When the localisation of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was announced, it was nothing short of a small miracle. After a shared effort from Digimon Fans (DigiFans for short) worldwide and the total commitment of Operation Decode - an online campaign started to make the demand for the localisation of Cyber Sleuth (as well as the 3DS title Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode) vocal - the game has finally come to the West this February. I’m happy to say that all the effort and all the wait were well worth it.
The cast of Cyber Sleuth includes a variety of interesting characters - human and Digimon, main and side characters alike - who are all far more than what they seem like at first glance.
* This first section will have some spoilers concerning the characters and their development, so if you want to remain completely spoiler-free, I advise you to skip the next paragraph. *
This includes Arata, the dark and brooding lone wolf who only wants to atone for his past, or Yuuko who comes off as your typical yamato nadeshiko, but turns out to be much darker and badass. The team is topped off by Nokia, the secret heroine and leader of Cyber Sleuth’s DigiDestined, as well as the brilliant but secretive and eccentric detective Kyoko, who on takes the MC as her protegé.
* End of Spoilers *
The intercations between the different characters vary from funny and goofy to serious and heartwarming and everyone gets approximately the same amount of screen time and development. The player is also able to communicate with his/her friends and Digimon through the chat app DigiLine, giving him/her the chance to get to know the other characters better. As the characters grow to know and understand each other, they become friends in a beliveable and natural way. The themes Digimon has become known for - friendship, loyalty, courage, among others - are all present in the tamers’ development.
The game, like the Digimon Adventure tri. film series, is part of the 15th anniversary celebration of the Digimon franchise. As such, it contains numerous references to mainly the Adventure series, but also references to the third season, Tamers are seemingly omnipresent. Such references include Tamers appearing with teams of Digimon that callback to the anime. Fans of the early Digimon anime and games will have a lots of fun finding all those little easter-eggs.
Another instance in which the Digimon franchise is referenced is the design of Eden, the virtual reality / social network our heroes visit on a regular basis. It bares a striking resemblance to Summer Wars’ Oz, which is not all too surprising given Mamoru Hosoda’s ties to the Digimon franchise.
Cyber Sleuth offers a tamagotchi-like feature in the DigiFarm, housed within the DigiLab. The DigiFarm allows the player to place their Digimon on small island-like structures where one can raise their Digimon by feeding them, training them or by having them find/build items. The DigiFarm islands can be expanded throughout the game with the help of various items (so-called Farm Goods) that make the islands bigger or raise specific stats, give an EXP boost to a certain type or increase the chances to find or build rare items. To long-time fans of the Digimon games, this description will bring to mind the PlayStation game Digimon World, which allowed the player to raise their precious virtual pet on an ever-evolving island.
Yet it is not only references that make Cyber Sleuth a game for those who grew up on Digimon. The game’s makers clearly had in mind the audience they made Cyber Sleuth for. They knew that the children who watched the original Digimon Adventures have now grown up and want an equally grown-up Digimon game, which tackles some serious issues and features a surprisingly pop-culture-savvy humour, and that is exactly what they delivered.
Cyber Sleuth was clearly influenced by the Megami Tensei franchise. From its characters and setting to its gameplay and aesthetics, the influence of the MegaTen franchise can be seen and felt throughout the game. Though the characters never achieve the same depths as those in the Persona game series, nor is the game as challanging as the Shin Megami Tensei mainline games (bar for some very hard DLC missions), Cyber Sleuth is by the far the most mature Digimon - be it anime or game - has ever been in terms of plot and the way it deals with its themes. More than once, I found myself surprised at where the game was heading and by it imagery. Cyber Sleuth is a JRPG that deals with adult and very contemporary issues in a beliveable and sometimes even fun way.
