Review – Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition

When you think of the best games of 2016, which games come to mind? Overwatch? Titanfall II? Inside? Well, my 2016 could be summarised by two games in particular. The first one was Doom, a game that, to this day, is probably my favorite title from this entire generation. The second one is an odd choice, a PS4 game I hadn’t even heard of prior to randomly finding it at a game store next to my house: Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth. This game ended up becoming my other favorite game of 2016, as well as probably my favorite JRPG of all time, and I’m not even exaggerating. Fast forward to 2019, and Bandai Namco has finally released, alongside Hacker’s Memory, its sequel/spin-off, on the Switch, and I couldn’t be happier about the end result.

I’ll focus this review mostly on the first (and better) game, Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth. If you’re curious about my thoughts on the pseudo-sequel, Hacker’s Memory, please check our review for the PS4 version here. The game is basically the same as the PS4 version, with the added advantage of being playable on-the-go, so my thoughts remain the same as they were a year ago.

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The battle animations look cooler than any battle animation from every single Pokémon game out there.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth is what you get when you mix the “gotta catch ’em all” mentality from the Pokémon games, and the setting and more mature themes from the Persona/Shin Megami Tensei games. You need to juggle your life as a cyber detective in Tokyo and as a hacker/Digimon tamer in the cybernetic world of EDEN; a virtual reality/social media environment that can best be described as if Mark Zuckerberg had writtenReady Player One. The immense majority of the cases are solved by either battling a rogue Digimon or a rogue hacker/tamer with your personal army of Digimon.

The “gotta catch ’em all” part of Cyber Sleuth is, by far, its most entertaining aspect. You have more than 340 different Digimon to collect, and can carry up to eleven with you at any given time, with three of them being used at once in battle. Battles follow a simple turn-based system in which every single Digimon has a unique attack of its own, as well as up to twenty other moves than can be learned by leveling up its different forms.

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Sure NOKIA, your name isn’t weird…

The game features a very straightforward “rock-paper-scissors” mentality when it comes to each monster’s strengths and weaknesses: each one has a specific attribute (Vaccine/Good, Data/Neutral and Virus/Evil) as well as specific element. Vaccines are good against Viruses, which are good against Datas, which are good against Vaccines. The element chart is also easy to comprehend: there is the grass-fire-water circle and the thunder-wind-earth circle, with light and dark-type Digimon being strong against one another. Each type is strong and weak against one type each, so you won’t need to learn a gigantic type advantage chart like in Pokémon.

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Who needs Super Seducer when you have Digimon?

Leveling up, or “digivolving”, is very different from your typical Pokémon gameplay. Your Digimon can evolve up to seven times, acquiring different forms and elements. Unlike Pokémon, your Digimon don’t have a fixed evolution line: most of them can evolve to various different forms, provided you possess the necessary stats and level for the process to occur. You can also de-evolve your monsters to a previous stage, allowing you to look for other evolution routes, as well as increase your monster’s overall Ability rating. Ability ratings act like the IVs in Pokémon: the higher your Ability rating, the quicker you’ll level up, the more your stats will increase, and the more forms you’ll be able to evolve to. You’ll spend a lot of time inside the DigiLab acting like a mad scientist in order to breed the perfect beasts for your team. It is really easy to learn, and extremely addictive.

One of the most impressive things about Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth is its story. The Digimon anime has never been as shiny-happy as Pokémon, but this game takes the cake when it comes to its themes. Think of it as something midway between Pokémon and Persona. You will deal with cybernetic crimes, blackmailing, bullying, harassment cases, as well as some darker themes I don’t want to spoil, all wrapped up in a very edgy and T-rated foul language, as well as some internet words like “LOLZ.” Cringy meme pandering aside, the story is actually really well written, and it gets surprisingly touching near its end.

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If you find the game too hard in the beginning, they give you an Omnimon right from the get-go.

Thanks to its long story and surprising amount of side content, Cyber Sleuth can take up to a hundred hours to complete. There is a lot to do and a ton of places to explore, and unlike Persona, there’s no time limit or annoying cat to tell you to go to bed. You have a linear story to follow, sure, but you can take new cases or partake in battle arenas whenever you want. There is also a small but entertaining multiplayer mode.

Porting Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth ended up being a smoother job than I was expecting. The game was never a visual masterpiece on the PS4, but it had a respectable resolution and a very fast framerate, so I was curious to see how it would behave on the Switch’s hardware. The visuals are, for the most part, the same as the visuals featured on the PS4 version. The game looks even better on portable mode, due to the smaller screen size. The framerate is a bit odd, as some areas run at 60fps while others run at 30fps. They are always locked at their specific framerate, with little to no slowdowns, but it’s weird nonetheless. Besides this, there was only one small issue I found during gameplay: a weird glitch that didn’t allow me to pick up an item on the ground by clicking on it with the A button once. I had to press it twice for the game to understand what I wanted to do. A harmless glitch, granted, but still a glitch.

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An actual line of dialogue from an actual role-playing game.

There used to be a time in our childhood when we would say that “Pokémon had the best games and Digimon had the best TV shows”. Cyber Sleuth is proof that Digimon can have both, as those games are as good, if not better, than most Pokémon games released over the years. The simple combat mechanics, the surprisingly mature plot and the addictive evolution system are as good now as they used to be three years ago. Being able to play these titles on the Switch is just fantastic, as if it was meant to be right from the start. Step aside Sword & Shield, you’ve got one hell of a competitor!

 

Graphics: 8.5

The digimon themselves look absolutely amazing on the Switch’s smaller screen. The resolution is still somewhat high, and the framerate is consistent, even though some areas are locked at 30fps and others are locked at 60fps.

Gameplay: 9.5

With the exception of one little button responsiveness issue when trying to pick up items from the ground, the gameplay is fantastic. The combat system is still excellent, as are the digivolution and de-digivolution mechanics.

Sound: 8.0

Good voice acting and a soundtrack that had no right to be as catchy as it ended up being.

Fun Factor: 10

Two phenomenal JRPGs for the price of one, now on-the-go. Literal hundreds of hours of gameplay, tons of monsters to capture, funny moments, sad moments, and much more.

Final Verdict: 9.5

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition is available now on PC and Switch. The original Cyber Sleuth is also available on PS4 and PS Vita. Hacker’s Memory is available on PS4.

Reviewed on Switch.

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