In light of the news of the visual novel Digimon Survive selling 500,000 copies, it seemed fitting to give a review on the game in lieu of such an accomplishment. Digimon Survive is the long awaited Digimon game that had multiple delays coupled with long periods of silence without news. For the final game to come out and it be a great love letter to fans of the monster series, Digimon, but for some fans they may be left cold.
Story – A Grand Adventure
As a visual novel game, the story makes up the bulk of the gaming experience. The setting takes place in Japan, where a group of kids are going on summer vacation taking a trip to a remote area, until they are suddenly thrown into another world full of monsters. Any fan familiar with the Digimon Adventure anime will be familiar with this starting point.
The hook is that the story is taking a more mature approach; the goal of the game is survival, as opposed to adventure. Each character quickly meets their partner monster, with the goal of surviving this strange land and finding their way home. However, while trying to go home, there is a malevolent force that wishes to sacrifice the children as a means to ensure that the world of monsters does not fall to destruction, with humans not being the only ones fighting for survival.
The cast is endearing and bounce off each other constantly. So, while English speakers will be forced with the only option of reading to gain understanding, it doesn’t diminish from the narrative being told. Players will be playing from the perspective of Takuma Momozuka, with his partner monster, Agumon. Unlike the other partners, Agumon’s evolution line will be a reflection of the choices players make throughout the story. This presents three moralities; harmony, wrathful, and moral choices in conversations. While some choices don’t affect the story, they affect the evolution line.
The story progresses chapter by chapter, as players learn more about the world around them. A key point in the game is that they are not actually called Digimon in the game, only called monsters or Kemonogami. The story actually serves as a great entry point for newcomers to the series as it explains what these monsters or Kemenogami are and their connection with humanity. Once the children are thrust into the world of monsters, they are assaulted with the dangers presented and consistently wary of danger. At times like this conflict within the group happens often. A key point of the story is that each monster shares a special connection with their partner, as there they share the same fate. As each monster have traits that align with their partner, to be oppressive of their partner is akin to self-abuse.
Gameplay – Turn Based Gameplay
Long-time Digimon fans know there have been multiple playstyles that Digimon have tried. Unlike other monster collection games, Digimon does not strictly stick to one type of gameplay. There have been pet simulators, JRPG games, RPGs, and even brawlers. Digimon has tried many different types of gameplays. For Digimon Survive, it is the first visual novel game of the series.
Bandai Namco have restructured the mainline Digimon games. Digimon Story games, Digimon World games, and lastly the experimental games. Digimon Survive is an example of the experimental games. This current outing, Digimon Survive is a visual novel game a first for the series, and with tactical RPG combat elements. Combat is not the main focus of the game, nor is it the bulk of the game. There was a brief blow back towards the game from players not aware of the game’s focus on the visual novel aspects. Though the games director explicitly stated the game’s focus, with limited news leading up to the game’s release, it isn’t surprising details were forgotten.
The gameplay is structured as a tactical turn-based RPG. For each battle, players are allotted a certain number of monsters to place on the board. Each monster has their own special ability type, and affinity. Vaccine does extra damage to virus, virus does extra damage to data, and data does extra damage to vaccine. Although in game these types are assigned different meanings. Wrathful being virus, moral as vaccine, and harmony as data. The extra element of the gameplay is typing advantages and positioning is key to victory.
Players move their individual monster while the enemy does the same. A very risk vs reward type strategy. While certain units have greater mobility to attack from favored positions, it could leave them surrounded. Also, partner monsters will be able to Digivolve mid-combat. Digivolving increases the stats and strengths of partner monsters. These evolutions are available either after a certain point in the story or after affinity level has been reached with each character.
Adventure and Story Mixed Together
As the visual novel goes, players will eventually build their preferred teams, while although Digimon Survive has fewer Digimon available compared to previous titles before it. With certain favorites rather difficult to obtain. Wild monsters can be recruited and evolved as well. However, they will be permanently evolved. It is important to choose evolution lines wisely since there is no devolving. These items are tablets that can be found while exploring areas with the point and click gameplay when outside of combat.
These tablets each can evolve a monster to champion, ultimate and mega respectively depending on the tablet. As players adventure through this strange land, they will find other items that will help improve Digimon stats and elemental weaknesses. Showing the battle gameplay tries to have depth, however, once certain evolutions are unlocked, the difficulty becomes abysmal to almost a bore and often never very engaging, to the point the game even includes an auto battle function.
The other half of the gameplay is mostly a point and click ordeal. Players have the option to talk to characters, investigate certain backdrops, but it is very menu heavy with a lot of reading, especially since Digimon Survive does not have an English dub cast to voice these characters. While the Japanese VAs do a spectacular job, it is unfortunate to be stuck reading the entire time.
Graphics – Picture Book Look
Graphics wise, the game is clean and flows properly with no graphic hiccups. The design of the monster world is very distinct, as it displays rustic environments with human creations littering the world. While it is graphically consistent. It would look the same played on the Switch or PlayStation. The look of the game is told with the characters striking familiar poses to express particular emotions. The models at the very least look very nice and detailed against the backdrop.
With explosive special attacks for each Digimon with different areas of effect, so it is always a pleasure to use a new form in battle. While the environments are really well put together, players don’t get much a chance to interact with the environment as freely like in another visual novel such as Agesis Rim. The backgrounds are stills with characters posted around the environment not moving. The 2.5D sprites of the Digimon look well designed and are very detailed as they move and attack.
Sound – Sardonic Sounds
Music wise, the tracks are honestly rather easy to forget. The only track that stands out is Kizuna and other reprises of the song during key moments in the story, and it also plays an important role in the story itself. However, other musical tracks have been pretty weak serving as only background music; even the battle music doesn’t really stick out in the mind. The music of the game sets a sardonic tone, with brief moments of action. The soundtrack is reserved for highlighting how good the Kizuna song is as no track outshines it.
Digimon Survive was reviewed on PlayStation 4.