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.


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).

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.

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.

Scoring Details

for Digimon World Data Squad

Gameplay: 4.0
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.

Sound: 7.5
If nothing else,
RPGs can usually be counted on for a decent score.

Difficulty: Easy
…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.

Concept: 5.5
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.

Overall: 4.3
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.