When I was at the innocent age of ten, I rented Digimon World for the original PlayStation. The game was released at the height of popularity for the franchise in the west and it turned out to be one of my favorite RPGs of all time. However, after the game’s third entry, the mechanics became dated and I moved on to other games.
Thankfully, Bandai Namco has revisited this old formula by releasing Digimon World: Next Order for the PlayStation 4 and with that my nostalgia and love for the franchise was rediscovered. Be that as it may, for fans looking to get a Cyber Sleuth 2 out of this game will be disappointed as this game decides to stick close to the classic Digimon World mechanics and leaves behind the turn based gameplay of Cyber Sleuth. Coincidentally, that turned out to be exactly what I wanted.
Next Order begins with the player naming and choosing the gender of their character. The next thing you know you’re being sucked into your Digivice and discover your Digimon to be real. I enjoyed the quick introduction as I felt the story didn’t need the strongest premise. It turns out this is the type of game where you are all powerful in the first battle, but lose it all right after. After a few hours of gameplay you’ll discover that losing your power plays a pretty big role throughout the game.
The main quest is to seek out Digimon who left the town of Floatia after Machinedramon went crazy and started to cause trouble. You’ll travel around the outer areas in order to find these friendly Digimon who require certain conditions met in order to head back home. The quests they offer can involve delivering certain items or even winning a battle against them. Most of the time I enjoyed running into a friendly face after being attacked for an hour or two and on the verge of death.
For those who remember, Digimon World focuses on training and taking care of your Digimon so after awhile the main quest starts to feel more like side quest and you become a full time trainer. Unlike the previous entries, Next Order allows players to interact with two Digimon instead of one and train them to their greatest potential. Sadly, this is not as easy as it sounds because Digimon are the most needy creatures you will ever encounter. It seems that every five minutes they are in need of something which is followed by some pretty annoying cries.
Training and caring for your Digimon can turn into the most tedious, yet enjoyable, tasks. Putting time to take them to the gym and work out certain stats will become the core of the first few days of a Digimon’s life. Additionally, you’ll need to feed your partners twice a day and also take them to the bathroom. Sometimes Digimon will refuse to eat or go to the bathroom on the floor, in that case, you can discipline them. Similarly, if they win in battle or do something nice you are able to praise them. Essentially, you are taking care of a pet and it can be as frustrating as it is in real life. This mechanic alone gives players hours and hours of playtime if they enjoy this type of gameplay.
In my first hour of my tending to the needs of my Digimon partners, I put them through a rigorous training schedule and focused primarily on strength. Evidently, this was not the correct thing to do as my Digimon quickly became sick and hated me for awhile. This forced me to change my ways and become a better caregiver to these innocent Digimon. Although it’s good to mention that a digital life is not eternal and your partners will die once a number of in-game days pass. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be left alone, your partner will regenerate and you can start your relationship all over again.
The Digimon’s life varies between partners and whether or not you are a bad trainer. Even though there are a few skills that can be acquired to extend their life, in the end your dream Digimon will parish. This mechanic is quite frustrating and keeps the difficulty of the game at a constant high, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game is unapologetic to those who think they can just run out and defeat every enemy in sight. It requires a certain amount of patience and planning to truly build a strong and healthy Digimon.
Battles are fought at the mercy of your Digimon with very little assistance from the player. Like past Digimon World games, your Digimon will roam the battle arena and attack when they’re ready. Players can help their Digimon by using items or shouting words of support to gain MP. Something new to the battle system is the Extra Cross Evolution (EXE) ability where your partner Digimon can fuse together to create a more powerful Digimon that can easily turn the tide of battle. I sought out Digimon that were compatible with this EXE ability and it ended up saving me a number of times.
The field map isn’t the best display of this current generation hardware. It’s minimalistic and boring with very little textures. However, the world itself is pretty interesting with different themed areas to visit that proved to be a good change of scenery. In any case, the time spent exploring doesn’t compare to the time players spend raising Digimon so the this wasn’t that big of issue for me.
Throughout my 35 hours of playing Digimon World: Next Order I began to feel like I did the first time a discovered the series. Every Digimon that joined my team made an impact on me and I wanted them all to be the best they can be. The game can be frustrating, but in the end there’s nothing like raising two healthy Digimon. The old mechanics of the Digimon World franchise prove to stand the test of time and can now be experienced by a new generation of gamers to discover and immerse themselves for hours in the digital world.