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JRPG 'Digimon Survive' attempts to revive faded franchise

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Posted at 2:32 PM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-15 15:32:47-04

TUCSON, Ariz.  — In the early 2000s, Digimon squared off against Pokemon for supremacy in the realm of adorable creatures engaging in proxy battles for wide-eyed children.

In 2022, Pokemon is as vibrant and relevant as ever, while Digimon has retreated to the recesses of memory. Now "Digimon Survive" sets out to change all that, injecting relevance into the flagging franchise.

Phil Villarreal: I was a little old to be wrapped up in the Digimon craze, so I harbor little nostalgia for the franchise. I entered the game fresh and eager to recruit Digimon and take them on zany fetch and battle quests.

It took a distressingly long while before I even met a Digimon. The slow-roll tutorial/prologue takes you through a ton of point-and-click dialogue that introduces you to uninteresting characters.

While the battle mechanics and storytelling dynamics are eventually somewhat rewarding, it was a slog to get to a point where the game became interesting. What did you think of the intro, Sean?

Sean Newgent: Digimon has been an interesting franchise, existing on the fringes of my nostalgia while continuing to grow up with me. While Pokemon maintains a universal appeal and doesn't have to change its formula to continue to be the powerhouse IP, it is, in recent years, Digimon has matured with the audience of the original. A series of recent movies showed the Digi-destined in their high school years, and recent video games have been edgier.

"Digimon Survive" definitely has that edge. A visual novel in the tradition of "Danganronpa," where your connections with the characters can mean friendship or horrible death, combined with a strategy RPG, "Digimon Survive" never really hooked me. The introduction offers you a glimpse into all of the characters, all playing into anime stereotypes.

Between long dialogue sections, you get to enjoy the ham-fisted tactical gameplay that becomes almost as much a chore as the tepid and often filler-y dialogue.

What were your impressions of the tactical gameplay Phil?

Phil Villarreal: I enjoyed the battles and thought it was important that the game gives you a taste of the combat style before shipping you off to visual novel jail.

I enjoy visual novels as a genre but found the dialogue and story here a little dull. They struck me as padding that kept me away from the more interesting aspect of the game, which is definitely the combat.

Even though I wasn't a fan of the storytelling, I appreciated the visuals and formatting, which gave me a streamlined "Professor Layton" vibe.

That wasn't enough to carry me through, though. I found myself disinterested in "Digimon Survive" and played out of obligation rather than urgency.

Final thoughts, Sean?

Sen Newgent: As a casual fan, I enjoyed getting to play as some of my favorite Digimon. I appreciate the attempt to make a more mature game and was delighted by the animation and character designs.

The game should take about 40 hours, which is pretty hefty if you can invest yourself in the world and characters.

Maybe for a fan, the $60 price tag is worth it but for me, between the middling story and even more subpar gameplay, "Digimon Survive" is a hard pass.

Past game reviews by Sean and Phil:

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Diablo II Resurrected
NEO: The World Ends with You
Rainbow Six: Extraction
King of Fighters XV
WWE 2K22
Weird West
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
TMNT: Shredder's Revenge
Capcom Fighting Collection
Capcom Arcade: 2nd Stadium
Stray