Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Cover-To-Cover Review of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth (Spoilers Marked, Hidden)

Sayo of Digimon World Dusk/Digimon Story Sunburst passes the torch to Takumi of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth.
It has been nearly eight years since the last Digimon game launched outside of Japan. Between World Championship and Cyber Sleuth, five handheld titles have passed the western world by. What do we say to such a game? "Welcome home"? "Good to see you again"? For Cyber Sleuth, neither phrase feels appropriate. While Sleuth is nominally sequel to previous entries in the Story series, its core gameplay mechanics and tone are so far removed from past games that it plays less like the latest entry in a series from 2006, and more like the first game in an entirely new line.

Cyber Sleuth is keenly aware of the fact that Digimon needs to be more than just someone's childhood if it's to thrive in today's market, and takes massive strides towards crafting a new identity for the franchise independent of 1990's nostalgia. The game launches in North America in just a day's time, on February 2nd, and in Europe on the 5th of this same week.

This review will be divided into two parts. The first half is spoiler-free and talks about the game in general terms, as well as specific details about the gameplay and certain game design choices. The second half (marked by a boundary) contains substantive spoilers for the entire game's storyline, and examines that storyline and several of its ambiguities critically.

Opening Remarks 

‟Definitively the best entry point for non-Digimon fans.”

In some respects, Cyber Sleuth is a Digimon game for people that hate Digimon games. It takes everything awful about past entries in the Story series and throws them out the window, while at the same time mercilessly gutting core gameplay mechanics that certain longtime fans will have a degree of attachment to. The end result is a much better video game than anything Digimon has produced in the last fifteen years, though it's bound to upset anyone with strong nostalgia for Dawn/Dusk. The game is extremely approachable, introduces all of its game mechanics in a set of short and intuitive tutorials, and requires no prior exposure to the Digimon franchise to be played. In fact, Cyber Sleuth is definitively the best entry point for non-Digimon fans.

War Greymon's Gaia Force is painstakingly recreated frame-for-frame.
That's not to say that there isn't material for fans to appreciate. Those that watched the various Digimon anime religiously will find iconic attack animations recreated frame-for-frame by Sleuth's dedicated modeling staff, and the narrative clearly picks up on certain ideas and motifs from Digimon Tamers and Savers. One of its best-handled crossovers with past games (more on this later) is implemented specifically to pass the torch from Digimon Story Moonlight to Cyber Sleuth. But the nostalgia in Sleuth takes a backseat to progress. Anyone looking to yell "My childhood!" while M.C. Pea Pod and Paul Gordon rap about "Digimon Garlic Champions" is going to be disappointed.

Story & Setting 

‟A world where it is better to be strong than right.”

Japan's zombie CD franchise Tower Records is just one of the many real-world locations found in the game.
In contrast to every Digimon game preceding it, Cyber Sleuth takes place primarily in the real world, with frequent visits to manmade cyberspace. The game contains complete replicas of several real locations in Japan, primarily featuring inner city shopping districts and major urban centers. The player's own base of operations is within the famous Nakano Broadway, and at least one of the real-world retailers featured in the game cut Bandai a deal in exchange for their appearance.

A running theme in Sleuth is the continuous effect of one's relationships to those around them, represented in gameplay through the Digiline, a fictitious imagining of the LINE messaging app. No matter where the player is in the game or storyline, they will always have periodic text messages that give more information about the characters' daily lives. They also receive texts from the Digimon themselves, who will talk to the player about the kinds of training they're doing, express their gratitude to the player for taking care of them, or send them trivia questions.

A secondary theme in Cyber Sleuth is the issue of growing up. Rather than focusing on melodramatic adolescence or dating sim gameplay to convey this, Sleuth skews more towards portraying people that are becoming independent of cause-and-effect, growing into someone different from who they were as children. The game calls into question the nature of the relationship between people and technology (symbolically represented by the Digimon), how they relate using technology, and what it means to "evolve."

The player assumes the role of a young man or woman called into the network EDEN by a hacker disguised as the network's mascot, Navito-kun. They and two of their friends are "invited" to receive a special gift from Navito-kun, or face the alternative--being hacked. In the innermost layer of the network, the player is introduced to the flighty but assertive Shiramine Nokia, and to the recluse programmer Sanada Arata, who acts as the "big brother" figure of the trio. Several other characters figure into their friend circle, but throughout the game Nokia and Arata are the player's most consistent companions, and a large part of the game is spent on delving into their pasts and helping them move past deep-seated psychological issues. Instead of Pokémon, the first comparison that springs to mind is actually the Persona series, but rather than the episodic approach of those games, Sleuth spreads out these characters' development across the entire twenty chapters of the game.

The "special gift" turns out to be the Digimon Capture program, a program used to scan and convert the data of Digimon. Possession of the Digimon Capture program qualifies our heroes as bona fide hackers, and this is a one-way street they're going down; the Digimon Capture is protected from external modification, meaning none of them have an "out" as the Capture is now intrinsically linked to their EDEN accounts. They're hackers for life.

The driving mystery that you'll find played up in press releases everywhere is that during all this the player is attacked by the mysterious monster Eater, and needs to recover their physical body after being turned into a half-digital half-real entity by the Eater attack. While it's true that the Eater is an important antagonist and supporting element, most of the game isn't actually focused on this task.

Cyber Sleuth devotes several chapters to deconstructing the concept of a Digimon tamer as it was invented in 1997 and built up throughout 2005. Tamers as we know them do not exist in Sleuth's world. Instead Digimon are the exclusive purview of hackers, used as tools to crack security and wage an information war against faceless corporate enterprises. The player is given ample exposure to no less than four different hacker groups in the course of the game, with the major players staking out their turf against rivals and following a "might makes right" philosophy that's surprisingly at home with the lifestyle of the Digimon themselves. Note that while it vehemently attacks the idealism of "tamers," the game effectively reconstructs the idea of Digimon as they were described in the original Digital Monster and Pendulum guides;
"One day, in the world's computers a virus possessing artificial intelligence propagated.
Once on the network, this virus began to change its shape and nature, evolving into the lifelike 'Digital Monsters' ('Digimon' for short)!"
The above description is a direct translation from the official Digimon Channel portal site, which word-for-word approximates the description from V Jump's 90s Digimon guides. This description will sound strange to those more accustomed to Adventure's version of Digimon, but it's what the species are at their core, and it's this same version of Digimon that Chiaki J. Konaka was fighting hard for the franchise to not lose sight of back in Tamers. Those accustomed to such darker entries in the franchise will be at home with Sleuth's version of Digimon, whereas anyone looking to be comforted with idealism will be in for a rude awakening.

Cyber Sleuth's world is not so different from our own; it's a world where it is better to be strong than right, where criminals walk away scot-free because they can, and where the rule of law is constantly subverted for the sake of the individual. Hacking is made an intimate part of gameplay, necessary to solve several puzzles, and the player is required to crack a corporation's servers in various chapters.

