UK Release Date: 05/02/2016
Console: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
I used to love Digimon when I was a kid. OK, I was never as into it as I was Pokémon, but I used to watch the cartoons, and Digimon World is still one of my all-time favourite PSX games. I felt it was similar to Pokémon and yet different enough to be interesting, and while I haven’t dipped into the franchise for a long time, I was determined to approach with an open mind when I eventually got back into it. Earlier this year Shawn bought Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth on the PS4, and this is my first foray into the world of Digimon in at least a decade, I’d say. So what did I think?
Honestly? I love this game.
This might come as a surprise because I usually rail against these so-called Pokémon-a-likes because they usually feel really rushed and watered down, and the artwork often suffers because they have a limited time to produce hundreds of monsters in believable evolutions. Where Digimon excels is that it’s been around for a long time – I’m talking 15 years plus long time – and so they already have a lot of monsters to choose from. And when you can Digivolve your Digimon into a plethora of different forms rather than just having one single evolutionary line, it adds a degree of customisation but also challenge, as naturally the more powerful Digivolutions have more complex criteria that need to be fulfilled in order to obtain them. I think the degree of freedom to customise your team is one of the main selling points of Cyber Sleuth though, as by and large you can Digivolve who you want when you want, and by nicknaming your Digimon it adds a further degree of personalisation and helps you get more attached to your partners.
You’d hope, as well, that a game with the word ‘story’ in its title excels in this department, and I firmly believe that this is the case here. The story in Cyber Sleuth is really, really interesting, and manages to shift between humorous side-quests, gritty main story and some truly shocking and horrifying moments (the whole concept of EDEN Syndrome and Eaters, for example). As you progress through the game and start figuring things out, things only get more interesting, and the mark of a great story is that it draws you in and makes you want to keep reading or, in this case, keep playing. There’s a great diversity of characters as well: ditzy ones (Nokia), moody ones (Arata), ones that love to ramble (Kyoko), shy ones (Yuuko), ones that irritate the hell out of you from start to finish (Jimiken), warped and disturbing ones (Rie) and ones that I still can’t figure out where their allegiances lie (well, that would be telling if I told you who that was). Figuring out which characters you like, which ones you don’t, and which are a bit of both is always one of the great things about an RPG, and there are plenty of instances of all of those here.
As much as I love Cyber Sleuth though, it isn’t perfect, and most of the problems I have with it are annoying because they’d be so easy to fix if a little more effort was put into them. The game was originally released in Japanese, and this is glaringly obvious not only because the narration is all in Japanese (which I like, by the way, because the game is set in Japan so it makes sense to have it narrated in the native language), but the fact that the writing is really, really bad in some places. It’s been so clumsily translated that some of the stuff you’re reading doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, while other bits are really very adult and actually completely inappropriate for what is still a 12+ rated game (particularly nearly every line of Rie’s dialogue and occasionally things that Nokia says). It’s a pity that it’s like this because it came out in English almost a full year after it came out in Japanese, and I just think that if they’d taken the time to translate it properly rather than going with their first instinct and what they think is right, they could have ironed out a whole load of the issues that spoil the dialogue sometimes and make it feel almost like you’re playing an indie game on Steam than a supposedly professionally-produced home console offering.
Speaking of home console offerings, the game is playable on both PS4 and PS Vita with cross-save functionality between the two versions, meaning you can take it on the go with you and then come home and play the best bits on your big screen. I really like that Sony do this and it’s something I wish Nintendo would consider because the whole point of the Wii and DS really was so that you could connect them up, but aside from games like Pokémon Battle Revolution this was never really realised, and has been even more forgotten with the introduction of the Wii U. The music in the game (which by and large is awesome; my particular favourite tracks are the Eater battle music and the Cyber Shift labyrinth music) sounds great coming through headphones on your PS Vita, and the fact that it’s exactly the same game in pretty much exactly the same graphics on both consoles is really good news. What you basically get is a home console-quality game on a portable console, which is definitely a step in the right direction as far as portable gaming is concerned.
On the whole, Cyber Sleuth is a really interesting game that has achieved its aim of getting me interested in Digimon once again. OK, the storyline and action is occasionally spoiled by the clumsy, nonsensical or inappropriate dialogue, but by and large this doesn’t ruin the gameplay experience enough to make you want to stop playing because the story is interesting enough to carry the game on its own. Add to that the customisation of your team with over 200 Digimon species to collect and raise, interesting characters and a whole plethora of side-quests to add replay value and keep you interested after the main story, and this is a game that is definitely worth a look, particularly if you’re a fan of Pokémon-style monster battlers or futuristic RPGs.