I may have grown up with Pokemon, but I’ve always been a Digimon fan at heart. If I had to say which is my favorite, Digimon would be the clear winner. I may not have had games, but I’ve always loved the anime for its characters, actually depths within the plot (for some), and the Digimon themselves. Some sure are…questionably designed. Why do they give Digimon like Angewomon tits? It’s supposed to be a monster, not Jessica Alba. But some Digimon like Greymon and Machinedramon really sold me on the idea. Cool looking but not overly designed. Just enough to make me recognize them with awe and appreciation.
I’m more of an anime fan because I barely played any of the Digimon games that have come out. I’ve only played Digimon Dusk, which Pokemon totally stole the concept of, and Digimon Cyber Sleuth + Hackers Memory. They’re not bad games. I’d even say Cyber Sleuth is an amazing game. But Dusk left a lot to be desired and Hacker’s Memory was just a lot of lost potential. However, what I love about these games are the fact that they expand upon or change what the world of Digimon is. This is less of a critic on the games and more on what Digimon as a franchise is. For comparison, it always feels like Pokemon is safe with its franchise. Just do the same thing over and over again with changes that are more superficial than actually developing the franchise. Digimon barely does that. These games, and the anime, always experiments to make each adventure unique. So were great, and some were Digimon Tri. Dawn and Dusk took the formula of kids going into the Digital World and changed it so a bunch of them created their own society within it. Digimon Cyber Sleuth barely even goes to the Digital World, creating a version of the human world that created a digital paradise so close to the Digital World that leaks happened. Fundamentally, it’s still about Digital monsters and people creating connections with them. But none of them feel tired out or over-done. Except for Digimon Tri. That was a mess.
Digimon Survive is that concept but taking it to a completely different level. Developed by Hyde and published by Bandai Namco, Digimon Survive is a darker take on the original anime. Emphasis on the anime part; I’ll get to that later. We’ve got the main characters as campers but are much older, around middle to highschool. They’re sucked into a world full of monsters, except these Digimon are of ancient japanese folklore called the Kemonogami instead of a world in the internet. Probably. I haven’t finished the game yet. The biggest change is that any of the characters could truly die. Their only protection are ally monsters who have dedicated themselves to keeping them safe. They have to find a way out of this world with all their pieces intact, while learning what exactly the Kemonogami are.
This is one of the biggest changes to the Digimon formula, and one of the craziest interpretations on the original. I knew I wanted this game when it was first announced. That first trailer hooked me in. The tactical rpg elements were fairly new to me, as I’ve only played Fire Emblem Awakening, but I wanted to see this through. But, I didn’t see another trailer until I got it just 2 days ago and learned that it was a…visual novel?
Now, before you click off and think that I’m about to reviewbomb this game, just hear me out. People apparently didn’t watch the trailers, like me, and were disappointed with the fact that it’s a visual novel. So much so that people outright hate this game because of it. But not me. I was actually invested in the game because I learned of its genre on the spot. I don’t play many visual novel games because, from what I’ve seen, I thought I would have gotten bored of it. If I wanted to read a bunch of text with no other variety, I’d pick up a book. I read books to read and I play games to play. That’s the natural order of things! But, despite that, I kept an open mind. At least it gave me an excuse to try out a visual novel. What can I say except getting into it.
Now, this ain’t a full review. I ain’t finished yet, and I do not want to rush this game. I’m only discussing what I have played, which is about when you get to the school. Now, without out further adoooooo
This game is fucking amazing. I haven’t been this engaged in a game since Bioshock. Soooooo…2 months. The story is incredible. While you can tell which character is an archetype of one of the original kids, their character is so well-developed that you forget about it. I love all of the characters, especially Minomu. Dude’s got a vibe I can relate to. I also love that they went with Digimon partners that haven’t been used in the past…except Agumon. But at least Agumon has other evolutions besides the Greymon line, spicing up this roster a lot more. The mystery of the Kemonogami is really fascinating. I love how integral the Digimon have become in Japanese legend. Really lends to fantastic world building.