ZAXON forums, the hangout for just one of Sleuth's many hacker teams.
Throughout the early portions of Sleuth the player is exposed to various methods of abusing the powers of Digimon. A small cyber gang engages in mass identity theft under the direction of their crime boss; a criminal desperate to evade the police uses Digimon to escape into cyberspace; someone who's failed to realize their dreams one too many times attracts the power of a Digimon, and starts up a line of serial kidnappings to get even with cyberbullies. Throughout these first ten chapters, the player is encouraged to think about the role of Digimon and how they ought to be used in society, with the supporting cast each coming to their own conclusions. Yet to the very end of the game, what is most miraculous is that somehow the initial sense of childish wonder that accompanies first meeting Digimon manages to persevere in spite everything thrown at it.

Deconstruction is easy. It's as easy as peeing on something people take for granted. What your average TVTroper writing about how dark and awesome Neon Genesis Evangelion is forgets is that it's much harder to, having deconstructed a subject, reconstruct it within the same work. This is precisely what gets overlooked about several existing works in the Digimon franchise (namely Tamers and Savers), that they establish a premise of "X can never work" and then set out to prove themselves wrong.

From the very beginning, there are hints that Digimon can be more than just tools. The player's Digimon repeatedly come to their rescue during the game, in the prologue choosing to fight and possibly die rather than run away from a powerful enemy.
Cyber Sleuth does the same; once it has made you sufficiently complacent with the concept of hackers and their relationship to Digimon, it turns the scenario on its head through the unlikely character of Nokia. This girl is Digimon's Luke Skywalker. The last trailer for Sleuth prior to its Japanese launch alluded to Nokia "creating a miracle," and set viewers up to believe that miracle to be a particular evolution, but that's peanuts compared to what she accomplishes in the course of the game. Her real miracle is independently inventing the idea of Digimon tamers in face of overwhelming opposition. It's exactly the kind of miracle that Digimon, having been functionally dead around the world for several years, is in dire need of.

The second half of the game, chapters eleven to twenty, is where the cyber elements drop away in favor of a more psychological approach. While the storyline veers away from daily life in favor of portraying an apocalyptic scenario that would make Shin Megami Tensei proud, this is the point when Cyber Sleuth's gameplay takes a serious hit. It settles into a repetitive arc of tracking down and beating specific Digimon, which then run away so you can repeat the process later.

Getting to explore various characters' psychology during the latter half of the game is where most of the meat of the narrative is concentrated. Several major characters begin to crumble under the mounting pressure of uncovering the truth behind Sleuth's many subplots, which is a much darker turn than anything Digimon has pursued before. The endgame is riddled with ambiguities, as it becomes increasingly clear that everyone is fighting for reasons that are (at least in their own eyes) morally correct--with the debatable exception of the Eater, a situation that will be discussed more below the spoiler cut. This is firmly a game written for an adult audience to appreciate.

Overall the storyline is the most compelling one that Digimon's ever told. By comparison, the cast of Cyber Sleuth make the Adventure kids look like the Toy Story aliens. There's more tangible human elements to this story, less of a toyetic focus, and a deeper look into the psychological profiles of the cast than past works were willing to delve into. That said, there are some flaws to it. The game's conclusion clashes heavily with everything that came before it, and it seems as though the writing staff were unable to fully embrace Sleuth's new direction. The tone of the finale is more in line with the kids' anime that the game is following up on than it is with the game itself.

The "Super Positive Girl" Shinomiya Rina. (No, this isn't a spoiler; it's been all over the game's promotional campaign.)
A more concerning flaw in the storyline is the crossover issue.

There are two crossovers in Cyber Sleuth. One of them is necessary to complete the main storyline, and the other is not. One of them contradicts the overall tone of the game, and the other allows for Sleuth to spiritually succeed its parent games while acknowledging the new direction it's taken. One of them is contrived fanservice which contributes nothing to Sleuth's overall message, and is shoehorned into the game without a fluid connection to the storyline. The other is unobtrusive and builds on existing ideas about what it means to be a tamer versus a hacker.

So of course it follows that the gratuitous crossover is the one that the player is forced into, and the meaningful crossover is first print DLC. (Edit: Aster pointed out to me that this was not actually "first print" exclusive, players that bought the game at launch could simply get it earlier than everyone else.) During the storyline, Cyber Sleuth crosses over with Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode, sending the player to Decode's universe to play on fans' attachment to Shinomiya Rina. The small problem with this for western fans is that Decode was never localized, and is infamously the subject of the Operation Decode petition, the very petition that ended up bringing Sleuth over instead of Decode. The far greater problem is that context does not actually make the crossover better; it comes off as forced fanservice with no contribution to the narrative, as Rina is never on screen long enough to have any kind of personal growth, nor does she contribute to the growth of the protagonist or those around her, and her storyline influence is minimal. Long story short, the protagonist needs a specific Digimon that there's only one of, but that Digimon doesn't exist in his dimension anymore--so he has to go to Decode's dimension to bring Rina's version of that Digimon to his universe to solve the problem.

This is tied to a really interesting gameplay segment that the crossover actively hinders. In this segment of the game, the player is given the locations of several boss Digimon throughout Tokyo and EDEN, then asked to hunt them down. The player could theoretically do them in any order--except that one of them requires said unique Digimon to fight, so the player is forced to do the crossover before that one, and to go to other universes they need two specific items divided among the bosses that they can access, and all this ultimately reduces the player's options down to a binary choice. What could have been a cool Ocarina of Time-style segment where the goals could be accomplished in any order was instead confined to a JRPG cliché--The Tube.

Mirei explains to Sayo and the protagonist how to recover Dianamon.
By contrast, the crossover with Digimon Story Moonlight/Digimon World Dusk provides a meaningful transition between the traditional kids' Digimon games and the cutting edge adults' Digimon games. The protagonist of Moonlight Sayo is given her own character arc, in which she's stripped of her Dianamon and forced to reluctantly rely on the player character to defeat the Seven Great Demon Lords so that Dianamon can be recovered. As the line of quests progresses, Sayo gradually warms to the player, and comes to respect their abilities after having to fight alongside them. Sayo parts by passing the torch to the player characters of Cyber Sleuth, solidifying them as the next generation of Digimon Story protagonists--"You're a splendid tamer." It's a touching moment that calls back to veteran fans' experiences with Sunburst & Moonlight/Dawn & Dusk, which up to now was probably the second best-received Digimon title overall after the first Digimon World.

The stark difference in execution stings all the more because the player is free to tackle the Demon Lords in any order they choose, which just goes to show that the same idea could have been implemented in Rina's segment, but wasn't. The difference in the quality of execution between the Decode and Moonlight crossovers is embarrassing. The only issue with Sayo's appearance is that as a transition between the old and the new, it begs the question of why we're seeing her and not the Lost Evolution protagonist.

