Review: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (PSV/PSTV)

digimon-story-cyber-sleuth-psv-review-banner-yr10

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Format: Game Card (Japan Import) / PlayStation Network Download (1.56 GB)
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Media. Vision
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth is also available on PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Let me start by saying I have almost no experience with the Digimon universe prior to this game. As a kid who was at the prime age for the Pokemon craze, and who grew up on that, the time I was first introduced to it I saw Digimon as a silly knock-off (here’s where someone jumps in and corrects me, I’m sure). While the two do have a lot in common, that doesn’t stop Cyber Sleuth from being a good game in its own right.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth sees the player character (I used the female character and kept the default name “Ami,”) living in a technologically advanced facsimile of our world. After Ami and several of her friends are invited to find out more about hackers in the virtual reality world Eden, they are confronted by a strange monster called an “eater”.

As a result of the encounter, Ami remateralizes in the real world as a collection of data and no physical body. Fortunately, a passing detective named Kyoko helps her out and Ami joins Kyoko’s Detective Agency as an assistant with the ultimate goal of finding out what has happened to her body. To that end, Ami enlists the help of strange programs called Digimon to sleuth her way through cases, both cyber and not.

2016-02-18-2242512016-02-26-062629

Gameplay:
At its core, Cyber Sleuth is a monster collecting game. Players fight in RPG battles using a team of creatures they find, capture, and train. To that end, Cyber Sleuth has a pretty big selection of monsters to get – over two hundred of them according to the in-game field guide.

Capturing Digimon is actually not quite apt though. In this game, acquiring monsters is accomplished by scanning enemies. Any monster fought, excluding online modes, will be automatically scanned by a set percentage. Once the player has scanned an enemy enough times to hit 100%, usually anywhere between three and ten times, they can then summon that Digimon to their team. Scans can even go up to 200%, which give the summoned Digimon a stat boost.

I actually really like this system in comparison to some other monster training games. Rather than relying on a random number generator or carrying around huge amounts of monster capturing items, simply encountering enemies is enough to collect them. Assuming the Digimon can be encountered more than once (i.e. any that show up in random battles as opposed to some of the one-off boss enemies), it’s not a matter of if the player can collect them but when.

… even reserve Digimon get full experience from battle …
From collecting, it’s on to training the Digimon. Cyber Sleuth uses a pretty basic turn-based combat system where up to three player Digimon and three enemy Digimon all participate in battle at once. Digimon have a basic attack plus they can defend or use special skills. The player also has the ability to use items during battle as well as change out any of the active Digimon for any Digimon in their reserves, essentially the other ones currently in the party but not in battle.

One thing I rather like is that even reserve Digimon get full experience from battle. As I’ll talk about soon, leveling low-leveled Digimon happens a lot so being able to hold some Digimon that can level up without having to fight is nice.

2016-02-24-0820102016-02-20-125322

All told, the player can have eight extra Digimon in reserve for a total party of eleven, although the party is also limited by “memory” which can be upgraded throughout the story. The memory is just a way the game limits the player from completely powerleveling the game, and the limit is increased pretty generously as the game progresses.

The reason that the player has to level low-level Digimon a lot is related to this game’s transformation methods. Once a Digimon reaches a certain threshold, they can Digivolve into a new form or De-digivolve into a previous form. Digivolving can also require the Digimon meet certain stat requirements or be friendly with the player.

This is achieved by using them in battle or feeding them, but Digivolving/De-digivolving always resets the ‘mon to Level 1. So having extra slots to level freshly Digivolved Digimon was very welcome as I would rotate around powering up my Digimon.

… the evolution trees in Cyber Sleuth are kinda… crazy …
There is another route to Digivolving Digimon, as there’s also a farm that Digimon can be dropped off at. Digimon at the farm slowly level up on their own and the farms can be set to do helpful things for Ami, such as investigating to find new cases or developing items. Some of the evolutions are helped out by the farm because the farm can have items that help Digimon train specific stats.

However, unlike some other monster training games, the evolution trees in Cyber Sleuth are kinda… crazy. Many of the lower tier monsters can evolve into four or five or even more different monsters and the higher tier monsters might be able to evolve into three different forms AND have three forms they can de-evolve into.

In some ways, this is pretty good. As each Digimon levels up they can learn skills, which can carry over through evolutions. So evolving/de-evolving through tons of types allows that Digimon to learn a plethora of skills.

