Digimon World Data Squad - PS2 - Review
If pork is the other white meat, Digimon must be the other monster RPG. Presumably for kids but capable of engrossing anyone that plays them, monster RPGs are brilliant in their ability to entertain without the genre’s complex traits. Exploration is deep but manageable, battles are challenging but not too lengthy (or too hard for youngsters to learn), and the monster sharing/trading aspect encourages us to play together.
Although the genre is best known for its handheld success, Digimon has had many journeys on PlayStation 2. The series recently saw two new releases for Nintendo DS, both of which contained different monsters. Tamers are encouraged to team up to increase their collection. You don’t have that option on PS2 – it’s a lot easier to carry around a handheld system than a TV and full-size console. With 140+ Digimon trapped within the latest disc, Digimon World Data Squad, you won’t need a friend to help satisfy your monstrous urges.
A World Full of Data
Between .hack and fantasy films, you probably think the world is no longer safe from a digital invasion. The truth is: you’re right. A digital invasion is coming. And this time it’s bringing a pink flower creature called Lalamon (run gamers, run!).
Data Squad’s story centers on the invasion of Digimon. Not the pink one, that was just a joke, but the evil kind. Marcus Damon is the world’s only hope. He belongs to a secret organization called Data Squad, or DATS for short. When Marcus fails to solve the game’s biggest mystery, he learns that the only way to get answers is to enter the Digital World.
Don’t Evolve. Digivolve.
Animals and insects have a growth process. They’re born or hatched and, over the course of a day, a week, or several months, grow into adults before starting their own reproductive cycle.
Digimon work a little differently. Their Digi-Eggs are spawned from magic (not the stork, believe it or not) and the process is reversible. You won’t turn your own Digimon back into eggs, just the enemy. The good, tamable monsters will be digivolved using a system called digivolution.
Up to four unique forms of each Digimon may be obtained, starting with Rookie. Next up: Champion, then Ultimate, and if you’re diligent, Mega. Monster stats – HP, strength, intelligence, dexterity, agility, luck, and family – are potential hit points for evolution enhancements. The last one, family, relates to the type of Digimon you are using and what it will become. Those types include Nature’s Spirit (NSp), Wind Guardians (WG), Virus Busters (VB), Metal Empire (ME), Dragon’s Roar (DR), Jungle Trooper (JT), Deep Savers (DP), and Nightmare Soldiers (NSo).
Interestingly, Digimon do not have to wait for a battle to end before digivolving. If certain requirements are met, you’ll be able to digivolve right in the middle of combat. This is a must for those hard-to-win battles, but you may not want to use it every time. By waiting to digivolve outside the battlefield, players have the option to select which type of Digimon they’d like their monster to become. Only a couple of choices will be presented, and each choice leads the monster down a different path for the next digivolution.
Levels are gained as they are in other RPGs: from the EXP earned by defeating opposing monsters. The Galactica Evolution System screen shows your progress and the requirements – displayed as constellations – that must be met before the monster can digivolve.
Each constellation represents a different Digimon form. Click on one to see how close your monster is to the next Digivolution. “Make good friends with tamer” and “INT (intelligence) is at least 350” are two of several possible requirements. “Used guard command 40+ times,” “received 3,000 total damage,” and “level is at least 25” are some others.
Gameplay or Game Confusion?
You won’t need a Masters in role-playing to conquer Data Squad’s battles. Its combat is almost as straightforward as the other Digimon World games. Action, Guard, Escape, and Support are the four general commands. Additional options are shown above those commands in related colors (ex: all Action commands are red). There’s no rush in making your move – the game is turn-based and will wait for you to react.
If I could stop the game right here, Data Squad would be a good RPG. But it ventures into a place that very few gamers will want to enter.
The battles, while mechanically on par with the other Digimon games, do not function well. Their response times are slow – three to five seconds per turn and per character change. That’s a lot longer than instantaneous, the norm for the genre. You won’t realize how much of a difference the response times make until the battle frequency picks up. After the intro and preliminary story sequences, Data Squad sets you free to explore. This is cool for a few battles. Then you come to a puzzle, a few treasure chests, and some blocked off areas that appear to be worth examining.
These tasks have one thing in common: you have to walk to get to them, and it only takes a few steps to trigger a battle.
Scenario A: the player sees a chest in the top right corner of the screen. He starts to walk toward it when suddenly a battle begins. Two minutes later the monsters are defeated – now it’s back to getting that chest. You’re just about to touch it when out of nowhere another battle begins. The player wins, grabs the chest and starts to leave the area. But before you can get a few steps away, another battle appears.
For scenarios B through Z, re-read scenario A.
Digimon World Data Squad isn’t a horrible game but its quality is under evolved. Kids and adults that are used to playing the previous installments will have high expectations for this shinier, cel-shaded iteration. If the levels were clearer, if the battles were more exciting, and if the encounters weren’t so frequent, this could’ve been a great game. But while other Digimon titles were polished to where you could forget they were Pokemon clones, Data Squad’s flawed content is not successful at masking the truth.
Review Scoring Details for Digimon World Data Squad
Slow, monotonous, and rarely exciting, Digimon World Data Squad isn’t the monster RPG you’ve been waiting for.
Data Squad’s cel-shaded characters and cartoon backgrounds are nice but the engine is underutilized. The only difference between these battles and those on a Game Boy RPG is that these are three-dimensional.
If nothing else, RPGs can usually be counted on for a decent score.
…But confusing. You’ll have to pay attention to the lousy story to find out what to do next, and even then may not have a clue.
Pokemon meets…a different storyline? There are slight gameplay differences – the menus, characters, monster types, etc., are somewhat different from the land of Jigglypuff. The in-battle evolution system is cool but under used. Besides, it’s usually more beneficial to wait for the battle to end before digivolving. Other than those few areas, Digimon World is a flawed rehash.
Data Squad has too much text for a five-year-old to enjoy it, too many annoyances for a 10-year-old to be amused. And the storyline is lacking.