Finally, the critically weakest part of Cyber Sleuth's storyline is found in it falling to an old franchise standby. In the proud tradition of post-2006 Digimon media, Sleuth starts with a promising new worldview and independent plot that is ultimately consumed by ROYAL KNIGHTS YGGDRASILL 7 GREAT DEMON LORDS. The game engages in hitting the same notes as every post-Digimon Story work, having the thirteen knights of the Digital World's round table become divided and start babbling back and forth about X is the will of Yggdrasill! No, Y is the will of Yggdrasill! while outside forces pit them against one another and the player is left to clean up the mess this creates. Xros Wars proved that you can write a good Digimon story without having to reuse the same twenty-odd characters that prove most popular with focus groups, a fact that Sleuth has firmly decided to ignore. This flaw is going to go right over the heads of newcomers to the franchise though, and considering that for Sleuth those newcomers are a primary demographic, we can somewhat forgive it for retreading old ground.

The most interesting parts of Sleuth are invariably the ones that don't involve the Royal Knights, so of course they account for a good two thirds of the game's story. The postgame crossover with Sayo, for all the good it does for the game as a whole, has one of the most boring set of matches with the Demon Lords in franchise history. Never before has the group lacked so much character, having zero speaking lines, and only a small blurb of descriptive text to define them. The first Digimon Story game on the original Nintendo DS contributed more to the Demon Lords' characterization than Cyber Sleuth ever does.


The gameplay is both a massive leg up over the first three Story games, and a somewhat disorienting overhaul of their systems. A more mature game demands a more mature system. Previous entries in the Digimon Story series used a 3-on-3 battle system, with five open spaces for players to place their Digimon. Skills were divided into normal and Support Skills, with Supports only affecting the next Digimon adjacent to the user, and normal skills targeting either a fixed number of spaces on the field or a space of the player's choosing a certain number of times.

Cyber Sleuth does away with this in the name of accessibility, keeping the 3-on-3 and Support Skill system, but now allowing Supports to affect the entire field, and normal skills now target a number of enemies instead of the spaces they stand on. The simplified system is much more accessible, and allows for a great many more combinations by layering Supports. For example, the Andiramon line's Meditation ability restores a percentage of one's HP after they attack, and can be combined with Beelzebumon's Gluttony, which reduces HP by a percentage each turn to increase that Digimon's Attack stat.

The game also introduces a type system that functions as a combination of Digimon mechanics old and new. First and most dominating is the classic Vaccine > Virus > Data attribute triangle; all Digimon either belong to one of these three attributes, or are of the Free attribute. Those with an advantage over another group deal 2x damage against it. The second set of attributes is a division of two triangular relationships plus one binary system--Fire > Plant > Water, Electric > Wind > Earth, and Light <> Dark. There's also a second neutral element, Null, which can take the place of any of these. For these secondary attributes the damage increase is only 1.5x, but when stacked on top of the basic attribute triangle, damage starts escalating to the point where you can reliably take out some Digimon in a single hit. Attack skills can also belong to one of the secondary elements, with one line of physical and one line of magical skills for each element.

Evolution takes place in the DigiLab, a Velvet Room-like locale run by the dimension-hopping Mikagura Mirei. Players can freely evolve and degenerate their Digimon at the laboratory, but to evolve they first need to meet the stat requirements for a Digimon. All of the Digimon in Sleuth are part of a single unified evolution tree, so all of them have the ability to evolve into any other long term. (For example, when starting with Botamon, one could evolve him up to Koromon, Agumon, Greymon, then to Metal Greymon Blue, and degenerate Blue down to Devimon, Pico Devimon, Tsumemon, and finally Kuramon--ending at a totally different Baby-stage Digimon than when they started.) The DigiLab also contains the Farm Island, where Digimon can do training to gain additional stats (how many exactly is based on their Ability stat, but the cap is +100) as well as develop items for the player to use.

While the DigiLab is an interesting concept, it's ultimately one of Sleuth's few steps back from past games. In Digimon Story, Sunburst/Moonlight, and Lost Evolution, the player could handle evolution and degeneration from their home menu,rather than needing to backtrack to a specific area just to do a minor team update. Sleuth attempts to remedy this by adding access points to the DigiLab all over the game world, but it's only a partial fix to a mistake that didn't need to be made in the first place.

Party size is restricted by Memory, with the total Memory values of the party needing to be less than or equal to the player's absolute limit. In the main game, Memory can be increased by Memory Up items dropped by bosses and awarded after certain quests, while in online play Memory is fixed at 150. More powerful and higher level Digimon have higher Memory limits, preventing the player from using Digimon that are stronger than what they should have at any given point in the storyline. Even with this balancing element though, the overall difficulty level in Sleuth is very low, and fans will have no trouble breezing through the main storyline. If any boss seems overwhelming, then it's usually a puzzle boss of some kind. For the international versions of Cyber Sleuth a hard mode has been added, which seeks to address this weakness.

Outside of battle, players access different areas by selecting them from the world map, navigating those areas from a fixed camera angle. While different Japanese locales are recreated lovingly on the Vita, most of the game takes place in a cyberspace environment engineered by studio Kamikaze Douga. The cyberspace EDEN is a visual tribute to the virtual worlds of Hosoda Mamoru's Our War Game and Summer Wars films, appearing chiefly as a plane of tiered cities and observation decks strung through a white void. (The opening sequence of Cyber Sleuth when logging in, and the subsequent introduction to EDEN, both resemble Summer Wars' mobile phone opening and its similar introduction of Oz, right down to the exposition beats and soundtrack.)

The most disappointing aspect of EDEN is that while it's gorgeous to look at, there's very few meaningful ways to interact with the environment. As a static art piece, it's formally strong and shows a deep understanding of the technology the studio is working for, but as an interactive environment EDEN falls short of the mark. NPC dialogue also changes infrequently, unlike in past Story games where everyone always had something new to say.

Periodically the player is given keywords and asked to interview various NPCs, throwing those keywords at them until they unlock a piece of information they need to progress in their quests. Sadly, these segments are never quite as entertaining as the staff probably intended them to be, and they don't quite put you in the shoes of a cyber gumshoe in the same way that Ace Attorney's cross examinations manage to make a lawyer out of the player.

Some unrefined aspects of gameplay betray the fact that this is Bandai's first attempt at creating a good Digimon game that's also a good mainstream game. Cutscenes and dialogue sequences are unskippable; the player can't quick-jump to different locations; items have to be manually deequipped from Digimon when putting them into the DigiFarm unless you want them to keep those items when they go in, where past Story games automatically removed equipment. Shops are heavily decentralized, with one in the EDEN Entrance selling stat manipulation items and personality patches, while another outside Tower Records sells status blocking equipment, when both of those easily could have been located in the DigiLab.

