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    Digimon Survive Review – Good Story But I Didn’t Like It

    Developed By: Hyde

    Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment

    Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, XBOX ONE, PC

    Reviewed On: PS5

    Review Copy Provided By Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia


    There’s been a lot of noise surrounding the release of Digimon Survive, especially since the reviews started to come out. There are critics and players on both sides of the fence, one praising the game for its good qualities, and another chastising it for being boring and un-Digimon game-like. So, let’s get this understood from the start. I love Digimon and I’m fine with Visual Novels (VN). But while I think Digimon Survive thrived (to a certain degree) as a VN, I’ve also struggled to enjoy it.

    Starting Well

    From early on, the VN took the normal J-game-story route by showing an introduction cutscene that quickly introduced suspense to the story. I thought it was nicely done and that scene really got me looking forward to the type of adventure the VN had in store for me. After the introduction, it flashes to a scene taking place in the present timeline where the game properly begins.

    Near the end of their school camp, a group of students were supposed to make one last visit for field studies but reports have been coming in on landslides and other odd natural occurrences. These sudden happenings forced our students to take a shortcut to their destination and in doing so, lead them to an ‘isekai’ experience. Now in another world that looked identical to their original one except this one was inhabited by Digimons, their journey to find their way back home begins. It sounds like a standard J-story plot that’s bound to be predictable and boring but the VN does have some elements of surprise and dark twists ahead. I expected the plot to be mature in standard, but I was taken aback at how sinister and serious it can get in the later chapters.

    Like any other typical VN, Digimon Survive took its time to introduce its casts, some with their personalities obviously shown from the start, some by just a faint hint. The characters are all nicely drawn and smartly fashioned like the typical Shonen-type we usually see. Voice actors behind the VN were phenomenal in bringing these characters to life but I only wish there were more voiced dialogues. Background artworks are vivid in colour and decently drawn and although they weren’t exactly Ghibli’s standards, they were fine. The soundtrack department did a great job, with the main theme song being especially memorable. Speaking of pure visual and audio artistry elements alone, Digimon Survive thoroughly kept me entertained and consistently impressed throughout my gameplay although I can’t say the same about its plot delivery.

    The Slow, Draggy Pace

    Digimon Survive has started well for me but for a title that takes at least 40 hours to finish, there were other things ahead to consider too. For a Visual Novel to thrive, it has to have a good story laden with enough layers that the audience can slowly unpeel but not so many that it becomes a tiring and boring chore that kills the player’s appetite. While its premise and overall storyline is really good, Digimon Survive did not perform particularly well when it comes to keeping the players’ stamina/appetite up.

    The VN’s ample and constant need for players to satisfy dialogue choices was all fun and game at first but they quickly felt repetitive to a point I felt like I was playing through a babysitting experience. For example, the casts could have just gone off an emotional quarrel with each other and you as the player, are forced to talk to each and every one of them again to chastise, appease, or agree with them depending on your dialogue choices. It felt even more disturbing when I realised that some of the conversation dialogue didn’t even feel natural and how the characters would sometimes contradict themselves in reaction. It also didn’t help that most of the follow-up conversations with these characters are often ‘skin and bone’ in content that didn’t offer any quality progression to the story.

    Limited Voice-overs

    As much as I loved the voice-over works in this title, they are only partially available throughout the game. Other than the main story portion when the game wants to tell a story, the other dialogues are not voiced and this means the larger portion of this game feels like a muted display of dialogues. This was a disappointment to me because although I know most VNs out there subscribe to the same standard of voicing, I nevertheless expected Digimon Survive to be better and above that standard. After all, this was a Digimon title and if the developer already took away most of the core fun factors in a Digimon game like taming, training, evolving and battling them in favour of a Visual Novel presentation, they should at the very least be more generous in their vocal delivery among other things.

    Decisions And Their Impact

    In the developer’s bid to keep things interesting during the endlessly flowing conversations, dialogues sometimes branch out to present players with 3 types of responses to choose from. Unbeknownst to me in the earlier stage, the type of answer I chose to give will eventually lead to a certain type of ending. In order for the true ending to be reached, there are some criteria in my choices to be met. And depending on the type of response I frequently lean on, it will also affect the evolution path Digimons in my team will seek to take as well as my affinity levels with my classmates. The higher my affinity level is with my classmate, the more our Digimon’s actions on the battlefield will resonate and support each other. It sounds like a nice and grand mechanism with how dialogues and choosing sides will have a greater impact later on in both battles and the VN’s ending, but in reality, it was rather weak in effect.

    Because the VN doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining things and most elements are left to speculation and assumptions, or when you lose your mind and go Googling for them. When available, the dialogue choices are sometimes indistinguishable from each other. They turned out to be unmeaningful after choosing them because the game would do the opposite of what I chose anyway because the plot requires it. But perhaps the most disheartening of all is the fact that after 20 hours or so into the game, I just became so bored no thanks to the snail-pacing and needless number of forced interactions that barely yield any impactful moment. The VN tried to make interactions meaningful but they are only so if you are into cringy cliches and it became an endurance test that lasts until the finish line.

    It is safe to say at this point that even if you are the biggest Digimon fan but are not a fan of reading, or even if you are but you are not a fan of reading through volumes of cringe dialogues that don’t lead anywhere soon, then Digimon Survive is definitely not your cup of tea. You will be better off reading through the work of anyone kind enough to summarise the entire VN up on a website because that will just save you the money you don’t need to spend, and time you won’t have to lose.

