Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth came out the 2nd of February, 2016 on the PS4 and the PS Vita. The game is developed by Media.Vision and published by the famous video game company, Bandai Namco Entertainment — the same company, who brought us the Tekken-series, the Dragon Ball games, Dark Souls, and the likes.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the 5th instalment in its series — the “Digmon Story” series — being the successor of “Super Xros Wars Red and Blue” and the predecessor to “Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory”, which came out the 14th of December 2017 (note that Hacker’s Memory is to my knowledge more an expansion of Cyber Sleuth and not a stand-alone game, meaning that you would have needed to play Cyber Sleuth beforehand. However, you don’t need to have played Super Xros Wars to play Cyber Sleuth!)
But, let’s get into the review! First up, a short note on the story and a bit more about the game. Then a quick, bullet-point review marking the game’s best and worst. And a bit further down we’ll dive in deeper. Of course, finishing off with a personal opinion.
The Story (spoiler free)
You play a silent protagonist, who becomes a pseudo hacker — later a Cyber Sleuth at a detective bureau — with a unique set of abilities, which let you travel through the digital space. You’re a nobody at the beginning, who likewise most of your friends, doesn’t know anything about Digimon other than that they are “evil programs”. However, through the story, your character and the characters around you develop a bond with the Digimon.
The game starts in a chatroom in the digital space called EDEN, where a hacker, a “Mr Navit”, suddenly appears, Ex Machina style, and forces you and two others to join him in the abandoned/Hacker part of EDEN, Kowloon. Kowloon is a level-based dungeon style, which you’ll acquaint quite often. A quick note: while you and your friends, Arata and Nokia, explore Kowloon, you meet probably the two most famous Digimon: Agumon and Gabumon. And these two, you’ll meet throughout the story. But, this is also where you obtain your first Digimon in a Pokémon choose-your-starter style.
With your new friend, you try to save your friends from an Eater (a clitch-like monster that eats data), but as you’re about to escape, your mind and body are separated. Your physical body has succumbed to the EDEN Syndrome disease and now your mind and your digital body are transported to the physical world. And there the detective, Kyoto Kuremi nearly hits you with her car!
She then helps you “scavenge” a “body” (it’s not as weird as it sounds) and from there you help her with different cases revolving around EDEN, corruption, friendship… hardship, morality, and of course fetch quests… (sorry, but they are a prominent part of the side quests. But they are luckily optional!)
You help Kyoto on different cases with the main story arc being carried through with each case. Pretty simple, but not generic. Definitely not generic! Some of the missions are what you’d expect: A to B equals a reward. And most missions could be boiled down to the typical JRPG recipe, however — though the story takes a few turns along the way, it’s nothing major. But then it flips on itself and suddenly you’re not really in control, but it’s okay because the dialogue, the humour, and the things that are happening are just too wonderfully weird, cute, or interesting that you’re perfectly okay with it.
The story is quite something, and it’s definitely not something you’d expect from a Digimon game — or at least, I didn’t! Another short note: I can’t stress enough that the game’s story really surprised me. Maybe it was because I didn’t expect a lot, but I have genuinely been enjoying the hours I’ve put into the game, and a part of me want to experience it all over again. I’ve caught myself thinking: oh this will be the end… but it hasn’t. The story has just… continued. Personally, I always like a story that isn’t a recipe but has some uniqueness to it, and Cyber Sleuth has exactly that.
The game is also rated TEEN because of crude humour, language, suggestive themes, and violence, which actually surprised me a lot. However, I can’t explore the story further without giving details you’d want to experience on your own! But, if you want the short and snappy review that goes over the most noticeable features of the game, then simply look below.
- The story is quite simple, but it has some intrigue — especially at the start and unquestionably nearing the end. However, it is slow, so expect to go with the flow and pay attention to the dialogue. I can’t stress how much of the story and the next objective are hidden in the dialogue but do enjoy the ride because there are some special moments where you find yourself laughing or sitting in awe, or just looking confused at the screen.
- The combat is the standard JRPG turn-based combat with an effective/ineffective-system, types and attributes, stats, etc. — so expect something comprehensive, maybe even a bit difficult, but don’t expect anything overly innovative.
