(PlayStation 4 version reviewed. Also available on PS Vita.)
In 2016 we got Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, a JRPG with a turn-based combat system and monster collecting elements similar to the Pokémon and Persona games. It surprised a lot of people including myself by how good it actually was. The combat was fun and easy to learn, collecting Digimon was an absolute blast and the story was pretty damn good.
The Digimon games have never had the same success as the Pokémon games whether it be critical or commercial however, Cyber Sleuth changed that. It was a critical and commercial success, not to the same scale of the Pokémon games but it was a tremendous feat for the Digimon games.
Now publisher Bandai Namco and developer Media Vision want to replicate the same success of Cyber Sleuth with its sequel (brace yourselves for a long name) Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory (and breathe). Is Hacker’s Memory as good as its predecessor? Is it better than the brilliant Cyber Sleuth? Let’s dive in.
The story of Hacker’s memory takes place alongside the events of the previous game and you will see characters from that here. Nokia, Arata Sanada and Suedou are present throughout the story, some more than others. The game doesn’t solely rely on them though as new characters such as Ryuji, Chitose and Erika play a big role in Hacker’s Memory’s adventure.
Cyber Sleuth’s story was pretty good, it had the twists and turns, the unexpected moments and some emotional scenes. The story of Hacker’s Memory is rather mature and darker than its predecessor. Digimon is known to be a bit darker than Pokémon but Hacker’s Memory deals with the tale of a stolen identity, Digimon who are being traded on the “black market” and Erika who has a rare illness. Hacker’s Memory has many emotional moments and as you progress through the game they become more frequent but they all serve a purpose, to build up the relationship between the player character, Chitose, Erika and Ryuji.
Chitose, Erika and Ryuji are part of a hacker group called Hudie who are kind of like hackers for hire but they aren’t the nefarious type. They are joined by the player at the beginning of the game and after proving that he is a capable hacker, they let him join the team. Throughout Hacker’s Memory you will learn about each member of Hudie and their personalities and your bond with each of them grows. There are scenes of comedy, laughter, anger and sadness between the group and they do a tremendous job of making you care about the characters thus making the game’s final scenes all the more impactful.
The one complaint I have with the game’s story, is that the beginning does drag on a bit. During the first few chapters the story progresses at a slower pace and then picks up just before the game’s halfway point. This could work against the game as whilst the start of Hacker’s Memory does have those cool moments that pull you in, they don’t happen as fast I feel they should do. I think the story is on the same level as its predecessor and in some parts surpasses it but that will ultimately be up to you.
Much like the previous game, there are a huge amount of side missions for you to do or cases as Hacker’s Memory calls them. The missions range from collecting a Digimon’s lost item or fighting one or several Digimon who have been causing trouble. Some of the cases that you can do have little stories of their own that can be rather entertaining and engaging. There are some very good side missions, a notable one involves Mr Navit, whom fans of the previous game will know. It’s a weird case that spans multiple missions and left me scratching my head at what I just witnessed and that’s a good thing.
The combat is pretty much the same as it was in the previous game. It has a turn-based combat system so JRPG traditionalists should love fighting in Hacker’s Memory. You will fight enemies and you’ll each take turns, usually your Digimon go first followed by the enemy. Sometimes you or the Digimon you are fighting will have more frequent turns and this is because your speed stat affects the turn rate. Obviously stats will affect how your Digimon play. Of course you have the usual health, attack and defence but as well as speed which can change the number of turns that happen in the battle, there is agility that if increased will increase the rate that your Digimon can evade attacks.
One of the new additions is Domination Battles and at a first glance it looks as if they made a game of chess but with Digimon. Whilst Domination Battles aren’t “Digimon Chess” (something I really want now) they are quite fun. It’s a grid battle mini-game where you and usually two other people (or Digimon in some cases) will usually take on three enemies and you have to work your way across the grid to attain the points needed to win. Each space grants you one point but there are several spaces on the grid that offer 5 or 10 points. Some Domination Battles will challenge you to get the number of points within a set number of turns, fail do so and well it’s game over and you got to do it again.
That isn’t all for the Domination Battles though; if you meet head on with an opponent or vice versa you will have a battle with them. These battles are a little bit different to the other fights in the game as each Digimon only has one turn to attack. If you fail to take down the enemies in one go, you will not get the space that the enemy is on. I like this way of fighting as it builds up the tension especially when you have a set number of turns to win the match by.
Digivolving your Digimon is exactly the same as Cyber Sleuth where you level up your Digimon to the required stats to the digital monster that you want. Some Digimon cannot be obtained by simply evolving them consecutively as some of the requirements are that high that you will need to De-digivolve, level up the Digimon again, Digivolve, level up again and if you have met the stats required then you can Digivolve. I like the system as it makes you work hard towards obtaining the more powerful Digimon and I noticed that the EXP drops from battles are a little bit more generous.
Whilst I like this method of evolving my digital monsters, it will not appeal to everyone. Even though I do like the system in place, it can get very grindy especially when going for the more powerful Digimon like Beelzemon BM and Examon. Thankfully there are exploits that you can use to speed up the method. One of them is putting Tactician USB’s on Platinum Sukamons. The USB increases the amount of EXP earned and the Digimon’s special ability is to grant more EXP at the end of a battle. There are other ways to earn EXP quick and easy but that is one method I thought I’d share with you.
Hacker’s Memory brings a lot of new environments to the mix so there will be some new locales and music for you to experience but many of the locations from the previous Digimon Story game are present here. There are a lot of maps re-used which is a shame as I would’ve liked it to have been near enough completely different. I can understand why they have been re-used many of the maps from the previous game due to the connections to that game. It’s not a deal breaker but it I hope that the next Digimon Story game brings in some bigger and fresh environments.
The localisation for Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was great from what I can remember which is why I am left scratching my head with Hacker’s Memory. Before I get into the problem I want to make it clear that the localisation for the story is brilliant, the problem lies within the messages you can get from people and Digimon. Throughout the game you will get messages through your Digi-Line, a thing where you will get notifications. Sometimes you will get asked questions by your Digimon and you select a reply to send them. This is where the problem is as sometimes the reply doesn’t even match up with the question that has been asked and there are times that the Digimon don’t even reply back.
The localisation issues are only with the Digi-Line as the rest of the game’s localisation is rather good. It stands out lile a sore thumb and is very noticeable. It’s not a game breaking thing so it isn’t too bad but the problems shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory is a fun and enjoyable experience with a great story even if it is slow to start off. The combat is fun and the Domination Battles are a welcome addition and I would like to see them improved. The game has some issues with it being grindy, areas from the previous game re-used and some weird localisation issues but none of them break the game in the way and are deal breakers.
Is Hacker’s Memory better than the previous Digimon Story game? In some ways yes and in others, no. I think the story is better as it is more emotional and the inclusion of even more Digimon is always good but the localisation isn’t as good this time around. Overall, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory is a great game whether it be for newcomers or people who have played the previous Digimon Story.
(The past few years have seen three Digimon games released on console and all of them have been good. I’m hoping that Namco can continue this winning streak and make it four out of four when the next Digimon game releases).
Do you want to talk about Digimon or video games in general? My Twitter is @ThatGreenDude95