Digimon is a franchise that has had a bit of an identity crisis, not unlike Sonic, reinventing itself with each iteration. Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth is the latest RPG of the franchise, and I think Namco finally got itself a winning formula.
Cyber Sleuth takes place in Modern Day Japan, with a twist, digital interaction has advanced so much that you can kinda project your consciousness into an avatar. Playing as a somewhat mute hero, that can be a boy or a girl, you meet up with your friends in the digital world, where you get attacked by an Eater. Now your body lays comatose, but your conscience managed to arrive into the real world as data-only. Fixing yourself a temporary body and employed by the detective Kyoko, it's up to the hero to solve the mystery behind the Eaters and the apparition of Digimon. It's a rather fun story, with some very Shin Megami Tensei-ish touches, like a S&M inspired boss, and the story can get rather dark, with suicide and even implied organ trafficking. The supporting cast is pretty engaging as well, albeit rather plain; there's Nokia, the girl that keeps talking about her 'hot bod' but is considered, in-universe, as not all that pretty, and Arata, the loner that actually cares about his friends, and the shy girl with a quirk to her personality. But that's alright, even though the supporting cast is a bit plain, the story is very engaging. That said, the localization leaves a lot to be desired. The most notorious problem is that the heroes sometimes refer to the Eaters as 'Bakemonos', or monsters in English, but the translators thought they meant 'Bakemon' as in the Digimon 'Bakemon', so now they refer to Eaters as 'Bakemons', which is such a dumb, hilarious oversight. There's also a few non-issue issues, where 'multiple dialogue choices' are made up of a single line of text divided onto two or three lines. These mistakes are rather surprising, since the text is very colorful, they clearly had fun writing the text for the game.
The game is divided into 20 chapters, and on each you have to solve a few cases. While there's about 2-3 mandatory cases per chapter, you are free to tackle side-cases as well, with randomly generated green quests that.... are rather dull and repetitive. Yellow and Blue cases are much more fun and won't advance the story, while red cases are required in order to advance. The hero's unique physiology allows him to 'connect' onto the Digital World, and travel through digital roads, which serves him just right as his quests usually involve Digimon. You've also got access to a few skills, which change depending on your party set-up, that are needed in order to solve puzzles. 'Decipher' allows you to read data that contains clues to the puzzles, 'Copy and Paste' is used to copy colors and paste them on special platforms, 'Wall Break' is used to break walls(D'oh!) and there's a few others like increasing the amount of random encounters or forcing one.
Not only does it employ random encounters, but fights used the tried and true turn based system. While you active party is comprised of three Digimon, you can carry up to eight reserve Digimon, and you can change any number of them on just one turn. You can also use your turns to use items, attack, defend or use mana-consuming spells. Party composition plays a big part to how battles play out, there's a rock-paper-scissors system around Digimon types(Vaccine, Virus and Data) that halves or doubles damage taken and received, as well as a fourth, neutral type. But there's also a secondary elemental affinity(Like Fire, Water, Light, etc) that could make the difference between dealing/receiving 0.5 or 0.75 times the damage against a Digimon with an advantageous type, or between 2 or 3 times against a weak type. Fighting the same Digimon many times will 'capture' their data, allowing you to 'load' them on the Digi Lab, and add them to your party. Digimon also come in different ranks(Baby, In-Training, Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, Mega, Armored and Ultra) and each one has a different weight. Weight comes into play due to the memory limit, which means that if your memory limit is 10, you can't bring a Mega(18) Digimon with you. While I understand that it was probably done for balancing issues, so that you don't curb stomp the competition too early, I thought it was a bit limiting. And, luckily, once you get further into the game, memory upgrades are easier to come by.
But Memory Capacity is alright, ABI is what really takes the cake when it comes to annoyance. ABI is a stat that only increases when digivolving or devolving your 'mons. Why would you want to devolve a Digimon? Besides the required ABI, you can take your Digimon through another evolution line and thus earn more skills! That should've been a rewards in itself, but nope, they had to make it annoying. Y'see, you won't be able to reach most Megas on your first time evolving your 'mon, so you will have to devolve it once or twice. And then get them back to Ultimate, which means relevelling them back to level 30... it's a huge, annoying time sink. ABI is the one thing I truly, decidedly disliked about the game. And to add insult to injury, sometimes your 'mon won't reach the minimum stat requirements for a Mega Evolution, which means sending your 'mon to train on the DigiFarm, which can take from 30 to 60 minutes of real time, and it might need multiple sessions. Does that sound like fun to you? Honestly I can't see what they were thinking when they came up with this whole system. Oh, and lest I forget, the stat upgrades you get through the Digi-farm? They are limited by the amount of ABI your Digimon has, so maybe you'll need to devolve even further in order to then spend time to level it up, and then spend time on the Digifarm. The truth of the matter is: getting your party up to the point where you want them to be can get a while, a long, long while. These were the only moments I didn't like about the game.
While the game is a bit flawed, this is easily some of the most fun I've had with a VITA game(Although, sadly(?), this is not an exclusive). Heck, this is easily my favorite Digimon game I've played(Which, frankly, is not a lot, but still). For people missing the good old days of Japanese RPGs, like I was a few days ago when enduring Ar Tonelico 3, this is a fantastic oldschool JRPG that gets almost everything right.
8.5 out of 10