As someone who was raised in a Pokemon household, Digimon always seemed like the Pepsi to my Coke. I still enjoyed it and I watched the anime and collected action figures, but it was never my go-to monster-catching phenomenon. It always seemed like the little brother that lived in Pokemon’s shadow. So when I was handed Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth, I was intrigued to find that while the narrative for my fandom mostly stayed the same, I discovered a game that was familiar, yet different at the same time. It isn’t as well rounded as a Pokemon game, and it certainly has its flaws, but this is the closest Digimon has come to having a something that encapsulates how unique Digimon can be.
Those not well versed in the Digimon lore need not worry. This is a tale that starts off fresh and is catering to first-timers in the digital monster world. You can choose to either play as the male Tatsumi or female Ami (both of whom are mostly silent protagonists) who meet friends in an online chat for the virtual reality network known as EDEN. Once your character meets up with some of your friends in EDEN, a whole bunch of events involving online hackers, corporations, and, of course, Digimon set your character forward to discover just what the hell is going on.
After the groundwork is set, your character deals with an interesting – if not confusing – out of body conundrum dealing with being able to turn digital but your real body is trapped somewhere else (or something) which leads you to become a detective for the Kuremi Detective Agency. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s certainly different and explored some interesting ideas. Anyways, as a detective (or Cyber Sleuth, as they call you) you’ll take on cases that involve minor side stories or ones that deal directly with looking into the Kamishiro Enterprises and just what is going on that’s causing instances where the real world and digital one combine.
Unfortunately, the story gets in the way of the strengths that make Cyber Sleuth enjoyable. Overpopulated dialogue drains the energy out of the games conflict, which resulted in me audibly saying yeah, I get it on numerous occasions. Because of the game’s detective case set up, stories are plentiful and varied; however, they could have benefited from short, focused dialogue. Instead, it feels padded and unnecessary.
Not that there aren’t some saving graces in the tale that Cyber Sleuth tells. The mostly light-hearted tone is fun, and there’s a nice assortment of characters both in the real world and the digital one. There are English subtitles, but, sadly, no English voice-over for any part of the story. And for such a dialogue-heavy story to be missing English voiceover, a lot of the humor can get lost in the text – unless you can understand the Japanese voice actors.
But fear not! The combat in Cyber Sleuth is really, really fun. The mechanics are simple and perhaps not as deep as veteran RPG players may like, but I found the accessible nature of the combat much more enjoyable. At the start of combat, there are a few options for you to choose from: a basic attack, special attacks, guard (which can half incoming damage), use an item, change a Digimon or try to escape. On the right-hand side of the screen is the player turn timeline which shows when it’s your turn, an enemy’s turn or an ally’s turn.
Like Pokemon, there’s elements and types that dictate the amount of damage a Digimon can dish out and take. Elements include fire, water and electricity; and types include data, vaccine and virus. Digimon can dip into both elements and types, so getting the upper hand in battle can be more complex than just water over fire or vaccine over virus. You can see if you have a multiplied attack power if your reticle is red over an enemy, conversely, a blue reticle means that your attack will do less than normal damage, and a gray reticle means normal damage output.
Gratifying doesn’t even being to explain the depth in which you can Digivolve and Dedigivole your Digmon (say that five times fast). If you haven’t guessed, Digivolving is Digimon’s word for evolving to make your Digimon stronger. Unlike Pokemon, there are numerous stages of Digivolving that can reach five or more stages. Some of the later transformations are absolutely insane, and seeing your Digimon begin as a defenseless-looking pink blob with ears to when it becomes a badass mechanical dinosaur with wings and a retractable rocket arm makes leveling so much more satisfying.
There’s also the ability to Dedigivole, just in case you aren’t fond of your new-looking Digimon or its stats. Dedigivolving also increases the previous Digimon’s top level, so you can up its base stats so you can unlock other options to Digivolve into or start with higher stats in your new form. It’s certainly a different approach to character leveling, and while it’s hard to go back to weaker, less badass-looking characters, the payoff can be well worth it.
Most of the game will be spent in the real world, where there’s little to no combat. Here you can buy items to heal or power up your Digimon, talk to NPCs and enter the Colosseum to compete against online and offline opponents. When you do enter the digital world to fight with your Digimon, the design of dungeons you enter to complete missions feel a bit ho-hum. While the aesthetic of the digital world is cool, dungeons repeat and grow stale far too quickly. Areas, where the digital world bleeds into the real world, are cool, but the former fails to stand tall on its own. So get used to fighting in the same areas over and over again.
There is cross-save functionality between PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, but there isn’t cross-buy for Cyber Sleuth, so you’ll have to shell out $100 in order to utilize this feature.
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth hooked me with its simple, addicting RPG mechanics from the start, and after 30 plus hours, it’s still got its hooks dug deep into me. An obtuse story aside, Cyber Sleuth is exactly what fans of Pokemon games and RPG fans will connect with and enjoy. Even those unfamiliar with Digimon and its universe can find comfort with its familiar RPG core. Some design choices feel less developed and don’t live up to Cyber Sleuth’s ambition, but underneath these mostly minor complaints is a solid Pokemon-like adventure.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of the game Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth by Media Vision. Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
- Simple, fun combat
- Leveling up Digimon
- Amusing characters
- Padded story
- Dungeon design is weak