2016-02-21-1256052016-02-20-135301

It can also be a bad thing though, as the evolutions don’t always make sense. At times I had a good balance of different elemental attributes and monster types and it ended up with completely different types after evolving. Eventually, I started saving before Digivolving in case I didn’t like the new form but there’s no easy way to reload a Save file so I’d have to close and reopen the game to reload my Save file and try a different evolution.

I mention the types because also unlike a lot of RPGs, Cyber Sleuth actually has two kinds of attributes. Each monster can have both an elemental attribute (fire or plant or whatever) as well as a monster type (virus or data or a couple other types). Of course each of these attributes has a different “wheel” of advantages and when applied in battle can mean the difference between doing half damage and two times the normal damage. So having a good spread of attributes is important when building a team.

Outside of battling Digimon, Cyber Sleuth is all about being a detective and Kyoko’s Detective Agency tackles cases both in the real world and in the digital world Eden. Ami is assigned a variety of cases to ‘solve’, but ultimately the gameplay really doesn’t reflect that. The main mechanic for solving cases is usually either to find and beat up a Digimon or simply to talk to people.

… it only allows Ami to accept a single case at a time …
There’s a key word system, where Ami can ‘ask’ people about a specific subject but the game clearly shows which characters can respond to the key word and from there it’s just a matter of talking to each until you find the right one. So calling them ‘cases’ is maybe more just a flavorful way of saying ‘quests’ as there’s nothing inherently detective-like about it from a gameplay perspective.

Speaking of the cases, one of the most annoying things about the game is that it only allows Ami to accept a single case at a time. A board in Kyoko’s agency hosts a spattering of side cases to solve which range from finding lost items, such as scouring a dungeon until finding a shiny object, to fixing electrical equipment (beat up a rogue Digimon) to talking to people. Some of these would be nice to be able to work on concurrently with others but sadly the game doesn’t allow it.

The dungeons in the cyber world can also be annoying and occasionally a little boring. There’s not a whole lot of variety to them, especially early on. Later in the game, some dungeons have very simple puzzle elements but any enjoyable elements are removed when the game has the player running through the same dungeon for the fourth time, which can happen with some. This becomes more evident if the player is doing all the side quests, since they can’t double up on them.

2016-02-21-1213402016-02-18-223152

Visuals:
The dungeons aren’t helped much by the visuals either. There are only a few styles used for them and from there it’s just variations in layout. There are also Eden areas and some real world locations to explore but sadly they’re all really small. For example, Akihabara is reduced to a single block on a single street and Shibuya is just the iconic crossing and a block on one of the side streets.

Visuals themselves are decent though. Small as they are, the real world locations have some nice detail work. All of the character and monster models are pretty good as well, with a nice overall look to them. I’m not a huge fan of the monster designs though. There are some I like but a lot of them look kinda dumb to me, although I’m sure that’s a pretty subjective area.

The Digimon attack animations feel a little lazy. They just have the Digimon attacking nothing and then the Digimon being “hit” flinching to nothing. Kinda boring and, while maybe not excessively as some JRPGs, a little long. The length and the fact that they weren’t all that interesting lead me to turn on the “short” attack animations just a few hours into the game.

… a pretty good monster training/fighting/collecting game …
Audio:
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the music in the game. There are some alright tracks in a few places but there are also some areas in the game that have some of the most generic and rather uninspired “cyberspace” sounding background music. Some of the loops seem a little on the short side as well.

Voices only come in Japanese and only cover certain portions of the game. In general, the main missions and things that advance the plot seem to get voice acting while most of the side cases don’t.

2016-02-28-0253212016-02-19-173741

Online/Multiplayer:
There is a multiplayer mode where players can pit their trained Digimon against another player. There’s a local version which uses the Vita’s ad hoc capabilities and an online version over the internet. The online version sadly doesn’t seem to allow players to play against their friends, as it automatically finds an opponent.

The rules for the multiplayer battles force all Digimon in the battle to Level 50, which is a little nice as an attempt to even the playing field. However, clearly the higher tier Digimon get an advantage because they have much higher base stats, to the point where my opponent’s super digivolved Digimon completely wrecked my ten-hours-into-the-game team.

Conclusion:
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth is a pretty good monster training/fighting/collecting game. It’s got some enjoyable systems for each of these, with several having a nice spin on what I was used to for the genre. There are some boring dungeon designs though, and being able to only do one quest at a time makes doing everything more tedious than it needs to be. Overall though, anyone looking to collect ’em all should find this to be a fun adventure.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook