Digimon is a long running series having its first game released back in 1997. It’s had quite the wild ride jumping through platforms and games through the years and continues to revamp and ‘digivolve’ itself to better suit the times and the audience it grows up with. So how well has it been keeping up with the race to develop new games upto now? Well a spin-off game from Digimon Story seems to be their best answer so far, so let’s see how well that holds up.
The full title of the game is ‘Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory,’ yep, that long. It appears to be a stand-alone side-story from the original Cyber Sleuth. You play a character named Keisuke who had his online account stolen from him, and like in the real world, getting your account taken from you can be a big deal. In fact it’s what drives Keisuke to take on the quest to find the thief and take back what’s rightfully his. Even if that means quitting school, hiding away from your usual social obligations and getting involved with a top hacker group named ‘Hudie.’ Chasing after the criminal that wronged you, only to later reveal that there’s a lot more at stake than just the accounts of a few people. Perhaps, like most jRPGs, even the fate of the world.
Production (2.5 / 5)
DSCS Hacker’s Memory seems to be gunning towards a more cel shaded anime look with generally clean looking visuals. However the visual presentation suffers badly as the style doesn’t really carry over through it UI elements and in battle. While models look and move alright they’re not used in interesting ways as they always talk in visual novel form. You can tell that the look being sought after is somewhat some sort of contemporary anime look. It does look great in certain cutscenes when they’re actually moving on their own, but when they’re static they become generally boring to look at.
It’s also noted that while the backgrounds and city areas hold enough of a characteristic to look unique, exploring them is generally unrewarding. Japanese voices are what’s available in the game and unfortunately there seems to be issue with their audio balancing as it’s a little difficult to tell that they’re actually talking most of the time.
Perhaps we can attribute this lack of flare in presentation with the fact that the series was originally designed for the PS Vita and its sequel was more or less ported to PS4. But you can also look at the Persona series and still see that there’s ways to make things look good without having to invest on making them too demanding on a lower-end CPU. Perhaps if they had stylized their UI a little better or made more use of the 3D environments to illustrate the conversational scenes rather than always falling back to the visual novel format this might have flown a little better, but for now it leaves much wanting.
Mechanics (3.5 / 5)
Hacker’s Memory runs on traditional turn based combat where you ideally try to take a strategic approach to make the most out of every turn. You need to consider each monster’s affinity which comes in 2 layers, they digimon’s type and element. Being able to take advantage of both can give you up to triple the damage and losing on both can mean just dealing a quarter, and while learning them can seem difficult at first, it’s actually easy to pick up. They just never bothered to directly explain it to you during gameplay.
Now the whole turn-based jRPG seems pretty standard and thought out well enough but it’s the systems beyond that which Digimon has taken itself further. Collecting them isn’t really luck based at all, no need to throw pokeballs here. There are 2 general ways of obtaining digimon, either you scan them enough times to reproduce them or you transform your current pool into the ones you seek. Each Digimon has several possibilities to change to, both moving higher and lower in the monster tiers. Moving up will have requirements to achieve before making them accessible which will require grinding. Now, considering some of these stats can’t be gained by default, you’ll have to repeatedly move certain digimon up and down the evolutionary tiers to as they inherit some stats while getting their parameters reset to level 1.
Yes, that sounds like a problem, but it makes it entirely possible to make even lower tier digimon more powerful and therefore useful than they would be by default. And that’s important as the further evolved digimon take up more ‘memory space’ on your party. You’re able to expand this over the course of the game so managing the party size isn’t always too much trouble.
It’s also possible to make use of other digimon and raise them at the same time by leaving them in virtual farms and assigning them tasks to let them gain stats or do something else that’s helpful to you which they achieve over time.
Now if you’re the type that likes these collect-a-thon kind of genres, yes this is when the game opens up a bit more for those who like to min-max whatever they control or simply be able to do several things at the same time as the game progresses. The way these mechanics are designed also makes it rather exciting to mix and match digimon or explore the possibilities of each one. I for one was pretty excited to finally attain a Black Greymon after an hour or two of grinding in their rather lackluster dungeons.
Content (1.5 / 5)
Hacker’s Memory would roughly take 60~70 hours of play to clear the main story, a certain chunk of that will also depend on how much you decide to grind. I personally don’t think there’s anything revolutionary out of the story. But I find it good enough that it stands on its own, meaning any knowledge on it’s previous game really isn’t necessary.
Unfortunately another part I find hugely unnecessary si how the side quests were executed. When the actual story moves forward, you can see that the development team had placed a fair effort in making these little new things to find and keep things interesting enough. But boy when you were going to deal with the subquests it was pretty much template work as if watching an assembly line make a care package. Go get a premise from a random guy, wander around the assigned dungeon, get to the quest boss and enjoy the ending scene, that is if you haven’t fallen asleep yet. It’s a bit of a shame as people have gone out of their way to actually write stories for them but since they never change how they’re presented you’ll be bored by the fifth one. In general they play out to be window dressing for grinding through dungeons.
The consolation prize you get would be the idea of getting your hacker level higher which allows you to access some gimmicky skills that can be useful. Summoning or avoiding enemy encounters, having a faster walking speed, reviving bots that thank you with items, hacking through firewalls, and more. These become accessible and are strengthened by increasing your hacker skills.
Another interesting concept they’ve shown would be a domination battle, where hackers fight over virtual territory and win over who has the goal amount of points. I wish there was more of that kind of creativity going on with most of the game’s content.
Features (2.5 / 5)
This Digimon game offers itself to be avialable both on the PS Vita, PSV TV and PS4, making it possible to swap between platforms to play them either in your living room or on the go.
Later in the game you are also given the option to battle online against others who’ve made it that far to see who’s got a better handle on battling with Digimon.
There’s also been talks of DLC being released later on mainly to feature more creatures for you to discover and enjoy, though when they’ll be out isn’t exactly clear yet.
To be honest, I find it difficult to recommend Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory to just anyone. For one thing, you’ll have to learn to stop cringing at how they attach the ‘digi’ to anything they possibly can. It’ll certainly take some tolerance towards the rather vintage presentation style and game play of the genre to be able to make it far enough to what I would say is meaningful within the game.
Yet, despite how I speak lowly of the this title’s way of showing off it’s latest fashion look and rather rudimentary and slow ways to play the game, there’s a bit of a sparkle to these digieggs if you’re willing to polish them yourself. Collecting and raising the critters gives tidbits of satisfaction when you finally let them go through the iconic digivolving process.
But most of this can be experienced only after investing a good amount of time into this title. Like boiling for some soup stock, it’ll take some time before you get to the savory flavor the Hacker’s Memory actually has. So if you find the saltiness I’ve laid out attractive, maybe it’s a good pick up for you.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory isn’t quite forgettable with a 2.5 / 5
Available on PS Vita, PS Vita TV and PS4.