Review by zulag13

"Non-digimon fans steer clear."

Being an ex-digimon fan, I was tempted to give in to bias and bump the score up a bit. But that'd result in kissing behind, not reviewing. Without further ado..

Upon popping the cd into your console, you're treated to a pretty well-made cutscene, considering its date of release, cumulating in a battle between a couple of more popular digimon. This would lead you to believe that battling is the largest slice of the game, and you'd ultimately be right. Unfortunately, that slice could have tasted a little better [I'm hungry while writing this], and the other parts of the game sink it further down into mediocrityville.

The storyline involves a nameless teenaged-or-almost boy, returning home after a usual day of hangout, only to go through the not-so-usual experience of getting sucked into his favourite videogame. Fittingly, this echoes the series, except you're on your own, rather than a party. From that point on the plot paves its own way. Basically, File Island [the geography the game's set in] is in danger of becoming a complete wilderness, and it's your job to rebuild a civilisation in the heart of the island, File City. It's original, it's not very interesting, it gets the job done. It's there.

Did I say you're on your own? I was wrong. You're always partnered by a digimon. At first, this'll either be an Agumon or a Gabumon [depending on how you answer a couple of pre-introductory questions]. Soon enough, your partner will digivolve, which is basically a fancy way of saying "evolve", turning into something cooler, hopefully.

Unlike most RPG's, and most games for that matter, time is relevant in Digimon World, and displayed by a clock in the top-left corner of the screen. An hour constitutes of 60 real-time seconds. A day constitutes of, I suppose, 24 of these hours [I'll go check] and a year is 30 such days. Hmm. Sounds suspiciously like a month to me. Anyway. The day is also divided into dawn, morning, afternoon and sunset. You'll never see a full day, because at some point, depending on the sort of partner you've got - same are nocturnal, others diurnal - your digimon will want to sleep. Yes, your digimon needs rest, besides other things. But more on that later.

Alright, so your primary goal is to scout for possible additions to your city. As I've said, you start at the heart of the island. There's the typical mountain, canyon, jungle, icy outpost and hi-tech fortress to tackle, all with their separate recruits. But, having become primal, most of these would-be budding citizens would rather duel first, exchange pleasantries second. They're not weak. Your first digimon is. So before you start marking your way with broken bodies of your enemies [er, actually, upon defeat, they'll magically revive and leg it] you'll need to train to improve your parameters [fancy for stats].

There's a conveniently-placed area suitable for such an activity very, very close to your starting point. There are six parameters to consider, such as Hit Points, Offense and Speed - developing different parameters yields different results. You'll make your digimon carry out a certain task, such as pushing a boulder or blocking against a spring-operated punching glove; which would be fun if they were small mini-games perhaps. Unfortunately, it's not the case. Our custom-named protagonist will simply refer to a board close at hand, and the digimon will take matters in its own hands. They don't stop until you prompt them to. Whether they train for a millisecond or an hour doesn't make a difference..

Once you feel confident, you'll set out and explore. In fact, as soon as you get out of the gym, you'll be attacked head on by your first recruit. You're treated to an angry emoticon bubble, the word BATTLE! slapping you in the face and cascading away in pieces. You sit back and watch your digimon do its own thing. Yep. You don't control your digimon, instead telling them what to do through a series of commands on the top left corner of the screen. Except series isn't exactly the word for it. At first it's just two options, "Your Call" and "Run Away". Each does exactly what it says on the tin. You can increase these options by going back to the gym and training in that dubious stat, Brains. Every time you reach a hundred [stat gains from training sessions range from 6 to 12], you'll get a new command, such as telling your digimon to defend themselves, keep their distance, or change their target in a multi-enemy battle.

So it's back to the gym. Each training session takes up exactly one hour, which potentially shrinks a "day" into around 20 seconds. A fight takes up a sixth of such an hour. In between these activities, your partner will need to be fed and taken to the lavatory - maddeningly often. If they work too hard, they'll need to take a short nap. Also, taking too much damage in battles, or being placed in an incompatible environment [like taking a fire-based digimon to the afore-mentioned icy outpost] ends up with your digimon requiring medical attention. If this stinks of tamagochi, it should. That's what this is based on, ultimately.

