The Digimon vs Pokémon war was intense. Playgrounds were scattered with those of both sides – but generally Pokémon held the majority. I was in the middle camp – they were both pretty cool! This was probably my deepest darkest secret for a few years, no one could find out I was waving the Pokémon flag but dipping my toe into the Digimon pool. I watched a bit of the TV show, but I honestly couldn’t tell you the plot of it. The first Digimon game on PS1 though, had me just as hooked as Pokémon Blue did. If you’d have told me that 15 years from then Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth would come out, and I’d be playing a modern Digimon game on a PS4, I probably wouldn’t have understood – but I’d be amazed nonetheless.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the latest Digimon game, and we sure had to fight for it. This game only managed to get localisation thanks to rabid fans in the west pushing for it, and I couldn’t thank them more. Cross the delights of training and raising a huge team of monsters with sleuthing around doing detective work in both the digital world and the real world and you’ve got the entire premise of Cyber Sleuth. It’s a simple concept that gives off Shin Megami Tensei-series vibes. I’m honestly surprised with the maturity of the game’s story – I went in anticipating a fun adventure with friendship and Digimon, and what we got rivals the Persona series in its maturity.
As you’d expect, the core of the game is training up your digital monsters and digivolving them up to stronger, more powerful beasts. You don’t catch Digimon though, you scan them. Before a battle properly starts, you’ll scan a percentage of them and through multiple battles you can then transform your scan data into an actual Digimon. 100% scan data gets you the Digimon, but 200% scan data maxes out the scan and gives the Digimon bonus stats. I quite like this approach as it takes some of the randomness out of collecting Digimon. Some Digimon are really lacking in the design department, but there’s plenty of awesome ones – some favourites at the moment include Black MetalGarurumon, Paildramon and Flamedramon. It’s really tough to learn all their names since some are extremely unmemorable, but favourites always stand out.
Your party can consist of up to 11 Digimon, but each one has a memory value. Initially you only have 20 memory, but this can be increased to as high as 250 by the end of the game. The memory limit is incredibly frustrating but it stops you from having a overpowered team, which is easy to achieve with some grinding. If you play through the game normally without grinding this’ll be less of a problem but for those of us who grind a lot, you’ll be struggling to maintain balance in your team. With 11 slots for Digimon, I’d say at least 5 or 6 should be Digimon that add balance – there’s three different types of Digimon (Data, Vaccine and Virus) plus elemental attributes and neutral Digimon that have no type affinity. It’s handy to keep a varied team, despite most wild Digimon battles being extremely easy on the normal difficulty setting. The boss battles are what catch you out.
There’s an offline battle colosseum that allows you to fight tough opponents every few chapters of the story. The challenge steadily rises as you win battles and some fights can be extremely tricky. In one of the earlier colosseum cups, you’ll be put up against a lone Flamedramon as the final boss of that round. It has counters and attack boosts, so even with a full team it was a bit of a struggle. The fights are your generic turn-based RPG affair. You control a team of 3 from your 11-man party with a specific turn order based on their speed stat, so there’s nothing new I can really say about that.
The game really encourages the grind. The DigiLab, the place where your Digimon are stored, has a mirror dungeon that lets you revisit old areas and fight what was there. This, plus the late-game ability to force enemy encounters to happen and equipment that boosts EXP gain makes levelling a team time consuming but much easier. In the DigiLab, you can also digivolve your creatures, put them on a DigiFarm that has them steadily gain exp as you play, heal them, take part in online battles and stash them in the bank. The DigiFarm is great for levelling Digimon that you don’t necessarily want in your team yet, which is good for filling out your Field Guide- the list of Digimon in the game.
There’s 200+ Digimon available and the brilliant thing is, Digimon aren’t on a set path. In the main Digimon anime series, Agumon would naturally digivolve into Greymon but in Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, you’ve got about 5 or 6 options available. You can digivolve up or de-digivolve down to a lesser form for stat and level cap boosts, enabling you to move into a totally different form again and follow a totally different digivolution path. Your starter Digimon can become literally anything when you think about it, so it really doesn’t matter what you pick as long as you know the digivolution route it needs to take.
The game’s soundtrack is great too, really pushing the digital themes. Some tracks that stand out to me are the ones played during boss battles and emotional plot points. Graphically the game looks much like the Vita version of the game, despite me playing it on PS4. That really doesn’t hold it back though, because the cartoony graphics look fantastic and everything looks colourful and vibrant.
I do have a major complain about Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, but it doesn’t affect the main plot much. The game’s localisation is… lacking. Throughout the game you get these texts from your Digimon and in-game friends, but they really aren’t written well. They’re designed to boost your Digimon’s affinity with your character and add to the game’s story, but some questions you’ll be asked have odd responses that don’t quite make sense which is such a shame. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth really excels in its plot, but these little plot undertones really lack decent grammar.
Some characters you meet also use the cringiest phrases – I hope you’re used to seeing “lol” “omg” and “lmao” because there’s one character in particular who, every time you meet him, doesn’t cut that shit out. I’m also not a huge fan of the quest system – you accept cases in the game’s overworld area, but you can only accept one at a time which makes some of the simpler fetch quests extremely tedious. On the flip side though, most of these cases are interesting and follow some of the main character’s’ friends. There’s just a handful of disappointingly tedious ones mixed in there.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a great game, and I’ve tried to avoid spoilers because honestly I think the plot is interesting enough to warrant that. If you’re in the “Pokémon is better!!” camp, disregard that view, put on your big boy pants, realise you can enjoy both Pokémon and Digimon, and look into this game. It does not disappoint.