Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth has had an interesting road to localization. First announced in 2013 for the PlayStation Vita in Japan, the title had little hope of being released in the West. Digimon titles have released year after year without localization, and previous attempts to petition for Western releases of Digimon World Re:Digitize for PSP or 3DS ended in failure. Operation Decode, the major group petitioning for Digimon games in the West, decided to switch its focus to Cyber Sleuth after it was announced. After a long and hard fought campaign, Operation Decode finally struck gold. Bandai Namco announced that they would localize Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth in North America and Europe. Last week, Kazumasa Habu, the producer of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, released a video thanking Western fans for their support. Without it, he says, the game would never have released outside of Japan. I wanted to take this opportunity to shine light on the effort put forth by those running Operation Decode, and thank them and Bandai Namco for their work in localizing this title.
BEGINNING YOUR DIGI-VENTURE
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth starts off in a very typical fashion - you choose your difficulty, gender, go through some world building dialogue, and eventually choose your first Digimon. As with Pokémon, you have a choice between 3 companions: Hagurumon, Palmon, and Terriermon. After choosing a Digimon to start with, you're let loose into Cyber Sleuth's main dungeon "Kowloon."
If you choose to play the game on Normal, then you won't have any issue at the start. I would compare Normal difficulty to Pokemon, where you can generally breeze through the game without much training. Cyber Sleuth's Hard difficulty is a welcome difference compared to Pokemon. It offers a mild challenge during boss fights and pushes you to follow combat alignments.
DIGITAL BRAWLING AND EVOLVING
Cyber Sleuth's combat is what you would expect from a monster collecting RPG. Your combat options include basic attacks, guarding, skills, and changing out your party members. On the right side of the battle screen is the turn order, showing you which Digimon acts when and how your chosen skill might change the order of battle. Cyber Sleuth, as with most Digimon games, uses a weakness system revolving around 2 sets of types: attributes (virus, data, and vaccine) and types (Fire, Water, Earth, etc.). Each Digimon is assigned an attribute and type, while abilities only use types. Attacks that take advantage of attribute weakness are doubled while type advantage gives you a 50% damage increase. Both of these stack with each other, so you can hit an enemy with a 300% if you play your cards right. The same idea applies to resistance, where attributes that resist an attack will cut damage in half while type resistance will cut damage down by 25%.
Fans of Digimon know that these digital critters can both digivolve and devolve. This system plays a major role in Cyber Sleuth, and provides an addictive aspect to hook players. Every Digimon has multiple evolutions that players can choose from, but most require you to hit certain stat caps along with specific levels. Leveling up and digivolving is quick and easy for a while, but as you go up in forms you must meet more and more requirements. There are 3 key stats to keep in mind while raising your Digimon: CAM, ABI, and Max Level. CAM (Camaraderie) is how friendly you and your Digimon are. In battle, this stat affects each Digimon's chance of performing a linked attack with other party members. The only ways to raise this stat is to feed your Digimon in the farm or to use them in battle. ABI(Ability) and Max Level are both raised the same way - through digivolving and devolving.
To enforce the notion that players should devolve their companions and explore other forms, Cyber Sleuth gives players a cap on "party memory." As with most technology, there is a limit to how much data you can store - and digivices are no exception. Every Digimon takes up a certain amount of memory on your digivice, changing based on their rank (Rookie, Champion, etc.). This makes players juggle what ranks their Digimon are so that they can have a balanced party. You can go crazy and rank up a Digimon to Champion or Ultimate early on, but you wont have room for others in your party. It's a smart way to keep players from breaking the game, and it made me feel more attached to my crew as I went back and forth through various forms.
TAKING IN THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Let's be clear - Cyber Sleuth isn't the prettiest game on the PS4, and understandably so. The game was created for the PS Vita and ported to the PS4 afterwards, which explains much of what I'm about to say. The team in charge of porting Cyber Sleuth to the PS4 definitely chose to focus on the Digimon models versus the textures used in the world. While models look vibrant and have fine animations, their textures are a bit blurry and feel as though they were just blown up to a higher resolution. Object textures are worse, with many looking like they belong in a PS2 game.
This is unfortunate, but honestly I didn't really mind it. Digimon (and people) are the focus of the game, and the models look comparable to PS3 "Tales of" games. The big trade-off that PS4 users get here is a solid 60 FPS throughout the game where PS Vita us ers are capped at 30 FPS. Battles and exploration feel very fluid on the PS4 version, which is a big plus for those choosing that version of the game.
One thing that Cyber Sleuth lacks in comparison to Pokemon is a large, explorable world. While you are able to visit numerous locations around Tokyo, generally they are very small. There are a number of sites to visit inside of Eden, Cyber Sleuth's virtual world. Again, most areas are small sites with one or two screens to travel between. Kowloon, the dungeon that players will spend most of their time in early on, is a bit repetitive and constricted.
