Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (CS henceforth) is a Japanese Role-playing game akin to Pokémon: you collect and befriend monsters and do battle using them. The story of the game takes place in Japan, and especially within the confines of a virtual world called “EDEN” in which people can physically interact with each other. Through a meeting with a hacker inside EDEN, you get granted access to Digimon Capture and your own first Digimon. But shortly after, you get attacked by a mysterious creature, and while escaping, it grabs you and interferes with your logout process. Left in a half-digital state, you meet a mysterious woman who runs a (cyber) detective agency. Soon enough, you find yourself working for her, not only trying to get your physical body back but also solving cyber-crimes and figuring out the mysteries of EDEN and the overarching plot.
Notable difference to Pokémon is that Digimon are not locked to one single path of evolution, and they can devolve backwards as well. This is what you’ll be doing a lot during the game. It might sound arduous, and it slightly is, but it is also the meat of the game. The process of making your Digimon more powerful while exploring the branching digivolution paths is very satisfying. And if you’re not familiar with Digimon silhouettes, it gives a constant sense of discovery as you continue to explore all the evolutions. This process also makes your Digimon reach new heights with increasing parameters through ABI (basically, free extra points in parameter of your choice) and customising their move sets through multiple different Digimon evolutions.
Engaging in combat with Digimon is done through traditional turn-based combat, with a party of three Digimon in battle and six in reserve. The combat system is quite simple to get into, and because of that, makes the grind more bearable. The notable thing about combat is that each Digimon has a unique attack, which goes a long way in establishing their identities, even if that attack is not necessarily a powerful one.
While the gameplay might sound tedious, I think the focus on Digimon triumphs. The models of the Digimon look awesome. Even if they are not 1:1 scale, the fact that you have three of them following you around is just amazing. As a comparison, CS was out when Pokémon was still refusing to reutilise the Pokémon following you around mechanic from Heart Gold and Soul Silver. That said, I wager that the enjoyability of this game hinges on whether you enjoy Digimon as a series or not.
In many ways, Cyber Sleuth is like the infamous Finnish Agapio Racing Team dub of Digimon Adventure (not just because the localisation is terrible): bad. Exploring dull corridors, grinding, a mediocre story. And yet, there is something there that elevates it from bad to good: namely, an adventure with very Digimon elements, like the digital world seeping into the real world, friendship, bond with Digimon of your own and, of course, saying goodbye. CS is a game that, on the surface doesn’t sound like much, but in truth, offers something special. Of course, I might be in complete denial that this is the best Digimon games can offer. But I’d rather believe it’s not just that.
Lastly, I should note that CS – Hacker’s Memory (HM) exists. It’s a “sequel” that takes place at the same time as CS’ story does, but with different characters. It has more Digimon available, some minor improvements here and there, but mostly it’s almost the same deal. The PC & Switch versions are complete and include both CS and HM from the get-go, and they have the extra Digimon from HM within the regular CS. On other platforms, they’re separate purchases. Both are great and worth playing if you’re interested, though CS’ story is a bit better, in my opinion.
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (Complete Edition), PC – Steam (Complete Edition)
Release date: 5.2.2016 (EU)
Players: 1-2 (PvP online, don’t count on it being alive)
Pictures: Screenshots, taken by the author (PS4 version).