Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was the most surprising gaming experience I had in 2016, and my second favorite game from that year, only behind the gory masterpiece that was the new Doom. I was extremely overjoyed when I heard the news about its sequel being developed. After waiting for months, I’m delighted to say that Cyber Sleuth‘s sequel, Hacker’s Memory, is as enjoyable as the first game.
The first thing I noticed when I started playing Hacker’s Memory is that it isn’t exactly a sequel to Cyber Sleuth. It’s more of a side story, as the game takes place during the events of the first title. It assumes you’ve played Cyber Sleuth, as it even rewards you with tons of extra items if the game detects a save file in your PS4’s hard drive. The game doesn’t try to explain plot points from the previous title, such as EDEN Syndrome or Under Zero, so it might be best for you to play Cyber Sleuth before tackling Hacker’s Memory. You’ll revisit lots of older locales, such as the real-life Tokyo mall of Nakano Broadway, as well as older dungeons like Kowloon. The game also adds new locations, of course, but you’ll notice most of them still retain a very familiar vibe. That might be a positive thing, as well as a negative thing about this game: it’s basically an expansion to Cyber Sleuth.
The positive aspect about it is that, in my opinion, Cyber Sleuth was excellent. Its combat system was fast and fluid, its plot was actually quite mature for a series based around beefed up tamagotchis, and the amount of content was splendid.
The combat system is mostly untouched: it still follows a Persona-esque battle system with an emphasis on combos and a simple but effective rock-paper-scissors weakness/resistance mechanic. Some things have been changed: normal attacks have been slightly buffed (they were pretty much useless in the previous game), while defense-piercing special moves have been vastly nerfed, as they were so completely broken in the previous game that a WarGreymon was a lot more powerful and useful than its Omnimon evolution due to the former having a piercing attack. Those small tweaks on the combat system made it a lot more varied and flexible this time around.
Another element that was barely changed for the best was the training system, arguably the best aspect from the Cyber Sleuth games. Evolving and devolving your monsters is still as easy and addictive as ever, with very few changes, the only massive one being the necessary amount of Ability points (think of it as this game’s equivalent of Pokémon‘s IVs) in order to get a Royal Knight Digimon. Once again, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Now for the elements that, sadly, haven’t been changed at all: the game looks and sounds exactly like its predecessor, and while Cyber Sleuth wasn’t a bad looking or bad sounding game at all, Hacker’s Memory has inherited some glaring issues, most notably in the graphical department. While the Digimon models are still phenomenal, with lots of detail and great animations, the environments still look pretty generic, with dungeons being comprised of half a dozen platforms and a boring Matrix-esque background. The human characters, one of the weakest and less detailed aspects of the previous game, still look very simplistic, like something you’d expect from a PS2-era game.
Finally, some of the actual additions. The first thing fans will notice is the obvious addition of over 100 new Digimon, including some Hybrid-form Digimon from the fourth season of the anime, Digimon Frontier, even though they were technically humans in Digimon armor. Some overworld mechanics, such as luring foes for a battle or scanning codes, have been vastly improved in order to keep the game’s fast pace going. The sidequests have been improved as well, with some of them featuring some actually dark and mature themes, something I’d expect from a Persona game, not a Digimon title.
The main addition, however, lies in Domination Battles, turn-based strategy segments in which the main objective is to be the first one to dominate a certain amount of the playfield. While you can still battle enemies, the main draw here is to create strategies on how to capture valuable spots in the map. When I first heard of this new mode, I was actually quite skeptical, as I thought the game would feature too much of it. Turns out Domination Battles are actually quite rare and a lot more fun and engaging than expected, becoming relieving changes of pace during chapters.
This is a perfect case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Hacker’s Memory retains the visuals, gameplay, soundtrack, and overall story progression from the first Cyber Sleuth game, with a few new additions here and there. In some instances, the game feels more like an expansion than a new title, given how its story takes place during the events of the first game, as well as the fact the game assumes you know what happened in the first game’s story. For this reason, I have to say that, for as much as I loved this new installment, I can’t recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played the first Cyber Sleuth. If you have played it, on the other hand, then go for it. This is easily the PS4 equivalent of Pokémon, and it’s a good equivalent at that.
Also available on: PS Vita