    Disappointing RPG Elements

    When it comes to the battle mechanism and tactical RPG element, I fully expected the title to shine despite it being a VN. Because who said a VN cannot have good TRPG elements? Having a good TRPG element does not make a good VN depreciate in value, in fact, it enhances the experience even further depending on the title and theme the VN is storied after. And when you carry a title like Digimon, for example, I’d expect the quality of the TRPG to be up to a certain standard because that franchise has had more than 20 years of excellence in it but, unfortunately, this is not the case with Digimon Survive.

    Instead, we have a shallow system in Digimon Survive that’s obviously implemented for the sake of just having it, probably due to the developers realising how the VN would just make more sense if turned into a light or web novel if it came without an RPG element. Combats are fought like in Final Fantasy Tactics where pieces would move from one grid to another on the map and actions happen through turn-based combat. Depending on the piece’s position versus where the opponent’s piece was facing, you might land hits with bonus damages, or have a higher chance at landing critical hits depending if you are on the high ground. Digimons can land normal attacks or engage in their special skills while consuming SP. I can also use SP to evolve my Digimon in the middle of a battle to any evolution path that I’ve previously unlocked.

    The battleground is also where we’d meet other wild Digimons that we can tame into our team. The only difference between this Digimon title and the past in this regard is we now have to talk to them like we’d in a Persona game to recruit them. I’d have to answer at least 2 out of 3 questions correctly to get the Digimon to allow me to make a request from it – to join me or to give me an item. There’s a certain percentage of chances of the Digimon agreeing and although it can be annoying when I keep failing, the system is, thankfully, convenient enough that the encounter can be easily restarted.

    While the combat element in this game is a welcoming sight at first, it didn’t take long before they bore me too. The shallowness of the combat system made it feel like a desperate mini-game whose sole reason to exist is to bait veteran Digimon players to get Digimon Survive. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be so but to me, it definitely felt like that. Luckily, there’s also auto-battle in the game and players can select from one of the several pre-determined approaches for their Digimons to conduct battles independently. And funnily, there are difficulties in battles that players can adjust depending on how challenging they want the experience to be, but this too felt shallow because the rewards given are still the same, and the Digimons behave exactly the same with no new skillsets or challenges. The only difference being opponents now have a higher HP and deals more damage.

    Digimons’ Personalities And Interactions Were Good

    But if I have to name one aspect I really like about Digimon Survive, it would be the part where the Digimons in this title feel alive like they do in the anime. Unlike those in the Digimonstory series where they feel muted and suppressed in expression, Digimons in this VN expresses themselves normally and has their own views and make their own decision. This has always been that one element that puts Digimon and Pokemon apart because the relationship between a Digimon and its tamer had always been one of mutual respect and partnership, which is accurately and portrayed in Digimon Survive, whereas Pokemons and their trainers are more akin to that of a pet and its pet trainer.

    Soldiering On To The End

    I actually stopped to wonder if I should still go on with Digimon Survive when I finally got bored of the combat elements too. There must have been 20 hours or so left of content ahead at that point and I seriously doubted that I have the motivation to go on. So, I flipped a coin (literally) and lost to fate and soldiered on until I finished the story. I skipped through everything I deemed irrelevant, only stopping to read again when things got interesting and left battles run on auto-mode to just fulfil the combat requirements.

    I actually like the story for what it is but I despise the way it was told. I got one of the endings which wasn’t the best due to some of my earlier decisions in the dialogues that lead to the demise of some characters. To get the best true ending, I’d have to replay the whole game again on the NG+ which, to be frank, I won’t be doing any time soon (if I’d do it at all.)


    What I Really Liked About Digimon Survive

    • Memorable soundtrack
    • Splendid voice-overs
    • Good storyline
    • Digimon-Human relationship accurately shown
    • Auto-battles and easy restart

    What I Wished Was Better

    • The plot doesn’t drag as much
    • More meaningful or impactful choices
    • Better and more in-depth battle system
    • Fully voiced dialogues
    • Needs more fun elements

    Verdict

    Digimon Survive is a Digimon-themed story in a nicely drawn virtual novel accompanied by memorable soundtracks. This VN also does not discriminate between Digimon fans or not because as long as you are a fan of good stories and don’t mind reading through huge volumes of dialogues that are sometimes repetitive, Digimon Survive can be a good time-sinker for you.

    I was disappointed with the lack of Digimon features that I grew up with and loved but the quality of the story on its own was more than enough to tell a good Digimon story. In fact, the story is so well written it could probably be made into a book or short anime series and enjoy incredible success. The fact that it was made into a virtual novel is perhaps its biggest flaw because the plot delivery was too stretched out to the point they feel unnatural in order to incorporate players’ interaction into them. This resulted in the unnecessarily long and tiring routine of skipping through multiple cliches and irrelevant dialogues designed to work with the RPG-Affinity elements that then backfired spectacularly.

    Final Score6/10

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    Zozi
    Zozihttps://bunnygaming.com
    The Editor-Mischief, or if according to the signature in his email, 'in-chief', of BunnyGaming.com. Loves complaining about FIFA games but still buys them every year nonetheless. Prefer subs over dubs. Got his ass kicked in Bloodborne and swore never to play it again.

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