Digimon Cyber Sleuth Is One Of The Best Games I’ve Played In 2016

Digimon Cyber Sleuth Is One Of The Best Games I’ve Played In 2016

Mike Fahey is my role model, and he wrote this review of Digimon Cyber Sleuth, and it’s great, and you should read it, but in case you wanted someone else’s take on an excellent Digimon game, here’s mine: “Finally! A JRPG worth playing!”

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m not a big fan of JRPGs. The gameplay just doesn’t interest me all that much, I get bored with the narratives far too soon, and, honestly, it’s weird to see a genre with “RPG” in the name that doesn’t seem to involve any roleplay whatsoever. Sure, sure, I’ve played Pokemon and Xenoblade Chronicles and a few others, but nothing’s ever really stuck a chord other than Earthbound, which I never finished because I eventually got bored.

I’ve been trying to find the perfect gateway JRPG, something to really get me into the genre, to help me have fun with it, because I have plenty of friends who enjoy these games, and I’d love to be able to have some great gaming conversations with them about these games. Enter Digimon Cyber Sleuth.

Digimon Cyber Sleuth Is One Of The Best Games I've Played In 2016

I’ve always enjoyed Digimon. Have ever since it first started airing in America. It’s always disappointed me that the games haven’t been very good, and I’m hesitant to say that I think Cyber Sleuth is a good game, but at the same time, I’ve got 135 hours in this puppy, making it my most-played game this year by a wide margin. I’m hesitant to call Cyber Sleuth a good game — I played it on my PlayStation 4, and it’s definitely a barebones Vita port — but I won’t hesitate to recommend it.

Pokemon’s anime sucks for a lot of reasons, but part of that is because each episode, at least back when Pokemon and Digimon television shows were running concurrently, was based on showcasing the game’s mechanics. Pokemon is to its games what He-Man was to its toys. Nothing ever happens or changes because the entire Pokemon anime is just a tutorial for one of the most aggressively tutorialised game series ever.

Digimon was a tv show about relationships. Pokemon has an episode where Charmander refuses to obey Ash because, essentially, Ash isn’t a high enough level, so Ash solves this problem in a predictably video gamey way. Digimon has an episode where Tai’s thirst for power is so great that he forcibly evolves Agumon into the monstrous SkullGreymon. The resolution here is all about character.

The problem is, it’s much harder to make a good game from the Digimon anime than it is to make a good game from the Pokemon anime. Monster raising games are all about collection and growth. Digimon is about these intensely personal relationships with other kids and monsters. Ash can field a squad of monsters and tell them what to do, which works great in the games but leads to some boring storytelling.

Digimon Cyber Sleuth Is One Of The Best Games I've Played In 2016

Tai can’t control anyone, not even Agumon. He’s just a kid; he can help Agumon digivolve into more powerful forms, but that’s the extent of his capabilities. It’s not super fun to play as one person who can tell one monster what to do. At that point, you’d be better off just playing as Agumon himself and levelling up; at least then you could aim fireballs and stuff.

Digimon Cyber Sleuth makes itself fun by compromising on this idea. Now you can control an entire party of 11 Digimon and capture all 240 out there. The incentive to finding mons is to scan them so you can hatch eggs and finish your collection. Rather than a meaningful one-on-one relationship with your mon, it’s just you. None of your mons have any personality either. Sure, I’ve got a Sakuyamon, but it’s not like I can take her aside and have a chat the way you might with a party member in a Bioware RPG.

Your character relationships are limited to specific characters in the game, almost all of them human. The story itself has some great moments, cool twists, and enjoyable bits of characterization; if it was an anime, it might even be considered a good one. The story’s certainly better than any we’ve seen in a Pokemon game; when it ended, I was honestly sad it was over, wishing I’d been able to spend more time with the characters.

What sets Cyber Sleuth apart from Pokemon — and what ate up so much of my time — is the way it lets you digivolve and de-digivolve your mons. With Pokemon, evolution is a linear affair. Sometimes, you might have an evolution that requires more than just experience, like a stone that forces an evolution, but there’s not much to it beyond that. Cyber Sleuth has specific level requirements and routes. One mon involved around 15 different digivolutions and de-digivolutions to arrive at the mon I wanted. Others involved copious amounts of grinding before their stats were appropriate enough for evolution.