The actual dungeons in Cyber Sleuth take the form of Digital Shifts, spaces in which a particular domain intersects with the real world. Most of these dungeons are disappointingly short, with only a few rudimentary puzzles and the same repetitive background music shared between them. Visually they're entertaining to look at, though there is a severe lack of variation between them. But as the player gets closer to the endgame, the developers begin pulling out all the stops with extensive labyrinths, and one dungeon in particular memorably spans 49 floors plus the roof, with different segments of each floor abruptly terminating in a sheer cliff where the digital space has ripped apart the building. The Digital Shifts are definitely an aspect of the game that improves the further the player goes in.

To those longtime fans that miss the Digital World dearly, that can't have a Digimon game without it, I'll say this; it's in the game, it's brilliant, it's beautiful, but it's short-lived. Be patient with Sleuth.

The question has been asked many times before as to whether Sleuth is better experienced on the PlayStation 4 or on its native handheld, the PlayStation Vita. I first experienced Sleuth on the PlayStation TV, an experience which I expect the PS4 version of it to mirror. After a few hours I couldn't stand playing it on the system, and eventually I bought a Vita for the game, a purchase which I do not regret. Cyber Sleuth was made for and is best experienced on a handheld, making the Vita version of the game the definitive one.

Writing & Voice Acting

‟[Han's] rapidfire delivery and the energy with which she approaches the role carries the game through its first half.”

The language question is an important one to Cyber Sleuth. The game slams the player over the head with several plot points long before they ever show up in-game; but these points are obfuscated by the nature of the Japanese language. These will be addressed more comprehensively after the spoiler cut further down, but there are some parts of the game that just don't work in English. The English language lacks certain aspects of grammar and writing (implied subject, neuter pronouns, logograms) that make it extremely challenging to effectively translate its plot without ruining some of the game's major twists and making others come out of left field.

"Ahh, nice to meet you, I'm the real Akkiino ☆ It's our first time meeting in EDEN, I'm so pleased to--NNNNOOOOOOT!!"
Much ado has been made about the lack of an English-language voice dub, but speaking as someone that's played through the entire Japanese game, I am glad that the western world gets to be exposed to Han Megumi's absolutely phenomenal performance as Nokia. Her rapidfire delivery and the energy with which she approaches the role carries the game through its first half, and the way that Han emotes as Nokia throughout the second major arc is what seals Cyber Sleuth as the Digimon of tomorrow. Without her, the early parts of Sleuth would make for a fairly generic game. It will be interesting to see how the English-translated script handles her, as in Japanese Nokia is a highly quotable modern woman--provided that you can keep up with how fast she runs her mouth.

Moreover, Hisakawa Aya is unexpectedly incredible in this game, acting for both Kishibe Rie and one other character (don't look it up), and she cultivates two incredibly different vocal styles for those characters that make it hard to tell one is hearing the same voice in the scenes where they appear back-to-back. From the moment I heard Han's performance as Nokia I was blown away by her energy, and in contrast by the subtlety of Sakamoto Maaya's performance as Kuremi Kyouko...but I was also expecting these. I was prepared to quietly forget Hisakawa's character up until I saw her major turning points.

Make no mistake that something is lost by the lack of an English voice dub. Certain voice actors were chosen for their existing ties to Digimon. English speakers won't experience quite the same nostalgia that Japanese speakers do when they hear Sakamoto and Yamaguchi voicing Agumon and Gabumon--not unless they watched Adventure subtitled. But I maintain that we gain much more than we lose in the exchange. Ever since the Adventure anime took its setting to modern day Odaiba, Digimon has been the monster franchise to adhere most strictly to its Japanese roots. It's never a bad time for some cultural appreciation.

Aside from Han and Hisakawa's breakout performances, the game also has the legendary Wakamoto Norio on board as the voice of Duftmon. Wakamoto has become so entrenched in Japanese media that he's more often appearing to play himself rather than a specific character, but he gets special mention here for dragging out his lines eeexccceeepttiooonnnnaaalllyyyyyyy slllloooowllllyyyyy. At one point I believe I waited for a solid minute with the dialogue box already filled out, waiting for Wakamoto to finish his line so I could hit the O button. I'm unsure if Wakamoto is trying to be clever with this, but he does make an otherwise forgettable minor antagonist into one of the more memorable villains of the game.

There are seven "translations" in this screen that contradict the original names. Can you spot them all?
Bandai's standardized English names for Digimon create inevitable conflicts with the vocal track. English speakers will at multiple points hear Lord Knightmon said aloud while the text reads "Crusadermon." (This also ruins a certain play-on-words; Lord Knightmon introduces themselves at one point as ナイトモンの王 Naitomon no Ou "the lord of all Knightmon.") This applies to roughly half of the Royal Knights, most prominently Omegamon/"Omnimon," who was even called Omegamon in Crunchyroll's official subtitles of Digimon Adventure tri. Moreover, despite Cyber Sleuth being a nominally more mature game, fans will groan at having to fight "Creepymon" rather than Demon in the postgame. Bandai Namco's international branches just aren't caught up on Habu Kazumasa's new direction for the games, and are still advertising them by referencing the DigiRap.


The game's soundtrack is by Takada Masafumi of Dangan Ronpa fame, and primarily comprises an appropriately modern collection of electronic music that helps cultivate the cyperpunk setting of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth. Although this is representative of the overall tone of the game, Takada breaks genre several times to convey certain themes. The thirteen Royal Knights are represented by two themes, both of which use pseudo-symphonic and choral sounds that one would be more likely to find in a Final Fantasy game. Masafumi uses his resources well; "The Authority of the Royal Knights" is actually a synthesized track not recorded with a live orchestra, and none of the vocals are real. He simultaneously represents the nobility and archaic hierarchy of Yggdrasill's servants while also alluding to their digital nature. This kind of attention to detail is characteristic of the entire soundtrack. Unfortunately, the list of tracks is woefully small for a game of this size, and especially towards the end of the game players will get sick of hearing the same two tracks over and over. (I was already nauseous from "Closed Digital Space" by chapter 4, and the game is 20 chapters long!)


There has always been a particular appeal to battling one's Digimon against their friends. It's the foundational element of the franchise; a fighting Tamagotchi. Cyber Sleuth has two modes, local play (using the ad hoc features of the Vita) and Ranked, which pairs them with players over a wireless connection. Players are limited to 30 minutes of total game time, with 60 seconds of command time per Digimon to execute their turn within. Winning games in Ranked adds points to the player's score, contributing to their global ranking in relation to other players. How easy it is to rise to the top varies depending on how many people play--Sleuth's entire shipment constituted around 80,000 copies in Japan, but less than 1/4th of the players that bought the game played in Ranked. I was able to rise from close to 18,000th place up to 3,858th after just 30 battles, and there's plenty of players in the top 100 that have scores in the 6,000 range rather than 9,999.