Just as a guide to non-digimon fans, all digimon fall underneath a certain category, or form, ranging from fresh to mega. The higher the form, the more tail your partner can kick. That said, let's trot back to that gym, eh? Hmm, this review's starting to feel just like the game. How appropriate. Training heavily in different stats will determine what your digimon will turn into. Referring further to its tamagochi roots and less to the series it's spun off, in Digimon World a "rookie" form digimon - let's say Agumon - can transform into multiple "champion" forms. Training in offense will turn it into a Meramon [a humanoid with a roaring flame for a body], whereas training it in Brains will result in a Centarumon [predictably, a centaur]. Though parameters are the main blueprint to whatever form you digivolve into, how you care for your digimon matters as well. Not feeding it and letting it make a mess anywhere outside a lavatory constitutes a mistakes - make too many, and you might not like what you get. Diehard fans of the anime might frown at the digivolving variety. Frown on. Experimenting with your stats is one of the game's traits that is enjoyable. From there, you can try digivolving your partner into an ultimate - a much tougher challenge, mostly because you need extremely high parameters. Training for such parameters is...boring, especially considering that you could be spending the same time battling.

The battles are actually fun. The fact that you do not control your digimon yourself fits in with the whole tamagochi approach - which is what makes this game a love-or-hate affair. It's that simple. During a battle, provided you train that brain, you'll eventually have enough commands to be able to predict what your digimon will do, and turn it into a tactical affair. Initially you start with weak attacks, but you can learn new ones by having them used against you in battles. Which brings us to what is, in my opinion, the finest aspect of the game - the techniques.

Each digimon in rookie, champion or ultimate form has access to a number of techniques. For instance, a Meramon, being a fire-based humanoid, has a lot of fire techniques, and a few combative techniques. By referring to the technique menu, you'll get a 7 x 8 grid of squares dividing techniques into elemental rows. The moves your current digimon can learn - and equip - are represented by highlighted squares. The only way of knowing which attack corresponds to which square, is to have attacks used against you in battle. Collecting these techniques - and simultaneously rearing digimon specialising in different elements - is the most engaging part of the game.

Graphically, this isn't bad. The character and the different digimon are pretty well designed - the digimon's heads appear to be too big for their bodies, but this feels more like a deliberate comical effect rather than a mistake. The backgrounds are pre-rendered. Enemy digimon are represented by recolored models of "real" digimon, unless they're bosses and / or potential recruits. To counterbalance this shortcoming, the variety of different digimon you can have as a partner is pretty staggering.

Sound-wise, I really liked the soundtrack in the Drill Tunnel section. If you play this game, you'll know that this is actually just an ambience track, with drills hitting rock. This game's best played mute, I'm serious. Okay, so it puts you at a disadvantage in battles, where tell-tale sounds serve to warn you of the level and strength of an enemy attack [meaning you should block] but it also puts you at the considerable advantage of NOT wanting to scream and tearing your armpit hair from the roots and feeding it to random people. Some soundtracks are tolerable, perhaps one is a little catchy, but most times they are BAD. The typical battle track is incredibly obnoxious. Like I said, this is best played mute. There are enough visual warnings to play competently. Put on your favourite music instead.

If this game has anything, it's lifespan. There's an endless list of things to do, if you're hooked enough, that is. Collecting techniques, digimon, recruiting citizens, pitching a particularly well-trained partner into tournaments.. It's actually endless. You can keep playing even when the story's complete. Your digimon will eventually die [either from old age or from a number of battle losses], but it will always leave behind an egg, so the cycle goes on forever.

Digimon World isn't terrible, but it isn't earth-shattering. It'll leave a memorable enough taste on the tip of your tongue, but whether that taste's sweet or sour..

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 08/14/07

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