Retro-Spective: Digimon World

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| September 2, 2023

People always ask, “what was the difference between Digimon and Pokémon?” With both having a popular TV slot on something like Fox Kids, Jetix or Toasted TV in Australia, incorrectly asserting that Digimon ripped off Pokemon due to Digimon Adventure releasing in English two years after Pokémon’s animated series. I believe this game can illustrate the core differences between the two franchises, and I invite you to join me.

Digimon World was the first utilization of Tamagotchi as a video game. You’d be given your partner, train them, take care of them, and try your best to get them to evolve into a new form and win battles. All the while going on expeditions around File Island to recruit new Digimon to live in your hometown. The more you upgrade the town, the more options and possibilities to power up your Digimon present themselves. Along with the prospect of more powerful items and shortcuts to reach places in the world faster for a small currency amount. As such, the gameplay loop for Digimon World went something like this:

– Power up Digimon through specific evolutions.

– Venture out into the world.

– Obtain a new Digimon for File City.

– Your Digimon dies of old age or from losing too many battles.

– Power up again further with increased stat limits and new capabilities.

– Repeat until the game ends.

It’s time to save the world! With your tiny egg on legs…

However, it wasn’t just this core gameplay you had to worry about because your Digimon behaved like a real pet, needing feeding, discipline, and toilet trips. One of the funniest punishments the game hands out is that should you let your Digimon foul the pavements too much, it will evolve into a useless poop-shaped Digimon, which you are now stuck with until it dies and becomes reborn. On top of this, having a poor discipline score could cause a Digimon to disobey your orders in battle or refuse food you may try to give. If Agumon starved to death because you couldn’t bear to scold the cute little guy, that was a real possibility.

Um, Mercy?

The game’s combat design was akin to an Auto battler. You would train up your Digimon, set their attitude and strategy, and choose the moves they use, learnt from battling enemies who use them. Then the fight would play out,the only control you would have would be dictating when your Digimon could use their ultimate attack, which builds up during the battle. The game’s difficulty would rely on you as a trainer being smart and luring enemy Digimon away from their friends, as multiple combatants could be on the field at the same time. Much like your training and raising of a Digimon, these games were all about preparation more than a battle-by-battle basis.

Nice juicy stat increases.

Which leads me to talk about replayability. The speedrunning for this game becomes quite unique, given the freedom to plan your route and to raise your Digimon extends to almost the entire game. You would be running around avoiding fights you had little hope of winning, but strategically implementing that hope in a way that optimizes your growth makes an amazing experience to see how fast you can finish the game. Digimon World speedruns, in particular, are still done to this day due to the pure buffet of choice available.

The story of Digimon World revolves around a human child being sucked into the digital world, as is the case with almost every entry in the Digimon property. This is the first major difference between Digimon and other monster-catching games. The environment is foreign, alien even. While the inhabitants speak perfect English/Japanese, the appeal of Digimon has always been the parallel between the digital world and the normal human world. I’m always reminded of that iconic vision of an electronic tram left abandoned in the middle of an environment it has no business being within. Almost like the digital world sucks in anything it believes may benefit it.

You’ll find the story is something that reveals itself over time here, little snippets given as you help Digimon with their problems, convincing them that working together within the city is safer than braving it in the wild. Because, for some reason, Digimon throughout the world have started to lose their minds, becoming hostile and feral.

Sometimes you have to beat up your new friends first in games like this.

Jijimon, a small humanoid Digimon, tasks you with bringing all the Digimon that still have their minds back, as they’ve all left out of panic. The more the story continues, the more you’re told something weird is happening at the volcano, and the more you progress, a drill-shaped Digimon opens a path for you. Eventually, you’ll make your way into the final dungeon after recruiting enough Digimon, solving some problems, beating up some evil Digimon, and running a 7/11 carved into a cliff.

This shop minigame takes up a sizable amount of time.

The final dungeon of Digimon World is probably the best part of the game. A relentless and unforgiving journey to the top through a digital mire of chaos, flashing tech lights, and binary, like the world has started to unravel itself. Until you get to the top and find the real cause of the disturbance in the world, a human. An adult human just like you, planning to use the digital world for his own ends and damn all the creatures within it. And the kicker? Digimon typically have four evolutions, but this game only lets you evolve to the ultimate state (Perfect in Japan). The final boss is one of only two Digimon in the entire game who have reached the final state, Machinedramon.

Winning this fight is so difficult; his laser cannon special will one-shot you if you’re not prepared, and you’ll hemorrhage healing items in that fight like crazy. But once you win, you tie up all the island’s problems in one nice little bow. This final boss is, in fact, the strongest thing in the game, which makes me happy. Too many games have super bosses, which completely undercut the power of the final boss nowadays.

No wonder, he’s upset at the change to digital…

Finally, the music was pretty good. It was nothing amazing for the time except for the final boss fight, but it wasn’t painful to listen to.

If you want to experience Digimon World in a modern setting, Digimon World: Next Order is the sequel to this game on Steam and Consoles. I would highly recommend trying this game and the newer entry out; they are very addictive little games.

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