Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory Review
In Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory, you play as a young guy who is after revenge against a hacker who stole his personal account -- which is something akin to personal identification in the digitized world of EDEN that coexists with the real world. In his quest to recover his account, he falls in with a vigilante hacker group and discovers digital monsters called Digimon.
He quickly forms a bond with these Digimon and pairs up with them in order to defend himself against other hackers and their own powerful Digimon. Through experience earned over countless battles, the Digimon with him will grow and Digivolve into even more powerful and spectacular creatures.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory Review
It's a familiar formula, collecting monsters and battling with them. I've sunk several hours into games like it, but I can't say I've ever picked up a Digimon game before now. It's been quite the experience for me, to say the least. There's a lot of good to be had here, but there's also a fair bit that I'm not fond of.
I found the battle system and the Digimon themselves a lot more interesting than I thought I would. For starters, Digimon compete against each other in 3-vs-3 teams. Sometimes you'll find about four wild Digimon together, or have extra allies on your team, but as a general rule, a single hacker can only command three Digimon at once.
Always having a bunch of Digimon in the field certainly makes battles interesting. However, instead of a traditional turn-based system where each team takes turns attacking, every individual Digimon actually has their own spot in the order of battle. The turn order is displayed on the right side of the screen and is entirely subject to change depending on what moves are used, making combat feel more lively than a typical turn-based game.
And of course, like any good monster battling game, there's not one but two strategic typing charts. Each Digimon has a Type and an Attribute that affect their strengths and defenses. Types are the main classification, and they determine whether your attacks are essentially super effective or not very effective. Attributes, on the other hand, merely boost your damage a smidge if they are strong against the opposing Digimon, but your damage will never be weakened by them. I really had to consider which Types and Attributes I was filling my team with to make sure I had decent coverage across the board.
The Digimon themselves are intriguing, too. I never knew that Digimon were so fluid; one Digimon can Digivolve into several different species of Digimon. They can also De-Digivolve back into any of the potential previous forms of a Digimon. All throughout these evolutions, the Digimon gain various unique skills from each form. There looks to be a lot of strategy and customization to be had in raising a Digimon up a certain path so that they have the Skills you want when they reach their final form.
Additionally, I like the idea of scanning Digimon to gradually gather enough data in order to make one of your own. It's nice not to have to worry about specifically finding wild Digimon since you can just as easily scan other hackers' Digimon. The process can become a little grindy, though.
The Eh ...
While I found the core gameplay enticing, I was a little put off by the learning curve, the plot pacing, and the writing. While I found the gameplay and systems engaging, a lot of things came across as unintuitive. I felt overwhelmed early on, like I didn't know much of what I was doing. While combat quickly clicked with me, the rest of the game wasn't always so plainly explained.
The game tells you where you need to go through dialogue, and doesn't indicate that you have any way to double-check your destination until hours in, which led to me getting quite lost whenever I spaced through text. It turns out there's an easily accessible NPC you can converse with to hear your objective at any time, which kind of saves it, but it's hard to call it intuitive. I've heard this game is much like the original Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, so returning players shouldn't be too overwhelmed by the learning curve, but new players, I suspect, will be.
The pacing of the story was a bit odd, but not unfamiliar to me. It's a cycle where you start or end a chapter with a main-plot segment and then fill in the gap-time with side missions. Some of these missions are required to progress the story, and while they do offer a humorous diversion and some extra insight into the lore of the world, they don't typically tie into the main plot, which harms the momentum slightly.
The plot itself is pretty interesting. It's not exactly gripping, but it doesn't put me to sleep either. The writing is chuckle-worthy at times, though it occasionally misses the mark. Unfortunately, the cut-scenes tend to really drag out and are totally unskippable to boot, which really creates problems when you take a look at the checkpoint system.
In fact, it's almost as if there isn't a checkpoint system. If all of your Digimon get knocked out in battle, then you're kicked back to the title menu, left to continue from wherever you last saved. You might be inclined to think that isn't so bad -- after all, plenty of popular games these days roll you back to your last save upon death. However, many of those games also feature auto-saving at certain intervals, whereas this one absolutely does not. Saving is completely your responsibility, gosh forbid it ever slip your mind.
It just makes the game feel antiquated, and it doesn't stop there. The odd menu layout makes it unintuitive to navigate, and moving around the world feels weirdly constricted in the sense that you're strictly confined to tight spaces even when they should feel more open -- and you can't even turn the camera. Additionally, many level designs in EDEN quickly begin to feel repetitive as you make your way through them. While the scenery can change a tad, many of the map layouts just end up feeling repetitive.
Altogether, the game feels clunky in my hands. I feel like I'm playing a JRPG from the last console generation, which isn't necessarily all that bad, but it's not exactly compelling to me, either.
Overall, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is a pretty solid monster collecting game, though I wouldn't say it really shines anywhere else. If you're itching to duke it out with digital monsters on your PS4 or Vita, then this could be a solid pick-up for you.
I suspect that this game is pretty dang cool for fans of the series, though I can't speak for them. For newcomers, however, I suggest holding your breath. If you like the unique concept of Digimon a lot and aren't bothered by the game's setbacks, you'll likely really enjoy this title. If not, then this is probably going to be a challenging one to sink your teeth into.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is available now on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita for $60 or $40 respectively.
Waiting for the game to download? Be sure to check out our beginner's guide!
Note: Review copy provided by the publisher.