Digimon Survive Review
If there’s a franchise similar to Pokemon that can somehow compete in familiarity and fun, Digimon would immediately come to mind. While both deal in pitting monsters with each other, Digimon takes on a more virtual nature, and the plot deals with more than just a simple trainer wanting to be the very best, like no one ever was.
The same could be said of this latest entry in the series, the curiously titled Digimon Survive. It took a while due to various development issues, but it’s finally here!
At its core, Digimon Survive is a Visual Novel/Strategy RPG hybrid. The game follows Takuma Momozuka, who, along with a handful of students from his class during a school trip, is mysteriously transported to a different world. There, they encounter the mysterious Digimon, here called Kemonogami, and that’s where the mold is broken in terms of story and tone.
The title suggests a somewhat serious tone, but it becomes more apparent as you play. In fact, as soon as you boot up Digimon Survive, you’re almost immediately greeted with a rather soft, melancholic musical piece paired with a bleak visual of a rundown classroom.
The expectation of a merry adventure beating the baddies by the power of friendship is immediately tempered. Instead, you must guide Takuma and his companions as they fight to survive in a world where danger lurks in every corner. It’s an engaging story that’s worth playing until the end, and you’ll want to see how these characters grow and change as they desperately try to find a way home, all the while being helped by the Kemonogami they bond with along the way.
Digimon Survive is a pretty fresh take, considering you wouldn’t normally exactly expect a rather depressing story of survival in a Digimon game. It is also surprising how the Digimon lore is tweaked a bit, where the titular monsters aren’t virtual but otherworldly.
If this has piqued your curiosity about Digimon Survive, then you’re in for a treat as it has also managed to blend its visual novel and strategy elements quite beautifully.
Familiar and Fun
As a visual novel, Digimon Survive doesn’t really reinvent the wheel. As expected from games of the genre, the game’s story is told through loads and loads of text. Travel is relegated to simply picking choices from menus, so the “action” is very few and far between. There are also certain points where you can bring out your phone camera to scan areas of interest, where either useful items or dangers are lurking.
It’ll take more than one playthrough to get the complete experience in Digimon Survive, as the choices you make will determine not only the ending but also if certain characters will survive or not thanks to a system called Karma, which extends to even the most mundane of choices.
One great thing Digimon Survive does is give you visual cues on which of the three routes you’re building up to. Depending on your choices, points for the Moral, Wrathful, or Harmony routes will be conveniently displayed when you check your status, which is a great tool to help you keep track of the choices you make.
The success of visual novel games hinges on how strong their stories and characters are, and Digimon Survive has both that are worth the time investment, despite not feeling very original. Takuma’s friends, the serious voice of reason Aoi and the carefree goofball Minoru, may remind you of Sakura Haruno from Naruto and maybe Yosuke from Persona 4.
You also have Shuji, the by-the-book upperclassmen student that feels he needs to take control of the situation because of seniority. Maybe a little bit like Tenya from My Hero Academia. There are a lot of characters and themes that feel a little bit too familiar, but the charm of Digimon Survive shines through them.
The Kemonogami themselves are also a colorful bunch. Takuma’s partner, Agumon, is ever faithful and curious, and his interactions with Takuma are fun to watch. On the other hand, Labramon, the doglike Kemonogami, is endearing and protective of Aoi.
Major portions of the game will involve you interacting with your fellow survivors and their Kemonogami. Like how your choices can determine the story route, the way you respond can determine your affinity with certain characters. It actually feels very reminiscent of the Social Links/Confidants system in Persona, where you’re better off choosing options that favor who you’re talking to.
Digimon Survive does its job as a visual novel and does it really well. The characters may not feel original, but you’ll still warm up to them and want to see how their journey ends.
During the journey, you’ll also meet hostile Kemonogami out there, and this is where the other half of the fun lies.
Fight and Survive
Digimon Survive is not just a visual novel but also a strategy RPG, where your Kemonogami must do battle with hostiles of different types and species. Anyone who has played a strategy RPG like Super Robot Wars, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Disgaea will feel right at home here.
In Digimon Survive, you’ll basically set up your team on a large battlefield and take turns moving and performing actions, fulfilling certain objectives to win, like defeating all enemies or protecting an NPC.
The AI can sometimes be unforgiving, taking advantage of every situation, which makes battles tough. Battlefields are also designed in such a way that you’ll need to know the layout or else be left at a disadvantage.
The usual strategy game trimmings are here – more damaging back and side attacks, units that support each other when nearby, and others.
Digimon Survive also has a free mode, where players can engage in free battles that level up their Kemonogami and increase their stats, and might even recruit some new friends. Reminiscent of the demon recruiting system in Shin Megami Tensei, there will be times when you can talk to enemy Kemonogami, where your response will determine if they will listen to you or become even more hostile.
You’ll have a limited number of moves to talk with various characters in the story, eventually raising your affinity with them and determining how well they fight with you in battle.
Affinity also determines the evolution of your Kemonogami. Tyrannomon, for example, is just one of the many evolutions Agumon can undergo. Likewise, in recruiting new Kemonogami, your current Karma status will determine how likely a Kemonogami will join your party.
Like its visual novel element, Digimon Survive doesn’t exactly reinvent the Strategy RPG genre, but rather incorporates its elements well in a way that is fun and challenging to players.
Compared to previous Digimon titles, the human characters here may feel rather generic in terms of design, but that’s not exactly a bad thing considering the story – everyday people thrown into an extraordinary situation, fighting to survive.
On the other hand, the Kemonogami designs are definitely unique and creative. Character portraits look great during the visual novel parts, and during battle, the Kemonogami are bright and colorful despite the limited animations.
Overall, the audio in the game was well made. The music does a great job of setting the tone of the game, and there are moments of tension where the visuals are greatly helped by the audio cues. The voice cast also did a great job, with performances that convey the proper emotions coming from both humans and Kemonogami.
If anything, the only hiccups we experienced were misspelled words along with audio sync issues where the animations didn’t match the audio. These are very minor and shouldn’t take away from the overall experience. The game is still fun from start to finish.
What we Liked:
- Engaging story and characters
- Fun and challenging battle system
- Monster recruiting
What We Didn’t Like:
- Doesn’t reinvent the wheel
- Minor audio sync issues
Verdict: Buy It!
Digimon Survive is the latest entry in the series that takes a surprising twist with its setting and visual novel/strategy RPG hybrid. The result is a fresh take that’s fun, challenging, and a familiar treat for those who like monster collecting.
Longtime fans should definitely give this a shot, and newcomers who haven’t played any of the previous Digimon games shouldn’t have a problem following the story or any of its proceedings. Despite the unfortunate delays that the game has experienced over the years, Digimon Survive is another worthwhile entry in the long-running series that won’t disappoint.
*Digimon Survive was reviewed on a PS4/PS5 with a review copy provided by the publisher.