Prior to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Digimon franchise over the years. Frankly, collecting monsters and pitting them against other creatures never held my interest. And while I still feel that way about Pokemon — I spent a day playing Pokemon GO before I realized that I needed to find something else to do with my life — I’m now down with Digimon. Naturally, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory, which serves as a kind of side-story to its predecessor, would eventually end up on my PlayStation 4, and thankfully, it’s as delightful, colorful, and wonderfully odd as its predecessor. And while it’s a lot of fun, it’s essentially just more of the same.
If you haven’t played Cyber Sleuth, then you might feel a little overwhelmed by Hacker’s Memory. Although the story introduces a completely new main character, the game pretty much assumes you know about the world and how it all works. Although first-time Digimon collectors can jump in without spending 40 to 50 hours with the previous entry, doing so isn’t advised. However, those of us who spent a lot of time with Cyber Sleuth will appreciate the appearance of a few characters and certain story beats. Additionally, if you still have your Cyber Sleuth saved game hanging out on your PS4, you can import that data and receive a few handy in-game bonuses, which is a nice touch.
Storywise, Hacker’s Memory feels like a product of the mid-90’s. The way the game presents hacking, hackers, and cyberspace feels decidedly dated and not unlike the 1995 Angelina Jolie thriller Hackers. In short: It’s hacking through the eyes of the entertainment industry. Players spend the majority of their time in a place called EDEN, a virtual reality cyberspace where people work, play, and of course, commit countless crimes. Thankfully, a few upstanding white-hat hackers have devoted their lives to protecting innocent EDEN users from the nefarious deeds of the unscrupulous criminals looking to steal private and corporate accounts. It sounds convoluted and a little confusing — and it is — but it somehow manages to come together. Assuming, of course, you don’t take it seriously.
Players assume the role of Keisuke Amazawa (you can rename him if you wish), a lanky, wide-eyed student who becomes a social pariah after a hacker seals his precious EDEN account. With little cryptic help from a mysterious figure identified only as K, Keisuke descends into the underbelly of EDEN, a realm called Kowloon filled with an assortment of hackers, both good and bad. Things don’t go too well for our hero during his trip, and he quickly finds himself in way over his head. Thankfully, a hacker named Ryuji Mishima, who works alongside his sister Erika and his buddy Chitose Imai in a group called Hudie, comes to his rescue and shows him how to survive in the digital wilds of Kowloon.
During the first two to three hours of the game, you’ll have a lot of information thrown at you. From evolving and devolving your Digimon to raising your captured monsters on a farm, there’s a lot of stuff to figure out and do in Hacker’s Memory. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the basics, you’ll begin to tackle the main story and optional “cases” posted to the Hudie bulletin board system. And if you’re feeling especially froggy, you can also capture all 327 monsters, locate 700 medallions, collect numerous memories, and help the operator of the so-called DigiLab bust 30 villainous hackers. There’s never a dull moment in Hacker’s Memory, though you’ll need to power through several hours of tutorials to fully appreciate what the game has to offer. If you’ve played Cyber Sleuth, you’ll be fine.
In between capturing, leveling up, and fighting enemies with your Digimon, you’ll spend a good deal of time reading. Hacker’s Memory is as much of a JRPG as it is a visual novel, and there are times when you’ll find yourself clicking through screens of dialogue that seem to go on for ages. To be fair, it’s nothing that JRPG fans haven’t seen before, so they’ll likely be unfazed by the enormous amount of exposition that’s tossed around on a regular basis. And while the story does employ a number of familiar tropes, there are enough twists, turns, and surprises later in the game to help make up for the core story’s overall lack of originality. Adventurous types can keep a running tally of how many times a character uses the term “malware.” Spoiler alert: it’s a lot, and that’s an understatement.
Like Cyber Sleuth, Hacker’s Memory sports a shockingly easy difficulty. If you occasionally deviate from the main storyline to tackle a handful of side quests, as well as pay attention to which Digimon you level up and take with you on your quest, you’ll stay well ahead of the curve. Of course, a guy or gal can only handle so many one-hit kills before the mind starts to wander, especially when it begins early in the game. So, if you feel the combat becoming stale during your adventure, consider bumping up the difficulty. Of course, if you totally suck at managing your collection of digital monsters (which admittedly takes some getting used to), then you might not have this problem.
However, as much as I enjoyed returning to EDEN and watching a wide array of Digimon throw down, I’m not so sure about the game’s price tag. Before dropping $60 on this title, ask yourself, “Are you okay paying full price for a game that essentially takes Cyber Sleuth’s assets and tosses them inside a new package?” Sure, you get a new story, some additional Digimon, and a ton of busy work, but a lot of the artwork has been lifted directly from Cyber Sleuth, including several backgrounds that feature low-resolution textures. Those who have played through the previous entry in the series might feel a little apprehensive about coughing up $60 for something like this. Granted, there’s plenty to keep you occupied for hours, but recycling assets (minus the score) and asking full price seems unfair.
Price tag and recycled artwork aside, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory will give fans of the series plenty to do during their journey through EDEN. Even if you power through the storyline in about 20 hours, chances are you’ll still have countless medallions and evil hackers to take down. Keisuke doesn’t make for the greatest of heroes — his moronic expressions get a bit tiresome after about 10 hours — but his Hudie homies and some truly off-the-wall moments (wait until you meet Jimmy Ken) keep the story moving along even when the combat gets a little too easy and convoluted (I’m looking at you, Domination Battle). And if you haven’t played Cyber Sleuth, definitely wait until you’ve completed that game before dropping your hard-earned cash on Hacker’s Memory. Sure, you can tackle the side story on its own, but you’ll miss the nods and references that make it so fun.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us by Bandai Namco
Although Digimon: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is a blast to play and gives gamers a lot to do, it's essentially just more of the same.