It seems boring, and there were times when it was, because I was running around subway stations trying to bait enemies into random encounters so I could get enough XP to hit a specific ABI level to digivolve in one way to de-digivolve in a completely different way, but it was nice and relaxing. It was super chill, and I finished watching The Office while I grinded away at getting all the Mega Digimon that I wanted.

Digimon Cyber Sleuth Is One Of The Best Games I've Played In 2016

The story had some great moments, some of the jokes were on point, and the best fights were tough as heck and required distinct team compositions and individual monster builds with specific passive abilities and attacks. I loved a lot of what was there.

At the same time, Cyber Sleuth being a Vita game, the world was small, art assets were repetitive as heck, character design was awful, and the grinding, while relaxing, still went far beyond what I could reasonably recommend to anyone. If someone put me in charge of a Digimon game, Cyber Sleuth certainly is not what I would have built, but it has its charms, it was relaxing as heck, and I was always enjoying myself. I don’t regret a single one of those 135 hours.

Playing Cyber Sleuth is like binge watching a sitcom; it’s fun and worthwhile, but it’s maybe not ‘good’ the way that The Godfather is good. The game gives up much of what makes Digimon a great TV show in order to make way for better mechanics. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had all year.

Is it something you’ll see used in game design curriculum in the future? Probably not. Thanks to Cyber Sleuth though, I’ve started dipping my toes into the JRPG pool. I’ve got Persona 4 Golden installed my Vita now. I have been fiddling about with getting Final Fantasy VI to work. I even picked up a copy of the original Digimon World. I might not like any of these games, but Digimon Cyber Sleuth encouraged me to finally start exploring the genre.


  • Cyber Sleuth was great, one of my top games of the year without a doubt.

    Sure the game is a bit of a grind but the grind is fun because you get to try out new digimon and new team compositions.

    Also i see that Platinum Sukamon in the picture, who makes grinding far easier (essentially trivialising it) in the late game, which is great, because some of the optional bosses are downright impossible to beat without certain digimon, i forget who it was but there’s one who pretty much has a countdown to a complete party wipe, and you need this one specific digimon that can not die to it.

    What a fun game, i might go back and beat it again some time soon, i really hope we start getting more digimon games in the west, and a sequel to cyber sleuth would be amazing.

    • I remember Beelzemon having a countdown gimmick. All the Demon Lord bosses were nightmarish; after I finally managed to beat him, I moved onto Daemon (or Creepymon as he’s known) who could inflict a TPK without the countdown. And I’m told those two are among the easier ones! Fun times…

      • I have been looking at this game for a while but these comments make me nervous about paying $50 for an impossible game (unless I somehow have the right Digimon).

        • Don’t worry, these bosses we are talking about are optional super hard bosses, you can get through the regular game with whatever you like pretty easily.

      • Those guys are trivial with UlforceVeedramon and WarGreymon. Also Mastemon for Examon, though her support is useful for all of them. I literally used only those three for the Seven Deadly Digimon.

        Lucemon is a pain though with his(her?) status ailments

        But yes, it sucks heaps that you require specific Digimon for Great Challenge 8. Craniamon is a must really.

        • Yeah, that’s it. I’m not patient enough to grind for specific Digimon, unless they’re ones I like. I managed to beat the first seven Great Challenges just using a team of guys wot I think are cool like HiAndromon, HerculesKabuterimon and Sakuyamon (although she’s super useful against them). I’m fairly happy with that.

    • As someone who just finished the game and who hates artificial difficulty, just play Normal. Most of the difficulty increases are enemy HP based, and an increased money reward. But money is easy to come by after mid-game anyway. Occasionally the AI is a little better because the Digimon will have different attacks, but on the whole I don’t reckon it’s worth it. Much more fun on Normal.

      • Awesome will do normal. I also hate artificial difficulty. Thanks for the response. Had this game on vita and ps4 for ages but haven’t gotten around to playing it. Finally have a free slot.

  • FYI: Most of the mechanics (regarding digivolving/de-digivolving) in this game were also present in the DS Digimon RPGs, which I’d also recommend to people who can get their hands on them.

    • While that is true the Digivolving/De-Digivolving was a lot more grind-y, with much more specific requirements. I never finished one because I grew tired of it. Cyber Sleuth handles it perfectly if you ask me, especially after you get Tactician USBs as well as PlatinumSukamon or PlatinumNumemon

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