Tuesday, January 23, 2018

REVIEW: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory

When Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth came to the West in 2016, fans cheered and rejoiced. It was a game with beautiful 3D artwork, new and interesting concepts, and one of the best stories a Digimon game has ever had. While Digimon World: Next Order was fun, fans still wanted more Cyber Sleuth. And now, we have more Cyber Sleuth.

Cyber Sleuth revolutionized what Digimon could be. Set in the real-life neighborhoods of Japan and the virtual cyberspace of EDEN, Cyber Sleuth created a world where Digimon are mysterious AI used by hackers for a variety of reasons. The player assumed the titular role of a detective investigating multiple phenomena while uncovering a conspiracy in both the real and virtual worlds.

I loved the idea that Digimon just started showing up in EDEN and hackers figured out a way to use them to break down firewalls and collect information and data. Unfortunately, Cyber Sleuth only scratched the surface of this concept, instead focusing on solving mysteries as a detective. As its name would suggest, Hacker’s Memory puts all of the attention on EDEN’s hacker culture.

Players assume the role of Keisuke, a high school student who had his EDEN account raided by a hacker. An EDEN account is necessary for daily life and only one kind of person gets caught up in the kinda of danger that causes your account to be inaccessible: hackers. Everyone at school, even the teachers, think Keisuke is a hacker. Everyone except his friend Yu. Keisuke has only one option to clear his name, get his account back, and prove he isn’t a hacker. Unfortunately for Keisuke, the only way to catch a hacker is to become a hacker.

Keisuke joins up with Hudie, a hacker group for hire based out of an internet cafe that handles cases only a hacker can. Similar to the first Cyber Sleuth game, the bulk of the gameplay involves solving cases. However, this time around the cases are a little less Veronica Mars and put more of a focus on hacking. When Keisuke isn’t taking on cases, he and the rest of Hudie track down criminal hackers and bring them to justice, all the while searching for the one who raided Keisuke’s account in the first place.

With its new focus on EDEN’s hacker culture, Hacker’s Memory adds a plethora of new features to Cyber Sleuth gameplay. In addition to almost a hundred new Digimon, new locations, and new music, a handful of new Hacking Abilities have been added to make traversing cyberspace more interesting. There is also a Digimon black market, where you can straight up pay money for Digimon. Since a big part of hacking in EDEN relates to Hacker groups acting like gangs, there is a Domination Battle system which involves controlling multiple Hudie members in a battle to control territory against a rival Hacker group. You can also customize your character and Digimon with clothes and accessories. The online, player vs. player arena has also been completely revamped.

Yes: Hacker’s Memory is, more or less, the same game as Cyber Sleuth but with a different paint job. However, it’s a really, really good paint job. It has been explained that this was designed as something to keep fans interested in between the release of last year’s Next Order and an entirely new Digimon Story game. It really could’ve been just the same game with a different character and cutscenes. I even thought Keisuke’s physical body was going to end up digitized and he’d wind up working at the detective agency. Instead, Hacker’s Memory is a completely new experience from the world of Cyber Sleuth that never feels old or overdone. It’s a new game, and in a lot of ways, it’s a better game. The characters are richer, the story is stronger, and the focus on hackers really lets the most cyberpunk version of Digimon we’ve ever seen really get to shine.

Get your copy of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker’s Memory on the PS4 by clicking here. If you're interested in checking out the complete Cyber Sleuth saga, you can click here to order both games in one for the Nintendo Switch.