Digimon Survive Review (Switch)
Release Date: July 29, 2022
File Size: 4.6GB
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Witch Craft Co., Hyde
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
After being stuck in development for four years, Digimon Survive has finally been released. Digimon was (and honestly still is – it’s a multi-billion dollar franchise) a fairly popular series back in the day alongside Pokémon, with the franchise spawning anime, video games, and cute Tamagochi devices. And while the series never reached the behemoth status that Pokémon did with the general public, it still has a loyal following. So, it makes sense to still try and put out new products for the series. But soon after release, Digimon Survive found itself hit with a bit of controversy due to the balance of its visual novel scenes versus tactics battles.
Does this controversy hold back Digimon Survive from being a fun game? Or is it all hot air and worth ignoring? Let’s dive a bit deeper and find out!
You play as a young student named Takuma who is on a school trip with some friends. They meet with a strange local called Miu who wants to take Takuma and his friends to a nearby shrine. But it’s not long after that that the group is split up and finds themselves teleported into a strange world filled with monsters. While a lot of these monsters appear to want to attack them, some of them want to be friends. And so, with only themselves and their new Digimon friends, they must find a way back to their world while still remaining alive in the meantime.
Digimon Survive is a visual novel heavy game. According to the developers, the balance of visual novel to gameplay is 70/30 and I would say that’s pretty accurate. It may actually lean a bit more to 80/20 if you’re not doing the free battles along the way, though. You’ll watch the story unfold in these moments, with the option of making choices along the way. There are two sets of choices that affect your gameplay in Digimon Survive, in terms of your affinity with other characters, as well as which path you’ll take in the story.
With affinity, there are certain dialogue choices that characters will like. You can save the game at any time by navigating to the menu, so if you happen to make a choice that doesn’t grow your affinity, you can always reload. This is especially helpful, since sometimes, the correct choice isn’t always obvious. Affinity is important, because certain characters can end up dying if your affinity isn’t high enough in the story.
There are multiple routes that you can take in the game: harmony, wrath, moral, and a locked truth route that you can only access after beating the game at least once. That does mean that to get the True Ending, you’ll need to play through the game twice. But of course, due to the circumstances of the True Route, after a certain point in the game, your second playthrough will end up being different from the first, at least dialogue-wise for a while.
When making choices pertaining to routes, you can easily tell which choice matches which route based on the color that appears in the choice box. So if you’re aiming for a specific ending, Digimon Survive does make this easy for the player.
The actual storytelling of Digimon Survive is interesting when it comes to a group of kids trying to escape from a dangerous world. However, given that they are kids, there is going to be a lot of bullheadedness that appears time and time again. This can lead to some story moments where emotions run high and thus, new conflicts appear suddenly. This does end up with frustrating moments that feel as though they could be worked out by everyone remaining as calm as possible and talking things out rationally.
Along with being a visual novel, Digimon Survive also has grid-based tactics combat where you take the Digimon that you and your friends meet into battle against enemies. After each battle you’ll gain experience and depending on choices made during the story, specific evolutions will be made available to you. Outside of combat, you also have the option to explore nearby areas to find items, build affinity, and learn more about the lore of this mysterious world.
Compared to other tactics games, Digimon Survive is okay in its own right. It doesn’t do much to really set itself apart from other tactics games and unfortunately, the lack of battles between cutscenes really illustrates how this gameplay could have been removed from the game without detracting from the story.
With the start of each battle, you’ll be able to select from your list of Digimon to bring into battle. Some battles require specific characters to be used while others may be barred. And along with story-relevant Digimon, you can also collect other Digimon from free battles to join your team. Once you’ve selected the Digimon to use, you can begin the battle. Turns are determined by the speed stat of a character.
You only have a couple of moves to make use of in battle, which is a bit disappointing as it doesn’t leave you much in the way of variety or strategy. You have a regular attack that doesn’t cost any SP to use, and a stronger, type-specific move that does cost SP. The stronger attack typically has a longer range while your normal attack only reaches one space around you. Each Digimon is a specific typing, so you can try to make use of those typing differences in battle. Although, if you take advantage of positioning, your level compared to the enemy, and any allies nearby, you can easily overcome an enemy whether you have a type advantage or not.
During your turn, you can choose to move, attack, use an item, evolve, talk to your allies or enemies, or end your turn. Once you use an item or attack, you can’t do the other action. If you move and then end your turn, your character will enter a defensive stance, which will decrease any frontal damage that they take. But you will still take more damage if you’re attacked from the side or back. The enemy AI is smart enough to prioritize your side or back if you’re within range, so there’s not much use trying to counteract this.
