If you've been waiting for a chance to add more Digimon to your roster, Cyber Sleuth's sequel is now available. However, does it hold up for someone new to the series? Read on and find out!
Historically, I'm not a big fan of Pokémon or Digimon games but I have always marveled at the variety of monsters in series like Dragon Quest and had fun collecting chums in Yo-Kai Watch. Therefore, the release of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker's Memory seemed like a good excuse to get into the series.
Hacker's Memory is dubbed a sequel to 2015's Cyber Sleuth. Starring Keisuke Amazawa as the protagonist, its campaign has you working with a group of hackers called Hudie who are on a quest to uncover why Keisuke's account for the online game Eden was deleted. The story bears a striking resemblance to the .hack series that I recently finished and thoroughly enjoyed so Hacker's Memory has a promising start to its story development. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for things to get interesting and the pacing suffers constantly, especially when you're often tasked with completing quests that feel like a distraction from the main plot.
The cast of characters in Hacker's Memory definitely have their charms. Although the main character remains mostly silent, young whale pillow yielding Erika spends most of her time locked up in a room and hides her soft side as much as possible while Ryuji is the calm and collected leader of the group and Chitose seems all too eager to get going whenever the gang takes a breather. Members of Hudie join you in battles sometimes and they always have vastly superior Digimon to what you'll have at that point. Sometimes, they're necessary such as when you face off against a tough boss but other times, they just make the battles far too easy and you'll want to put them in auto mode and go grab a cup of tea while they fight it out.
Cyber Sleuth's battle system is a typical turn-based RPG format but with a huge selection of skills at your disposal available through the many Digimon that you gradually amass. Technically, you're supposed to collect, grow, and equip Digimon that will be the most effective in a given dungeon. However, I found battles to frequently be so easy that I didn't need to put any thought into which Digimon I had equipped. Hacker's Memory also does a terrible job at introducing you to the benefits of switching up your monsters. There are multiple factors that can be taken into account when fighting but it comes across as a bunch of random icons and colours that only someone extremely well versed in the series could make sense of and utilize in the heat of battle.
Other than regular battles, Hacker's Memory introduces a new type called Domination Battles. In this mode, each party stands at either end of a board and the goal is to claim squares in order to earn the most points. If a square has no one on it, you can simply move to it when it's your turn but if an opposing character stands there, you must fight them. Items aren't allowed and you also can't switch your Digimon. I found these to be slightly more challenging than the regular battles but they're still nothing to write home about.
One thing that a great JRPG will always have is a variety of dungeons with different visuals and layouts. Unfortunately, Hacker's Memory fails here by making almost all of its dungeons look exactly the same. The visuals are simply colourful lines made to look like you're in a digital world. The only thing that varies is the layouts and the simple colour scheme changes from time to time. One aspect that I did enjoy is how some parts of dungeons require you to plan your route a little because you're forced to jump down at certain parts and you can't jump back up. However, that doesn't do enough to keep the dungeons interesting. When you combine the plain dungeons with the unchallenging battles, you'll be bored quite quickly.
When it comes to areas outside of the dungeons, a lot of them are apparently reused from Cyber Sleuth. There are only a few to hang out in when you're not fighting and they are pretty cool to look at but seeing as there's such a small number of places to go and they're just repeats from the original game; it's rather disappointing.
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker's Memory contains over 300 different monsters to collect which is nothing to sneeze at. To collect a monster, you'll usually start out by fighting multiple of its kind in battle. Once you've defeated enough, you can then breed them in your lab. From there, you can combine Digimon in order to create more powerful ones with different abilities. There are various ways to customize the same base Digimon and I had some fun seeing how many I could create.
Once you level up a Digimon a certain amount, you'll find that you have to increase a specific stat in order to level them up any more and continue to combine them. Some of the stats are easy to accomplish and can be gained by doing regular battles but others seem very difficult. The lack of direction in this regard is quite frustrating. In addition to this, you're given a farm where you can put Digimon and have them complete tasks while you're not fighting with them but Hacker's Memory doesn't even explain the point of these tasks.
Hacker's Memory is a sequel that can only be enjoyed by gamers who played the original Cyber Sleuth. The lack of direction makes it tough to recommend to newcomers and the repeated content will hamper the fun factor for existing fans. However, if you're a long-time fan and only play the games for their in-depth monster customization then it's surely worth picking up.
- + Extensive customization of over 300 unique monsters
- + Interesting cast of charming characters
- - Lack of visual variety in the dungeons
- - Not much direction for newcomers to learn the series' intricacies
- - Battles are often too easy and repetitive