I’ve wanted a good, original, turn-based RPG on Vita for quite some time now. The PS2 ports are nice, the action RPGs are nice, the Compile Heart stuff is kind of hit and miss… but I’ve really, really been craving that certain something that a good turn-based JRPG brings to the table. Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth fills that gap nicely.
What I didn’t expect to appreciate so much was the environments. Perhaps its because the Vita is the most powerful system on which I’ve ever played a Digimon game, but I really like the look of every place I got. Be it a digital world or the real world, both are crafted well.
Some places were crafted with specific places in mind, which I didn’t realize before starting the game up. While I’ve never been to the specific area and didn’t get the game’s reference at first, it did, just the same, serve as a fine representation of a realistic Japanese city. It’s no Yakuza, but then again, what is? Not every game can be expected to hit that extreme level of detail.
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth Review - Pokemon Slayer (Vita)
Each and every character — and more importantly to longtime fans, every monster — looks good, too. In DSCS, the good art contributes to some very nice graphics.
Environments all look quite good, too. Backgrounds are aesthetically pleasing, characters are detailed, and the color selection seems perfect. It’s the best Digimon has ever looked. There’s obviously a big selection of monsters, but longtime series fans might miss a few of their favorites.
Music supports the game similarly. While there’s not much that’s likely to reach out and make people ask, “Wow, what game did that come from?” the tune selection within the game is always satisfactory. Plaything through it, a few songs might kinda grow on ya.
Digimon games always have these great systems but fit in one really weird flaw, and in Cyber Sleuth, it’s the story telling. Bandai Namco has injected Digimon with a little too much melodrama early on, a little too much sex appeal, and this weird version of stage-style story telling in which characters are standing right in front of themselves. Look:
That’s just silly. Wipe to a different screen or do whatever, but don’t do that. Don’t have a character looking like her own ghost as she talks. It makes me miss other older RPG, in which conversations were actually carried out by the character models or sprites within the game environment, rather than on a separate 2D screen. It worked fine, back in the day, for like Fire Emblem and Disgaea and stuff, but those were tactical RPGs and the on-screen sprites had a rougher time conveying thoughts and emotions.
It also didn’t feel right to have a whole cast full of emotion and personality, but a relatively silent protagonist. There are a few token lines, a little bit of soliloquy, and player-chosen dialogue options, but other than that, silence and a general lack of flavor.
It’s like Bandai Namco couldn’t quite decide to go with a developed character or the silent protagonist, and instead made a sort of hybrid without the strengths of either. It’s like those bands that try to sing death metal but with Christian rock lyrics or the guy that orders a Super Size Big Mac meal with a Diet Coke; you gotta pick a side and go with it, bro.
That’s disappointing, because the story itself is otherwise interesting, featuring a memorable ending that I expect will please those who enjoyed other Digimon RPGs. There’s a certain connection between two characters (which I won’t spoil) that ends in a way that… well, I’ll stop there. Let’s just say that relationships between characters and worlds are handled very well.
You will, however, need to accept that you’ll be giving Cyber Sleuth a lot of your time in order to see all that good character interaction and the aforementioned good ending. Gamers on tight schedules or with limited game time might be turned off by the idea of a 70-or-80-hour game. On the other hand, if you’re in the cost-per-hour crowd, you can probably squeeze this one for triple digits if you do absolutely everything.
To Everything: Turn, Turn, Turn
It feels nice to have a turn-based battle system, something falling into the great minority of combat systems these days. Battling, leveling, and what many would refer to as “the grind” are pretty fun. Skill animations look good, and the process of building up data to obtain and hatch monster eggs feels rewarding.
Island in the Fun
Players can send their digital monsters to an island farm and have them practice things there. They’ll gain experience and, under your careful leadership, get specialties and grow in customized, satisfying ways.
That in mind, it’s just a shame that the game is so easy. It could just be that I’ve been playing this genre for decades, but this game was a total breeze apart from optional bosses. Perhaps selectable difficulty levels could have been nice? It feels disappointing to go through all this work and feel like none of it was even necessary.
Perhaps difficulty was suppressed to keep the potential age appeal wide open. I did once hear Bandai Namco explain to a rather passionate Digimon blogger — this is completely true — “It’s a show for 10-year-olds” during a conference call, so there’s that to keep in mind.
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth touches greatness a few times, only truly held back by the awkward situation with the main character and a lack of challenge for experienced JRPG fans. Nonetheless, on the whole, it comes as a very good option for lovers of the genre or Digimon multimedia franchise. It looks great and has deep, fun, long-lasting gameplay to match, plus a strong ending to punctuate the interesting story.
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth review copy from Play-Asia.com. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.
(Post-review notes for importers. Read the PSLS guide to importing here.)
Since the game is very easy, it should be possible to get through the battles without understanding Japanese. Some of the battle menu is already in English by default, so that helps. It’s so easy that flubbing up some of your leveling won’t make the game impossible.
There are other guides in progress all over the place, because this game has a surprisingly large international fanbase. There’s a lively GameFAQs board that can probably help you if you’re stuck or want to know what’s going on in the story.
As of now, there has been no announcement of international release.