Friday 2 February 2018

Review: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker’s Memory (Reviewed on PS4, also on PS Vita)

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker’s Memory is both new and a return to what some may know from the original Cyber Sleuth game. It’s new with its own unique and fleshed out story that is set on a familiar backdrop to anyone who played the last game. It features the same monster collecting system that was already great with a few new digital faces that fight with a both an old and new exciting battle system, all to a cool electronic soundtrack that has been remixed more than it’s been recomposed. But if you’re anything like me and have been looking for an excuse to return to Cyber Sleuth somehow, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker’s Memory makes it well worth it because despite its familiarity, what it adds in both story and gameplay takes an old game and makes it better.

Hacker’s Memory is set in the Tokyo some may know from the original Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth game, an advanced reality that also utilises a digital world called EDEN where people can meet online face-to-face like in reality. In this cyberspace using real people and avatars, your account is practically your life, so when protagonist Keisuke has his account stolen one day, it’s a pretty big deal. Luckily, EDEN is also where hackers thrive raising the digital monsters we know as Digimon and in his quest to get his account back, he finds himself working with a powerful hacker group called Hudie to find out what happened to his account and joins them in their helpful hacking endeavours.

There is a bigger story going on in the world of EDEN and as the title suggests, a big theme for this Cyber Sleuth addition is ‘memories’ and this is concept is touched upon in many different ways as you help people on behalf of Hudie. Missions have a wide variety of tones, ranging from light-hearted chasing girls to Digimon stealing memories and even darker missions that touch on things as dark as murder which makes each mission feel like a dive into a story and mystery of its own. In and out of missions, the members of Hudie make for a great cast of new characters to spend time with, with each of the main Hudie members featuring their own archs, comedic highs and emotional lows that made me feel very connected to all of them as their stories progressed. From each chapter and mission, I felt like every story brought something to the overall theme and while its story spans through many chapters, as the original Cyber Sleuth’s events influenced Hacker’s Memory’s own story, this story’s ability to bring itself to new heights while exploring the concept of data, real memories and how they work together with its wonderful cast was a true highlight of the experience.
Complimenting its fleshed out new story is the familiar Digimon collecting system that is extremely similar to the original Cyber Sleuth, which I don’t necessarily consider a bad thing as it was already a good system. Digimon are collected through being scanned every time you see them in battle and eventually you can convert this data into a party member for yourself, making collecting Digimon a simple matter of doing battles in different areas and missions to try find a variety of them or buying them with in-game money in the new DigiMarket feature. The Digivolving and De-Digivolving system where you meet stat and level requirements to Digivolve into you favourites is still in place and the process of seeing my party get stronger and weaker as I Digivolved and De-Digivolved mine to try raise certain stats higher was still a lot of fun. There are over 300 Digimon to collect, including around 90 that weren’t in the original and while I haven’t kept up well enough with Digimon over the years to tell you if the new ones are good or not, I did come out with some new favourites and I’m still keen to try and get more and more because the Digivolution process feels so rewarding when finally achieving all the stats needed to make the best Digimon available to fight with.
Hacker’s Memory’s regular battles are also pretty close to the ones in the original Cyber Sleuth game, which made it easy to jump in after a while away from it. It features the same turn-based system that relies on finding type and elemental weaknesses to pack the biggest punch and features many status ailments that a lot of JRPG fans will find familiar and easy to pick up if you like turn-based JRPGs. My favourite addition to Hacker’s Memory’s battles though is the new Domination Battle system, a special battle system that incorporates tactics and an enjoyable point race and base-stealing feel to an already good system and these battles were what I looked forward to most in Hacker’s Memory. On a board, each square represents an amount of points and there’s usually a goal of getting a certain amount to win, with squares with high point values usually resulting in a decisive one round battle to try steal the square from the opponent to send them and their Digimon back to square one. Since Cyber Sleuth’s usual turn-based system is pretty straightforward, this element of strategy really revitalised the battle system and my only complaint is that there should have been either way more of them or at least had them included in its online mode.

Familiarity to its last game is probably the main negative that could be said about Hacker’s Memory as you’re not gonna find a lot of new places to explore and the overall visual style makes it near impossible to distinguish the old and new Cyber Sleuth games put side-by-side. In both EDEN and its version of Tokyo in Hacker’s Memory, a lot of the main dungeons and areas are basically the same, with only the area of Ikebukuro added as a new area to explore in Tokyo. All the areas still are very good replicas of modern day Tokyo even without an upgrade, but I can understand those who are put off by the idea of running around the same areas all over again. It does try to add small new elements to refresh things in EDEN, such as new traps in some dungeons, a few new hacking mechanics and costumes and collectible lore to give its own feeling of exploration which is better than nothing. However I also at times wished that maybe some of the time spent adding new things to returning areas was also spent fixing certain old features like DigiLine, the Digimon messaging feature that still sends weirdly localised replies to my poor well-meaning Digimon.
Despite these issues, I’ve been wanting to replay the original Cyber Sleuth for a while so the familiarity and same weird text mannerisms didn’t bother me that much and in some ways this made me focus on the interesting story and intricate Digivolution systems instead, which is good as it’s where Hacker’s Memory does best. A thing to note that is whether you’re a newcomer or player of the previous Cyber Sleuth game is that it’s not a perfect experience either way. Returning players may be frustrated by the familiarity and new players may be frustrated by the lack of explanation of events heavily affecting the world that are properly explained in the previous story and only brushed upon in this one. I’d say Hacker’s Memory is a decent enough entry point for those who are most interested in having a well-developed story and despite exploring an area I already knew pretty well, I’m satisfied enough by the story to not care.
For those looking to return to the world of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, Hacker’s Memory gives a quality story that makes the best of the old and new parts of its world. Exploring the accurate portrayal of Tokyo felt new enough thanks to its own stronger story creating the feeling of being on a seperate side of the world and my Digimon collecting in it reminded me just how much I enjoyed trying to reach the stat-raising goals for Digivolution. It might look familiar, but the fun monster collecting and new take on Cyber Sleuth’s original events are definitely one of a kind in my eyes and in a world with a better story and its own interesting concept, Hacker’s Memory will be the Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth game I come back to when I feel like having some monster collection fun in a deep world I’m glad I got to know.

Score: 8.3/10
Let the Agumon Army begin.

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Did you play Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory? If you played the original, did it affect your Hacker's Memory experience?
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