Digimon Survive on Nintendo Switch
Digimon Survive has surprised me in more ways than one. When I picked it up, I was excited for a Digimon game more akin to tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics with some visual novel elements. However, the game is primarily a visual novel with tactical RPG elements on the side, which was exactly what I was expecting.
While initially taken aback by the genre type, the brief moment of disappointment I felt was quickly washed away by a delightfully dark story, gorgeous presentation, and loads of fan-favorite Digimon to befriend. The more I dug into the game, the more it felt like it was made for people with a connection to the series.
As a novice to the genre, I was worried about how I would feel about the gameplay, especially after a rather slow prologue. But it doesn’t take long for the story to pick up and engross you because by the end of “Part 1,” the mysterious situation our protagonists find themselves in is more than enough to keep you going.
I was surprised by how dark and scary the story was from the start. I grew up watching the anime, and it was clear that this game was going for a more mature tone crafted for the current age of fans. The art throughout the game is absolutely stunning. From the character design to the backgrounds, every set is vibrant and exciting to explore. There is even voice acting sprinkled throughout, though it is exclusively in Japanese.
You experience the game through the eyes of Takuma, a 14-year-old student who agreed to attend a class trip to the mountains. At each region on the map, you have several locations where you can interact with your surroundings to find hidden secrets and speak with the characters in the area.
Speaking with characters is important because it gives you the opportunity to select the right words in conversation and build affinity with them to strengthen your bonds. This bond between characters seeps its way into the partner Digimon, and they will receive bigger boosts when fighting together.
Additionally, the choices you make affect your karma. Each decision will earn points toward Moral, Wrathfulness, and Harmony, and depending on your chosen path, your partner Digimon will take different evolutionary journeys and determine how the story will eventually branch.
Together, karma and affinity are expertly weaved to alter each playthrough. Partner Digimon will evolve into different monsters, story events will take new twists and turns, and the fate of each character will change drastically. Be warned, the story is heavy, and not everyone can get a happy ending because any difference in your actions will affect who survives in the digital world.
The story and depth of this visual novel are both super impressive, as I couldn’t help but explore each location as thoroughly as possible to build my relationships, take in every line of dialogue, and find all the secrets I could. The game plays out like an excellent season of the Digimon anime.
This gets me to the tactical RPG gameplay. As a huge fan of tactics games, this was the initial draw of the game for me, and a Digimon theme was a perfect concept. Unfortunately, it’s a secondary aspect of the game, but there are plenty of opportunities to focus on battles, strategy, and Digimon.
Throughout every chapter, you are presented with free battles and other events that will lead to battles. Additionally, a big and often emotional battle awaits you at the end of each chapter, so it isn’t like the battles are non-existent, but they can definitely take a back seat. If this is the part of the game that interests you the most, you can definitely get your fill.
The battles themselves are pretty straightforward in terms of tactical gameplay. You select which Digimon you want to use, and they each have their unique move sets and abilities as well as equipable items and moves to power them up. Partner Digimon have a special ability to talk to other partners to give an extra boost in a stat. Fights are grid-based, and it is your job to strategically move your Digimon to defeat the enemy before they complete their win condition, which is typically your annihilation.
The talk feature mentioned for boosting partner Digimon is also used in the recruitment process, and this is where the Digimon really shine. Sure, you get a great cast of Digimon to bond with throughout the story, but the moment I saw Patamon, I died. Who doesn’t want that cutie pie on their team? Every time I ran into a new Digimon, I knew I was going to enter that encounter to try to recruit them.
This process involves three conversations where the Digimon would say something, and you’d have to respond with the best answer among four choices. Answer incorrectly, and it’ll anger them and boost their attack. Answer correctly, and you will win their favor and can either ask them to join your team or receive an item. Just gaining their favor doesn’t guarantee that they’ll join because there is a chance the Digimon will decline and go away, so you’ll have to search for them again.
I started asking for items and found that some would give me the items I needed to Digivolve into stronger monsters. With my newfound obsession for collecting all the Digimon in the game, it was nice to see they built out opportunities to get Digimon through different methods.
There are some quality-of-life features that would greatly benefit the fights overall, such as the ability to lock the views for enemy ranges. Right now, you have to scroll over each enemy to see their movement range, and even when you do, you don’t get a clear view of their attack range.
Equipment and moves really lack explanation. Items are explained briefly at the beginning but are easy to forget, and it wasn’t until I dug through some menus that I remembered that I could equip items to boost certain stats. This was also when I finally discovered more attacking moves could be added to your Digimon.
One unique feature this game has is the ability to change the difficulty at the beginning of every single battle. If you are having trouble with a stage or want to streamline your playthrough, you can lower the difficulty, or you can bump it up and give yourself a real challenge. It’s rare to find that type of customization in a game.
Overall, the battles are home to a lot of the excitement, and I do wish the game focused on them a bit more. Luckily, there are plenty of points in the game where you can focus on the free battles and recruiting Digimon, so it is a nice break from the long stretches of story and dialogue.
Though the game starts off pretty slowly and lacks some helpful tutorials and features that would improve the battles in the game, it’s hard to deny how well it comes together. The replayability is consistently impressive and when it connects with you, be prepared to spend upwards of 60 hours experiencing every branching path.
Digimon Survive was lovingly crafted for longtime fans of the series, and it truly feels like playing through a season of the show. The visual novel is consistently engaging, and the battles are an excellent supplement to give players a connection to the Digimon they recruit.
Lack of explanation or tutorials
Missing quality of life features