I remember when I first saw Digimon in my childhood. I thought it was amazing. I mean, the first time I saw Agumon digivolve into Greymon, it was so cool! I think I even enjoyed it more than Pokemon, really. Then the whole tamagotchi/digidevice thing happened, and you could fight each other on the street. Man, those were the days. I think my Digimon was the first ‘pet’ I tried to raise myself actually. Eventually, the craze kind of died out of mainstream western media, and my mind went on to other things.
Then late last year, I saw the trailer for the new Digimon World game, and all those those feelings came flooding right back. I knew I needed to play this game.
For those of you not in the know, Digimon World: Next Order is the latest game in the Digimon franchise to reach western shores. Published by Bandai Namco, Next Order was originally released on the PS Vita in Japan way back in March of 2016, with the International Edition releasing January 27th this year on the PS4. Sadly, there is no talk yet of the PS Vita version being released outside of Japan.
In Digimon World: Next Order, you take on the role of either a male or female Digimon fan, who is mysteriously transported into the Digital World. Upon arrival, the player is given the rundown on the peril that is currently facing the Digital World. After choosing your first two digi-partners, you are then let loose out into the Digital World to track down the source of these mysterious perils.
Visually, the game suits the subject material. Cartoony and friendly, the game doesn’t have any images that would worry even the most over-protective of parents. Take the bathroom breaks for example; A shutter rolls over the screen showing a rocket taking off. While I have no idea what this is actually meant to represent, it certainly does take your mind off the fact that you can hear the flushing of a digital toilet.
The Battle system is also something quite simple and straightforward. While the majority of each battle is carried out automatically, you can access the items and tactics menu with a simple press of a button, which will then freeze the battle until you have made your decision. The only instance of when you will have a timer is when you try to give direct orders to each of your partners, by pressing either the L1 or R1 buttons. These buttons will bring up all the moves that your partner will know and will show how much order power each move will use, as well as some other battle-specific options You will have a window of 5 seconds to make a decision in these menu’s before they automatically close and the battle will resume. I have found that with some hard training, the majority of the time I let the battle play out automatically, healing my partners once it is complete.
Having spent a considerable amount of time playing the game, I can say with confidence that the storyline of this game really isn’t the reason I keep coming back to it. Now, I’m not saying the story is bad in any way. It’s just…bland, for lack of a better word. Each of the characters I have met have seemed just a little bit too shallow, and there isn’t much of a sense or urgency to the story line. The real draw card, I think, is that this game is effectively one giant Tamagotchi.
Seriously, even though you have a pretty big open world to explore and a bunch of different characters and Digimon to meet and talk to, you will spend the majority of your time feeding and training your Digimon partners. Not to mention taking them to the toilet. I mean, these things shit a lot. If there is one piece of advice I thought I should give to anyone just starting this game, its make sure you either know where the restroom is, or spend some money on some portable toilets. You will need them.
As I said earlier, at the beginning of the game you choose the your first two Digi-Partners out of a possible ten eggs. From here, the journey really begins. You will quickly be introduced to the Training Room, where I think I have spent more than 75% of the 24-odd hours that I have invested into the game. Seriously, this room becomes the most important part of the game, and you will spend untold hours training each of your Mon’s stats to try and get that Digivolution that you so desperately want.
Speaking of Digivolutions, let me point two things out to you here; Firstly, prepare to be disappointed.
No, really, go in prepared for disappointment. The chances that you will get the exact evolution every time your partners Digivolve on your first life cycle is slim. Accept that and move on. The reason for this is the fact that each evolution requires certain criteria to be met, like having a strength stat greater than 600 or having won 42 battles. The tricky thing is that, at the beginning of the game, you have no idea what each of these requirements are, or what each Digimon even has a chance to evolve into. They will be revealed to you slowly, throughout the process of the game, as you train and battle with your partners. At times, you will be able to either Praise, Scold or Ignore your partners, which will then reveal further information about their evolutionary line. This process is both annoying, and remarkably engaging. I find myself looking forward to the times when I can choose one of these options, knowing that I might just get that last piece of information to finally Digivolve my WereGarurumon.
Secondly, understand that your Digimon will die. This is inevitable, and there is nothing that I am aware of that you can do to stop this.
Much like the original tamagotchis, each of your partners has a set Life Span. This ranges from somewhere between 15 to 20 days, depending on factors I am yet to fully understand. Remember this, and keep an eye on how old your Digimon are. It is remarkably frustrating to finally get your partners to Digivolve to their Ultimate class, only for them to die straight away. I actually refused to play the game for a day or so when this first happened to me, I was so angry. After some time away from the game, I found that I am actually glad this mechanic is in the game. It makes you really conscious of how much time you are spending training which stats, or progressing the story. Each decision becomes that little bit more analytical. Should I spend the day training, or furthering the story to unlock better training methods?
Once they die you can choose your starter Digimon again. Everything you learned about it’s evolutionary line will already be revealed, and each new generation will have greater base stats, depending on the stats of its ancestor when it dies. This means that each generation will be that little bit stronger, and it won’t take you as long to get your ‘Mon to a level where you can start tackling the main story line again.
The Good: Plenty of variety in Digimon Partners, Engaging Training System, Basically a Giant Tamagotchi
The Bad: Bland Story and Supporting Characters
The Final Word: Digimon World: Next Order transported me back to my childhood when we all ran around with Digidevices, training and leveling up our digital friends before fighting each other out in the streets. With an engaging evolution system and training mechanics, the game is sadly let down by a lacklustre story and supporting characters that I just can’t seem to garner any affection for. With that said, I find myself constantly coming back to the game just to try and get that one more piece of information for my Digivolution history. I just can’t quit until I get myself a WarGreymon.