Some video game sequels take great pains to get players up to speed on what occurred in the previous game. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is not one of those sequels. It's a side-story, and if you play it without playing the original Cyber Sleuth, you're going to be a little lost.
A turn-based role-playing game with a mild Persona vibe, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was one of my favourite games of 2016. It tells the story of a teenage boy or girl who gets swept up in a mystery involving corporate espionage, shady hackers, and bizarre occurrences of the digital world bleeding into the real world. The story's pacing is a bit off and the side quests are repetitive, but I was so caught up breeding hundreds of beautifully-rendered Digimon that I hardly noticed.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory, released last week for the PlayStation 4 and Vita, is essentially the same game with a different story, more Digimon to breed, and a few extra game mechanics tossed in to keep things fresh.
Look at his stupid face.
This game focuses on high school student Keisuke, a blank-faced NPC turned main character. When his online identity is stolen by a malicious hacker, a shadowy figure urges him to join a beneficent hacker group known as Hudie to explore the online world of Eden and track down the culprit.
Being a side-story, Hacker's Memory takes place alongside the story of the first Cyber Sleuth. It gives players a chance to see the events that went on in the first game from a fresh perspective, while at the same time giving them further insight into what some of the first game's major non-player characters were doing when not on screen. It has nods to events from the first game and blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos that only familiar players will be able to appreciate.
New player: "Who the hell is this guy?" Returning player: "Oh hey."
As someone who played the hell out of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, I do appreciate this game's side-story construction. I also feel bad for players who decide to jump in with Hacker's Memory, because honestly this game is not for them - not just in terms of missing out on the story, but in understanding game mechanics as well. It feels like this game assumes knowledge of things such as battles and Digimon breeding that could only be gotten through by playing the previous game.
The other major problem with Hacker's Memory being a side-story is that a lot of the original game has been reused.
This place again.
Many of the locations, both in the real world and in the digital world of Eden, are completely lifted from the original game. While composer Masafumi Takada created a handful of new and remixed tracks for Hacker's Memory, everything sounds pretty much the same.
It even plays the same, for the most part. Nearly 100 new Digimon have been added to the game, but the breeding process is still the same dance of evolving, devolving, feeding and strengthening that I loved so much in the first game. The battles are still fairly easy unless the difficulty is dialed up to hard in settings.
The one big addition (aside from all those damn Digimon) in Hacker's Memory is Domination Battles, in which two hacker groups face off on a glowing playing field, taking turns capturing points or defeating enemies to win. While not the most challenging battles I've played in the game, I appreciate the effort made to freshen things up.
But mostly Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is more of the same, only slightly different. That's perfectly fine with me. It's been a good year since I touched the first game, and I was ready for some more. And if you've never played Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, this game is the perfect excuse to go take care of that.