As a kid, I guess you could say I was a Digimon fan – I collected the cards, and watched the TV show for a season or two – but I wasn’t much for any of the video games I was introduced to. Fast forward a decade and a half, and here I am faced with reviewing a promising looking Digimon game for Vita. Sufficed to say, I was a little bit curious how the series had evolved in its time without me – but I was also a little apprehensive.
In retrospect, I really shouldn’t have been; but before we get into my thoughts on the game as a whole, let’s take a look at what it has to offer.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth starts with an introduction to EDEN; an online virtual space in which avatars can meet and have fun. As the player, you’ll go to EDEN in order to meet up with some online friends – but through an odd series of events that follow, end up acquiring a hacking tool called “Digimon Capture” as a by-product. A quite self explanatory program (that you can’t seem to get rid of), it allows you to capture digital monsters – which appear in the digital world of EDEN.
This is your first real step down the rabbit hole, and from there it only gets weirder; your first Digimon, a ton of battles, a life as a “Cyber Sleuth,” and a bunch of mysterious circumstances following soon thereafter. The core story isn’t quite at the Persona level of player immersion – but it’s still very enjoyable, and more than interesting enough to generate that “just a little more” feeling.
As for where the events of the game take place, they’ll span both the real and digital worlds (from the perspective of your character). You’ll visit (in-game) Japanese locations such as the Akihabara, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Oeda subsections of Tokyo – as well as digital world locations like Kowloon, EDEN branded common areas, and hidden hacker hideouts. There are lots of places to explore, though they won’t all be available from the start and are mostly only useful during cases or plot points. As much as I’d love it to be, this really isn’t the kind of game that gives you much to do outside the important bits.
Moving on to the actual gameplay, we see a mix of four different aspects; the main story, cases at the detective agency, battles, and Digi-Lab activities.
The main story plays out over the course of twenty chapters; small pieces revealed here and there until things ramp up towards the end. This is the only part of the game which offers cutscenes, but aside from that glaring distinction it contains all the other elements present in the other parts of gameplay (battles, visual novel style talking bits, cases, etc). This is the part of the game that the rest of the game revolves around, and as such it’s the most well built and enjoyable of the core aspects.
As for the cases, they’re small missions that are sent in by the people (and Digimon) from the worlds you have access to – their completion offering a reward of both cash and specific items. Some cases trigger story events or are needed to move on, however not all cases must be completed to finish the game (or any single chapter). Cases present as dungeon-exploration quests, battles against troublesome foes, and/or fact-finding missions – coming across very basic in their scope; that said, if you get lost you can almost always talk to Mirei in the Digi-Lab (or Kyoko in the Detective Agency) for more information.
The meat of any RPG, battles present themselves in many forms – and can be initiated in many ways. In dungeons there are random battles, though there are also ways to instantly stop or trigger battles at any time (using certain hacking skills). Battles can also occur during story events, when interacting directly with non-partner Digimon, in digital lines (when using the connect jump feature), at the Offline Colosseum on the 4th floor of Nakano Broadway, and in the Online Colosseum area of the Digi-Lab – offering you a ton of chances to gain experience and test your skills.
When actually in a battle, up to three of your Digimon fight against up to three other Digimon (bar team-ups with other hackers). The speed stat of your Digimon will determine the fighting order, and it’ll be shown to you (the trainer) on the right side of the screen. Each Digimon in the battle gets the chance to attack, use a skill (they cost points), guard, change position (ie; move in/out of active battle), or exchange their turn for an item usage. When attacking or using a skill, the damage of each attack is determined by the amount of points it draws, the expanded rock-paper-scissors system of weaknesses and strengths, and any buffs you link it with.
Basically, the battle system is nothing new by any means, and is pretty much a Digimon-oriented version of the most popular method – so anyone familiar with RPGs should fall in line pretty easily. If you’re having trouble the game offers an assortment of tutorials to help you learn, but I think most should find it quite easy to pick up and play or brute force with trial and error.
Looking to the last bit of gameplay – the Digi-Lab – we find the expansion system. The Digi-Lab holds everything a Digimon trainer would need to expand the capabilities of their Digimon; offering a DigiFarm for them to grow on, a DigiBank to manually alter Digimon and their powers, a Coliseum to battle them (locally or online), a Digimon recovery station, a farm-centric shop, and access to previously traversed digilines (travel nodes) in order to train manually.
The DigFarm allows you to train your Digimon through different levels of work (some of which alter the camaraderie stat), use your Digimon to make items, and send your Digimon out to find new cases for you to solve as a Cyber Sleuth. All three of these actions benefit your progression, and there are only up to five clusters of Digimon you can order around (an entire cluster doing a single job) – so you’ll have to use your orders wisely if you want to progress smoothly.
The DigiBank allows you to store, evolve, devolve, load, or copy Digimon – giving you a host of options for directly manipulating the power of your Digimon partners. Evolving a Digimon will increase its abilities and potential directly, though your Digimon’s level will be reset as a result. Devolving will up potential drastically (and often up the amount of Digimon you can evolve to), however reduces immediate abilities drastically as well. Loading Digimon will allow you to choose a single Digimon and have them consume up to five others as experience points – though the value of the Digimon as experience varies greatly. Lastly, you can copy Digimon – which entails first scanning them to 100% (or more) by facing them repeatedly in battle, and then using the DigiConvert function to make yourself a copy.
The Online Colosseum allows you to battle via wifi; doing so either ad-hoc, or online. It has certain requirements for play in order to make it fair, such as an artificial level assignment and a cap on your party’s base strength (via a point system), but in adding these requirements it allows you to test your skills instead of your grinding ability. This isn’t your little brother’s battle mode, that’s for sure.
The recovery station and the shop are pretty self explanatory, but digilines are the final item of note – allowing you to traverse previously explored digital networks. While in the digilines you can collect items, battle Digimon, and scan Digimon (for your index or for DigiConversion) – further progressing towards a solid team whatever you do. It’s my advice that you use the digilines a little here and there to grind and fill out your team; they’re a good source of experience, partners, and items – and should be explored fully.
Speaking of exploring fully, a game review is never complete without a chat about the audio/visual presentation – but thankfully this Vita title isn’t a problem child that beckons too harsh of words. The visuals in Cyber Sleuth are quite eye-catching, if a little rough around the edges at times. It doesn’t always run at thirty frames per second, and there are a few jaggies to be seen here and there if you look for them, but overall it’s a very solid exemplar – with bright colours, fluid motion, and very little compromise. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing on Vita or PlayStation TV, this one will look good whatever your choice.
Looking to the sound, it’s notable that Cyber Sleuth contains original Japanese audio only – so if you’re expecting (or hoping for) English voices then I’m here to burst your bubble. That said, the voices are very clear and well done – and being that I prefer original audio it was perfect for me.
There’s currently a bug early in the game that seems to cause voices to not play (present in Chapter 6), and while this is obviously not an intended design option it’s worth mentioning for anyone wanting to know exactly what they’re getting into.
Rounding out the audio exam, I’d like to note that the music and sound effects were top notch. Aside from getting a little annoyed at some of the repetitive noises during extended play sessions, I’ve got no significant cause for complaint – something I’m thankful for as much as you are (I’m sure).
Looking to my final word however, I can’t help but to complain… about how Digimon World: Next Order hasn’t been announced for localization yet. I know you may think that to be a dumb joke, but aside from a few minor issues I really can’t find much else to rip apart. A strong contender in all presented aspects, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a Vita title that everyone should have in their library; and with over eighty hours and counting put in as of this writing, I’m sure it’ll be quite a staple in mine.