It's the most fun I've ever had playing a Digimon game
I love Digimon. I love it. It's the anime series that I've stuck with the most consistently, predating my ride-or-die One Piece by about eight years. And I think, at it's best, it tells great stories about loss, growing up, and monsters that are covered in cannons. That's why it pains me to find that, sometimes, the world of Digimon video games is a mixed bag, ranging from addictive (Digimon World Dawn), to fun and mindless (Digimon Rumble Arena), to clunky and inept (Digimon World 4). So when I find a Digimon game that satisfies me, one that truly lives up to the franchise's potential, I tend to latch onto it. And y'all, I have latched onto Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition.
The recent re-release for the Nintendo Switch doesn't overhaul the Digimon game formula. You're still a plucky protagonist leading around an army of laser dragons against an unending army of other laser dragons, and you still have to navigate through the "Digivolution trees" in which achieving different stat objectives will allow you to transform your beast into different forms. This isn't a diss on the franchise's staples, by the way. It's inevitable that the team of magical computer demons would be more entertaining than the goggles-wearing dude that tells them what to do. And "Digivolution" is such a fun element to play with, as it often requires a certain level of obsession to obtain the Ultimate and Mega Level destroyers of worlds that you want.
I'm just saying that if you're the kind of person who wants a Digimon game that flips the series on its head, you won't find it here. Instead, you'll discover that Cyber Sleuth (and its sister game Hacker's Memory, which is also available in this set) is the most accessible Digimon game to date. In it, you play an "assistant" detective, charged with solving cyber crimes and delving into hacking cases. In a world where EDEN, a cyberspace network, is, like everyone's favorite thing, these crimes are constant and so your boss, the coffee-loving Kyoko Kuremi tasks you to run around in the real world and the digital one and save 'em both.
Along the way, you'll dive into multiple plotlines, like dealing with your pal Nokia and the Digimon that she's befriended, trying to figure out how to help the comatose victims of the EDEN Syndrome, and many others. Overall while dealing with hackers, cracking codes, and jumping between worlds can get a tad monotonous due to the level design (as former United State Senator Ted Stevens once said "The internet is a series of tubes that are filled to the brim with Koromon"), it does a lot to differentiate the experience from Pokémon, in which you usually just kinda leave your house and go explorin'. And that's just Cyber Sleuth, as Hacker's Memory tells a different story, but is set in many of the same locations.
But, to be perfectly honest, the reason you're probably playing this is to assemble a team of Digimon based on your favorites from the anime. I know that it's that way with me (Who cares about type effectiveness? I gotta get those Dark Masters like Machinedramon, Puppetmon and MetalSeadramon all in one place), and luckily, Digimon: Cyber Sleuth doesn't make it hard to compile a team of fan favorites, Digimon deep cuts, or just a random selection of critters.
In fact, I'd say that it's easier here than in any other game, thanks to both the ease of the game (the difficulty ramps up later, but you'll find many of the early chapters to probably be a breeze), and by the game making it super easy to go back and forth from your Digimon Lab (where you convert and evolve the Digimon) to the world you have to run around in. For example, one of my favorite Digimon is Etemon, who you may remember as the Elvis-sounding monkey villain from Digimon Adventure. I know. I know. He's great. Well, I wanted one here, and within about a day of playing, I got one. Same goes for the MetalGreymon I adored and Myotismon. But don't worry. I'll start grabbing monsters from later seasons of the anime, too. Just lemme run through the classics really quick.
Battling with them is pretty simple, as it basically comes down to a paper-rock-scissors type scenario where Vaccine beats Virus, Virus beats Data, and Data beats Vaccine. And your team usually comes with a mix of offensive skills and support skills. So if you've got a Data and a Vaccine Digimon and you're facing a Virus type, Data isn't gonna be much help. So you use the support skills of the Data 'mon to super charge your Vaccine creature as it blasts the Virus type to smithereens. It never becomes anything too radically intricate, but seeing each Digimon perform their attacks (in the best looking Digimon game to display those attacks yet) is a treat. I had a Numemon on my team for a bit (in my quest to get Etemon), and it was a joy to use the Poop Toss attack each and every time.
For Digimon fans, it's a must-have, but what about new fans or people that think "Digi-destined" is some kind of dating app? Well, I'd say that if you're curious about what Digimon are like with you behind the wheel (the metaphorical one, not the one found in Digimon Racing for the Game Boy Advance which I swear is a real game), I think this is the best way yet. And with two different games in the same package, you get dozens and dozens of hours of Digimon content for a pretty solid price.
Overall, Digimon Cyber Sleuth and Hacker's Memory are the smoothest Digimon games around, shaving off some of the series' more obtuse elements and creating a fairly involved system that even the uninitiated can enjoy. And for older fans like me, those who have "latched" onto the series, it provides a rewarding way to collect all of the Digimon that we've loved in the anime for years. These games are the champions, y'all.
+ Huge number of Digimon to raise and evolve (over 300 in Hacker's Memory)
+ Battle system is easy to master and the battle animations look great
+ Difficulty curve is good for beginners and veterans alike
+ Soundtrack, while not too varied, is solid
+/- Characters are a mixed bag between fun and forgettable
- Level design is fairly uninspired
Are you a Digimon fan? Are you planning to get Cyber Sleuth? Which Digimon do you want to raise? Let us know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. You should follow him on Twitter!