As some of you know, I'm a pretty huge fan of Digimon. I was real excited when I found out that Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth was going to be coming out in English. I mean, the last new Digimon game that was released in America was Digimon All-Star Rumble and, let's face it, it was an extremely unbalanced fighting game with a very underwhelming roster of playable digimon. Prior to that it was Digimon World Dawn & Dusk (Digimon Story Sunburst and Moonlight), Digimon World DS (Digimon Story), and Digimon World Data Squad (Digimon Savers: Another Mission). While I waited, hoping to see an English release of Digimon Story Lost Evolution and Digimon Story Super Xros Wars Red & Blue, there was Digimon World Championship (simply titled Digimon Championship in Japan). I honestly couldn't get behind that game. All I really know about it is that it isn't an RPG and while it apparently emulates the play style of the original virtual pets to a certain extent it's really more of a simulator that gives the player very little control of the action. As someone who enjoys traditional turn-based combat and a more hands-on approach to raising my monsters that simply wasn't going to cut it for me. If I want to raise a digimon the old fashioned way I'll get replacement batteries for one of my old key chain pets. When I'm playing something on a handheld gaming device I prefer for it to be something that isn't a totally passive gameplay experience.
And that brings me to Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth. The first thing you should know about the game is that it looks amazing, with incredible attention to detail for the real world locations that act as set pieces for the progression of the story. Back when the game was originally announced for release in Japan I happened to glance a side-by-side comparison of the in-game locations to the actual physical locations in Tokyo they are based on. There are notable differences, but the amount of detail put into the city scenery is on a level all its own. The cyberspace environment of EDEN is a little bland compared to the vibrant city landscapes, having clearly drawn its inspiration from the internet environment of Digimon the Movie (Digimon Adventure: Our War Game) and the virtual reality world of OZ from Summer Wars. What that amounts to is a lot of futuristic looking white structures with an almost pixelated texture to them comprising much of the environment. Certain areas, such as Kowloon, swap out the sterile white backdrop for a slightly more interesting blue color scheme with a somewhat more haphazard environment to provide the necessary terrain puzzles for the player to solve. The digital world, when it finally appears as an actual location in the game, looks about how you might expect it should from watching the anime. That is to say that the digital world is clearly recognizable when you see it, but you really don't get to explore a whole lot of it. Partway through the game portions of the real world become digitized and digimon also appear in the real world. It's subtle, but the way the digimon interact with the city environments has a certain charm to it.
Another aspect of the game that impressed me is that there really isn't any wasted dialogue. The NPC's dotted throughout the city have some very meta dialogue about popular and otaku culture. There are NPC's who are troubled about their line of work or about finding and maintaining relationships. In fact, much of the dialogue in the game comes across as very authentic bits of conversation you might encounter in everyday life. And, as the title implies, your role in the story is that of a cyber sleuth, a detective who investigates cyber crimes involving digimon. Sometimes that means helping out the police, sometimes that means helping a digimon to find a lost item, sometimes that means playing matchmaker, and sometimes that means patching up relations between people and digimon. For the most part even the digimon have pretty mundane problems. Sure, there's a deeper plot involving the mysterious network entities called Eaters that have appeared and mounting tensions between humans and digimon as the Royal Knights assemble threatening to wipe out humanity for the sake of the digital world as is the will of King Drasil (Yggdrasil), but it's not like this is the first time that's happened in this franchise.
In a real first for the franchise, several of the self-asserted strongest digimon are actually paired with strong female characters, including the quintessential powerhouse himself, Omnimon (Omegamon). If you've ever watched the anime, then you know that by and large the strongest digimon in a given series will be partnered with the leading boys of the team. There are some exceptions such as Sakuyamon in Tamers and Rosemon Burst Mode in Savers, but the boy wearing the goggles is usually the one who comes out on top. Now, there's a very simple reason why that has been the case and that's because the Digimon franchise was originally targeted at young boys. It started out as a counterpart to the popular Tamagotchi virtual pets and grew from there. But that isn't really the case anymore. The more recent installments are targeted at the audience that grew up with digimon who are now adults. On the one hand, that means there has been a significant increase in the amount of blatant fan service and the character designs in Cyber Sleuth are certainly no exception, but at the same time it means having the creative freedom to break away from the old formula. Some of the girls might be showing a little too much skin for certain tastes, but it's of absolutely no consequence to the plot. They are strong, well-written, and sympathetic characters who have risen beyond the old standard of the girls being delegated to the supporting cast with inferior fighting power and I think that's great. It shows that you don't have to be a Tai or a Matt to bring out the badass potential in your partner digimon. Girls are just as capable of extraordinary feats of bravery. Sure, it's been done in fanfiction and role-playing circles for years, but being done in an official capacity really drives it home.
My only real complaint with the game, and it's a pet peeve remnant from the grand debate of my younger years as a fan of anime when subtitled versus dubbed was all the rage, is that the name changes inserted into the English text seriously stand out when you can clearly hear the Japanese audio addressing that digimon with a different name. Gallantmon (Dukemon), Crusadermon (Rhodo Knightmon), and Leopardmon (Duftmon) were definitely the biggest offenders on that front. Otherwise, there were only a handful of times when a portion of text seemed to have slipped through the cracks during the proof reading process. And, of course, the text really doesn't make any effort to differentiate between the player character being male or female, meaning you probably won't notice anything when playing as the male protagonist, but it's noticeable when playing as the female protagonist that there are times when NPC's refer to your character as a "he". My guess is that there was only one script for the game and that the original Japanese probably used a gender neutral pronoun to refer to the protagonist that probably got lost in translation. Really, it's a pretty minor complaint that didn't detract at all from my enjoyment of the game.
So, with 90 hours on the clock with normal battle difficulty and a roster of Alphamon, Jesmon, Ulforce Veedramon, Magnamon, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode, Omnimon Zwart, Mastemon, Bancho Leomon, Gaiomon, Sakuyamon, and Rust Tyranomon all at level 99 I just hope that we'll be seeing an English release of the Seven Great Demon Lords bonus DLC to extend the adventure.
Listening to: Radio
Reading: NJ Driver's Handbook
Watching: Super Sentai Zyuranger
Playing: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster