Review by RavenousGuy

"An unorthodox but surprisingly fun Digimon game"

Although often considered as an inferior imitation of the Pokemon franchise, Digimon actually did enjoy a period of relative popularity in the late nineties. Digimon are essentially a stream of data that takes form as various creatures, and inhabited a parallel universe known as the digital world. The premise of most Digimon story usually revolves around human kids being summoned to the digital world, in order to solve some kind of crisis there with the help of a Digimon partner. This premise is also the one used in the first Digimon World game for the Playstation, which I am reviewing now.

Digimon World plays just like an evolved version of digivice, a pet simulation toy that lets you raise and train a partner Digimon. The game adopted that basic concept, as well as incorporating an internal clock system and a whole digital world to explore.

Gameplay

At the start of your adventure, you will be assigned a partner Digimon. You are obliged to feed it, rush to the bathroom when it's about to take a leak, and train it by using gym equipments. Eventually, when your Digimon fulfill certain parameters, it will digivolve (change) into a stronger and more mature form. This is essential, since a stronger Digimon could weather many battles and makes your exploration easier. However, your Digimon's lifespan is limited, and it could be even more shortened by your mistreatments. When the time's up, it will revert back to its fragile Egg/Baby form, and you must wait before it could digivolve again; thus, the life cycle continues.

The primary goal in this game is to bring as many Digimon as possible to the File City, a hub area for the revitalized Digimon civilization. Those Digimon will provide some kind of functions once they have resided in the city, and you will open up more areas and story events as the numbers of recruited Digimon increase. The great thing is that there is no set path for you to follow, as you're essentially free to choose which area you want to visit first and which Digimon you want to recruit first. It means that if you are having trouble with a certain part in the game, you could move on and have another try later. The Digimon are spread around the world, their appearance triggered by certain conditions and you have to do various things to be able to recruit them (it's similar with Suikoden's character recruitment system, although you can't use these recruited Digimon in battles) Most of them will have to be defeated in battles, by the way.

While the non-linearity aspect and recruitment system are swell, the battle system is somewhat disappointing. Imagine your Digimon as a boxer and you as the coach; it's how it works here. Your success depends more on the training you've done outside battles and how well you prepare your Digimon (and your stock of recovery and stat-boosting items, they really help), rather than what you do during battles. When the battles actually occur, you can only give basic limited commands for your Digimon to follow. The amount of commands will increase if you continuously train your Digimon's intelligence, but you will still feel like a spectator most of the time.

Additionally, battles are initiated when you make physical contact with visible hostile Digimon on the screen, so you can avoid battles by moving tactfully. Once it happens, battle is straightforward and fairly simple, as Digimon with better stats and techniques will always prevail. You are also stuck with just one Digimon, although it will continuously change forms and types through the course of the game. Training and getting your Digimon up to shape could be redundant, and while it's nice to see your Digimon digivolves into various forms, there is not enough individual quality to significantly distinguish the forms between each other.

The game also has some presentational issues, particularly with the presence of several bugs and glitches. Although you could avoid them rather easily and none of them is really that harmful, there are certainly enough of them to make you realize that this game should have spend more time being play-tested.

Even with those problems, Digimon World could still be really fun, especially after you have recruited many Digimon and expanded the city. The gameplay mechanic is unorthodox and it feels more like a simulation rather than an RPG, but I much prefer this approach rather than the ones in Digimon World 2 (an extremely repetitive dungeon crawler) and Digimon World 3 (a generic turn-based RPG with MMORPG setting)

Storyline

You are playing as a human boy, who is being whisked to the digital world by a Digimon called Jijimon. He requested you to solve the crisis in the digital world, where a lot of Digimon lost their memory and ability to speak. Your character is somehow gifted with the ability to interact with every kinds of Digimon, so it's up to him to ask as much Digimon as possible to help rebuild the civilization. As the civilization, which is built around the sheltering File City, gradually flourish, you will have the chance to ultimately confront the culprit behind the crisis.

Okay, this isn't an award-winning stuff by a long shot, but the plot actually fits pretty well into this non-linear game. It gives you a clear purpose and context, while occasionally provides amusing exchanges between the main character and the various Digimon he encounters. However, the execution leaves a lot to be desired, as dialogues are simplistic (and some of them are even plagued by programming bugs, with some parts missing or just plain doesn't make sense), the main character hardly develops at all, and the story in general is largely forgettable.

Graphic & Sound

Digimon World's graphic is pretty good, with a couple of FMV as the icing on the cake. The environment and background art is nice to look at, while the game also deployed versatile camera angles as you move from one area to another. The environment is divided into parts of area separated by loading screens, but the loading times aren't long enough to be annoying. Character (mostly Digimon) models are also quite nice, although your partner Digimon's animations are awkward at times (for example, it could literally walk through hard objects such as bathroom walls)

Unfortunately, the sound department fails to offer anything significant to the Digimon World experience. Music restarts itself as you change area/screen, and most of it is merely ambient instead of being a real score, so it will never really grows on you. Perhaps most disappointingly, they also didn't incorporate the great soundtrack from the animated show. The other parts of sound consisted of capable, albeit somewhat muffled, sound effects and voice clips.

Replay Value

There are surprising amount and variety of things to do in Digimon World. Once you've got the city to flourish, you could take a break from routine exploration and training, in order to try out a wide range of services that include restaurant, curling rink, treasure hunting service, battle arena, and many others. You can also do some activities such as fishing, trading, shopkeeping, and collecting cards to be swapped with cool items later. All those stuffs are fun, purposeful, and provide many options for you to spend your time.

The internal clock system and your partner Digimon's limited lifespan extends the length of your play time, as you are restricted from just having a straightforward adventure. Although it might be frustrating if your Digimon expires while you're in the middle of an exploration, it's not a hassle if you employ long-term planning beforehand. The clock system also ensures abundances of new things to find and experience, as there are a lot of events that will only occur in certain time condition. This is not a game that you could rush through, instead you should take it slow and try different things one at a time.

A set of medals will be rewarded to you if you fulfilled various demanding objectives, such as finishing the game's story, catching 100 fish, getting all the possible digivolution forms, collecting all the cards, and so on. It's an obvious and strong incentive to keep playing the game, as well as the sheer amount of recruitable Digimon to find. You don't need to recruit all of them to complete the story, so there is no pressure in finding them all; however, the thrill of seeing new service in the city will motivate you to keep looking for a new Digimon.

Finally, Digimon World also has another gameplay mode called Coliseum. This mode lets players battle each other, using Digimon whose data from the main gameplay mode is stored into memory card. However, since battles aren't that exciting, this mode isn't much of a factor to the game's replay value.

Recap

The Good Points:

(+) The emphasized simulation aspect helps to develop an attachment between you and your partner Digimon
(+) Plenty of diverse activities and objectives to keep you busy
(+) Non-linear system of exploration and recruitment
(+) Nice graphic

The Bad Points:

(-) Uninvolved battle system
(-) Forgettable sound and story
(-) Noticeable bugs and glitches

Conclusion

I was caught up in the Digimon fad for a while, as I watched most of the episodes in the animated show Digimon Adventure Season 01 and spent a significant amount of time playing this game. Although I couldn't care much about the other products beyond those two, I have found some things to like about the franchise—particularly from the game. Some parts of it definitely could have used much more polish, but Digimon World still managed to hook me in with its non-linear approach, recruitment system, and myriad of gameplay features.

Despite its flaws, Digimon World is an enjoyable game with a soul, and that is enough to convince me that this game is more than just a pitiful Pokemon rip-off.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/10

Game Release: Digimon World (US, 05/23/00)


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