Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth (PS4/Vita)

Virtual reality has progressed to the point where the virtual world of Eden is as important to people as the real world. Your player-created character receives a special invitation for a prize, but things go horribly wrong, leaving you trapped inside a virtual body that’s somehow in the real world. Now a detective, your job is to take up various cases, with the ultimate goal of solving the mystery of what happened to you.

Story: Cyber Sleuth takes the Digimon franchise and wraps it up in a nice RPG. For the most part, the big-picture story is pretty good, if a little predictable to anyone who knows much about Digimon. I like Arata the best, mostly for his quips, like suggesting poison and a dagger is a romantic gift because it’s reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.

Some bits of the required story would be better off as sidequests, though. For instance, the occult club adds nothing to the narrative but they have several quests that you can’t skip. And the timing of some of the really minor quests can interrupt some major happening, so they can introduce bad pacing to the narrative.

One other thing that really trips up the story is the translation. There are multiple instances of badly-formatted text, quiz answers that where the correct answer flags as wrong, and “Bakemon” shows up in the text (this is probably meant to be “bakemono” in Japanese, aka “monster”… there is no digimon named Bakemon so the text ends up confusing). I’m not sure how much the patches may have fixed as I only went through the game once, but there were definitely rough spots. The overall story was mostly okay, but those places tended to stand out.

Gameplay: This is a turn-based RPG whose main strategy revolves around which digimon you’re fielding and what abilities they have. As someone who never played any of the previous Digimon games, I found it very accessible, although I had to keep accessing the tutorial for type/affinity weaknesses to confirm what types/elements beat what.

Digimon is similar to Pokemon in that you can collect just about every monster you run across in the dungeons, but one of the key differences is that evolution is more flexible. Given enough time to go up and down evolution trees, anything can become virtually anything. This gives you a huge amount of freedom early-game to get a wide range of digimon. And two of the uglier and more useless digimon lines have really good passive abilities, like boosting EXP, money, or item drops. This can be compounded by items. I spent a fair amount of time save scumming early game to get Tactician USBs to ease the level-up process, but once I had them I was able to fill out most of the Field Guide very quickly (some of the highest-level digimon in particular are locked behind story events or later-game quests). This cuts down the grind tremendously, and there’s something addictive about putting in an hour or two of grinding when you can get multiple level 99 Megas out of it, starting from the lowest level Rookie.

That said, the game itself is pretty forgiving on Normal, and biased in favor of those digimon with defense/int-ignoring attacks, as those will typically do at least double the damage of another digimon who does have the correct type and element and is getting triple damage on its attacks. But if you have a favorite, the system is flexible enough that it will probably work for most fights, if it has the right abilities.

In terms of aesthetics, it’s more of a mixed bag. The graphics generally look good, although on the PS4 especially there are a lot of clues this was originally a Vita game. All the digital dungeons look like the same ramps copy/pasted into different configurations, and both dungeons and towns only offer a very limited area to wander.

The soundtrack is also generally good. A few of the tracks are used so often I got a bit tired of them, but for the most part I enjoyed the soundtrack.

Also, although I didn’t play it, there is an online versus mode for players who would rather pit their teams against other people (there are also AI opponents provided if the system has trouble finding a match).

Overall: If you like RPGs or monster-collecting games, this is a good one to check out. It’s much easier to collect them all than Pokemon (although the medals exist to drive completionists insane). I finished all quests and had a full Field Guide at 83 hours, although the real number is probably a bit higher given the amount of save scumming I did for a few farm goods. I’m not sure this one has as much replayability as other RPGs I’ve enjoyed, but the ability to carry forward the most important things means a New Game+ would go a lot faster if I did. And the online battling could be a draw for players looking for something to do after the main story. I rate this game Recommended.

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