By Evan Douville, Feature Editor Originally published in Issue 5, Volume 32 of The University Register on Friday, November 8, 2019

Note: While this game is a compilation of both “Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth” games, this review will only encompass the original. However, both games are practically identical, so any gameplay tidbits apply to both versions.

With the new Pokemon game looming on the horizon, I needed another monster collecting JRPG to get my fx. Tankfully, after looking at an article from Kotaku entitled “Pokémon Is Fine, But Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Is One Of Te Best Monster RPGs You Can Play,” and with the recent re-release of the game on Nintendo Switch, I had to pick it up. After playing through the frst chunk of the original I can safely say, for once, Kotaku is right. “Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth” is a fantastic, if rough, monster collecting RPG that should be on everyone’s to-play list.

The premise is charming, if simple: your character, along with several of his or her friends, log into EDEN for the frst time. EDEN is a futuristic virtual-reality hub for the internet, great for shopping, business, and (unfortunately) hacking. You and your friends become the unfortunate target of a hacking organization, and while trying to log out, your character mysteriously loses their physical form, becoming half human, half data. You’re then recruited by a detective agency specializing in internet security, and it becomes your job to deal with cyber criminals.

Oh and there’s Digital Monsters, or Digimon, too, I suppose. The story is nothing to write home about; it’s pretty self-explanatory and basic, and even if you’re only paying a little bit of attention the story still makes sense. One thing that sticks out to me about it is the dialogue: it’s ridiculous, at least in the localization. Characters will drone on and on and on about nonsense that’s literally unimportant to the story. One annoying character in particular gives you an entire mini history lesson before giving you objectives. Plural.

It’s insane, and I ended up mashing the confrm button about ten hours in and doing something else while I waited. Thankfully, it’s not the story of “Cyber Sleuth” that makes it worthwhile, it’s its engaging combat and monster collecting. Te combat system on the surface is also nothing too spectacular: you control a party of three Digimon with up to nine in reserve, able to be swapped out at any time. Each Digimon is one of three types and one of six elements, creating a double layer of rock-paper-scissors gameplay that feels really intriguing to explore. Battles are turn-based, so every turn your Digimon get to pelt the enemy with rather awesome battle animations for their unique moves, and stock animations for their shared moves. Battles are generally pretty quick, lasting around twenty seconds for shorter battles and upwards of fve minutes for harder battles, and thanks to the ability to both auto-battle and turn of animations, grinding is a cinch.

But what makes “Cyber Sleuth” even more compelling is the Digimon Growth system. Digimon can both evolve and de-evolve, and while the latter sounds counterintuitive—-don’t you want your Digimon getting stronger? —- you actually want to devolve them to increase their Ability Score, which increases their max level, and therefore capability to evolve into diferent Digimon. Plus, since each Digimon learns unique shared skills, it can be a blast to power level one Digimon through one tree, then deevolve them all the way back down to their base form with incredibly powerful skills and run up another tree. By the endgame, I was being trounced by enemies who were way stronger than my party. I had to go back, learn some new skills, increase my ability score, and kick their butts. It provides an absolutely engaging feedback loop.

The music and aesthetic is nothing to write home about, unfortunately. It feels very standard sci-f JRPG-y, without any real nuance or subtleties. It’s nothing grating, though I did fnd myself, when playing in handheld mode, playing in silence.

Speaking of which, another reason I rate this collection well is due to the fact that since the game is on the Switch, “Cyber Sleuth” opens itself up to being playable in bite-size chunks. Prererelease it was also a Playstation Vita game, so that makes sense. Having it on the Switch feels wonderful, and grinding up for 20 or 30 minutes when I have some free time is absolutelywonderful.

For $50 you get two amazing, grindy RPGs that you can be sure to sink hundreds of hours into. If you’re a fan of monster collecting and grinding your team to perfection, “Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth” is a must-have for fans of the genre.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

Image on top courtesy of Gematsu