When SMT Meets a Different Kind of Monster

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Welcome to EDEN, the all-purpose cyberspace of the new age. Developed by Kamishiro Enterprises, this new internet experience has revolutionized the industry and has enhanced the lives of numerous people in ways that were previously thought impossible. Unfortunately, hackers have now become a serious threat to users, from stealing accounts and using a new program called “Digimon” to terrorize networks and databases. Inside a chatroom, a group of friends are visited by someone in the guise of EDEN’s mascot, Mr. Navit, saying that they should login the next day to receive something cool. If they fail to do so, they will be hacked. While the rest of the chat doesn’t want anything to do with this, the remaining three, including the player character, decides to check it out. The three had no idea just what they were getting themselves into.

Developed by Media Vision, published by Bandai Namco, and released in Japan as a PS Vita exclusive in March of 2015 and localized a year later for the PS4 and Vita, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was made for the older fans of the series, specifically those who grew up watching Digimon Adventure. Taking place both in Tokyo and the cyberspace of EDEN, the game follows the main protagonist, their two friends, and several other allies as they take on and solve a number of cases that involve these Digimon programs, using their own team to assist them. All the while, something sinister is taking place behind the scenes, with potentially apocalyptic results if the perpetrators succeed.

The man character’s gender and name is up to the player, but they as a character are good-natured and friendly people, wanting to do the right thing for their friends and the clients they help, whether they be human or Digimon. Due to an incident involving a digital entity called an “Eater”, they now exist as a half-physical and half-digital being, possessing the ability to travel through the network via Connect Jumping and can tame Digimon using their Digimon Capture Program. Nokia Shiramine, the first of the two friends they met, is a bubbly and optimistic young girl that is the first to realize that the Digimon are living digital creatures instead of just programs, prompting her to dedicate her time in protecting the Digimon of EDEN, forging a close bond with Agumon and Gabumon. The other friend, Arata Sanada, is an aloof but caring boy (with a deeply-hidden love for comics and other entertainment) who wants to help the main character investigate these “Digital Shifts” that begin to pop up, teaming up with a Keramon of all things. Among other characters like the experienced detective Goro Matayoshi, the mysterious and wise Kyoko Kuremi, and the silent Yuuko Kamishiro, the game is filled with colorful and unique characters.

With EDEN’s development, hacker activity has only increased, with a few groups popping up and gaining considerable power. The most notable of these, Zaxon, is led by the boy named Yuugo, a highly respected and powerful hacker with standards that wants to unite all of EDEN’s hackers for a single goal, crushing the more ruthless and cruel hackers with his Machinedramon. While Yuugo means well, some of his underlings, specifically the rockstar Jimiken and his own group known as the Demons, just want to do whatever the wish and have no qualms about hurting innocent people to do so. However, there are people even worse than Jimiken, as shown considerably by Rie Kishibe, the CEO of Kamishiro with a very sinister agenda and a personality that echoes Delores Umbridge in that sickly-sweet nastiness. Though he seems to be helping her, Akemi Suedou is chasing his own goal, helping both the heroes and Kishibe and furthering his research. When everything reaches Shin Megami Tensei levels of “Everything-Is-Going-Wrong”, a sect of the Royal Knights, the guardians of the Digital World that serve Yggdrasil, seek to destroy humanity for seemingly being responsible for the Digital World’s current condition. They are led by the tactical genius of Leopardmon, but it was the cruel and ruthless Crusadermon that kickstarted their plot. Finally, the Eaters only seek to devour everything, absorbing data and plunging people into catatonic states.

The game is very reminiscent of Shin Megami Tensei in several ways. It has very detailed and accurate depictions of several districts in Tokyo, from Shinjuku and Shibuya to Akihibara and Odaiba, where the player can walk around, buy and sell items, and gain access to different Connect Jump points. Inside EDEN and the various networks scattered around is where the main chunk of the gameplay is featured. As this is a JRPG, random encounters will confront the player, with up to three of the current 249 Digimon present in the game fighting. A turn bar reminiscent of Final Fantasy X‘s is off to the right to show the turn order and each Digimon is capable of attacking, guarding, and using powerful skills to claim victory. As opposed to talking to demons to convince them to join, the game takes a different approach by scanning each enemy Digimon at the beginning of each battle. Once the meter reaches 100%, that Digimon is now available to be converted from the scan data to one of your own at the DigiLab. Each Digimon can Digivolve to a number of different forms as it goes up a level, with the Mega and Ultra levels being the most demanding. Of these, the more powerful Mega levels such as the 13 Royal Knights and the Seven Great Demon Lords require a lot of grinding to even get the requirements, but it is worth it in the end to have some of the most powerful and iconic Digimon in the series on your team.

For the most part, the localization is pretty competent, changing around some of the Digimon names to better fit them (LordKnightmon to Crusadermon for example), but there are a noticeable number of goofs, such as the dialogue not being consistent with some names or using the wrong pronouns when playing as the female protagonist, an Eater being referred to as a Bakemon several times, and a number of other translation errors. Some Digimon names have also been changed to some of their more widely-disliked names that have been previously been used in the west (Cherubimon to Kerpymon, Daemon to Creepymon), so it can be pretty glaring when a mistake appears from a pretty solid translation. While those will stand out and possibly bug some diehard fans, the gameplay more than makes up for it.

It’s somehow a miracle that this game got localized in the first place. In fact, it was because of a fan petition that the developers decided to give it to the West as well, throwing in some bonuses on the side such as Black Agumon and Gabumon, several Agumon wearing the outfit of the male and female protagonist of the game and Tai’s clothes from Digimon Adventure, a handful of rare items, Hard Mode and New Game Plus, and two additional Digimon in the form of Beelzemon Blast Mode and Cherubimon Vice Mode (Dark Cherubimon). A number of DLC is also available, from a couple of additional cases to seven of the hardest battles in the game against all Seven Great Demon Lords. A recent update also added in the Burst Modes of the four Mega Level Digimon featured in Digimon Savers/Digimon Data Squad, Valkyriemon, Darkdramon, and Chaosmon.

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a must get not only for fans of the series, but JRPG fans in general, especially the SMT crowd. The gameplay is addictive and challenging, the story is intriguing and mature, and aside from a few localization errors, the writing is solid. While Digimon has not had that much of a game presence before, this seems to be a big step for the franchise.

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