The world Cyber Sleuth takes place in is filled with colouful NPCs, interesting side quests and great design. As you wander through the streets of Tokyo, you are bound to notice the level of detail in the game’s depicition of, say, Akihabara or Shinjuku. Cyber Sleuth’s Tokyo is bright, vivid and colourful; populated by a huge number of charming NPCs who are all worth talking to as they make fun of genre conventions or pose such philosphical question as “If Digimon can appear in the real world, then what about waifus?” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In addition to the DigiLine - which gives the player the opportunity to become more acquainted with Digimon and human characters alike - every now and then, the player is asked to fulfill side-quests in the form of cases which the MC, as a detective, has to solve, ranging from looking for a lost Digimon (or Tamer) to hacking into a facility. The cases let the MC explore different parts of Tokyo, Eden or Kowloon (the hacker’s paradise inside Eden) as well as meet and learn about new, interesting and funny characters.
ABI is a stat which has two functions but many aftereffects. Firstly, an ABI of 20 or higher is one of the requirements for - as far as I could see - all the Mega digivolutions. In order to have your Digimon digivolve, they often need to reach a certain level and raise their stats to a certain figure. The ABI is one of those needed stat. Secondly, the ABI shows the potential stat growth of your Digimon. It determines how much your Digimon’s other stats can increase through items and training at the DigiFarm, using the formula 50 + (Abi/2) = potential stat growth. The highest ABI a Digimon can have is 100, thus making 100 the amount of bonus stats a Digimon can get. Said bonus stats - the ones in brackets in the picture above - are often essential to achieving the needed stats for digivolving Digimon, espacially when it comes to Mega or Armour digivolutions.
Now, what makes the ABI stat so fantastic that it deserves its own section? The way it is raised. ABI raises through digivolving and even more through de-digivolving. The effect this has is, it stops Digimon from being too over-levelled by forcing the player to de-digivolve into a lower level like Champion or even Rookie in order to have Digimon digivolve into a Mega. The more powerful the Digimon one wants is, the more one will need to raise the Digimon’s ABI. While de-digivolving and digivolving to raise the ABI stat may seem like a chore, it really isn’t. In fact, it’s quite addictive. Through (de-)digivolving into different Digimon of different types, Digimon learn new and more powerful or useful skills. Furthermore, it helps you complete the Field Guide - Cyber Sleuth’s answer to the PokéDex. Anyone who ever owned a virtual pet will attest to how addictive tamagotchis are, and raising a Digimon and its stats through (de-)digivolving at the DigiLab follows the same principal.
Like many RPGs, Cyber Sleuth gives the player different reply options when talking to another character. However, in some instances regardless of the dialogue choice the player picks, the response to the picked reply doesn’t change. Other times, the game gives the player the same response option three times, the only difference being in punctuation or it doesn’t provide a response option at all. Instead, it lets the MC voicelessly mouth and gesture a reply which his/her conversational partner repeats so as to make it understandable for the player. However, the MC’s thoughts are often visible to the player. It’s like the game itself can’t make up its mind whether the MC is silent or not.
The dialogue options serve their most basic purpose, namely, making the more or less blank slate MC more relateable to the player, thus allowing the player to immerse themselves into the role of the titular male or female cyber sleuth. Yet, it is not the same level of immersion as when your choices bear actual consequences, even if it’s just a different reply.
I am well aware that this might seem like nit-picking and these admittedly small problems I’m about to point out can easily be overlooked. However, when the player is immersed in the plot and gameplay, even the smallest instances can easily ruin that feeling of immersion. Every now and then, there are small grammatical mistakes and typos in the game’s texts. Furthermore, all these mistakes are so little that it seems they could have easily been corrected by proof-reading. The writing is not perfect, but neither is it bad, regardless of its issues, like the aforementioned one or the occasional techno babble, which tends to pop up here and there, and seemingly goes on forever. Yet, these minor issues do leave a sour taste.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the game Digimon fans have been waiting for for years and it’s the one they deserve. It contains numerous charming nods to the franchise, yet it can be enjoyed just as well by those new to Digimon and serves as a great entry point to the Digimon franchise. It’s a remarkable game full of loveable characters, an interesting world to explore, an intriguing plot and 242 Digimon to raise, train and love. I’m still playing the new DLC mission packs that are being released and Cyber Sleuth left me eager to play the upcoming Digimon World: Next Order, which will hopefully get localised as well.
Header-GIF made by the amazing Unimplied.
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