The biggest issue with it by far is that duplicate Digimon are permitted, leading to turnlocking setups with multiple Sleipmon and the V-dramon variants dominating online. Secondary is that 18 Memory Digimon don't get enough equipment slots to simultaneously block all of the major status effects, leading to games generally falling to whoever gets status off first. The decision to cap parties at 150 Memory was a well thought out move, as it's high enough to allow some variety but low enough that every player will already be able to easily reach more than that cap in-game, ensuring that they don't have to run around doing sidequests for additional Memory Ups to compete.

Japanese leaderboards as of January 26th, 2016.
The multiplayer in Sleuth is more accessible than Pokémon's, but is deliberately unbalanced. You will need to use at least some of the Royal Knight and Seven Great Demon Lord Digimon to succeed online; there is very little room to use your favorites and build a competent strategy around them. With only a few exceptions extended to Lucemon and one Armor-level Digimon, only Digimon of Perfect level and above can succeed in the Ranked. Digimon do have a personality system that confers percentage stat increases similar to Pokémon's natures, but these can be patched with items bought from a shop to change their personality (so if your Digimon has the wrong temperament, you don't have to just go and get a new one). There is no IV system, but there is an EV system that allows each Digimon to gain 100 total additional stats through farm training, which is made visible rather than hidden from the player.

A dominating issue with Ranked is that to stand a chance, you need to complete sixteen postgame quests in addition to the main game in order to unlock all of the necessary Digimon and items, and after they're unlocked you still have to do a lot of inconvenient grinding to actually evolve your partners into those forms. There are specific Digimon that can double your EXP gain as long as they're in your active party, and a whole line of equippable items that will further double it and stack on top of that, but those Digimon also require significant grinding to get and the items demand that the player repeatedly soft reset in order to craft the full nine of. Ideally if you're able to do the grinding necessary to get those Digimon, then they should already be unlocked in the first place, or you should only need to complete the game to unlock their evolutions. Having to run through a series of postgame quests and then run around with a party of Platinum Scumon for two hours on top of that isn't good game design.

There is one aspect of the multiplayer that I find intolerably tedious. It's actually not the soft resetting for Strategist USBs, nor is it the grind for evolution. It's the skill system--more accurately, you could refer to the evolution tree as a whole being the problem. All skills sans Special Skills and Support Skills are inheritable by every Digimon. The result is that there are no movepools; you truly have access to absolutely everything, as if every Pokémon could learn every move. And having access to everything is awful, because now it requires you to repeatedly grind and re-grind your Digimon to learn different skills so that you can have one of the two or three movesets that you'll find on any competitive Digimon. I have sunk more than a hundred hours into Digimon Story, and about seventy into Cyber Sleuth; yet I paradoxically find the grind to reach 999 stats in Story far more tolerable than the grind to get Status Barrier, Safety Guard, Restore, Revive, Physicial/Spirit Drain, Holy Light III/Nightmare III, a status move of choice, and the Charge Field/Break Field skills on every Digimon in my team.

(Still better than egg hatching and EV training.)

One awkwardly-implemented concession is that in order to make sure that players will always be able to get the trophy for scoring 30 victories in Ranked, if the game is unable to detect an opponent it will feed a bot to the player, without actually identifying it as a bot. These bots cheat, having Digimon with impossibly high stats, but tend to have suboptimal strategies and three or fewer Digimon, which makes them fully beatable. It's a welcome addition to keep the Battle Master achievement available, but when trying to actually find an opponent it's annoying to keep having to decline bots, and they really should have been identified as bots to begin with.

Difficulty Level

The default difficulty mode is incredibly easy, which has universally been a source of complaints. I was able to breeze through the main storyline in a little over 40 hours, and didn't see a game over until I was close to the 60 hour mark, versus one of the optional bosses.

Some of the game balance is also out of order; certain Digimon are overall weaker than their preevolved forms due to how specific game mechanics work, with a particularly glaring example in Omegamon. One of his preceding forms, War Greymon, is overall superior despite having a lower Memory cost due to his access to piercing damage, while Omegamon's moderately higher stats don't justify his price in Memory because of his inferior offensive output and comparative defensive parameters.

Closing Remarks

 ‟Sleuth can box on even terms with industry giants and come out on top.

I do not want Cyber Sleuth to be martyred.

I remember Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode. Until last year I had never played any version of Re:Digitize, but long before I ever touched it, I had a strong impression of the game and my own memories of it. Decode was the holy poster child of a movement for international localization that begged and pleaded at the feet of Bandai Namco Entertainment Incorporated. For the western Digimon fandom it was as if Re:Digitize could cure the blind. Decode became a casualty of war, a martyr whose relics are worshiped for their sacred properties regardless of if said martyr ever really existed. I do not want this to happen to Cyber Sleuth.

The world will never know if Re:Digitize is a good game or not until it sees an official distribution and an 8.8 on GameSpot for the YouTube collective and web forum hivemind to scrutinize. While the 3DS has many years yet left in it, fans are already prepared for the disappointment of Decode being lost to history alongside Lost Evolution and so many others. Cyber Sleuth nearly befell the same fate.

Having logged many hours into both translating the game's text and mastering its gameplay system across two playthroughs, I am in a unique position of having more in-depth experience with the game than most professional reviewers ever have an opportunity for. The most difficult question to ask when considering any JRPG critically, most especially a game that one has a personal investment in, is whether said game is a good use of your time.

Time is at the heart of every JRPG. Pitchfork wrote an exhaustive explanation of this back in his Earthbound series review, in which he gave what I consider the most comprehensive description of the genre's critical weakness;
Dragon Quest is like a vibrantly-colored, jingle-spewing pachinko machine in which you insert minutes and hours instead of coins. You can never beat the house; you can only hope that your gains offset your expenditures as much as possible, and the object of the game is to successfully employ tactics that help you achieve this aim.
There are a wealth of bad JRPGs out there. They're the summer blockbuster of the video game industry. I suffered through Dirge of Cerberus, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Kingdom Hearts II. After 70 hours, I can firmly say that Cyber Sleuth is none of these. It's a game which provokes Digimon veterans to tear down their nostalgia filters, yet welcomes newcomers with open arms. The characters have a literary quality to them that puts certain works of actual literature to shame, and the leaderboards ensure that players always have something additional to do with their Digimon party long after they've conquered the game. It's a battle system that challenges and continues to challenge as one masters it. It's an engaging, entertaining piece of media that pushes the Vita to its limits and embraces its position as the forerunner of a next generation of Digimon games.