- The game mechanics are cool and unique. There are “puzzles”, where you use your Digimon to solve them, however, the puzzles are simple. Too simple, but the other mechanics, like Digivolution, is what really makes the game unique to Digimon. But, it’s not a puzzle game. It’s a Digimon game.
- The graphics are not bad, but they are not unusually good either. They fit the game pretty well, having that anime-cartoony look. However, I should say there are fan-service in form of the girls and women being “busty” and having short skirts — but, it’s not too distracting and definitely not crossing any lines in terms of anime! They also try to make the cutscenes more interesting. It sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but they are not a make or break — maybe just an added bonus or the opposite.
- The music is very JRPG-esque: tech-based and futuristic, which isn’t bad… it can become repetitive, but I haven’t been irritated by it yet. Some of it can actually be quite good, even moving at times, but the music in the Kowloon Levels, which is where you do spend a lot of time, can especially become repetitive.
Now, I might sound more critical of the game than I really am, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 30+ hours I’ve put into the game so far, and from what I can gather, the game can take up to 80 hours for a leisure playthrough (source: howlongtobeat.com). The main reasons why I like this game so much are because:
The story and combat might be simple, maybe even tedious to a point, but they both help deliver an honest story, and actually a quite intriguing one for someone who hasn’t played and watched Digimon in a long time. On the surface, we have this very light, funny “solve the mystery” premise. But digging beneath the surface, we see an overall plot that revolves around how Digimon has become something evil: programs that hackers use to benefit only their own needs. Forgotten and misunderstood. And together, the main protagonist, his friends and allies try to understand and remember the Digimon for what they are.
And then you have the witty, dare I say, playful dialogue at times, which ties in with the weirder missions exceptionally well! I would’ve loved to write the dialogue for the game because to me, the writers or at least the translators, must have had the time of their life writing the dialogue for some of the missions. But no dialogue is more important than characters, and the main character’s allies (friends) are surprisingly complex! It’s not something you’d notice unless you piece together the information you’ve received over the course of the entire story. But they’re there, not simpleminded, flat characters. They fail, they learn, and they grow.
And same with the story: the story doesn’t fall flat, of course, I can’t say there aren’t twists or story beats that don’t make sense, but the story is unfolded well, most events are fitting, and it even picks up on things that were said in previous scenes. And I love a story that goes full circle because it means that actual thought was put into making the story!
(Yes, I’m shortening a bullet-point review even more, and it’s an analogy).
If this game was a rollercoaster, it would be a slow ride (for the most part) with little variation in its ups and down, but you would probably enjoy most if it. All the parts of the game: the story, gameplay, music, etc. play well together and complement each other.
And then, of course, there is the nostalgia! I can’t talk about this game without mentioning and the nostalgia train I’ve been put on… and man, it’s been a ride!
For me, the biggest reason why I bought the game (besides the price drop) was because it was Digimon. I had abandoned the Digimon world in favour of Pokémon as many others did. I’d forgotten about it like the characters in the game had forgotten what Digimon was. When I saw the game in the PS Store, I was genuinely surprised, and as I booted the game up, I honestly went all-out-fanboy again… Seeing my favourite Digimon from a series I grew up with again was powerful and it’s probably made me biased. Which is this guy (or girl, I don’t really know), but he/she was in the second season of Digimon Adventure, being the villain’s greatest weakness (story-wise).
But I’m not saying you have to be a fan to like it, however, being a fan will only make the game better.
An open letter to the fans: I’m in no control of how you choose to play the game, but I believe in playing a game for the sake of the game. However, if you’re thinking of picking Cyber Sleuth up and you’re an old (or new) Digimon fan, go in with your past experience and re-live it in this game. Seeing Wormmon, Argumon, or Gabumon again has been a blast, and I wholeheartedly believe that you’ll too have a blast easing your way through the story.
An open letter to someone just discovering Digimon: Likewise, with the fans, I don’t control how you play games, but I would suggest that you play with an open mind. Take everything in, but keep in mind that there are more than 20 years of lore and mythos behind this. If you have never heard of Digimon, but like JRPGs or just causal stories — or you’re maybe a Pokémon fan — then just dive in and experience a small story in an otherwise colossal universe. If you don’t like slow-paced games with sometimes interesting sometimes bland dialogue, then this game isn’t for you.
I’ve covered the main points of the game already, so the thing I want to go more in-depth with is the game mechanics. Let’s start with the basics of basics!
The first thing we need to cover is the Effective/Ineffective System: this might be the primary mechanic of the combat, so let’s speed this up. You have four types: Virus, Vaccine, and Data, which has this double-rock, paper, scissor-system, and then you have a Free type (first slide).
Now, each Skill (which is an attack) also has a type and three different rotations with the first two being the classic-rock, paper, scissor-system (second slide):
- Firstly, we have Fire, Plant, and Water.
- Secondly, we have Electric, Wind, and Earth.
- Thirdly, we have Light vs. Dark.
From here, let’s talk about Stats, where we have the self-explanatory: HP, ATK, DEF, INT, and SPD, and then we have something called CAM. CAM stands for Camaraderie, and it’s basically a gauge that’s filled during battle, which lets two Digimon, who are adjacent on the turn-timeline, attack together.
And for the final “basic” mechanic, let’s talk about Personality as it affects your Digimon’s stats. However, this is pretty simple: we have types like Endurance, Vitality, Attack, etc. which gives a +5% to its respective stat.
The Digi-Farm is quite simply a place where you can store your other Digimon. It’s a digital “island”, and you can do a number of things.
- You can train your Digimon, pay for the development of items, or have them investigate new cases or other items too.
- You can also change your “farm leader”, and that changes the way your Digimon are trained. There are six different types of “leaders”:
- Durable = HP,
- Lively = SP,
- Fighter = ATK,
- Defender = DEF ,
- Nimble = SPD,
- and Brainy = INT. And they all increase the Digimons’ stats by 5%.
The most obvious game mechanic is also uniquely tied in with Digimon franchise, and that is Digivolution/de-Digivolution. Digivolution is somewhat on the line with Pokémon evolving into a stronger version of itself, however, Digimon takes it up a notch because there are a ton of evolutions. But let’s talk about the main ones:
- The first one is a general evolution from a very weak Digimon to a stronger Digimon. To again compare it to Pokémon: imagine if Charmander had a pre-evolution. It’s called Baby I (translated from Japanese) or Fresh.
And now it gets fun!
- Because after this first Digivolution, you can now choose between three to five different Digimon, all needing different criteria to evolve. This is Baby II or In-Training.
- Now, we’re getting a bit closer to the stronger Digimon… but we still have a few to go. This next step is Child or Rookie.
For reference, Agumon is a Rookie Digimon.
- From here we have, Adult or Champion (jumping nice and neatly over the teenage years).
- Our two final is, Perfect or Ultimate.
- And, Ultimate or Mega (the finals are a bit confusing, I know).
These are the ones I definitely know are in the game, but we’re actually not quite done yet. From what I can see, there are 242 Digimon in total, spanning from Fresh to Mega. However, there are a couple of special Digivolutions too, and that’s Armor Digivolution, DNA Digivolution (which is a fusion between two Digimon).
Lore-wise, in the Digimon Universe and Mythos, there are a lot more Digivolutions spanning from Dark to Biomerge to Mode Change to Burst to X to Blast… You get the point, however, I can’t see or find any evidence suggesting that these Digivolutions also are in the game.
Do I think this game is worth buying? Well, it depends.
Are you into JRPGs? Then yes! Are you into Digimon? Then of course! Are you a Pokémon fan? Then this might also be right up your alley! But, if you’re not into these genres, games, and universes, then you might enjoy this too, however, you will probably get much more out of the game and its story (both the surface story and the under-the-surface story).
I think Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth brings a lot to the table if you like this type of game. It’s slow and not overly difficult, but you will find yourself stuck if you don’t pay attention, however, it’s very compelling too, and once you get into the game mechanics, it can even be quite addicting.Follow us everywhere
- Interesting Story
- Unique Game Mechanics (Digivolution/de-Digivolution)
- Slowly Paced
- Confusing (sometimes)
- Simple Puzzles