Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Review

2016-02-02-194531

Title: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Developer: Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: 
Yes

One franchise that many people have compared to Pokemon in the past is Digimon, if not by name alone.  Digimon also has a place and presence on Sony devices, which are sometimes in direct competition with Nintendo, where Pokemon resides.  Monster-catching franchises often fall into this, but because of Digimon’s popularity, it is the most well-known.  Even though, before video games, Digimon wasn’t about monster-catching at all.  It was an anime series about a group of kids becoming trapped in an alternate dimension made up of digital data, using a partner Digital Monster, or Digimon, to help protect them and get them home.

In games, though, few non-Pokemon monster-catchers quite live up to the impact and depth of the Digimon series.  Ever since the PS1 era, the series has had a place in gaming, mostly in the “Digimon World” series of games.  I was a pretty big fan of the first two DW games back on the original PlayStation, and played quite a bit of one of the games from last generation on the Nintendo DS.  In this generation, though, we are a bit limited on Digimon games in the West.

At least, until now.  Not long ago, a Digimon game released in the West on the Sony platforms.  Originally a PlayStation Vita exclusive but not a PS4 and PS Vita game, it’s reached the West and is the talk of the Vita community.  So, how is it?  Let’s find out.  Here is my official review of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth!

Story

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The story takes place in Tokyo as well as a virtual world known as EDEN.  Using Virtual Reality technology, Eden is basically a huge virtual world comprised of web sites, message boards, online communities, etc.  Picture forums as large rooms and environments you can freely walk around while in a VR environment.

While in EDEN, you come across hackers as well as monsters once thought to be illegal programs, in the form of monsters called Digimon.  In the midst of your first trek, you not only find a Digimon to travel with you, but encounter a data-devouring monster and are left back in reality with a half-cyber body while your real one is in a coma.

As this crisis settles in, you’re recruited by a local detective agency to investigate cyber-crimes as a “Cyber Sleuth” and look for a way to cure yourself of what is called “EDEN Syndrome” and return to your own body.  Little do you know you will uncover a plot revolving around Digimon, EDEN, and a plot of epic proportions.

The story of the game is pretty in tune with what you may expect from a Digimon game.  While it is a little out-of-the-ordinary for a Digimon game to not take place in the “Digital World”, it’s still what you may expect from the franchise.  It plays out very much like an anime, and is quite enjoyable and comical.

Gameplay

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Cyber Sleuth is a dungeon-crawling and monster-catching RPG with turn-based battles as well as party and time management systems thrown into the mix.   Throughout the game, you’ll be moving around dungeons and environments to do quests and story events, while you’ll also be encountering enemies and bosses, and catching/creating new monsters to recruit as party members.  To not be entirely confusing and flood you with technical terms, it’s a monster-catching RPG.

Each chapter of the game will have you in set phases.  You’ll have phases where you need to solve side-quests to spawn story events or simply locate an NPC in a certain area, be it in Eden or the real world.  Your main goal is to do what you can to spawn the next story event and advance the plot, which can be hinted upon both by your boss at the detective agency, and your advisor at the Digimon Lab you’re introduced to early in the game.

Now let’s talk about locations.  You have three main locations you can move around in.  There’s The Real World, EDEN, and the Digimon Lab (Digi-Lab).  The Real World has different sections around Tokyo for you to find NPCs in and do quests.  While most of these are small, the Detective Agency’s building has quite a bit to it, with the agency, an arcade for optional mini-games, as well as shops and individual stores that you’ll need to explore as you go further into the game.

EDEN is a set of locations you can teleport to on a point-to-point map/menu.  It has NPC areas like an Entrance and Community area.  It also has forum locations with NPCs and dungeons that you can run through.  These locations will expand and become available upon story progression.  However, to get to Eden, you must find a TV or terminal in the real world that gives you the option to go to EDEN.  Some allow only the Digi-Lab, so you have to make sure you know where the right terminals are.

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Finally, the Digi-Lab.  The Lab is a place where you manage, train, and grow your Digimon that you’ve been collecting.  It has several different services.  First of all, it has the Management area, where you can move Digimon in and out of your party, Digivolve or De-Digivolve them if certain requirements are met to make them stronger or weaker, create new Digimon from data recovered in dungeons, or even letting Digimon absorb another for experience gain.

The Farm is the other big area in the Lab.  This lets you place Digimon on virtual islands to interact with one another as well as train to increase their stats, find items, among other things.  The training is something I’ll touch on later when I get into the evolution and combat systems.  Other services include a shop for Farm Items, the multiplayer area for Local or Online Multiplayer Battles, and an area to let you re-visit some story dungeons again.

Now let’s go to dungeons and encounters.  Dungeons proceed in normal RPG fashion.  There are maze-like areas you travel through to find story events as well as fighting battles and getting treasure from chests.  The battles you find and fight through take place between your party of Digimon and an enemy party of Digimon.