At its worst, Cyber Sleuth is tied with Digimon World for the best Digimon game ever made. At its best, it displaces every other game in the franchise and is the only Digimon game anyone should ever play. In terms of its mainstream appeal, Sleuth can box on even terms with industry giants like Final Fantasy and come out on top, despite being rough around the edges. While I personally didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would, I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone, regardless of whether or not they have experience with Digimon or its other games. Get out there and get on those leaderboards.

Final Score: 9/10

Full spoilers below this line; past this point it's assumed that you have played through the game.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

"I Want the Digimon Series to Reach Everyone in Taiwan," Says -next 0rder- Producer

January 30th, 2016. Japanese games news outlet Gamer reports that over the 28th Bandai Namco Entertainment showed off the upcoming Digimon World -next 0rder- at the Taipei International Game Show in Taiwan. The game was shown alongside Summon Night 6, by -next 0rder- producer Fujiwara Yasunori and Habu Kazumasa. The two of them gave an overview of the Digimon franchise, elaborating on the origins of it in the virtual pets and -next 0rder-'s relationship to that era. Fujiwara ended his presentation on a dramatic note, stating that "Hereon, I want the Digimon series to also reach everyone in Taiwan."

Bandai has made Taiwan a focal point of its international strategy, as the country is part of an important international crossroads in shipping and commerce. Last November the Taiwanese edition of Cyber Sleuth premiered far in advance of its English localization, a testament to the region's importance to the company. Interestingly, one slide from the presentation showed female protagonist Shiki undergoing ExE-volution, something that has not been featured in preceding promotional materials.

Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita for 6,980 yen (7,539 JPY after tax). It is the latest entry in the World series, succeeding directly from Re:Digitize Decode on the 3DS, Re:Digitize on the PSP, and World on the PSX.

Those that preorder the game will get access to five special DLC Digimon, a remastered copy of the 1999 Digimon World soundtrack, and two original Vita themes, "ver. Nostalgic" and "ver. Dot." Theme ver. Dot features a montage of original Digimon LCD sprites, while theme ver. Nostalgic turns the screen into the layout of a Digital Monster virtual pet.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cyber Sleuth Producer Habu Kazumasa Celebrates International Launch

January 29th, 2016. In celebration of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth's international launch in North America on February 2nd and Europe on February 5th, producer Habu Kazumasa has sent out a special announcement through Bandai Namco Entertainment's European branch, thanking fans for their enthusiasm in supporting the Operation Decode petition. Stating that Cyber Sleuth is a game not just for Digimon fans, but for fans of role-playing games as a whole, Habu outlined how his aim was to capture an adult audience with the latest Digimon title, rather than its traditional child demographic. Ever since the financial problems of the Xros Wars era, Digimon has skewed increasingly towards a young adult demographic, targeting both fans that were children at the time of the franchise's height and newcomers with no prior familiarity to the series.

Habu has been an outspoken advocate of the fans in the past, repeatedly pointing out the importance of Operation Decode to Sleuth's localization across many interviews with different publications. While Digimon has been backed into a corner for more than a decade by its failure to attract new audiences, Habu has hinted that the international success of Cyber Sleuth could lead to a franchise revival, including simultaneous worldwide launches of future games.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth will launch on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 in North America on February 2nd, 2016, and in Europe on February 5th, 2016. First print copies of the game will come with downloadable content for Beelzebumon Blast Mode and Cherubimon Vice, two new Digimon exclusive to the international versions of Cyber Sleuth. While the Vita edition in North America and Europe is digital-only, the launch DLC will be available through the end of the month, and import seller Play-Asia is stocking a physical Asian-English edition of the game. The game is rated T in North America, and PEGI 12 in Europe.

Online Agumon Evolves to Greymon

January 29th, 2016. Bandai's online virtual pet evolved to Adult-level today, unlocking another tier of rewards in Digimon World -next 0rder- and Digimon Linkz. The social media campaign depends on fan tweets to progress, with each tweet representing a "Care" function like on the original Digital Monster pets. At the 12,000 mark fans unlocked an additional Chain Melon for -next 0rder- on top of previous rewards, and eight Digistones for Linkz.

At the 15,000 mark Greymon will evolve to Perfect-level, earning fans one more Chain Melon and ten additional Digistones (a total of five Melons and 25 Digistones). The Melons extend a Digimon's lifespan, while Digistones restore stamina. Previously, the Digimon had evolved to Agumon on the 26th, and Koromon on the 25th. Fans can participate in the campaign by going to the page and clicking on エサをあげる ("Give food") which will create a premade tweet for them to share.

Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita. Digimon Linkz will launch in 2016, on Android and iOS.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Han Megumi to Portray Kuzuhamon in Digimon World -next 0rder-

January 29th, 2016. Kuzuhamon's official profile has been added to the Digimon World -next 0rder- title site, detailing information previously covered in last week's issue of Weekly Shounen Jump magazine. Kuzuhamon is voiced by Han Megumi, a longtime Digimon fan who previously voiced Shiramine Nokia in Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth and Takaishi Takeru in the 2013 Digimon Adventure PSP game (replacing the retired Konishi Hiroko).
"Lowlifes ought not to form such humble ideals."
A powerful enemy appearing before the protagonists. Questioning the state of the Digital World, she is a Ultimate-level Digimon assisting Shouma's plan. With a calm disposition, she fights alongside Gaioumon, but often disagrees with his way of thinking and clashes with him in small ways. 
Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita for 6,980 yen (7,539 JPY after tax). It is the latest entry in the World series, succeeding directly from Re:Digitize Decode on the 3DS, Re:Digitize on the PSP, and World on the PSX.

Those that preorder the game will get access to five special DLC Digimon, a remastered copy of the 1999 Digimon World soundtrack, and two original Vita themes, "ver. Nostalgic" and "ver. Dot." Theme ver. Dot features a montage of original Digimon LCD sprites, while theme ver. Nostalgic turns the screen into the layout of a Digital Monster virtual pet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Digimon Heroes Adopts New Name Translations, Drops Dub Name Support

January 27th, 2016. This morning the English translation of Digimon Crusader, Digimon Heroes, launched worldwide on both Android and iOS platforms. In a surprise move, the app abandons many of the conventional English names for various Digimon, ditching many older names in favor of direct translations from Japanese. For example, Pegasusmon is now called Pegasmon, Armageddemon is now called Armagemon, and DemiDevimon is now called Picodevimon. Armor Digi-Eggs now go by their original Japanese names, Digimentals.

Although for many years Digimon has had strong advocates of adopting the Asian-English names used by Bandai of Japan in the Digimon Reference Book and merchandise, these names are not exactly the same as those used in Japan. For example, "Picodevimon" is normally parsed as "Pico Devimon." Some anomalies also remain in the translation, with the app using "Digifuse" (a dub name for DigiXros) for what Crusader just called "strengthen."

