Flashback: Digimon World is just as good as any Pokemon game.
Every Friday in honor of #flashbackFriday(yes, I went there) I plan on looking back at a classic game that had either a profound impact on my gaming career or impacted the industry in some way. Let's be clear, I AM NOT reviewing these games, but rather expressing how I remember them in comparison with how I feel about them now after having played through them again.
Let me preface this article by saying that I typically love Pokemon games more than Digimon games, but Digimon's television show more than the Pokemon series. With that being said Digimon World for the PS1 is an outstanding game that stands up right against the best Pokemon game.
I can already hear the Pokemon fanatics crying and screaming "blasphemy!", but hear me out.
The year is 1999 and both Digimon and Pokemon are at the height of their popularity. I for one couldn't get enough monsters whether it be in digital or pocket form (for those of you that don't know, Pokemon stands for pocket monster while Digimon stands for digital monster). I was basically a mindless clone from the "Chinpoko Mon" episode of South Park, and I'm ok with that.
I basically wore out my Pokemon Red and Yellow cartridges, I had all the cards, and even some VHS tapes of the show. Trying to learn everything and capture all 150 monsters was incredibly addicting.
On the other hand, Digimon captured my attention for a whole different host of reasons. It was everything that Pokemon wasn't. It required you to take care of your digital companion and as annoying as it could have been at times, it made me more attached to my Digimon. The show was a little more relatable as well as it separated the digital world from the real world.
I was dying for a 3D Pokemon or Digimon game. Pokemon Stadium came out and as much as I enjoyed it, it was nothing more than a glorified Pokemon battle with some fun minigames. Digimon World came around and it was everything that I was hoping for and still is to this day.
You start out by naming your hero, Digimon partner, and answering a few questions. All of this is determines which Digimon you start with (either Agumon or Gobumon). From there you and your Digimon partner set out on your adventure. Movement is fairly basic (although at times somewhat bothersome due to camera angles) and you only battle Digimon if you bump into them which actually gives you the power to avoid a lot of battles if you can maneuver well enough around incoming enemies. This is such a welcome change from the random encounters in the Pokemon series.
When you do actually battle, your hero runs off to the side to shout commands while your Digimon engages the enemies. The battle system is drastically different from Pokemon. You can't call out specific attacks for your Digimon to use (at first) and until you make your Digimon smarter the only thing you can shout out for it to do is "Your Call" which
basically commands your Digimon will do what it wants. In the beginning of the game this proves to be incredibly annoying as simple battles that should only last a few seconds can turn into minutes where your Digimon's HP and MP get much lowered than you ever intended.
Unlike Pokemon where you simply go to a Pokemon Center for free health care, in Digimon you have 1 of 3 options. You can use healing items (which are extremely valuable in the beginning of the game), go and rest for free at the home base of hope your Digimon gets tired and wants to sleep. The catch with the latter 2 options though is that it makes time go by a lot quicker and time is a very big factor in this game.
That clock in the top left corner with that little guy on top of it (I still have no idea what it is supposed to be) will become your best friend in this game. Not only do certain events happen at certain times of the day, but unlike you, your Digimon are not immune to the passing of time. That's correct, after so many days, depending on the evolution level of your digimon, it will pass away due to old age and you'll be treated to a heart wrenching video of it screaming its death cry. Where there is life, there is death. After a Digimon loses all of its life or passes away, players are asked to pick another DigiEgg and start their Digimon training all over from the start.
Sound incredibly annoying? Well it is, but in the best way possible. This allows players the chance to get new Digimon, and getting newer and stronger Digimon is half the fun of the game.
On top of all this, you have to worry about you Digimon's weight, happiness and sadness, poop meter, discipline, and fatigue. The game explains none of this to you so there is A LOT of trial and error.
P.S. Training your Digimon at the gym is just plain awful.
The graphics of this game are nothing special. As you can see from the above images, the character models are very pixel-ly, but are easy enough to differentiate from one another which comes in handy when there are 5 or 6 Digimon in one battle together. Every Digimon has unique animations which is really appreciated and helps make your partner feel that much more unique and special.
The hand drawn backgrounds are exceptional for this game and definitely outshine any of the characters. Settings range from mines, to canyons to frosty mountains and hay forests, but they all flow into one another pretty seamlessly making the space feel that much more alive.
The soundtrack is a personal favorite of mine too. There is music where it needs to be and other times there is just a lot of ambient noise to suit the environment, but it works really well. Digimon have unique sounds that really help illustrate just how big or small they are supposed to be which was an under appreciated thing considering the hardware restrictions of the original PS1.
As an adult I actually find myself appreciate this game more than when I did as a child. It has its flaws, but after a pretty intense learning curve, finally understanding just how digivolution works and watching the city grow solely due to the strength of your Digimon is incredibly rewarding. This game pulls no punches, but is fair and challenges you to become a great tamer.
If I want to collect monsters I'll play Pokemon, but if I want to start an actual adventure, Digimon World is my game of choice.