Being a fan of monster collection games like Shin Megami Tensei and Pokemon, I really wanted to like Digimon World Data Squad. There was no boring intro to sit through; players were launched straight into the action upon starting the game. Only after a few fights is the plot revealed: someone or something is causing the Digimon in the digital world to become wild and attack people. Perhaps related to that is the scary fact that children have started to gone missing from the real world and rumor has it that they're lost in the digital world.
Players control Marcus, whom I thought was a girl at first. Marcus is a member of the Data Action Tactical Squad, or DATS for short. He's later joined in the game by other members of DATS, which make up your party. With the help of these teammates and their Digimon, Marcus must find out just why people are getting attacked by these digital monsters. Why DATS members' Digimon are still cooperative and non-hostile, I don't know.
Like a typical turn based role playing game, Digimon World Data Squad consists of wandering around an area looking for a specific goal and getting launched into random encounters. During a battle, which happens between Digimon, players can issue commands to their Digimon such as Action, Support, Guard, or Escape. Within those commands are more choices. In the Action action command are a variety of attacks that the Digimon can use such as Nut Gun and Pepper Breath.
One thing that I hadn't encountered in an RPG before was the preference feature. Players can see if their Digimon prefers a certain command by seeing what command block is displayed the most times on the screen. While Digimon can be commanded to do anything the player wants, picking a preferred command makes the Digimon happier, which makes them fight better.
Another thing that was new to me was the evolution map. The map shows what a specific Digimon can evolve into, but it displays it in a nifty solar-system type chart, which makes it a bit clearer how to get to a specific evolution.
Upon the first few minutes of playing the game, I immediately noticed how vibrant the world was. There were bright colors everywhere, which nicely complemented the tropical look of the digital world. It also doesn't hurt that characters and Digimon are all cel shaded and I'm always a fan of cel shading. What I didn't understand was why evolved Digimon take on their evolved form in battle, but look like their primary form everywhere else even if they evolved.
Despite the bright graphics and the monster collection aspect of the game, I felt let down. One huge flaw that killed the experience for me was the frequency of monster encounters. Random monster encounters don't bother me, but launching into battle every five steps starts to get repetitive. Especially since it's easy to get lost and disoriented in the game.
It also doesn't help that there's no way to control camera angles and the environment looks generic. This lead to me wandering around in circles a lot. Which meant a lot of battles. The frustrating thing about battles is that they take so long. There's at least a two second gap between executing a command and having it actually happen all the time. I'm hoping this is fixed in the final version. For the frequency of battles, it would be nice that actually loading the battles wouldn't take five seconds.
While the plot is engaging (Why are the Digimon turning on humans?), the experience has not been fun to play through and Digimon World: Data Squad quickly becomes tedious. I started growing more and more frustrated by the random encounters to the point where I just didn't want to explore the area anymore. I just wanted to get to the goal. Since a lot of the goals can only be reached by exploring an area and looking for a specific Digimon, the game quickly became a chore.