Players in Digimon Heroes take on the role of a Digimon tamer called to File Island by Angewomon to save it from Armagemon. In-game the player battles by matching cards of different colors, which power up Digimon of the same color.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Win Free Entry to Digimon Celebration

January 26th, 2016. Digimon World Tour updated the Pittsburgh Digimon Celebration Facebook page today, offering one lucky fan free entry to the Celebration on February 6th. Fans can enter to win by making the above image their cover photo on Facebook and commenting in World Tour's post about what they're most excited for at the event. The winner will be chosen Friday.

Digimon Celebration will take place at the Victory Pointe gaming lounge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 6th, 2016. Tamer Union will be traveling to provide on-site coverage of the event. The event is being organized through Facebook, and currently 68 persons have committed to going. 157 others are "interested," and 336 invited. In addition to the gaming and cosplay events that day, the Celebration will feature artist duo Ramen Bento as a vendor, selling Digimon plush toys, stickers, and magnets. Up until February 3rd, fans can purchase commemorative Digimon Celebration T-shirts from Redbubble, and those that arrive wearing one will be awarded 200 DigiDollars just for attending.

1999 Metal Etemon Giveaway Flyer Scans

On February 23rd, 1999, Shueisha published its official Digimon World guide, the pages of which contained the only known method of raising Metal Etemon. Earlier this year we took apart many of the rumors surrounding Metal Etemon, a Digimon programmed into the game but which can't be obtained without the use of cheat codes. The truth of the matter is that Metal Etemon's evolution item, the Metal Banana, was only obtainable through a giveaway on page 134 of this Digital World Guide, published under Shueisha's V Jump Books imprint.

According to the flyer, 50 participants were selected to be mailed a memory card containing the Metal Banana data. Fans participated by mailing in a "Metal Etemon Present Application Ticket" (seen in the top left corner of the page) along with their answer to a quiz from the page written on their postcard. The quiz question is as follows;
Metal Etemon Data Present Quiz
On the surface of book's outside cover binding is a "Digimon Life Theater," how many Digimon are there in all? From among the following 3 answers, choose 1 and write it on your postcard!
A. 30 kinds
B. 40 kinds
C. 57 kinds
(First, look closely at the cover's "Digimon Life Theater." Then, count the number of Digimon in the "Digimon Life Theater." There are small Digimon too, so don't overlook any. Once you know the answer, write either A, B, or C on your postcard. After that mail your postcard along with your application coupon to the below address. [Hint: The number of Digimon is "Bigger than 50 but smaller than 58!"]
The quiz is referring to a set of monochrome stickers beneath the book's jacket, attached to the binding. Metal Etemon himself appears on the giveaway page, inviting tamers to "Run wild with me through Digimon World!" and saying further down that he'll be waiting for fans' many submissions. The contest ran for just one month, ending on March 31st, 1999. Metal Etemon does not appear in the guide's list of Digimon or their stats, but the strategy guide did include a brief profile of him;
Metal Etemon Profile
A cyborg-type Digimon which debuted in Digimon Pendulum Nature Spirits. They are a powered-up version of Metal Etemon called the "King of Digimon." On a journey of rigorous battle, they acquired combat data, new finishing moves, and weapons to face formidable opponents.
The powered-up "King of Digimon" appears in your own Digimon World!

Online Koromon Evolves to Agumon

January 26th, 2016. Just an hour after we reported that Bandai's online virtual pet had evolved to Koromon, the Digimon crossed over the 8000 tweet threshold necessary evolve to its Child stage, Agumon. This has unlocked the next reward tier for Digimon World -next 0rder- and Linkz; every time the Digimon evolves, fans are rewarded for participating in the event by earning additional in-game Chain Melons (for -next 0rder-) and Digistones (for Linkz).

As of now Agumon has accrued a cumulative 8,964 tweets, and will evolve to Adult at the 12,000 mark. The current total number of rewards being given is three total Chain Melons and seven total Digistones. At the Adult level, fans will earn one additional Chain Melon and eight additional Digistones.

Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita. Digimon Linkz will launch in 2016, on Android and iOS.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mikagura Mirei Returns For Digimon World -next 0rder-

January 25th, 2016. Japanese Digimon fan @freedommon tweeted an image from Thursday's issue of Weekly Shounen Jump magazine, revealing that Mikagura Mirei of Digimon World Re:Digitize and Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth will also be making an appearance in the upcoming Digimon World -next 0rder-. Mirei's most recent appearance in Cyber Sleuth was as the attendant to the DigiLab, assisting the player in that game by helping coordinate certain quests and advising them in raising Digimon. Mirei's role in -next 0rder- remains enigmatic, but the issue states that she appears before the protagonists to advise them.

The issue of Weekly Shounen Jump also features Kuzuhamon as a key character, one of two Digimon seen accompanying Tsuzuki Shouma in the most recent trailer.

Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita for 6,980 yen (7,539 JPY after tax). It is the latest entry in the World series, succeeding directly from Re:Digitize Decode on the 3DS, Re:Digitize on the PSP, and World on the PSX. Those that preorder the game will get access to five special DLC Digimon, a remastered copy of the 1999 Digimon World soundtrack, and two original Vita themes, "ver. Nostalgic" and "ver. Dot." Theme ver. Dot features a montage of original Digimon LCD sprites, while theme ver. Nostalgic turns the screen into the layout of a Digital Monster virtual pet.

Online Botamon Evolves to Koromon

January 25th, 2016. Early this morning Bandai's online virtual pet evolved to the Baby II stage, having well exceeded the 3500 care milestone needed for evolution. This unlocked the next tier of rewards for Digimon World -next 0rder- and Linkz, an additional Chain Melon and two Digistones. The Digimon was put up online on the 21st as a Digitama, and hatched into Botamon within 24 hours of going up. Fans around the world are caring for the Digimon using the page's "care" command, which creates a premade tweet for them to share on Twitter.

Currently the counter is at 7314; at 8000 Koromon will evolve to his Child stage. The next tier of rewards is one more Chain Melon and three more Digistones, items which are used to respectively extend a Digimon's lifespan in -next 0rder- and replenish its stamina in Linkz.

Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita. Digimon Linkz will launch in 2016, on Android and iOS.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Leaked Tech Chart for Digimon World -next 0rder-, Other Gameplay Mechanics

January 21st's preview video and livestream for Digimon World -next 0rder- brought with it a number of reveals, among them a huge number of gameplay mechanics that were not previously covered in any detail. The most dramatic reveal by far is that of the tech and type system. Like in the original Digimon World, the Digimon in -next 0rder- all have at least one type that reflects what kind of techniques they can learn from battle. But unlike the first game where Digimon could have up to three types at once, in -next 0rder- Digimon have a maximum of two types.

