Are you ready to become the ultimate Cyber Sleuth?
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, for PS4 and PS Vita, is a highly anticipated game among Digimon fans and JRPG enthusiasts. Being the first Digimon RPG to be released in English in nearly 8 years, the hype surrounding it has been great and the fan outcry for the game even greater. It was one of the games that the “Operation Decode” movement (which seeks to get Digimon games localized into English) championed to be brought over into English-speaking countries. Now that it is here, the question is: Does this game live up to the hype? Or is it a digi-dud among JRPGs?
Digimon: Digital Monsters!
The story revolves around the plight of a semi-silent protagonist. Your character (who can be a boy or girl) is an average citizen in the near technological future where people can plug themselves into the internet and live a virtual existence. During a rendezvous with some internet buddies, you suffer an accident that leaves your body half-digital, allowing you to freely enter into digital environments and explore the network. You are rescued by a woman who runs a detective agency, who enlists your help in regaining your body, solving cases, and uncovering secrets hidden by the company who runs the digital network.
In this game, Digimon are considered programs that only hackers use (somewhat similarly to Digimon Tamers, as in the third season of the Digimon anime). Digimon roam freely throughout the network and are used by many hacker organizations for various reasons. As a hacker, you are able to scan and create new Digimon for your team, which enables you to fight with them and help them to Digivolve to the next level.
As far as stories about big, evil corporations go, this game presents one in a fun way. There is a real mystery throughout that keeps you guessing and wondering about particular characters and their motives. As mentioned above, the story felt like a mixture of Digimon Tamers and Digimon Data Squad with regard to the mystery and origins of Digimon. If you enjoyed either of those two seasons of the anime, then you will be feeling some positive nostalgia as you make your way through this game.
Digimon Are The Champions
The game is, functionally, a mixture of Persona and Digimon, with a little bit of Mega Man Battle Network thrown in for good measure. The combat is turn-based with an auto-battle mechanic, which makes it great for level grinding and obtaining more data on Digimon. Digimon have the standard HP bar and an SP bar that allows them to perform their unique special attacks. The 3-D models of the Digimon are beautiful and nearly all of their attacks from the anime and past games are rendered fantastically, which is a real treat if you are already familiar with the franchise.
Throughout the game, cases will pop up on the bulletin board in the detective office. These range from easy fetch quests to story-based missions that will advance the plot. A decent amount of these quests can be very repetitive and require minimal work, so it was a bit slow-going at times when these were the only sidequests available. These quests are the main way for you to earn extra money and EXP, though, so it is beneficial to take them on when you have some downtime. Many of the internet areas in this game are split up into dungeons, though there are also hub areas that allow you to talk to other characters and glean some important (and sometimes hilarious) tidbits about the story and the world you live in.
One of the best features of this game has to be the Digivolving/De-Digivolving option. There are more than 240 Digimon in this game, but obtaining all of them can prove to be a real challenge. Each of the lower level Digimon have different Digivolution paths that you can follow depending on how you want to train. These Digimon each have a list of requirements for allowing you to Digivolve down a certain path, which can range from something as simple as a minimum level requirement to having certain stats maxed out and evolution items obtained. It is a bit tricky to understand at first, but after tinkering with it for a few hours, I was able to Digivolve many of my team into the Digimon that I wanted.
This game is, at its heart, a standard JRPG, so expect a decent amount of grinding, especially if you want to obtain a diverse team of strong Digimon.
Virus, Data, and Vaccine
This is where I will delve into a few tidbits and opinions related to the good and bad of the game.
There are a ton of Digimon for fans new and old alike. The Digimon database is filled to the brim with creative and memorable designs, from the adorable Wanyamon to the menacing Beelzemon to the regal Leomon. While not all of the Digimon from the previous games are here, the fact that they were able to tweak every single one of those that are here, and give each of them unique characteristics, is something to be praised.
During a battle, you can use basic attacks or special techniques that your Digimon will learn through the course of Digivolving/De-Digivolving. If certain conditions are met, they may perform a powerful combo attack that will allow you to deliver some devastating hits on the enemy. I found the combat to deliver the kind of JRPG battle mechanics that I personally enjoy. It was very reminiscent of Persona 4 Golden and could go as light or as deep as I wanted it to go. If you want, you are free to take the time to really delve into the deeper battle mechanics in order to train the best team possible, but it is certainly not necessary for you to be able to progress.
There are a few blind spots on an otherwise enjoyable game that could cause some difficulties for some gamers. Some of the female attire is, unfortunately, rather revealing, and there are a few crass comments made during particular cases that were in poor taste. Some of the bad language may also turn off some gamers, so it is important to keep these instances in mind before playing if either aspect bothers you.
I found the game to move rather slowly between major story cases. Many of the short cases you have to complete to progress during these times are rather boring and seem to be there merely to artificially lengthen the game. There is certainly some funny dialogue and interesting character points during these cases, but they are too few and far between to make these cases terribly interesting.
Finally, the music in this game tended to be rather dull and uninteresting. There are a few standout tracks that may have you humming along, but for the most part, it seemed to be a lot of uninspired technological music that one will probably forget after each case. It is unfortunate that the music does not exhibit many similarities to either the English or Japanese anime soundtracks and since the game is supposed to be celebrating the anniversary of the franchise as a whole with many anime elements brought in, I had expected that they would take more care in the music composition.
Save the Digital World
What is my final verdict? To put it simply: this game is a love letter to Digimon fans. Anybody who grew up during the 90s watching the Digimon dub on TV will find this game enjoyable because it hits on so many nostalgic aspects; yet, it also borrows a few modern gaming sensibilities in order to craft an above-average JRPG. Will it win any awards? Probably not. Will it go down in history as a model for the genre? Certainly not. But in the end, it offers a lot of good, enjoyable fun to be had for fans of an oft-neglected franchise, and could be a great gateway into the series for someone who is not as familiar with Digimon but enjoys good RPGs.
TRG gives Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth a 4 out of 5.