Title: Digimon Story – Cyber Sleuth

Platform: PS4, PSVita

Reviewed on: PS4

Genre: JRPG

Players: Single player

Written by Whistler 28th February 2016

The 90’s were a great time to be a kid, so much of my childhood is practically engraved with blocky 3D video games and Saturday morning cartoons like Dragonball Z, Beyblade, Pokemon and of course Digimon. Despite being rather unfairly compared to Pokemon in every form of media, whether it was the animated series’, trading cards or video games I always had a soft spot for the underdog among them. Personally I preferred the Digimon animated series for tackling mature themes and constructing deeper narratives but I’ll confess that the digital critters never managed to grab a firm foothold in the video game market.

That being said when I heard that Digimon Story – Cyber Sleuth was finally getting a western release you can bet my inner child was screaming at me to dive right back into the Digimon Franchise.

Thankfully Cyber Sleuth takes what has worked in previous Digimon games and amplifies them, firstly with its setting; set in an alternative modern day Japan virtual reality has become the norm thanks to a new form of internet called Eden where people are able to freely explore cyberspace and surf the digital waves of an online utopia. However a terrible plague has begun claiming victims at an alarming rate, after coming into contact with glitches nicknamed Eaters a victim’s digital data is consumed and the physical body falls into a deep coma. With no other symptoms doctors can only house the growing number of incurable patients - that’s where you come in.

After a series of rather bizarre events you’re now the newest hacker on the block with the unique ability to dive into Eden wherever you please as you work towards uncovering the truth behind Eden Syndrome and solve cases for the local detective agency.

Now you could almost be forgiven for wondering how much of a role the Digimon actually play in the game; while you’ll interact with many through the course of the game the Digimon feel surprisingly secondary in a game that’s named after them. Considered programs in Eden, Digimon are utilized by hackers for combat. Sharing a disturbing amount of similarities with the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, Cyber Sleuth’s gameplay is split into two distinct sections as you navigate between the real and digital worlds. However both of these sections just pale in comparison to Persona 3 and 4. While in the real world you’ll traverse Japan in sectioned off districts taking on cases, buying items and conversing with clients but honestly it’s just dull. A staggering majority of the time tasks needing carried out in the real world serve to only break the flow of the game with monotonous tasks that pad out the already bloated side quest sections. While some side stories are enjoyable it doesn’t help how mediocre and forgettable the real world aspects of the game are. Most cases will have you dotting back and forth between npcs to trigger the next flag to progress until eventually culminating in a single or series of fights.

Your time in the digital world section will be spent battling and capturing other Digimon and fighting bosses tied to competing cases. Combat is nothing new (whether that’s negative or positive is up to the player), the battle system can be best likened to that of FFX’s version of the ATB system. You can take a team of three into battle with up to six in your reserve and take turns in order of the fastest Digimon that is displayed to the right in an easy to read timeline. Your Digimon can do all the usual stuff such as attack, use their special skills, guard, etc etc. The combat utilizes a fairly basic rock-paper-scissors elemental system akin to Pokemon, with each Digimon being assigned an main attribute of Virus, Vaccine, Data and then a secondary attribute of Fire, Water, Plant, Earth, Electric, Wind, Light and Dark where each attribute is either weak, strong or average against the other. It’s a simple system that gets the job done but it’s the only area where any strategy is involved. Combat overall can be best described as a baby’s first JRPG; sounds incredibly arrogant but Digimon Cyber Sleuth offers so little in terms of challenge, I was able to regularly mash attack or just spam the same moves no matter who I was up against.

And yet as of writing I’ve accumulated upwards of 40 hours and have enjoyed my time. Thanks to the hassle free scan and capture mechanic you can both grind levels for your team along with capturing new Digimon to add to the collection or be refined into exp for your veterans. Whenever you encounter a Digimon in battle you’ll accumulate a percentage of their scan data, once it reaches 100+% you can recreate the creature in the Digi Lab (think Pokemon Centre with more stuff to do). This simple adjustment to the usual rigmarole you expect in an JPRG where you recruit creatures makes it far easier and streamlined whilst eliminating the often frustrating parts.

Of course one of show’s features was always making digivolutions regular yet exciting and Cyber Sleuth captures this perfectly. Once you’re digital monster reaches key stats and levels you can take them to the digi lab to evolve into their next forms where at the cost of resetting their level to 1 they will gain increased base and maximum stats and gain new abilities. All Digimon don’t necessarily have a single evolution either allowing you to experiment and make the ideal team to fit your style whilst making digivolutions fresh and exciting each time (well besides the occasional disappointing ones). Thankfully if you follow a certain evolutionary line and find it not to your liking you can simply de-digivolve the unlikable critter back one form at a time resetting their level 1 one and lowering their base stats but also increasing their maximum level and ability points.

Ability points tend to play a key role when it comes to the strongest ultimate, mega and ultra forms that Digimon can unlock and also dictate how much bonus stats can be acquired via the digi farm. There’s a pleasant amount of depth to maximizing the potential of your farm such as installing training gear to boost certain stat growths or boost exp gain for specific Digimon types. This allows you to level up and optimize Digimon you can’t necessarily afford to take along with you or afford the space for.

Thankfully while combat and exploration is rather lacklustre, Cyber Sleuth makes up for it in two key fields, its visual aesthetics and its narrative. CS sports a fantastically colourful and unique cyberpunk style that both captures the wonder of the show whilst giving the player the a mature tone that suits the settings. That being said the game hasn’t been all that improved from it’s Vita release when it was ported to the PS4 so real world environments tend to look incredibly low quality with glaringly bad pixelated textures at a glance and blocky objects. It’s small but it can be a real eyesore on the big screen and doesn’t utilize the PS4’s full potential.

While at first the story’s rather predictable there are plenty of heartfelt moments and it allows itself to have fun with the characters and setting like a Digimon that ‘haunts’ a local music store as it wants its music to be heard by others or another that pretends to be human to help a boy gain confidence with talking to people. However it does feel padded at times and it’s a shame that you’re own Digimon team don’t really play any kind of notable role other than your weapons. While the main story is a blast there often a times just feels like too many branching plots that go nowhere and only slow down the pace.

Ultimately Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a solid game and a pleasant sight to see on the PS4, it’s enjoyable without being overly punishing but it lacks refinement in certain areas and often has problems with pacing. While it’s not the herald of Digimon’s return to video game glory it’s a step in the right direction and a recommended title for western Digimon fans that’ve been yearning a new game from the franchise.

Variety of interesting Digimon to capture,
Bright yet mature tones,
Leveling Digimon can be grindy but surprisingly fun,
Decent storyline.

Generic and unchallenging combat,
Too much side fluff breaks the flow,
Mundane real world segments,
Your Digimon don’t effect the story.

Final verdict,

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth doesn’t go mega but manages a 7/10.

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