[Review] Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory (PS4) is more expansion than sequel
Last year’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was a breakthrough for the series. Finally, a quality monster collecting game that isn’t on a Nintendo platform! Sure, Digimon may not have the popularity of Pokémon but it’s still better than nothing, right? In fact, the game turned out to be a solid RPG with engaging monster raising mechanics. No matter how you looked at it, Cyber Sleuth was definitely one of 2017’s sleeper hits.
Fast forward to a year later and we get Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory. It’s very important to note that Hacker’s Memory is a side story and not a true sequel, aiming to give a new perspective to the first game’s events. Due to that, it’s best to finish the original Cyber Sleuth first, as you’ll know what is going on and can better appreciate the cameos. You also get to import save data for an early advantage.
While there’s nothing stopping newcomers from jumping directly into Hacker’s Memory, it’s akin to diving off a boat with a lifejacket and no swimming capability. You’d probably survive, but it won’t be an enjoyable experience.
As a side story, Hacker‘s Memory needs to intelligently tie into the original in a way that seems natural, yet also offer enough new content to make the game feel different. It does neither well.
You take the role of Keisuke, a nobody whose EDEN identity has been stolen by a mysterious hacker. In the game, one’s EDEN identity is everything. Without it, people are shunned as hackers, reviled in both the digital and physical world. Keisuke’s quest to reclaim his life is just the beginning, however, as he and his newfound comrades stumble into something that’s much, much more than they bargained for.
If you’ve played the first game, Hacker’s Memory will seem like a shot of déjà vu. Retreading the familiar stomping grounds of Kowloon might seem nostalgic at first, but you’ll quickly tire of it all. The feeling that you’ve done all this before intensifies the more you play, as locations, enemies, and characters have all been reused, as well as all the story beats.
However, that doesn’t tarnish the fact that Hacker’s Memory has one of the better monster raising/capturing gameplay experience on home consoles. Everything that made the original fun is back, tweaked for better balance. For example, piercing attacks, which many saw as overpowered in Cyber Sleuth, are no longer as great as they were before.
Capturing monsters through battle removes the fear that a monster will run away or escape (à la Pokémon), letting you focus on fighting instead of worrying about your collection. As before, captured monsters can be sent to a farm to gain experience while you play with the team you want. Due to the rebalanced gameplay, you’ll actually need to shuffle your team around to adapt to the different monsters you encounter.
Battles are still turn-based affairs, with the same user interface and abilities. The attack animations are unchanged as well, though some of the new Digimon do inject life into Hacker’s Memory. There are also about 80 or so new monsters (and probably more to come via DLC) on top of the original ones, which really helps to diversify the in-game battles. True, all this could have been patched into the original, but the developers had to have some things new for Hacker’s Memory.
Unfortunately, major gripes I had with the original game remain. The static camera angles are as obtrusive as ever, making navigation a nightmare. It also makes the world feel “flat” since you can’t take in your surroundings. Perhaps this is a technical limitation since the game is also on PS Vita, so it can be forgiven.
What can’t be overlooked are the repetitive side missions, which are nothing more than glorified fetch quests. None of them are interesting and most follow a similar pattern: get mission, go to location, fight, collect item or talk to somebody, then return for your reward. All of them have been ported over from the original with some tweaks. You can skip these side missions, of course, but then you’ll miss out on some useful rewards. Besides, what gamer can resist the allure of optional quests?
Like pretty much every aspect of the game, the art style remains unchanged. Character models are reused for the most part, though there are a handful of new additions. However, the weird eye designs for some of the characters are still a major turnoff for me. I completely hate how Keisuke looks, and he’s the main character! It helps that there are DLC outfits to can change into, but I just wish there were shades or some eyewear to cover up his soulless eyes.
The music is also mostly reused, with some new and remixed versions. The voice acting is relatively decent as well, though nothing outstanding. I guess the fact that you won’t want to reach for the mute button is a plus.
At the end of the day, no matter how many assets are reused, there’s still no denying that, underneath it all, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory is a pretty fun JRPG. It’s not mind-blowing but is still worth a go, especially if you’ve not had your fill of Digimon yet. Just don’t go expecting a vastly improved or different experience than the original, since it’s more of a standalone expansion than a sequel.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory is out now for PS4 and PS Vita.
Developed by Media.Vision. Published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
A copy was provided for review.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory (PS4)
was reviewed on the LG OLED C7 Television.