Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (PS4) Review

As mentioned early in the year, I was really looking forward to playing Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth.  I've been a fan of Digimon for many years, spanning back to when I saw the first season of the show.  I've watched several seasons and enjoyed several of the Digimon World games.  I even own a toy Digivice (or two) and have several of the transforming toys.  Besides providing more proof that I'm a nerd, I wanted to let you know where I'm coming from for this review.

I'm really liking Cyber Sleuth.  I have a lot more fun making and digivolving my collection, but the story is pretty good too.  It's not that typical a Digimon story, as your main character jumps between the online world and real world to solve crimes while trying to figure out how to get back into your real body.  After playing for a bit, I think the target demographic is people who watched Digimon when it was first on TV.  It looks fine enough on the surface, but there are a few questionable elements, such as language, that skew this title away from children.  It's kind of a shame, because my son is really enjoying the game, and I think other kids would too.  Note the game is rated T.

Battles are up to 3 on 3 turn-based fights.  The turn order is dictated by a Digimon's speed.  On your turn you can attack, use a skill or item, defend, or swap some of your party.  Skills can either be physical or magical based, and take MP to use.  When you swap your Digimon, it's nice that you can replace up to all three with one turn.  Overall, the battles are pretty standard, but I find them fun.  They aren't overly hard, either, save a few of the boss fights.

Your party can have a maximum of 11 Digimon, which is really high.  However, you are also limited by your party memory.  Each Digimon has a certain memory cost, and higher ranks (ultimate, mega, etc.) have higher costs.  There are several items that will increase this limit, so it is somewhat balanced in keeping you from filling your whole party with ultimates and running roughshod over the enemies.  Plus, for most of the game your party will have mixes of the different ranks, so it isn't a huge problem.

An early on boss battle where you have a Mega-sized guest.
From the Digi-Lab, it is nice enough to show you the requirements for each Digivolution.  However, you likely won't be about to change into all of the forms right off the bat.  Each Digimon has an ability stat (abbreviated ABI) that helps determine their max level and max amount of bonus stats.  To increase this, you will have to Digivolve and De-Digivolve a few times while making your way to the Mega rank or even to the final form you want for a Digimon.

Once you learn the system, it works pretty well.  Just be aware that you will be moving backwards and forwards through each Digivolution line in your quest to get mega rank Digimon.  Unlike the Digimon World games, each Digimon's stats are set based on what Digimon it is.  For example, all level 10 Greymon will have the same base stats.  Higher ABI stats will give a higher max level, which might help you get a stat high enough to make it one of the more powerful Digimon.  So each route is much more open than in previous games, but it can be more work to get a Digimon through its "true" path.

There's also a farm that can be used to level up your spare Digimon.  You will also get notices when one or more reaches maximum level so you don't have to keep track of everyone.  Plus, when on the farm you can have them develop items, find more side investigations for you or train their bonus stats.  These are all really important for late game leveling, but the whole system isn't very obvious.  However, given how the stats work, it's actually pretty easy to swap around your party, and actually useful to do so, so you can give bonus stats to the Digimon you use when you leave them on the farms.  You can also store a fair amount of them in the bank, which I use frequently.  I can't resist tying to have each one at least once!

There are 20 chapters in the game, and it can take several hours to finish one.  The chapters have some self contained elements, but also further the overarching narrative.  It really depends on how many side investigations you do.  Since I'm a crazy completionist, I spent way too much time doing them while going through the main game.  Besides side investigations that appear throughout the game, there are ones that can be gained from Digimon on the farms.  While you could go through the game in around 35 hours or so, completionists like myself will take much longer.  It would be nice if the game was better about telling/reminding you what is the next step of the investigation, just in case you take some time off and come back to the game later.

I was looking forward to playing Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, since it has been too long since the US last had a Digimon RPG.  The wait was worth it, since I really like the game.  It is a lot of fun to get them all, but some of the systems in the game aren't really clear.  Battles are fairly standard for the genre, but everything works well.  I would easily recommend the game to any Digimon fans, or people looking for a fun monster-collecting turn-based RPG game.

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