Back in the ’90s, Pokemon was one of those media crazes that supposedly corrupted the children. In particular, certain religious figures condemned it for its “demonic origins” amid more widespread bouts of Satanic panic. Even as a kid, whenever I saw this play out, I let out a sigh of relief. At least they didn’t know about the weird cartoon where kids fought the vampire devil and his puppet sidekick. From scythe-wielding phantoms and living guns all the way to Satan himself, Digimon has so many of those “questionable” elements that it’s a wonder it never drew that type of ire. Releasing two decades later, DIGIMON STORY: CYBER SLEUTH COMPLETE EDITION is a title in the series that is unaffected by that social ire, but deserves ire for some its more questionable systems, despite having mechanics that will please monster-hunting die-hards.
Combining both the original Cyber Sleuth and its expandalone follow-up Hacker’s Memory, Complete Edition is a meaty collection of RPG and monster-collecting gameplay. No matter which adventure you choose to start with, you jump into a world torn between a digital utopia and the very real streets of Japan. After a mishap or two, your character settles into a role where you solve problems and uncover secrets, all with the help of whatever digital monsters you befriend along the way.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition Review | Digital monsters, not digital pets
As a game, Cyber Sleuth‘s design splits neatly into two halves. From a gameplay perspective, this is the Digimon game of many fans’ 20-years-old dreams. Torn completely away from its Tamagotchi origins, this is Digimon’s attempt at a Pokemon-style monster collectathon. Learning from the many generations over the years, delivering a refined take on the genre that bests Nintendo’s game in several key ways.
For one, your team of three Digimon follow you around in the digital world. This may not seem like much, but this is a feature many Pokemon fans have wanted to see return ever since HeartGold and SoulSilver. Perhaps more importantly, capturing and collecting Digimon is a snap. Instead of finding wild creatures in some grassy field, you can scan Digimon you fight over and over. After enough battles, you can summon your own version at the press of a button. After that, it’s just a matter of leveling them up enough to evolve, which is called “Digivolving.” However, instead of a set path of forms, each creature has a range of options. They can also evolve backward and then change form again if you want to load up a certain monster with the perfect moves.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition Review | Change into digital champions
This system feels open in ways not always seen in the genre. You have an overwhelming number of options just from the start, and you can get fan favorite monsters quickly and easily. Or, you can dive into some of the more obscure picks, as the selection covers all eras of this franchise with the same love and attention. Those who find the act of collecting and training creatures enjoyable will get the most out of Cyber Sleuth. It feels like every other aspect of the game serves merely to facilitate your collection.
And that is a great setup that works great for me as some who has always been more of a collector in these types of games. However, the battling in Cyber Sleuth is fine for what it is. It’s not anything incredibly groundbreaking, and it does take a long time to get complicated in any sense of the word. Each Digimon has its own special attack that is lovingly recreated from the anime. Other attacks have more generic Pokemon Stadium-esque animations, which is somewhat disappointing.
It also doesn’t seem especially well-balanced. Most story missions will have you fighting a single Digimon with your team of three. Leveling up fully heals your creature’s HP and SP, and it’s incredibly common for them to do so before running out of either. You get plenty of healing items of all stripes as you play, but I barely had a need for them outside of extracurricular tournament battles. If your monsters do faint, they just lay on the field until you use an action to switch them out, which puts you behind the eight-ball during particularly hard battles. Despite all that, it’s great to see so many of these creatures move and attack so accurately. If the main goal of Cyber Sleuth is to give fans a chance to train up their favorite monsters, then everything is working as intended.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition Review | Back down to Shinjuku
If battling is less pivotal to Cyber Sleuth than collecting, then the actual story and campaign missions are even less important. At times, it feels like someone took an entire pre-existing detective story and plugged in Digimon wherever they could. Everything is way too serious for a game about tiny dinosaurs breathing fireballs at each other. Characters narrate detail after torturous detail in every scene, some without even the luxury of the original Japanese voice acting. Nothing is interesting, but you must pay rapt attention to all of it. If you miss a single line, you’ll end up wandering around the overworld for minutes on end trying to find a hidden location you visited once before hours ago.
Every quest eventually leads to a dungeon where you get into some battles. Many lead you to the same dungeon over and over, occasionally letting you get to the next level before accomplishing your objective. Not only is this the definition of monotonous, but it focuses in on the poor design. There are numerous hallways to nowhere, a complete lack of objective markers, and nothing to stop players from traversing an entire floor only to find nothing at the end — not even an exit taking you back to the star. If all appears to be procedurally generated, which is the worst feeling to get when you know you’re exploring a static location.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition Review | Taming your expectations
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition isn’t going to wow you unless you already have a built-in appreciation for the franchise. While the monster collecting could teach Pokemon a thing or two, the game surrounding that makes it hard to power through hours and hours of turn-based battles. It’s a great option on Switch, as you can pull it out and get through a few tasks without focusing in on how lackluster the rest of it is. If you’d prefer hours-long sessions on console or PC, you’ll need real patience to get to any of the good stuff. Considering the on-again/off-again support Digimon receives in the West, most fans will be more than familiar with that already.
GameRevolution reviewed Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher