Some franchises just won’t quit. I was never a big Digimon guy – Pokémon all the way here, really – but it still shocks me when I find that they’re still cranking out more Digimon anime, movies and games. Just a couple weeks ago I was waiting to see a showing of The Room, the best film ever made, and caught a preview for some upcoming showings of Digimon, so I guess there’s still plenty of fans out there making sure that digital monsters remain the champions. Hopefully some of those fans pick up Digimon World: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory, the awkwardly-named latest entry in the long-running series of games based on the virtual pets.
Serving as a sort of side-story to the original Cyber Sleuth, Hacker’s Memory has us controlling Keisuke, a newbie hacker who gets into the scene after his identity is stolen. His fumbling efforts to solve the problem himself lead to him attracting the attention of hacker group Hudie. Eventually Keisuke joins up with Hudie as a full member, taking on their mission of Internet vigilantism in his efforts to find the hacker who ruined his life.
Interesting point there: you could have that same plot and not really incorporate Digimon and all, right? It would be about the same; this feels more like a Persona game that happens to have Digimon mixed in. I can’t really complain, though, as I’m still a bit of a Digimon rookie myself and it’s nice that you can understand what’s going on without being steeped in the franchise. Here, Digimon are used as hacking tools and weapons and the story is often focused more on the human characters. That’s a significant contrast with, say, Pokémon, which ties its monsters in directly with the plot in an indelible way.
Adventuring through the online world of EDEN plays out like your usual JRPG, random encounters against Digimon and all. Specifically, Hacker’s Memory owes a lot to Final Fantasy X in the gameplay department, using a similar timeline-focused style that’s all about timing your attacks and delaying your opponents. Digimon can combo their attacks based on their compatability and the moves used, so there’s a little strategy involved in choosing your moves.
While this is a “mon-focused” game, there’s actually less of a focus on actual monster-raising than your average Digimon game. This one owes more to Pokémon in the sense that your creatures here are closer to weapons or RPG party members than living beings that you have to take care of. If you want more ‘mons, defeating wild Digimon will eventually allow you to add them to your collection, while improving your own Digimon will allow you to Digivolve them to and from more powerful forms.
There’s a significant amount of depth here, though the game takes a little to really get started, and you can spend a ton of time messing around with your Digimon if you want to optimize your team. There’s even an extensive DigiFarm mechanic offering its own side quests if you really want to get into the nuts and bolts of monsterdom.
Hacker’s Memory’s presentation falls pretty firmly in the “decent anime-styled JRPG” category, though something must be said for Keisuke’s design: he’s, uh…kind of a dweeb. He’s such a dweeb, in fact, that his underwhelming appearance comes up several times throughout the game. Unlike the original Cyber Sleuth you’re stuck playing as this guy, so you’ll have to get past that if you plan on getting through this one – and as odd as it might sound, I’ve got at least a couple friends who have been put off the game thanks to this. Otherwise, it’s a nice-looking game that sounds great as well, as per expectations given the longevity and popularity of this franchise; I particularly enjoyed the battle animations once my ‘mons got a little more beefy.
Longtime Digimon fans have already purchased Digimon World: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory, of course, and if you’ve played and enjoyed the original Cyber Sleuth it’s an easy recommendation as the two fit together nicely. Newcomers, however, should start with the original. If you’re entirely new to Digimon, meanwhile, you might have a better time starting with last year’s more traditional Digimon World: Next Order.