You know, we get a woeful lack of English-localised Digimon games. We didn't get Digimon World Re:Digitize, for either of the consoles it was available on, even taking into account how much Nintendo pushes for worldwide releases of any game on its handhelds; we didn't get Super Xros Wars or Lost Evolution (did anyone get Lost Evolution, even in Japan? It seems like it just appeared one day and then vanished just as fast); and we didn't get the Digimon Adventure PSP game, despite the fact that that could have very easily been an instant success.
The European and North American releases of Cyber Sleuth came about mostly as the result of fans petitioning Bandai Namco to do an English-language version of the game - and full disclosure, I signed that petition - but it creates an interesting precedent, showing that fans outside of Japan are willing to shell out for Digimon games. The fact that Cyber Sleuth's European and North American releases have been met with both rave reviews from critics and significantly high sales bodes well for Bandai Namcoi maybe changing their tune and releasing future Digimon games internationally - which would be good, since I really, really want to play Digimon World: Next Order.
Set in a world that has been revolutionised with the creation of Cyberspace EDEN, a virtual reality that copies user's thoughts, allowing them to interact with it as if it was the real world, making it a hub of both big business and entertainment, Cyber Sleuth follows a young student who, after being given a Digimon Capture program and attacked by a mysterious nautilus-like creature, becomes a kind of data being, able to jump in and out of any digital device. Becoming the assistant of eccentric but shrewd private detective Kyoko, the new Cyber Sleuth sets out to uncover the mystery of their own data body, the source of EDEN Syndrome, and the machinations behind Kamishiro, the company responsible for the creation of Cyberspace EDEN. Along the way, they meet Arata, a mysterious and nerdy hacker with a dark past; Yuuko, heir to Kamishiro; and Nokia, a bubbly young woman accompanied by two Digimon who she seems to have some past connection with.
|Mastemon, who shows up for about six seconds and then is never seen again.|
In terms of gameplay, Cyber Sleuth is a fairly typical turn-based RPG. You have a battle party of three Digimon (with a reserve party that grows as you gain more memory to store them in), with various special attacks, and attack effectiveness determined partly by element (with the usual run of fire, water, electric, wind, and earth) and partly by type (with virus types being strong against data, data strong against vaccine, and vaccine strong against virus). It's a fairly smooth, slick battle system, but it lacks the complexity or depth that many of its competitors have - which is a shame, because an RPG can live or die on how deep and interesting its battle system is. Most battles end up simply being wars of attrition, as you hit an opponent with a barrage of your best attacks in the hopes that they'll go down - and while the latter half of the game tries to push the idea of using stat-altering moves to increase how many turns you have and suchlike, it never really caught on with me, since sheer brute force was always sufficient.
That's not to say that it's not a functional battle system, though, nor is it to say that it's not fun - while it might grow a little repetitive after a while, it's consistently kept fresh by the fact that you're always discovering new Digimon, each with their own unique moves (complete with unique animations) with unique effects.
Much of the game is spent dungeon-crawling, and the dungeons, too, are fine but often lacking. For many sidequests, you'll end up in a generic dungeon, identical to every other sidequest dungeon save that the pathways are slightly different; otherwise, you will quite frequently be exploring Kowloon, a hacker haven whose design is interesting, but quickly grows tired and same-y the more time you spend wandering around it. Where the game's dungeons really shine are with its labyrinths, plot-relevant dungeons where the real world intersects with the digital, creating strange, nightmarish distorted zones. Sinister and beautiful in equal measure, these labyrinths are beautifully designed, combining the familiar with the alien. They are, however, fairly few and far between.
|Nokia, whose name admittedly did make me think of the phone. That's|
Again, the dungeons are perfectly functional, and plenty fun - it's just, as with the battle system, they grow repetitive after a while.
Most cases involve wandering around talking to people using certain keywords, then meandering through a dungeon for a battle, which is fine, to be honest. That's pretty much how most RPG sidequests roll. Again, it isn't exactly inspired, but it is functional and enjoyable, and you can't ask fairer than that.
In terms of story, there's been real effort put in to keep the whole story fresh and interesting. While you start off mostly reacting to the appearance of labyrinths and various problems in Kowloon, the story swiftly evolves into one about evil big businesses and government conspiracies, playing up the detective drama tropes to the hilt. And, when that plot has run its course, it changes it up again, introducing a plotline revolving around a war between worlds, with a side of cosmic horror to boot. Not content to rest on its laurels and let the audience grow bored, the game constantly teases with mysteries, providing answers to some questions while presenting others, all the way up until the end.
(Highlights of the storyline include the inexplicable ten minute trip to a parallel world, which seems to mostly be to plug Re:Digitize, and the Etemon storyline, which is the most blatant example of product placement I've seen in a video game in a long time.)
The game is beautiful to boot. Every Digimon is gorgeously rendered, and all of the human characters, while they have admittedly weird designs (Arata, what are you wearing? Seriously? It makes a lot more sense when you consider that the designer, Suzuhito Yasuda, also worked on the Devil Survivor games, where everybody dresses ridiculously) are very striking and interesting to look at. Environments are always nice to look at, even if they sometimes grow dull on account of having to see the same ones again and again.
All in all, it's a very solid, fun game, and it only makes me want to play Next Order - which seems set to take the foundation that Cyber Sleuth made and improve upon it vastly - all the more. So Bandai Namco should definitely go and localise that. Do it for me, guys.