Review: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth did something no Digimon game had done before: deliver a solid game that was lauded by critics and fans alike. Developer Media.Vision presented players with a unique RPG experience that focused heavily on story, exploration and the raising of Digital Monsters. After such a success, Bandai Namco and Media.Vision hope to capitalize on it with Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory. With a greater emphasis on story and the addition of new Digimon, is Hacker’s Memory the next step forward for the Digimon franchise or best left in our memories?

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory follows Keiuske, a high school student who finds himself an outcast after a hacker steals his EDEN account. Contacted by a mysterious figure who claims to know the whereabouts of his account, Keiuske joins the hacker group Hudie to help explore EDEN and track down the supposed culprit. Hacker’s Memory isn’t so much a sequel to Cyber Sleuth but is instead a side-story to the original game. The events of Hacker’s Memory run parallel to the original with familiar characters popping up from time-to-time. While the original game’s plot focused more on saving the world from an unknown threat, however, Hacker’s Memory focuses more on its characters. There’s some surprising depth here with each member of Hudie having a distinct personality and tragic past. While Keiuske is a silent protagonist, he does have more of a backstory and motivation to keep players engaged.

The game also isn’t afraid to tackle heavy topics. Themes such as enslavement and servitude are frequently brought up and handled with the utmost care. Even with the heavy-handed nature of some plot elements, Hacker’s Memory does know when to pull back and have some fun. Players will frequently take part in ludicrous missions, get beaten by a stuffed whale, and find themselves in humorous circumstances. Hacker’s Memory’s plot may not be as grand as the original, but it does have more heart.

The plot does run into many of the same roadblocks the original game faced. The story is frequently sidetracked by random Cases that come assigned as ‘important.’ To proceed, Keiuske has to tackle an assortment of these ‘important’ mission, few of which progress the main plot. While these Cases add significant extra hours of content to Hacker’s Memory, it does hurt the plot’s pacing.

Despite being a side-story to Cyber Sleuth, Hacker’s Memory relies heavily on players having already played the original game. NPCs from the original frequently pop up without introduction, events from the first game are commonly referenced, and newcomers will entirely miss a handful of quick moments that pass by in the blink of an eye. While these are cool nuggets of info for returning players, those without the knowledge will find themselves overwhelmed.

This idea of being overwhelmed plays into the combat and progression mechanics. Asides from a few balancing tweaks and general clean-up, combat and progression remain relatively similar to the original, which is good considering how solid this was. Hacker’s Memory involves building a team of Digimon, exploring EDEN and participating in a series of turn-based battles. Battles are quick and exhilarating, and mixing and matching various Digimon types to create a balanced team never gets old. Hacker’s Memory has so much strategy and secrets to uncover, but new players are going to be lost.

Unlike the first game, which took time to explain various mechanics to players, Hacker’s Memory assumes players already know this and speeds right into the game. A handful of tutorials are available, but they do little to help players understand the intricacies of the game’s Digivolution, customization and typing mechanics. It’s a pity too because Hacker’s Memory’s combat can be a real treat.

Hacker’s Memory does toss in some new mechanics to give the game its own unique flavor. The game introduces Domination Battles where you join one-to-two other hackers in a battle against another hacker team. The goal is to capture a certain number of points on a glowing board. Domination takes a good amount of strategy as you maneuver your way to key positions, attack enemies and defend your precious points. There aren’t many of these in the game, but the ones that are can be quite fun to participate in. Just be careful because you can’t swap out your Digimon during battle or use items.

There are about a hundred new Digimon to collect in-game, including fan-requested inclusions such as Agunimon and Shoutmon. Returning players will also notice a few new areas in EDEN and the real world to explore. Unfortunately, the amount of content that is new is severely outweighed by the returning content.

Hacker’s Memory commits the cardinal sin of recycling too much content. The majority of locations visited in the game are copy-pasted from the original game. Whether traversing the neon blue halls of Kowloon or the four-story mall of Nakano Broadway, returning players will see the same sights they’d traversed for over thirty hours before. Likewise, all of the tunes are ripped from the original game. Composer Masafumi Takada did return to pen some original tracks, but the new is far outweighed by the old.

There’s still a lot to love about Hacker’s Memory’s gameplay. The core combat, while a bit easy on the default difficulty, remains enjoyable throughout the over thirty hours you’ll spend with the game. With plenty of additional content explore and secrets to uncover, it’s easy to double the amount of time needed to complete the main story. It’s just a shame that there’s so much recycling from the previous title.

Also recycled are the visuals. Hacker’s Memory looks fantastic from an artistic perspective thanks to the beautiful designs by Suzuhito Yasuda. The contrasting color pallets of EDEN-sanctioned areas and the hacker havens of Kowloon and Under Kowloon continue to impress. What remains most impressive is the Digimon who have been crafted to represent their likeness in the TV shows. It’s a fantastic sight to see classic characters like Omnimon and Diaboromon standing side-by-side with Keiuske.

Unfortunately, the same level of detail didn’t translate to the real-world locales. Low-resolution textures and models populate the streets of Tokyo and are especially noticeable when playing on PS4. Expect to see lots of blurry billboards, street signs and text when traveling about. While the game’s presentation fits perfectly on PS Vita, it leaves much to be desired on PS4.

Closing Comments:

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory may not be a true sequel to the 2016 original, but it’s a better version of a familiar experience. The visuals don’t shine as brightly on PS4 and players will have to wander through a lot of recycled content before encountering much new. While it would have been nice to have new areas, Hacker’s Memory is carried by its profoundly personal story, engrossing combat and progression mechanics, and various quality of life improvements. While newcomers may find the experience a little confusing, returning players will appreciate meeting up with returning characters and experiencing the enhancements implemented to improve the experience. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory may not be a true sequel, but the quality put into the story, combat and progression make it a worthy successor.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory