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Digimon Survive Review

August 4, 2022

By: Andrew Stretch

 
 

Digimon games have always come in a wide variety of genres. Some entries are simulation games where you'll need to correctly train your Digimon to have it evolve into greatness, others are full-blown RPGs, and Digimon has even dipped its toes into racing and TCG titles. Digimon Survive is the first foray into Visual Novel and Strategy with its unique hybrid approach. How well does Digimon lend itself to a Visual Novel setting though?

The story of Digimon Survive is a familiar one to fans of the Digimon franchise. A group of kids gets pulled away to a foreign world filled with monsters while out camping. In this world, they team up with partner Digimon, learn more about the world they're in, and eventually save the world. The overall adventure and even some story beats along the way, fit the formula of a Digimon anime plotline almost too well. What Digimon Survive does really well, leveraging the time spent in discussions with characters through Visual Novel interactions and times where your interactions are limited is to alter the dynamic of the group and add further depth to each character's personal stories.

 

Digimon Survive Dialogus
I've only had Labramon for a Day and a Half...

Fans who have seen the anime content will also get treated to a number of stories beats that near-mirror events from the previous series. Early on the party arrives at an amusement park where one of the chosen children has been dubbed the Queen with a variety of Digimon now doting on her. It's hard to see this setting and not think of the Primary Village's playful feel or the plot from the original Digimon Adventure where Mimi is named Queen by a bunch of Numemon. These kinds of moments feel close enough for the reference to be understood and for a memory to be recalled, but not close enough that it feels like a cheap copy or that the game's references take away from the storyline of Digimon Survive itself.

The group of kids is mixed up with all of the anime archetypes that you'd come to expect. The cool-headed protagonist, comic relief best friend, girly-girl in pink, and even a brother-sister pairing where the older brother gets too protective of his younger sister letting his anger get the best of him. Through conversations with the comic relief friend, it becomes very apparent that he's the most scared out of the group, working with him you learn about his insecurities and how they've shaped the person he's become today. Getting to spend time with these characters, and grow your affinity with them moves them away from being 2D archetypes and into fully realized characters.

 
 

A downside of so many characters making up the core group of characters, eight in total, is that you won't get to spend enough time with all of them. At the end of my original playthrough, I had an affinity of 50 points with at least three characters, but there were some characters that I only had an affinity of 7 with. These points, which are accumulated through conversations and correct character options, end up leading to how powerful those characters Digimon will become. By not having the time to spend with everyone there were characters whose growth was severely stunted. In the same way, other games with a large emphasis on building relationships, such as the Persona franchise, make it difficult (if not impossible) to fully complete the game you'll likely be looking at completing this game a number of times if you want to "see everything."

Digimon Survive Boss Fight
Roughly translates to "It's dinner time"

An additional way that Digimon Survive builds upon the formula is in the way it slowly builds tension and includes more violent story moments. Getting to spread big character moments, good or bad, out over the course of a number of conversations allows you to get a sense of something in the air well before it happens. Some of the biggest of the "red flag" story build-up are between the children who aren't quite adjusting to the world of Digimon like the rest of their classmates. These situations are what sets Digimon Survive apart from the rest of the Digimon stories that have been told in the past, where you might see a happy ending or a turn of heart because "how could they make a Digimon story that dark" Digimon Survive doubles down. It's writing that we haven't seen the likes of since the final arc of Digimon Tamers. It does almost fall into the trap of being too edgy, but it rides the line well of being a mature Digimon story.

 
 

While Visual Novel gameplay, exploration, and storytelling take up the majority of the time you'll be spending in Digimon Survive the other portion of gameplay is in the strategic battles. During key story moments, or by selecting free battle, players will be able to give their Digimon a bit of exercise taking on the local Digimon. These battles normally consist of wiping out the opposing side but can sometimes have special win conditions that force the player to shift their strategy. After picking your Digimon each side will take turns to move, attack, or defend with their Digimon.

Digimon Survive Exploration
You can explore the map locations, or hop into a free battle to change up the pace

There are a few shake-ups to traditional strategy combat that Digimon Survive does a good job to offer up, but not all work as well as expected. Being a Digimon title of course Digivolution is an option, this will allow your Agumon to become a MetalGreymon mid-battle, interestingly though this process only applies to the Partner Digimon where all are recruited Digimon you evolve once, and then they remain that way. It's nice to know when you send out that powerful Digimon it will always be powerful, but it does have a negative ripple effect on the useability of those Partner Digimon as their Rookie speed stats will normally have them lagging in late-game combat. 

Another aspect of the battle that doesn't quite work is the implementation of side and back attacks dealing more damage. Where the majority of combat arenas have little in the way of obstacles or protection from one side, let alone two, as soon as you're within range of an enemy Digimon you can always get to its side or behind it. If a battle between two Digimon continues for a few turns the combat simply becomes pivoting around to the back of the other Digimon and dealing an attack. 

Digimon Survive Combat
Build your team up from a group of a few Rookies to Ultimates and Megas

One feature that Digimon Survive nails is the ability to recruit Digimon via conversations. These three question conversations have the player trying to juggle what they know of a Digimon and how they might respond to try to gain their favor and recruit them to their team. It's a satisfying feeling to head into a battle against a tough enemy and come out with an ally on your side. The ability to recruit these Digimon through Free Battles, and that you can preview which Digimon will appear in any fight had me constantly checking to see who I might have a chance to meet. Digimon Survive might not have the largest roster, but the Digimon who have been included are a good mix of fan favorites as well as new creations so it's not too predictable.

 
 

An additional comment on the stability of the game, having played it on Nintendo Switch, is that there are a lot of performance issues that plague this game. From the fog effects in the loading screen stuttering to the level-up screen lagging the game as experience bars rise at the end of combat. A lot of the controls and navigating between menu options don't feel extremely responsive. From what I've heard this is particularly an issue plaguing the Switch release, but this level of performance issues for a Visual Novel was definitely not what was expected going into the game.

Digmon Survive Review | Final Thoughts

Digimon Survive manages to do a great job creating a unique Digimon game experience. Survive is able to deliver a mature Digimon story filled with lighthearted moments of group bonding, and tense moments that are some of the darkest Digimon has to offer. The Visual Novel gameplay helps nail the development of these relationships creating a story that players can invest in and that is sprinkled with past Digimon references. In combat, Digimon Survive does try to add its own Digimon spin to strategy combat, in some ways it does work but it will also leave you wanting for more in other areas. For a fan of Digimon storytelling or for Visual Novel games I think this is well worth picking up, if you're interested in Digimon Survive as an SRPG then you'll likely find the dialogue getting in the way of what you actually want to experience in a Digimon game.


TechRaptor reviewed Digimon Survive on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam.

Review Summary

Review Summary

8.5
Digimon Survive leans heavily into the Visual Novel genre and it pays off. For fans of VN or Digimon this story is one of the best out there. Combat is enjoyable but some mechanics don't stick the landing.

Pros

  • Mature Digimon Story
  • Three dimensional characters
  • Fun recruitment mechanics

Cons

  • Some combat elements half-baked
More Info About This Game

In This Article

Developer
Witchcraft
Publisher
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms
PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date
July 29,2022
Genre
Visual Novel, Survival, RPG