When you think of Digimon, what’s the first game to come to mind? Odds are, it’s Pokemon, since both titles consist of collecting and raising monsters you’ll use in a fight. It was inspired by both Pokemon and the Tamagotchi, after all. The latest entry, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a bit different. While the critter catching and care is right there, the game also contains gameplay elements from JRPGs like Persona, .hack, and Final Fantasy II.
The Persona elements hit hardest. There are poppy songs in the soundtrack, sharply dressed high school heroes, TVs and monitors to jump into, relationship building with monsters, mystery cases, people to rescue, and secrets to uncover as an official sleuth. Kyoto Kuremi is as much a mentor to the Digimon Story avatar as Persona 3’s Shuji Ikutsuki. The teenagers involved in the story call to mind SEES’ students, as they’re definitely kids, but possess a somewhat unnatural seriousness and gravity. The ability to talk to people you’ve met, by sending brief messages, or answer quizzes from Digimon on the farm, is a means of building relationships to open new cases or evolution options. It helps foster a connection and set Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth further apart from Pokemon, by increasing its ties to other successful, stylish JRPGs.
Though, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth’s mysterious illness that’s leaving people in comas is less like Persona 3’s Apathy Syndrome and more like the .hack series’ Twilight Incident or AIDA Server Incident. In both cases, people are placed into comas with seemingly no means of recovery, with the cause being some anomaly in the virtual systems. Eden is more ordinary than The World, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t taking cues from the previous series. It really feels like a virtual world, just as it did in the .hack games.
Perhaps my favorite part of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the part that borrows from Final Fantasy II. There’s a keyword system. Your avatar will learn various phrases as part of an examination. Like Final Fantasy II, using these in conversations with the right folks advances the story. Granted, it could be a little less obvious; People with something to say about that topic have a lock over their head in a dialogue bubble. Still, it’s a means of making it feel like you really are connecting with people in this virtual world.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth seems like one of those games people could misjudge, all because of the Digimon name. Yes, it is all about capturing and raising Digimon. Sure, that part of the game is really engaging. But, this is also a very strong and capable JRPG that takes some ideas and elements from other games. Everything is pulled together in a manner that works well, and investigating more detailed sidequests is as entertaining as raising the best monsters.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is immediately available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.