overall tale. However, because many characters overlap into both stories, and you encounter the same lineup of Digimon in each, I sometimes felt like I was playing the same game twice. It’s not such a bad thing when you think of them as two parts of a whole.
The games are well-made, and can all too easily suck up dozens of hours, between completing two storylines and exploring the limitless possibilities with battling and digivolving. For this non-believer, it proved to be a strong product that I would recommend to anyone in the market for an addicting strategy RPG.
- Sharp graphics, fun techno music
- Expansive digimon options
- Smooth & balanced combat
- Many levels are bland
- Two very similar games in one
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition consists of two fully-realized titles, boasting expansive Digimon options and smooth gameplay that even newcomers to the franchise can get behind.