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Dejimon Sabu~aibu






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Release Dates

07/29/22 Bandai Namco Entertainment
07/28/22 Bandai Namco
07/29/22 Bandai Namco Entertainment

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User Score

Presentation - 8.0
Gameplay - 4.0
Value - 3.0
Digimon Survive is an JRPG/Visual Novel made by Hyde and released in 2022. A strange change of direction for the series, Survive sadly shows many of the development issues he suffered before release.

Game: Digimon Survive

Platform: PC/NS/PS4/XBOne

Year: 2022

Developer: Hyde

Genre: JRPG/Visual Novel

Game development can be a daunting task. So many pieces need to be in their place at the correct time that failure can seem often inescapable. The more problems arise during development, the bigger the chances of them snowballing out of control, no matter how good or well-intended the original concept was. Many times you can feel the problems despite a seemingly finished product, through a mismanaged mechanic or a bad matching of the different parts of the game. This is especially jarring when developers want to try something new, flabbergasting the audiences and often generating a big divide. I have to take this into account when writing about Digimon Survive, as the game seems a perfect example of having all the pieces in place, yet not fitting with each other: multiple developer teams, changing directions and a mix of genres difficult to mesh with each other, multiple delays… It is clear the game had issues, and the end result sadly shows these difficulties.

Digimon Survive is a JRPG/Visual Novel developed by Hyde, published by Bandai Namco and released for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One in 2022. The game puts you in the boots of a group of children that are somehow swept into another dimension, where strange creatures known as Kemonogami, who fight and evolve for them as they try to find a way to back to their world.

Before I start, this game puts a heavy emphasis on the story, as all visual novels do. As such, I will talk about elements of the plot which might led to spoilers, so readers’ discretion is advised.

It is important to mention I said Kemonogami and not digimon. Indeed, the game technically does not have digimon, and the world is not any form of the digital world. Indeed, the creatures are known as Kemonogami, which translates to something akin to “beast gods”. Basically, the digimon in this game are some sort of youkai living in a parallel dimension to that of Earth. This was the first indicator that the game was trying to do something new and innovative, but not really mashing with me. It might seem minuscule, nitpicky even, but the fact this is a digimon game where the digimon aren’t “digital monsters” feels wrong. There have been many reimaginings of the world of digimon and the rules it follows, but they have always been digital beings in one way or another, and the fact that they are now spirits of some sort is disconcerting. Most of the rules of the world are still the same, and if you have already seen the original Digimon Adventure anime, very little will take you by surprise, as the rules of the kemonogami world are nearly identical to those of the original digital world. This is a small thing, but very indicative of the issues that end up compounding throughout the experience. For convenience’s sake, I will just call them digimon from now on.

The game has two sides to its gameplay. Half of it is a turn-based JRPG, and the other is a visual novel. In theory, there is potential to mesh these two elements well enough. Series like Fire Emblem have grown more and more to accommodate a more developed story, with character choices affecting gameplay and the direction the story moves forward, so this should not be that difficult. In this, however, the balance is heavily skewed towards the visual novel, which is a very strange decision. The bulk of the time played will be spend in the story, told through stills typical of visual novels. The game centers around a group of children, who are all dragged away to a different dimension where they have to survive on their own. Throughout the story, you interact with each of the children, plus an adult that has been spirited away with them, to try to go back home and discover the secrets of the world, secrets that reveal a looming threat not only to the kemonogami world, but also the human world. You get the typical options of dialogue, changing the direction of the story in minimal ways. There are three types of choice: Harmony, Wrathful and Moral. In theory, each of them should change the story, but the outcome ends up being the same most of the time, instead changing the eventual route split, which will take a long time to actually happen. And since you can’t really change the outcome of most things during the first playthrough, you won’t pay much attention to this until later on. The game also allows you to develop more affinity with each of the characters, which helps to increase the chance for bonus and support and helps with the evolutions of the digimon. You need a minimum of affinity to get one of the main team digimon to evolve, and while the game wants it to be an event of sorts, it rarely is. They generally happen without the PoV character near the kid and the digimon in question, in an area separated from the main story. It feels disjointed, as they could have just added that to the main story and make each evolution have more weight, instead of just being a formality. So the choices of the visual novel in general feel weak, lacking the true impact they should have, making you feel like you have very little input in the story, happening around you regardless of what you choose.

As with any other visual novel, Digimon Survive puts a heavy emphasis on the plot. The game prides itself for being a more mature take on digimon stories, and as such, there is a risk of your characters dying. And die they do, as the first playthrough will end up with the characters who can die always doing so, regardless of your choices. Saving them is only possible in new game +. Which is annoying, since it becomes rather counterintuitive if you do not know that the first playthrough’s ending is always the same. You see very early on that characters are going to meet an untimely end, and you try to raise your affinity with them, but since the first playthrough is predetermined, you won’t be sure you are doing the right thing later on. The actual plot feels too linear and predictable. It is not bad by any means, but if you have played any other JRPG or have gone through any other digimon media, you will see most plot twists right away, with only a couple of things being surprising. The storytelling is also really slow, with many elements taking far longer than they should. This is also punctuated by the loading screens, at least on the Switch version, which is the one I played. While not particularly lengthy, they are very frequent, and often very close to each other. During free times, when you can try to talk with the other lost kids about stuff, you will see plenty of loading screens, as moving from one location to another requires a loading screen. Hell, if you select the map menu by mistake you cannot just press B and go back, you need to choose your own location again, which will load it all over again. It makes the pace of the story feel glacial overall.

The characters are pretty good. They are slightly older than most digimon protagonists, and that allows them to bring up more mature subjects, with each character having some deep problem in their backstories. This also makes for a couple of characters to be quite unstable, leading to scenes genuinely uncomfortable to watch, as they break under the pressure of having been isekai’d. Sadly, the deep personal moments do not last enough, not do they ultimately have a big impact on the plot. Their relation with their digimon varies wildly, some are very cute together, others tend to clash with each other and others are uncomfortable to watch, as I’ve said before. Honestly, the game could have benefitted of a more developed character interaction system, both showing more interesting sides of the chosen kids and relating their issues into the storyline.

The other side of this game is the JRPG element. Digimon Survive follows a tile system, much like Ogre Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics or Stella Glow. If you have played any of those games, you know pretty much what you are going to get: isometric maps, moving in four directions, trying to flank your enemies or gain the higher ground for maximum advantage… Battles tend to last a couple of turns, as there is little strategy beyond going straight to the enemy while keeping your digimon together for bonuses. Digimon can, of course, evolve into different creatures, and they will consume a higher amount of SP the longer they stay evolved and the higher evolution rank they achieve. If they ran out of SP, they will devolve into their basic state, leaving them vulnerable. However, that rarely happens, since most battles end way before you ran out of power points. Generally, you will immediately evolve your digimon to their strongest form, as there is little incentive to go back and forth outside a single digimon having healing skills in the weaker form and not the stronger one. There is a variety of free digimon that can be befriended, and work differently from the partner digimon. They cannot be devolved, but they don’t spend SP for staying in their stronger forms. The game has 117 digimon to obtain, and while in other circumstances I would complain for not making all existing digimon available, in this case I think the number is adequate, as the different digimon are only available at certain points of the story or using evolution items. Since you do not want to be stuck on a particular point to get the digimon (which can be a very random process, by the way), a smaller number of digimon is better to alleviate the flow of the game.

I played the game in “normal”, which was a mistake, as it made the JRPG part a walk in the park. The game is designed to have little grinding in normal, it seems. But if you try to befriend one digimon of each kind, you will have to fight the free battles, as digimon cannot be befriended during the story. And playing free levels will invariably make you gain experience. This, as well as the high rate of exp gain, makes the game have very little challenge (which makes me question why they bothered with a “very easy” difficulty choice at all). The fact the levels are so easy makes general gameplay frustrating, as you will not gain as much enjoyment as one would assume. Steamrolling story missions is fine, but I only died twice in the entire playthrough, in levels where very few digimon are available. This problem become laughably worse in new game +, as you keep everything you had in the previous playthrough (levels, items, friendly digimon…) while the enemies are just the same as they were. Hilariously overpowered would be an understatement. At that point, they could have skipped two thirds of the mandatory battles to save time and nothing would be lost.

The mixture of JRPG and visual novel does not mesh well together. There are not nearly enough fights (and those feel very similar to each other, with little meaningful variation between them) and some of the visual novel sections are highly bloated, which makes gameplay very slow. And both before and after every battle there is a loading screen, adding to the waiting time. It feels uneven, and takes away any enthusiasm for a new game +, as even with the skip function, the time invested is too much for the few changes to the history.

The presentation is quite decent. While the music is forgettable at best, the art style is crisp and elegant. It sadly lacks variety, as you end up seeing the same backgrounds and animations over and over again, especially those of the school and the temple. The icons and animations during battle are neat as well, though nothing compares to the full animations of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth.

Overall, I am quite disappointed with the end result of Digimon Survive. After playing Cyber Sleuth, the best digimon game I have played thus far, I had higher expectations for Survive, even when knowing it was going to be mostly a visual novel beforehand. The challenges and difficulties the development teams suffered during productions can be seen clearly, as a stronger direction might have solved the main issues with relative ease. As it is, it is something that they can build upon in the future, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they never touch this style of gameplay again.

Score: 5/10

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