Playing through Cyber Sleuth made me realize how much I have wanted a home console Pokemon game for years. I got a taste of what it could be with Pokemon Colosseum on the Nintendo Gamecube (Did not get to play Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness) but I wanted more. Due to confounded reasons I could not get Pokemon Sword just yet so I went with the best alternative. Question is whether it was worth the purchase. Reading my review of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory will hopefully help readers come to their own conclusions.
(Note: The Complete Edition includes both the first Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth and the side-story followup Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory.)
(Note 2: The review is based on my playthrough of the first Cyber Sleuth. Besides the story and some extra additions, Hacker’s Memory plays similarly.)
Developer: Bandai-Namco, h.a.n.d.
Publisher: Bandai-Namco Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PC. (The games can be purchased separately on PS3/PS4 and PS Vita/TV though the first Cyber Sleuth is no longer available digitally in the West.)
Genres: Fantasy, Isekai, JRPG, Science-Fiction
Themes: Monster Raising
Difficulty: Easy-Medium (Play Hard for a bigger challenge because Normal is easy for the most part.)
Length: 45-50+ hours (each)
Plot Summary: Cyber Sleuth stars one of two twins, male or female (Of course I picked the girl. Hacker’s Memory has a male protagonist), logging into EDEN, the token “Virtual Reality is the future!” online digital social network found in many anime with a modern setting. She joins a chat room to talk about Hackers, aka Digimon Trainers, when the EDEN mascot randomly pops up to invite the interested to Kowloon for some surprise goodies. A curious few, including Ami (The canon name of the sister) take the bait, I mean accept. Kowloon is the dangerous EDEN underworld. Through several strange circumstances Ami becomes a Hacker and gets involved with events beyond her control. Attacked by a dangerous enemy she is somehow transported back to the real world where she meets the beautiful detective Kyouko Kuremi. Intrigued by Ami she is eventually appointed assistant “Cyber Sleuth” and together they help clients and solve crimes as they uncover pieces of the puzzle that will reveal the truth of something that affects both the human and Digimon worlds.
Longtime fans of the Digimon anime checking out the story of Cyber Sleuth would go “Yup. This is definitely a Digimon plot”. As a Cyber Sleuth Ami will encounter all kinds of people. Some down to Earth but most bizarre. In fact, playing through this game gave me Pokemon Colosseum vibes, another game with a cast of memorable weirdos. Besides the cast the game is a fun mystery story with some serious moments as the plot progresses but not much epiphany inducing content. Even so it is an enjoyable plot worth experiencing.
Ami herself reminded me of Gudako from Fate/GO. They are both silent protagonists whose available replies give players the idea they are helpful, playful, determined, sassy and an overall good person. While Ami does not speak she has some voiced lines during battles and inner monologues, sometimes addressing the player directly when explaining something. #Digiception.
As the above pic shows the graphics are that of a late PS2 to mid PS3 era anime game. The characters all have neat designs and the available Digimon look good. Most of the dungeons are digital themed so do not expect much variety in locale other than different looking cyber dungeons. There are the occasional ones where the human and cyber worlds clash (as is to be expected from a Digimon story) but the rest is all cyberspace themed. Luckily there are small areas in the human world to explore from the Broadway center (home base) to Shinjuku and others. The soundtrack is neat with several catchy tunes. Nothing amazing but it gets the job done. I can see myself looking up the OST and listening to some of the tracks. The Switch version of the game mostly runs at 60 Frames Per Second on both TVs and Handheld Mode. There are a few parts of dungeons where the framerate dips to 30-25 FPS but they are far and few. Cutscenes, battles and most areas run at 60.
On to the gameplay. To best describe the game it plays like the aforementioned Gamecube Pokemon games and some Shin Megami Tensei games that feature monster capturing and training. Devil Summoner and Persona come to mind. When not exploring dungeons or battling players explore the various areas of the human world mingling with locals or quest relevant NPCs, taking cases from Kyoko (quests), compete in the in-game battle tournaments on the 4th floor of Nakano etc. Quests differ from going to specific locations, finding items, defeating criminal Hackers and main story events. The neat thing about certain side-quests is they feel like filler episodes that would have fit nicely in a Digimon Cyber Sleuth anime were one ever made.