This game really is dark, but not because there’s a bunch of sex, or blood, or sex, or characters more emo than redditor, or sex. It’s a “mature” Digimon experience because it doesn’t cherry coat how much danger there is. I can’t wait to see my stupid my decisions lead to their deaths. Not only that, but everything is given this mysterious tone to it that keeps an air of tension as you play. I’m invested in the characters because all their worry, motivations, and decisions feel real. But it doesn’t dilute the soul that Digimon has. There are just enough light moments to remind you that this is a Digimon entry.
The battles are solid and my favorite part of the game. The best way to describe a tactical rpg is that it’s an rpg on a chess board. It may seem simple for a current gen game, if you’ve seen screenshots, but the character sprites are so well made that it does make up for the 60 dollar price point. Now, I’m very dumb. These games prove it. You gotta understand your units and place them in places in order to predict and prepare for what the enemy will do. I like the addition of how you face your Digimon at the end of the turn. You either predict well and the opponent attacks facing head on, or leave yourself defenseless when the enemy attacks from the side or back. God I hope Zanny plays this game. So many master flank jokes.
But, the recruitment method of getting Digimon is really funny. You talk to them and answer their questions based on their personality. If their vibe check goes off, you get a chance to recruit them, removing them from the battle entirely, or you get guaranteed items. I like this mechanic. the dialogue is unpredictable and genuinely funny at times. It’s very much like Undertale. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that Digimon are very linear with their questions. So the charm dies when you just click the same right answers. But, overall, a very solid rpg. Nothing too spectacular.
Unfortunately, all of that was almost ruined for me by the beginning of the game. Jesus Christ that went on for too damn long. It pretty much confirmed my fears that I’m just not into visual novels. Yes, the story got engaging once they get to the Digimon. And yes, I normally like the humble beginning before all hell breaks loose. But the visual novel aspect made what would have been a 5-minute moment in the story into a 2-hour snore. I remember leaning in the back of my couch, going through all the text thinking, “when are we getting to the Digimon?” I normally try to not have that kind of mindset, but this was the exception. I can’t deny how I felt.
This becomes the game’s detriment to me, because the first thing you do in the game is some visual novel and then a tutorial Digimon fight. It was an amazing moment that really set the tone, but the road to it again was boring. I knew the rpg mechanics were coming. I knew the Digimon were coming. But it takes too long to get to the point.
And when it finally gets to the point, when you finally get your first Digimon and get into the second fight, it’s more tutorials and hand holding. I understand the developers didn’t want the first 10 minutes being a tutorial of everything. RPGs have to be explained because of all its rules. Also, gamers are dumb. But for all of that waiting and dialogue, just be presented with that, really disappointed me. On top of that, every tutorial fight leads into long stretches of story. And then another tutorial fight. As my first verdict of a visual novel, this is padding. Great story, but the only break from it being a tutorial really sucks.
Of course, this could just be a first time thing. Maybe it’s not as bad when replaying since I won’t waste time checking everything. But as a first time into a visual novel, not the greatest impression.
I still love this game, I really do. I love the characters and the story about survival in a new world that may or may not be the Digital World. I wanna discover the deal with the Digimon, and why they’re so connected to this area of Japan. But without all of that, and had this not been a Digimon game or a good story, I would have dropped it. This is basically my first and last visual novel game because, quite frankly, I find this shit boring. At least the decisions are interesting and will apparently direct what evolution Digimon will have. I think. I’d research on that but then I’d risk spoilers. If you love visual novels, you’re gonna have a good time. I mean it. I’m not an authority of visual novels, but I think this one is worth it. Unless you despise RPGs. All in all, Digimon Survive is a tactical rpg visual novel that does its job well, and I appreciate how much it knows what it is. But I can’t say it’s for everyone. Which is a shame because this franchise could use a lot of love. Have you seen the new Bandai Vital Hero? The North American release barely has any Digimon on it. And I’ve seen news of Digimon Survive copies having shitty performances. Let me know in the comments. again, I’d search, but I’m really afraid of spoilers. It’s like Bandai’s ashamed of the franchise or something.
Even with my issues, Digimon Survive is a great step forward in the franchise and I hope Bandai gets out of this phase of self-hate so that it can flourish more. But hey, at least they didn’t turn Agumon into a bike. Insert Pokemon sucks meme. Insert into Agumon as-