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The Ones I Finished Video Games

Game 249 — Digimon Survive

I’ve been a Digimon fan ever since I got my very own digital pet, presumably some time in 1998. That fandom had become permanent by the time the Digimon Adventure anime concluded its Saturday morning run in the summer of 2000. Since then, I’ve dabbled with some of the Digimon video games, almost none of which have captured either sense of wonder or emotional weight of that anime series. The most recent addition to the franchise, Digimon Survive, is the 249th video game that I’ve completed in my life. Here are my thoughts on the game:

I think it’s helpful to know what kind of game Digimon Survive actually is before deciding to play it. The game is a visual novel first and a tactics RPG second. If you decide to play this game, you will be reading quite a bit of text. I found that the game’s story got off to a bit of a slow start with characters talking in circles more often than I would like. However, the story takes some interesting (read “dark”) turns as the game picks up the pace in the middle third. And in my opinion, the game is at its finest in the final third, which just happens to be where the story branches into paths leading to different endings.

The premise of Digimon Survive is that you are a middle school student on a class trip. You and a few of your classmates end up getting pulled into a different world and making friends with some monsters. The problem is that this other world is neither comfortable nor safe, and the group has to—as the title suggests—Survive.

Along the way, you’ll make conversational choices that define your character, Takuma, as well as his relationship with the others. These choices affect the outcome of the game.

This aspect of the game will likely account for the bulk of your time spent with Digimon Survive. The art is beautifully drawn and the world is mysterious. It makes for a great intro to the visual novel genre.

The monsters in your group will end up fighting in grid-based tactical battles. These battles will seem quite familiar if you’ve played games like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, or the hit new release Triangle Strategy. The combat on offer here is far less robust than the aforementioned games, whose combat tends to be the primary mode of interactivity. There isn’t quite enough customizability in your party to make this element of the game feel strategic. Like I said, Digimon Survive is a tactical RPG second.

Many of these battles will come at important moments in the story of Digimon Survive, but you can engage in free battles to strengthen you partner monsters or recruit new monsters. I think this works to the benefit of the game because it allows you to have some agency in directing the pace of the game.

In the end, I quite enjoyed Digimon Survive. The unevenness between the visual novel aspects of the game and the tactical battle system makes the game feel slight at times, but I never stopped feeling curious about how the game would come together in the end. It’s the only Digimon media that I’ve interacted with in the last 22 years that has come close to making me feel the way I did watching Digimon Adventure as a young teenager. I think the ride is worth it for fans of the franchise.

In my ongoing effort to rank every game that I’ve ever finished, Digimon Survive is tentatively ranked 158 out of 249.

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