As for Cyber Sleuth's soundtrack, I'm still up in the air. As soon as I started up the game I noticed Masafumi Takada's hand in the game's music. The soundtrack sounds very similar to that of Dangranronpa, which isn't a huge stretch considering both games are about solving mysteries. While I have mostly enjoyed the soundtrack so far, I can't say that there are any standout hits. I've played over 40 hours of the game and, as hard as I try, I can't even hum the battle theme from memory. In addition, I noticed early on that the soundtrack seemed a little scarce. I've only heard one battle theme, one boss theme, and a handful of scene themes that repeat quite often. In short, Cyber Sleuth's soundtrack does the job, but it's nothing to write home about.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIGIVICE
There are multiple systems in Cyber Sleuth that add depth to the general monster capture game. Of these, the two most notable ones would be the DigiFarm and DigiLine.
The DigiFarm allows you to raise Digimon outside of your party and command them to do one of three things: Train, Investigate, and Develop. Along with these commands, players are able to purchase items for DigiFarms that increase experience for certain types of Digimon or the yield of Investigate and Develop commands.
Training is exactly what you would think - Digimon who are training will gain stats and levels at a faster pace than those doing something else, but will lose CAM. ABI affects the amount of stats gained through training on the farm outside of leveling, so Digimon with high ABI are able to build up specific stats depending on the "leader" Digimon you select for your farm.
Having your Digimon investigate will send them to snoop around the Digital World. Once the order is complete, they'll come back with new side quests for you to complete. Investigating still gives experience, but not as much as Training.
The Develop command is probably the least effective of the three commands. Giving your DigiFarm this command will have the residents create items for you. After multiple uses, I can't say that I received anything other than some healing items. However, this could change depending on the levels of residents and what items you equip your farm with.
Throw Me a DigiLine
The DigiLine system is a cute system in Cyber Sleuth that allows the player to receive text messages from both Digimon they have on the DigiFarm and other characters in the game. I was really excited about this when I first started playing Cyber Sleuth, but it almost instantly became a hassle.
The Digimon have a few set texts that they will send you, and you'll often receive the same message from different Digimon. My first 3 messages were all the same thing, which was really upsetting considering how the game should at least try to hide the fact that you're going to sit through the same 5 messages all game.
The messages and reply options in the DigiLine system also show some essence of laziness on the localization team. Most responses sounded awkward, and many times they didn't match up with the conversation at all which lead to some really odd conversations.
DIGI-DESTINED FOR AN OLDER CROWD
One of Cyber Sleuth's biggest strengths is that it's aimed towards an older audience than the likes of Pokemon, Yokai Watch, and the rest of the Digimon series. This allows them to give players a story that has heavier themes and more consequences. Death is a thing in the world of Cyber Sleuth, along with plenty of criminal activity, corporate greed, and medical mystery.
The side quests in Cyber Sleuth offer players additional information on the world around them. While a good number of them are random fetch quests, there are plenty of "sleuth" cases that have you helping people find lost family members, hunt down "real" ghosts, or even fixing broken air conditioners. It's a nice change of pace compared to Pokémon, where most people exist only to battle you.
At a little over 20 hours of play time I can't say that the story has delivered on all fronts, but it is certainly made for an older crowd. I'm excited to see where the story goes, and hopefully it will end on a strong note.
LOCALIZING THE DIGITAL WORLD
Here is where I'm going to get a bit harsh on Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (and ultimately Bandai Namco). The localization of this game feels, at best, lazy. The game is filled with typos, translation errors, and other small nuisances.
There are many instances in Cyber Sleuth where you're able to choose what your character will say from 2 or 3 pre-written phrases. I've lost count on how many times the text is incorrectly formatted, giving you situations where all of the options run together like the image below.
What bothers me most, however, is how the localization team blatantly cuts corners by copying and pasting text. While running through a labyrinth, I clicked on a girl who was frozen in place. As most RPG players do, I clicked on everybody I came across just in case. What I found was that every person frozen there, whether they are a boy, girl, old man, little kid, or whoever, was called a girl in the description.
Soon after this point, my fiance started playing Cyber Sleuth as the female protagonist. However, nobody apparently noticed this as every character referred to her as a boy. Each and every conversation was exactly the same as they were with the male protagonist, down to referring to the player as a boy. Not only is that lazy, but it's inexcusable.
As I mentioned earlier, the DigiLine messages also reeked of laziness. Poor translations, cut and paste responses for every character, and even incorrect dialogue at some points. Instead of translating the messages and tailoring them to fit English grammar conventions, it feels like the localization team did the bare minimum so they could capitalize on the desire for this game.
An important thing to note about Cyber Sleuth is that it only contains the original Japanese audio - something that will delight some while upsetting others. In a way, I think that the lack of English audio allowed the team to cut corners with the translation since they didn't have feedback from voice actors and directors. As a fan of Japanese audio in games, I am happy that it is featured in the game.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth hits all of the right notes for Digimon fans. Unfortunately, the localization was sloppy and makes the game feel unpolished. While annoying, it really doesn't change the fact that this game is a must-play for Digimon fans or those looking for a more in-depth monster collecting experience.
- Digivolving and collecting all 240 Digimon is addicting
- Engrossing systems add depth and make you feel connected to your Digimon
- Story is aimed towards an older audience, meatier than the competition
- Solid turn-based combat & attribute system
- Constant 60 FPS and fast load times
- Difficulty options!
- Japanese audio
- Low resolution textures on scenery and Digimon faces
- Lazy localization work mars experience
- You can't turn the camera while exploring. WHY?!
- No English audio for those who prefer it