For example, in the above screenshot Paildramon is Battle-type and has no secondary typing, so his second box is empty. There are nine types in total, which include the original seven (Fire, Ice, Air, Plant, Battle, Mech, and Filth) plus the two introduced by Re:Digitize (Light and Dark). Waru Seadramon has a second type not seen on the in-game chart below. What this means is unknown; the chart from the PV shows that Waru Seadramon can use all seven Dark techs, as well as Air 2-4 and 5-6.

Left to right: Fire, Water/Ice, Air, Plant, Dark, Light, Battle, Mech, and Filth.
There are seven techs of each type, with many of them being returning moves from the first game. Heat Breath is similar to the Fire Breath tech from Re:Digitize, while Fire Wall, Flame Storm, Roots Bind,  Electric Shoot, Wing Shoes, Dark Spirit, and Mach Jab are all returning from that game. These techs even share the same ranks as their Re: counterparts.

Techs (exact order unknown)
Fire: Heat Breath (Rank 1), Flame Storm, Inferno, Fire Wall, Fire Tower, Magma Bomb
Ice: Bubble Breath (Rank 1)
Plant: Roots Bind
Air: Electric Shoot (Air 1), Wing Shoes (Air 2), Elec Cloud, Wind Cutter
Dark: Dark Spirit, Blackout, Nightmare
Light: Saint Ray
Battle: Mach Jab, Spin Attack, Buster Dive
The Dark and Light attributes in Re:Digitize only comprise three techs each, while in -next 0rder- they cover seven. In addition to those listed above, a tech resembling Meltdown was seen used by Imperialdramon in the Jump Festa trailer. The stats for several techs were also leaked by the preview video:
Dark Spirit (Dark)
Power 30 MP 42
Range C

Wind Cutter (Air)
Power 200 MP 135
Range D

Chaos Cloud (Dark)
Power 300 MP 248
Range D
Added status: Confusion

Shadow Fall (Dark)
Power 330 MP 200
Range A
Bubble Breath (Ice)
Power 90 MP 18
Range D
Added status: Slow

Heat Breath (Fire)
Power 156 MP 25
Range D

Electric Shoot (Air)
Power 110 MP 23
Range C
Added status: Stun

Wing Shoes (Air)
Power 0 MP 60
Range B
Like in Digimon World, finishing moves are also categorized as a type of tech, though they are not transferable between Digimon. Waru Seadramon's is Evil Icicle:
Evil Icicle (Dark)
Power 2150 MP None
Range S
Other finishing moves include Dark Gaia Force (Black War Greymon), Rock Damashii (Shoutmon), and Fire Vortex (Gumdramon).

The game's evolution parameters were also briefly shown in the trailer. Evolution is affected by core stats (HP, MP, Attack, Defense, Brains, Speed), Weight, Care Mistakes, Bond (キズナ Kizuna), Discipline, Battle Victories, and Key Digimon. "Key Digimon" has not been explained in any of the game's press releases, but it may mean that the other partner Digimon can be a condition for evolution. In addition to these stats, Digimon have Age, reflecting how many in-game days old they are.

The cap for HP and MP seems to be five digits, 99999, but the highest seen at any time is 8983. In addition to their battle stats, Digimon have Happiness, Discipline, Virus, and Tiredness stats; these stats were all present in the original Digimon World, but Tiredness was invisible in that game and only made apparent when a Digimon revealed a sweatdrop. It's likely that Virus once again increases as a result of pooping outside of a toilet, and like in past games, maxing out the Virus gauge at around ~16 poops will cause a Digimon to evolve into Scumon.

The Bond stat displays how close the player is to their Left and Right Digimon, as well as how close those Digimon are to one another. In this screenshot, Takuto has a bond of 67 to V-mon, 81 to Yuki Agumon, and V-mon and Yuki Agumon have a bond to one another of 38. Based on what's been said about EXEvolution, it seems like the bond stat has to be strong between all three of them for EXEvolution to be possible. The cap for Bond is in the three digit range.

In battle the square button allows the player change their strategy, spending Order Power to issue new orders to their Digimon. Triangle lets them use recovery items like in the original Digimon World, and L and R shift whether the camera focuses on the L Digimon or the R Digimon. Circle causes the player to cheer, which increases their Order Power, building up towards being able to spend the OP on strategies. Issuing orders brings up a circular menu in which the player chooses which techniques they want the Digimon to use; the menu remains open for just 5 seconds. In addition to techs, the player can issue some special orders like "MP Regeneration" that give the Digimon a passive effect, and spend OP on using their Digimon's finishing move.

How many Order Points a tech costs to order is relative to its power. For example, Fire Tower costs 40 OP to order, while Fire Wall costs just 20. One change from past games seen in the stream is that all HP recovery items now automatically revive Digimon that are knocked out, and they seem to work on both Digimon simultaneously.

Tamer Level in this game affects which Tamer Skills the player has access to, which are divided into Basic Skills, Trainer Skills, Survivor Skills, and Commander Skills. These are further divided into subcategories; Survivor Skills include the Finder category (influences fishing and rare item drops), Extraction (material collection from spawn points), Camper (cooking), and Worker. To learn a skill, the player spends Tamer Points to purchase it in a menu. There are 71 Tamer Skills to learn in all, and the player increases their Tamer Level with experience points earned from various activities, gaining TP as they level up.

In this screen, the top option is "Praise," the second one is "Scold," and the third is "Let them be." Praise increases Happiness at the expense of Discipline, while Scold does the reverse. In previous games, if a Digimon was scolded after refusing to take an item, both their Happiness and Discipline would increase.

Digimon in -next 0rder- can detect items and enemies in the field, and will alert the player with messages like "I smell something good nearby!" or "A strong enemy is approaching!"

The town of Flowtier.
The destroyed Village of Beginnings/File City has been rebuilt in -next 0rder- as the town of Flowtier (フローティアFurootia). Flowtier is divided into six districts, and materials can be used at the village to upgrade the facilities of each district. For example, to upgrade Jijimon's house in the Central District from level 1 to 2 the player needs 30 Strong DigiWater, 30 DigiSand, and 20 DigiBamboo.

Finally, when pooping a shutter covers the screen as it did in Re:Digitize and Decode.

Digimon World -next 0rder- will launch in Japan March 17th, 2016, on the PlayStation Vita for 6,980 yen (7,539 JPY after tax). It is the latest entry in the World series, succeeding directly from Re:Digitize Decode on the 3DS, Re:Digitize on the PSP, and World on the PSX. Those that preorder the game will get access to five special DLC Digimon, a remastered copy of the 1999 Digimon World soundtrack, and two original Vita themes, "ver. Nostalgic" and "ver. Dot." Theme ver. Dot features a montage of original Digimon LCD sprites, while theme ver. Nostalgic turns the screen into the layout of a Digital Monster virtual pet.