Evolution is an interesting mechanic in Digimon Survive. As you progress through the story, more evolutions will be made available for you to use. The stronger an evolution, the more damage that they deal out and can take. However, using an evolution can quickly eat up SP, both in terms of their moveset as well as the fact that SP is depleted each turn. For instance, if an evolution costs 10 SP to use, you will lose 10 SP each turn. The cool thing though is that you can devolve at any point. And since you gain SP each turn that you’re in your base form, it means you can figure out the best time to evolve and do damage and the best time to sit back and farm back up your SP. This also means that you can evolve and devolve as many times in battle that you want to.
Your affinity has another upside and that takes form in battle. The higher that your affinity is with a character, the more likely they are to assist you, whether that’s by healing you when you end your turn or attacking alongside you.
Talking is another mechanic that has upsides. You can talk to your allies in order to boost their stats for a few turns. Using this during crucial moments in battle can help, but it’s just as easy to forget about the mechanic and end up just fine. Along with talking to your allies, you can also talk to your enemies. You can only talk to enemies during free battles. During this point, the enemy will say a set of statements and you must remark with the correct answer in order to appeal to them. If, by the end of the three statements, you have a high bar of interest, you have the chance of getting items or having the enemy join your team. But if the enemy rejects you or their interest bar isn’t high enough, their stats will be boosted and you can no longer talk to them.
Battles in general are fairly easy, given that you keep your levels up and aren’t putting your units in positions to be attacked from the side or back. You don’t need to grind in free battles unless you want to make sure all of your units are around the same level. At a certain point, it isn’t viable to level up everyone. The good thing though is that both story and non-story relevant Digimon are viable, as long as you are evolving both along the way. You can evolve non-story Digimon using items and they easily become just as powerful as the main Digimon.
When you’re not battling, you’ll be exploring nearby areas to collect clues of where to go next, build up your affinity with fellow teammates, and find items and collectables. Some exploration moments will allow you to explore to your heart’s content until you progress the story by going to a specific location. Other moments give you a set amount of action points where you can only interact with a certain number of characters before the story progresses onward. So if you’re trying to build up affinity with a specific character, this is usually the best time to do so (although you can’t just continuously build affinity with the same character during the same exploration).
More locations will slowly unlock as you progress through the story. However, the game won’t allow you to just explore willy-nilly. You’re going to be locked into specific areas and within those areas, you can go to specific landmarks. These exploration moments overall are perfectly fine in their own right and does allow for some interaction with the game rather than just dealing with visual novel cutscenes.
When you select a location to explore, you will be able to look around and inspect key items. Most of these items will just toss out a blurb about what you’re looking at. Sometimes, you’ll uncover a hidden item to add to your inventory. Othertimes, there will be a spot that the cursor lands on, even though there’s seemingly nothing there. in these moments, you’ll need to use your camera to actually see the object in question, as some items and Digimon are invisible to the human eye.
Digimon Survive is primarily 2D art with the visual novel portions, with the sprites semi-animated in a way that reminded me of Famicom Detective’s Club. The art looks very polished and that polished nature translates over to the 3D models during the tactics gameplay as well. Although, the models are a bit tiny, so it can be hard to take in all of the detail that some of the Digimon actually have.
When it comes to the character and Digimon designs, the humans are your standard anime protagonist fare. They look interesting enough together, with a nice mesh of colors brought together. Although when looked at separately, they are a bit plain. The Digimon are where a lot of the coolness lies, though, with a variety of Digimon available to use such as Agumon, Falcomon, and Lopmon, along with over 100+ other Digimon to take in. Fans new and old will find themselves tickled with the choices.
When it comes to the music, Digimon Survive starts off fairly minimal with its music selection, opting for light piano and woodwind pieces. But as the stakes grow in the story and things get more serious, the intensity of the soundtrack reflects what’s being seen and leaves the player with a feeling of epicness as they watch their large evolutions plow through their enemies.
Digimon Survive has had a lot of buzz surrounding it, from its many delays up until right after its release due to its story-heavy nature. As a visual novel, Digimon Survive delivers its promise of an interesting and mysterious tale filled with danger and impactful decisions. It’s always a treat to be able to make choices in a game and have those choices actually reflect in whatever route it corresponds with.
On the other hand, the tactics portion of the game is middle of the road. It’s serviceable in that it does everything it needs to to be a tactics game. However, with how sparingly battles actually happen, they almost feel like an afterthought more than a part of the game that is meant to be weighed equally. So if you’re coming in to look for some intense tactical battle action, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
However, if your interest was piqued by the notion of the story-heavy Digimon game and you don’t mind the emphasis on visual novel over tactics gameplay, then I would definitely say Digimon Survive is worth checking out.