Prodigious Digimon Detective game!
Digimon is celebrating its 15th anniversary of the franchise in its fifth title in the Digimon Story game series. I had been curious about this title before release, then after hearing a comparison of it to the Persona and Final Fantasy game series I was familiar with, I had to get it. Do not worry if you haven’t played the previous games. The story is easy to get into. I ran out, and luckily, even though my main game store did not have it, another one not too far away did. Once I started playing, it did not take long for me to get hooked.
A large part of what got me hooked was nostalgia. I had watched the Digimon Adventures animated series when I was younger. For those who do not have any prior knowledge of Digimon, they are digital creatures that can evolve into new and stronger forms. The setting of most of the series is based in a mix of real world and fantasy elements. I absolutely gushed seeing the digimon. The models are great, and the transformation sequences for evolving are exactly what I wanted them to be.
It takes a while to get to the interesting parts as you progress through the game. The slow start sets up the world a bit. It introduces EDEN, which is a virtual reality platform that people travel to. Then characters that will play a large role in the game are brought in. You’ll start gaining access to the various digimon and learning the battle system. Then you will encounter a detective named Kyoko, who takes you in as his apprentice. Hence the term Sleuth in the title, as it stands for detective.
The story itself is a roller-coaster. You will have a big boss battle, and then the next mission will not even involve combat. I understand those lighter missions are being thrown in to develop the characters and their relationships. However, these were main story missions that I could not skip. Forcing me to play through them made some characters annoying to me that I probably would have otherwise liked. Finding which characters we liked and then allowing us to explore them more through their side mission on our own would have been more welcoming for players. During the actual story, characters become more interesting and develop over time. But in those carefree missions, they seem to revert back to their earlier attitudes which made me annoyed with them.
More than any of the characters, I was invested in the digimon. After you choose the first digimon, all others will be gained through scanning. Each time you enter a battle against a digimon, your scan amount will increase by various percentages. At 100%, the scan can be converted to add in a new digimon to your team. If you cannot fit them on your team, then there are storage areas of the DigiBank and Farm Islands. Only in the farms will the digimon level while not battling with you. Filling up the scans for these will at least allow access to the digimon, whether you use them or not is up to you. I recommend running around and getting scans of the digimon for any new location before finishing tasks that could block off the area. Even if you choose not to level them, they can be used to add experience to others.
For the evolution part of training, it is not just about evolving, but devolving as well. Devolving is needed to increase level limits. It allows for more exploration into the evolutions as well. I was excited for this feature of the evolution. It feels somewhat accurate to the origins of Digimon. Plus, the ability to branch through different paths was fun and interesting to go and learn. If I did not like the new evolution then I could devolve back one and try another. The catch being that each time a digimon is devolved or evolved they are set back to level one. To evolve, there are requirements that need to be met, with level being the one constant condition. Other conditions are varied: stat requirements, CAM percentage level, and ABI level. CAM percentage is the friendship level with the digimon that is raised through battles with that digimon, or giving them items. ABI is raised only though evolving and devolving.
Toward the end of the game, this system started becoming a large hindrance. Most of the final evolution forms that can be obtained require at least 20 ABI. Just leveling up from the bottom does not always guarantee you to get to the needed level. This means you’ll be repeatedly evolving and devolving just to match the level requirement. I might not have minded this system much if there were better training areas. It was only toward the end of the game that I found an area that honestly helped me reach the levels I needed to evolve the digimon I had been training.
The battle system is kept simple, and is turn-based. The turn sequence is visible to help with more patterned enemy fights. You can have a maximum battle team of 3 digimon, but can hold up to 11. At each digimon’s turn, there will be the options of attacking, using a skill, guarding, or changing out for another digimon. There is also the escape feature and the auto battle. The auto battle feature is probably my favorite. I had expected it to be like Persona where each of the digimon would probably only use physical attacks. They will use techniques in this game during auto, not just for attacking, but healing too. This feature helped me keep my sanity in long hours of grinding and training. The random encounter battles were never as difficult as the boss battles, so they never had the same level of tension. This resulted in jumps in difficultly when you reached the bosses of each area.
I had a serious nostalgic haze at the start of playing this game. As that wore off, I slowly began to notice the flaws. It is still a solid game. I am completely happy with the battle systems and the modeling of the digimon. I only hope that in any future titles that there are more areas that can be used for higher level training, and less hassle coming from the evolution system. The game does allow you to carry over your digimon to new game plus. This helps to get to higher evolution forms. I would say better characters were needed as well. There were interesting developments with the characters they did have. I can only say that I genuinely liked three of them.