Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth puts you in the shoes of Aiba, a girl (or boy, you choose) who is part of an online forum community that becomes involved with an infamous hacker group. In Cyber Sleuth’s world, people can work and socialise in a digital world called EDEN, which could be described as a massive virtual reality internet. Creatures known as Digimon have been inhabiting EDEN, and are thought to be hacking programs created by humans for nefarious purposes. As our character soon finds out though, this is not quite the whole truth. The story is chiefly told through conversational cut scenes between characters as they discover the truth behind Digimon, the nature of EDEN itself and how it relates to the human world.While the story of Cyber Sleuth eventually does become interesting, the first fifteen to twenty hours will see you tediously progressing through countless mini-stories that are, to put things bluntly, uninteresting. Characters you meet are generally shallow cardboard cutouts, adhering to overdone anime tropes, whose individual concerns seem unrelated to your more interesting main adventure. Their stories really feel like filler designed to make the game last longer but have the unfortunate side effect of delaying the actual interesting story that comes later. Even worse, a lot of these missions essentially boil down to ‘walk to a place and talk to a person, then walk back and turn in the quest’. It becomes very tedious, especially when the same locations are used over and over at times. Push past the initial tedium though and the story starts taking some super enjoyable twists and turns.
You couldn’t accuse Cyber Sleuth of being ugly by any stretch. The game features real world locations like Nakano Broadway and Shinjuku which are a joy to look at. They’re full of little details. Advertisements for in-universe anime and games, as well as showing some real world brands like Tower Records and Sega to lend the places some authenticity. The EDEN worlds are initially quite interesting too, looking all bright blue and appropriately science-fiction like. Over time though, EDEN locations begin to feel very samey. Visiting the same kind of cyberspace blue computer land with different layouts can become pretty tiresome. Some of the most interesting locations are where the real and EDEN worlds intersect. While I won’t say much more for fear of spoiling things, this allows for some intriguing looking locales which evoke an atmosphere similar to those of the TV World locations in Persona 4.The Digimon are the stars of the show here though, and each one looks beautiful. Every single monster I encountered felt like it had been carefully crafted, which is quite a feat when there are this many Digimon to deal with. Everything from the series mainstays like Agumon and Gatomon to more obscure monsters look about as good as I could imagine them looking, it’s really impressive.
The music too is worth noting. While many themes used in battles and common areas can become grating after a while, I found myself a few times sitting back and just enjoying the tunes.
Playing Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth, you will split your time between exploring the human and EDEN worlds, battling, and raising your Digimon. Battles are fairly standard fare for a Japanese RPG. They are turn based, with the order of actions displayed in a list on the right of the screen. Digimon each have elements and types that determine the effectiveness of specific kinds of attacks on other types of monster, and they learn new techniques through levelling up. Each time you encounter a type of Digimon a bar will fill, and when this reaches 100% you will be able to create a copy of that Digimon for yourself back at a DigiLab.Raising Digimon is the main hook of the game. If anything will keep you pressing on for just one more hour, it will be the joy of training, raising and Digivolution. The entire process is initially explained in a wall of text and diagrams which for me didn’t quite sink in straight away, but once you’ve got the hang of things it is super easy to sink hours and hours building your team into monstrous companions. There is a lot of grinding involved in training your Digimon which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but definitely something worth noting.
For a game that wears the importance of it’s story on it’s sleeve, Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth takes far too long meandering in relatively meaningless events before it’s story becomes interesting. The setting and concept of parallel physical and human worlds does lead to some genuinely enjoyable events later on, but it is a shame that you need to play for so many hours to get there.
That said, once you’ve managed to understand the process of Conversion, Digivolution and devolution, training your Digimon to their Ultimate forms can be incredibly rewarding. Seeing your old favourites in all their modern 3D glory is wonderful. It’s a shame that the story takes so long to become engaging, especially since the title itself places such importance on the story, but if you think you’ll enjoy training Digimon enough to persevere through the initially slow narrative there is a lot of fun to be had with Cyber Sleuth.