We’re in a weird situation when it comes to the 20th anniversary Digimon virtual pets. Japan got these toys, well, when the actual anniversary was going on. We didn’t see them in other regions until about two years later, with the latest color options appearing in October 2020. It’s a weird sort of catch up, but a welcome one nonetheless. After all, the series has grown in so many ways over the years and this is an opportunity on all hands. What I didn’t expect is how easy it would be to jump back in.
The first thing to know about these Digimon virtual pets is that they may look like the original ones and play like them, but they’re far more comprehensive. That’s because you aren’t limited to certain characters based on the general version of the system you have. Back when they first appeared in the late 1990s, which model you got could dictate the about 16 characters you could end up getting. You have multiple versions ready, progress is sped up so you could could go from a baby to a toddler in an hour and from the toddler to the child in it seemed like about five hours. So basically, it respects your time. If someone is an adult with, say, school or a job, you don’t have to worry if mistakes were made over a multi-day period and screwed up the adult phase, because you only have to wait about a day before Agumon becomes Greymon. If it it is a child who might be spending a lot of time at home, they have more milestones to look forward to in a shorter amount of time.
It is also different from the typical virtual pet in that… it doesn’t feel like survival is as crucial. I mean yes, there is a chance of a character turning out not great as a result of neglect. And you could overwork it to death by having too many battles. (I mean, at least I assume you still could. I couldn’t bring myself to put my characters through that.) It is more that you watch their hunger, strength, and effort and try your best to maintain that. Feeding is as simple as offering food when you notice the four hearts are empty. (Though overfeeding is a tactic to trigger other evolutions.) You want to let them sleep undisturbed probably, though that can be another evolutionary trigger. Training helps with strength, and being around ensures there’s effort. There’s also a sense of paying attention, as the egg you start with is a telltale sign of which possibilities are even open to you as you raise your pet. Which increases two-fold once you get the ability to have a second character after your first becomes a child.
What also strikes me is how easy it is to raise and play with a Digimon. Aside from my initial ones, I always tended to lean more toward Tamagotchi and Gigapet virtual pets. So having the 20th anniversary Digimon on hand was a welcome surprise. It wasn’t vocally demanding attention. Even as a baby, or a Koromon in this case, it was willing to sit and chill. Its stats wouldn’t drop drastically because I had work to do. And when I did pop in to care for it, it never felt like I had to do too much.
But at the same time, it is still an investment. Like if you want to get certain Adult or Perfect Digimon, you’re going to have to keep track of training, battling, and your victory ratios. Like if you overfeed, you could very easily end up with a Tyranomon instead of a Greymon, which messes up your eventual perfect character. And getting a second unit can help, if you’re concerned about the strength of in-game opponents.
I suppose it’s best to say it that the 20th anniversary Digimon virtual pets are good at triggering nostalgia and reminding you just what it was like to care for these critters on a daily basis. It’s a different sort of feel than a Tamagotchi, even though the general concept is the same. I suppose it more often felt like I was a coach, rather than a parent, since it was more about getting the right and strongest result than simple survival.
The 20th anniversary Digimon are immediately available for $19.99. (Premium Bandai was also selling bundles of three for $60.)