As much as my wife and my closest friends identify me as a Poke-maniac, there is just as much Digi-blood flowing through my childish veins. Digimon is a franchise that holds a very special place in my heart, but even a super fan such as myself can realise that it hasn’t had a terribly great existence outside of TV land. After numerous failed attempts at recreating the magic of the original Digimon World, and once the obligatory terrible racing and fighting spin offs were out of their system, Bandai Namco and Media Vision finally injected new life into the series with it’s entirely unique, tongue in cheek 2015 Digi-hit Cyber Sleuth. With the best reviews from critics and the loudest cheers from fans in years, it was only a short matter of time before the teams would put their heads back together to produce a follow up, but was it all just a Flukemon?
Digimon Story – Cyber Sleuth: Hackers Memory is the 2nd romp through the digital world from Media Vision and a returning Bandai Namco. Treated as more of a side story to the 2015’s original title, Hacker’s Memory is a similarly told tale from a fresh perspective, fleshing out and filling in plot holes posed a few years prior. This time round players take control of Keisuke, a hacker who has his online persona stolen and is subsequently blamed for a cyber crime he didn’t commit. After joining all-star hacker heroes ‘Hudie’, you must traipse through the digitally dangerous EDEN cyberspace to retrieve your identity and clear your name. There may be a couple of new faces popping up throughout this latest adventure, however avid fans of the first Digimon Story outing will be treated to a few familiar faces and cameos, each contributing to this previously unseen and unreported EDEN story. Right from the off it’s obvious that Hackers Memory is more or less identical to Cyber Sleuth, what with it featuring the same core mechanics, visuals and missions, so with that, is this really worth forking out £40 for just more of the same? For fans, yes, but for newcomers, not so much.
I can’t recall exactly how many hours I poured into Cyber Sleuth, but what I can tell you is that I know that game like the back of my hand, so it was safe to assume I would easily fall back in a second-time round; the game also assumes this. Unlike the previous trip into EDEN, Hacker’s Memory doesn’t really come with tutorials and instructions, more prompts and reminders on what you’re expected to do. This becomes more noticeable in regards to Digimon Breeding, which is easily the game’s most challenging and addictive feature, and something you’re expected to just walk back into and continue where you left off last time. Unlike most RPG’s where the art of getting bigger and better is through simple levelling up, in Digimon Story the art of getting stronger is through digivolving, de-digivolving, digivolving again, feeding and putting back into battle. It’s no simple task is what I’m trying to say, and the fact that this entry lacks the instruction and guidance that it’s predecessor had tells me that this game is not for newcomers to the franchise. Once you’re back in the Digi-saddle, Hacker’s Memory proves to be another addictive and challenging turn-based RPG that avid fans of the franchise will thoroughly enjoy, however potential Noobimons should tackle Cyber Sleuth’s first entry before committing to this latest adventure.
The game’s narrative is also in a similar vein to the previous adventure, a tale of another band of hacking Digi-destined who together must save the social media paradise known as EDEN from evil hackers, corporations or renegade Digimon. Instead of heading to a detective’s office and solving official reported crimes and mysteries set by the paying public, this time it’s underground cyber crimes and last resort requests you’ll be tackling, which though are essentially the same as every mission offered to you last time round, it’s much cooler and ‘edgy’, making me believe that I was playing a completely different game. As this is a story co-inhabiting the same time and place as Cyber Sleuth, players will cross paths with familiar faces and popular cameos from the previous cast, which in turn expands the otherwise undeveloped world you spent so much time in only a couple of years ago. Considering that fans such as myself who have waited 2 years for a follow up, a follow up that is pretty much identical to its original, it’s tough to not feel a little cheated, and perhaps if this was released in similar fashion to a traditional Pokemon game (releasing both simultaneously), then this minor disappointment would have been nonexistent.
Despite its obvious visual similarities and repeating themes, there were a couple of subtle changes made to its core gameplay which made it a bit more fun to play. Perhaps the biggest gripe I had with the original game was its lack of real, competitive battling, as most of the time you were simply settling scores with wild Digimon and bosses, however Hackers Memory has taken some inspiration from Pokemon in the sense that battle ready trainers (or in this case Hackers) will be scattered around more frequently in dungeons than last time. It’s one thing taking down a tough, rogue band of monsters, but with additional dastardly AI behind them it makes for a longer and more challenging fight. One of the more noticeable changes to the series is the brand new Domination Battles, a fight that requires you to strategically move around a grid collecting points, whilst battling foes to steal theirs and keep your own. It may be a slower paced method of battling, but it does show a small level of progression which is very welcome and will be enjoyed by avid Digi-fans.
Hacker’s Memory has proven to be a difficult game to review. On one hand it’s a successful and highly enjoyable continuation of its predecessor’s story, however on the other hand it’s just more of what you’ve seen already. The familiar and outright identical characters, locations and gameplay will leave players with a slightly sour taste in their mouths, however because the original was so much fun and different to the typical Digimon video game formula, then why should they fix what wasn’t broken. There may be close to 100 new Digimon now in attendance and the gameplay may be a bit more up tempo and plentiful, but sadly that isn’t enough of a progression for me, and therefore not a true sequel in my eyes. If we were promised improved visuals, presentation and a completely new narrative at the cost of waiting a few years longer, we honestly wouldn’t have minded, however instead we’ve been handed a game that despite it’s good qualities can’t help leaving us a little Digi-flated.