Digimon World DS - NDS - Review
First there were Pokemon ("Pocket Monsters") – annoyingly cute and cuddly creatures with a kiddie show, kiddie merchandise, and a kiddie game that had the best gameplay of any Game Boy RPG.
Then there were the Pokemon clones, a group I like to call, "Poke-mimics." They were cuter, more annoying, and didn't have the great gameplay of the title they were ripping off.
Finally there was Digimon ("Digital Monsters") – the clone that got it right. The idea is the same: collect monsters, use them to fight, and explore the world until you're deemed the game's best trainer (or tamer, as they're called in Digimon).
The Nintendo DS exclusive Digimon World DS is more of what you love, and could turn out to be the series' most significant release. Whereas before Digimon went head-to-head with the leader in monster battles, this game is without a great competitor. There are a couple of differences between the two 'mons (Poke and Digi), but it's not what Digimon World DS does differently that will lure you in.
Gotta Train 'Em All
You start off as an unnamed boy or girl. Choose your gender, think of a name, and the intro will start to unfold. The game will notify you of someone who could be in danger. You'll be given the chance to select one of three different Digimon, each of which excel in a different category. While this is going on, a talking Digimon chimes in to tell you all about the game, how it's played, how battles are fought and won, etc.
Grab your Digimon, enter the forest and walk around until a battle begins. Enemy encounters are random, and it doesn't take long for one to occur.
In battle you have the options Fight, Move (change position), Item, and Flee. Choose fight to do the obvious. Your attacks will be displayed with a number on right side. That number indicates the MP cost of each attack. Fight and win – earn EXP, food, bits (currency), and possibly items. Flee and you get nothing.
Everything I've described could be applied to a Pokemon game, minus the acquisition of food which does not work that way in those games. But these words are about Digimon World DS.
Touch, Farm, Breed
After the game was announced I wondered, "Will the touchscreen be enabled?" The answer is yes, but the results – to no fault of the developer – are not what you'd expect. This being a turn-based RPG, I assumed that touching the screen would be a faster way to execute my moves. The game is very responsive to touch actions, but I found it faster to click buttons as normal.
Digi-Farm is like a training kennel for Digimon. Drop off your monsters, provide lots of food (won in battle), and the game does the rest. Pokemon fans should remember a similar option in the Gold and Silver sequels. In those games you could breed at the farm to create a new monster. Digimon saves its breeding for later, opting for other farm activities instead.
Digimon may ask you to go on a Favor Quest. The quests are side objectives that do not have to be completed. But if they are, your Digimon's friendship level will increase, and you'll receive more TP. No, not toilet paper – tamer points. The friendship level is important to how the monsters react to their tamer. Refuse to complete a Favor Quest, or fail to keep the food supply strong, and the Digimon will lose respect for you. Their reliability in battle will decrease, increasing the likelihood that you will lose the fight.
And when you lose, they lose – their health and a chunk of their friendship rating. You're better off taking the Favor Quests. They're not that difficult (more exploratory than anything else), and will save you and your monsters from a lot of turmoil.
Breeding is not a word Digimon World DS takes lightly. Game producers have referred to it as "combining," while the manual calls it "matching." They're trying hard to stay away from anything that could be perceived as adult content. That's a little extreme – won't kids learn about the real thing in school anyway?
To breed, match, or whatever you want to call it, players will need to go online. They can do this from a Wi-Fi hotspot (like Panera or McDonald's), or from their own broadband connection using Nintendo's Wi-Fi adaptor (that plugs into your PC's USB slot and creates a wireless frequency) or a wireless router. If you have a friend code, or are willing to shuffle through the cumbersome setup and find someone online, you can start the breeding process.
Once both players have agreed to breed, a Digi-Egg will be born. Watch over it for a bit and a new Digimon will hatch. Both players get the Digimon, which may or may not be rare and exclusive to the breeding process. Digimon that are exclusive to breeding cannot be obtained in any other way.
Aside from breeding, players can go online to battle.
"Wow, that's great! That's better than Pokemon!"
Technologically, yes – that is a lot better. But just as games without split-screen multiplayer are disappointing, so are those with online battles but no offline option. Digimon World DS does not offer any wireless communication features. Consequently, you can't battle and breed with friends locally.
The gameplay is potentially enjoyable for all ages, but that's not who the box art speaks to. It speaks to kids. Young players are not likely to run off to McDonald's to play online – they'd rather play with their next-door neighbor.
Review Scoring Details for Digimon World DS
Fun and lazy turn-based battles that anyone can learn and love. This isn’t for the hardcore RPG crowd unless you’re into Pokemon. That’s the only thing you should ask yourself before buying this game. “Do I have fond memories of Ash and Pikachu?” The gameplay is nearly exact to the Nintendo classic, having a few differences but not enough to label this game unique. I’m disappointed in the lack of local multiplayer, but as far as clones and rehashes are concerned, Digimon World DS is a satisfying game.
Game Boy Advance-quality visuals are wonderful on that platform. On the DS they’re less than spectacular.
Ignore the 16-bit sound quality and listen closely for one of the deepest and catchiest soundtracks in a DS game.
No more challenging than Pokemon. Easier in some respects (there are fewer puzzles).
Same old Pokemon story. Digimon World DS is better than the latest Pokemon game, but that doesn’t make it an original concept.
Online multiplayer is nice, but this game does not have a wireless gameplay option. That means you must go online to battle with another player, even if he or she is standing right next to you.
The next best thing to Pokemon ... when Pokemon still rocked. DS owners are without a great Pocket Monsters adventure, giving Digimon World DS a chance to swoop in and steal its thunder. The quick, straightforward, and familiar gameplay will appeal to any Pokemon or Digimon fan.