The other main feature is Mirei’s Room that acts as the Digibank, DigiFarm, Dungeon Simulator and Online Battle Lobby. Basically everything pertaining to collecting and training Digimon is done here. Mirei has her own side-quests and story also. In the DigiFarm players have a set number of Digimon inhabit islands where they can be ordered to train, develop items, investigate potential cases and mingled with. The mingling is more apparent in the Digivice/Menu where players receive text messages from allies and Digimon in the DigiFarm who just want to chat or test players’ Digimon and even Japanese knowledge. Having not watched the anime seasons in a while I admit to having gone online for some of the questions.
The other features are self-explanatory. One I will go in depth is Digimon collecting and Digivolving.
The reason I brought up the Shin Megami Tensei games is how to collect and evolve Digimon. Once a Digimon has reached the required quota to Digivolve it is a game of “Who’s that Digimon?” where most of the Digivolutions are a guessing game. For fans of the anime some of the silhouettes or Digivolutions are recognizable such as Agumon-Greymon-Metalgreymon to interesting ones like Ikkakumon not only being able to Digivolve to Zudomon but Whamon among other forms. Then there is one that had my jaw drop the first time I discovered it. One of my top priority Digivolutions was Angewomon. Anime fans would know to get her one would need to Digivolve Gatomon. Imagine my surprise when in my quest to acquire Lilamon by Digivolving a Plant Digimon…out of curiosity I picked another form and got Angewomon (With Plant moves)! For Pete’s sake a Patamon can Digivolve to a Gatomon. The Digivolution chart is confusing but oh so much fun. My favorite part of the game is just training Digimon and discovering the various evolved forms. Besides Digivolving there is also Warp Digivolving and DNA Digivolving (fusions) such as Wargreymon and both ExVeemon X Stingmon fusions to name a few examples. In total there are over 300 Digimon in both games (Formerly Hacker’s Memory had more but both have the same amount in Complete Edition).
Small tip: Some Digimon require Devolving them. Best example was getting Lillymon. One of the Starter Digimon is Palmon. I wanted Lillymon. To get her I had to Devolve Palmon to Tanemon in order to break the Level 15 gap. Togemon required Palmon be at Level 16. Afterward Lillymon required Level 30 and SPD + INT being 75 each. Could not cheat with Equippable items so had to get Togemon to Level 34 before finally getting Lillymon. Point being the game encourages Devolution to get certain evolved forms.
By the way. Digimon level up fast in this game. The main reason for that is every time they Digivolve or Devolve they go back to Level 1.
Lastly is the combat. It is a standard Turn-Based JRPG combat. Digimon takes turns based on the fastest, some elements are stronger against others, items used in battle to heal etc. Players who played any mainline Pokemon game or turn-based JRPGs in general know what to expect. Battles in Cyber Sleuth are random whereas in Hacker’s Memory wild Digimon are on the field. Its simplicity adds to its charm. Action RPGs are the fad now but it is good seeing turn-based RPGs are far from extinct.
Obtaining Digimon is simple. Instead of weakening and capturing them, basically fight enough of them in the wild till the Digimon Scan reaches 100% for it. The max scan for each wild Digimon is 200%, meaning these can grow stronger than those at 100-180%. Then return to Mirei’s room and pick the convert option to digitize the Digimon into the Digibank.
From a Hacker’s Memory official art seen HERE.
Believe it or not besides Ami potentially shipped with Nokia or Kyouko there is some LGBT+ representation in the games. Not many but there being any at all is nice. Some NPCs, a particular Hacker and most importantly a character important to the plot. Let us just say I did not review the game here solely for Ami yuri shipping.
Overall my enjoying Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition so much had a lot to do with growing up watching the various Digimon anime up to the 4th one (Frontier) where they stopped airing on my local channels along with an urge to play a home console Pokemon-esque game. Discovering old favorites and new ones is a blast. That being said the game as a whole is very enjoyable too. The cast are delightfully kooky, the presentation is dated nowadays but still looks good, the gameplay simple but fun and the surprise LGBT representation, though not huge, is much appreciated. Recommended to fans of Monster Raising games like Pokemon and Yo-Kai Watch. This is a fun alternative.
PS: Seconds after posting the review I was asked about the “-kun honorifics stuff” in the Japanese voice acting. The “-kun” are still there so if that ruins the immersion for some while playing as Ami then maybe skip this one.
PS 2: The woman in front of Kyouko’s office will give players the 5 NX Knights Digimon DLC along with an Item Pack. Black Agumon, Black Gabumon and Sistermon (censored version) can be found in-game. Agumon with Shirt was a timed pre-order exclusive in Japan so it is not available