The combat in the game has you going through turn-based battles, similar to previous Digimon games, like Digimon World 2.  Like most RPGs, there is an order to combat and each time a Digimon’s turn comes up, you’re able to put in a command, from normal attacks and skill attacks to using items, guarding, or swapping Digimon out between your battle party and reserve party.  Then, once you win a battle, you get experience to level up your Digimon.

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Combat is also how you can “catch” and recruit new Digimon to your team.  Every time you encounter a Digimon, you scan it and receive a percentage of its data.  When that data reaches 100% (Max of 200), you can go to the Lab and create that Digimon from that data, which can then be placed into your party or the islands on the Farm.  On the opposite of that, the farm also allows you to return Digimon to data that you already have.

Getting the Digimon you want in your party comes from this.  Every Digimon has an In-Training,  Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, and Mega form, and many Digimon can branch out into different kinds of each tier.  To get these Digimon, you have to look at what you can get the data for and then train them to Digivolve them into higher forms.  You have to level them because there are level and stat requirements for each Digimon you can digivolve into.

Level requirements are pretty straight-forward.  You can only Digivolve into this Digimon if you’re at or above Level 30.  Stat requirements may require you to go past it, though.  If your Augumon has an Attack stat of 50 at Level 18, and Greymon requires an Attack value of 65, you have to keep leveling Augumon until he meets all requirements.  This can go even as far as breaking the base stat barrier or obtaining story-based items to make some of the harder-to-get Digimon.

That brings us to the Ability, or ABI stat.  ABI is also a requirement for many high-tier evolutions, and it’s a very tricky stat to train.  Basically, ABI only increases when you de-digivolve from one tier to a lower tier.  In many cases, you have to train to one tier, de-digivolve to increase ABI, and then re-train until you’re back up to those original requirements.  For many Mega tiers, you have to do this several times.  If you only get 12 points of ABI per de-digivolve and you need ABI to be 80 or more, you’re going to be training and re-training for quite some time.

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The more in-depth part of this is that ABI also is used for bonus stats.  You can train your Digimon in the Farm and the amount of ABI determines how many bonus points you can add to your stats that go beyond the limitations of their base stats.  So, if you have ABI at 100, the max, you can distribute 100 extra points to any stat you want, assuming the leader of the training session has a personality matching the stat you wish to increase.

There is only one thing I’ll say about this.  Since your Digimon will return to Level 1 every time you digivolve or de-digivolve, this is definitely a game for people who love to grind for levels.  I’m definitely not gonna lie about that.  I’m a good 63 hours into the game and I’m sure at least 10 of those hours, if not more, are solely from grinding to get certain Digimon and maxing out the ABI stat on my battle party.  If you’re not one for lots of grinding, even getting a normal version of the Mega you want can take a long time and be a very daunting task.  However, seeing 100 extra stats to your Attack or Magic Attack can be well worth the effort.

Speaking of time and length, don’t let my 63 hour save file fool you.  Unless you want 100% completion, you’ll probably only spend about 40-50 hours on the main story of the game.  That’s still quite long for a handheld RPG, though, so you’re in for a nice, long trek through the world of Cyber Sleuth.  You can also use New Game Plus, which allows you to re-play the game but starting with all the enhancements from your first play-through.  Just don’t expect any extra content to appear during your second run.  Unless, of course, you wish to play as the other gender option for the main character.

Controls

The controls for the game are pretty easy to wrap your head around.  While the game works on the PlayStation TV, there aren’t any special L2 and R2 controls.  Just the same controls that are present when you’re on the Vita.  As such, the entire game is controlled with the buttons.

The Left Analog Stick is used to run around dungeons and menus, and the D-Pad is used for walking instead of running.  The Right Analog Stick can be used to zoom in or out of the camera perspective.  The L trigger doesn’t really do anything, while the R trigger is used for the Escape option in combat.  The X button chooses menu options and talks with NPCs.  Square brings up the hack menu for using field skills.  Triangle pulls up the customization menu.  Finally, Circle is used to cancel menu options.

I would call this a pretty standard RPG control setup.  The lack of touch controls is a nice touch as well.  While the Vita is useful for touch controls, not using them also opens up much less work for the developer to do to make PSTV play as smooth as possible.

Presentation

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First of all, this game is gorgeous.  The cel-shading the developers did on this is top-notch and the game looks like it was taken right from an anime.  All of the character models are done with great detail and proportioned exactly as they are in the anime series.

What I, and fans, will really like about the presentation, is how faithful it is to the anime.  Anyone who’s watched the anime will have a moment of excitement when they see that pretty much all signature moves have animations that perfectly match the animations from the series.  The developers really went beyond their required task to make this not only a visually pretty Digimon game, but a very faithful Digimon game.

Performance I have no issues with.  There are very few frame drops as you play the game, and the load times never normally exceed 4 or 5 seconds.  From the first day it was available, people were saying it had a high production value, and it does.

Summary

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a game that Digimon fans have only dreamed of seeing on the Vita.  While the digivolution system does require some extensive grinding, this is a beautiful turn-based RPG with a surprisingly-deep management system.  No Digimon fan can afford to miss out on this game. 

9/10

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