5 Reasons Digimon Survive Is An Exciting New Direction For The Franchise

Digimon Survive is finally launching for PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One on July 29, 2022. Just a few months ago, it seemed like the game would never see the light of day. Thankfully, we’re now rapidly approaching its release.

And as we finally approach the game’s launch, here are 5 reasons why this project is exciting.

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The Narrative Potential

Digimon has had intriguing narratives tied to it since, at the very least, the original anime Digimon Adventure. Compared to other monster series, this was and still is one of its strongest suits, as it opts for connections, twists, and turns that entice the general audience and please the hardcore fans.

While not all pieces of the multimedia franchise are created equal, the latest Digimon games offered fascinating takes on the franchise. Series producer Kazumasa Habu opted to test the waters and see if games aimed at a young adult audience would sell well. This new focus was evident in titles such as Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth and its midquel, Hacker’s Memory.

With Digimon Survive, the team plans to go one step further and test the boundaries of what the franchise can do. It’s pursuing a darker tone, with death and survival in another world as themes. Characters may die depending on your choices, and the young kids will have to face some dire situations that may put players on edge.

Due to the grittier aspects of choice and consequence, we expect the story to be one of the more mature narratives Digimon has offered so far. However, as the game will have a 7:3 ratio for narrative and combat, the writing will undoubtedly be what makes or breaks the experience.

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The Mysterious New World

Digimon Survive tells the story of junior high-schooler Takuma Momozuka and other kids who go on a camping trip. It was supposed to be a regular extracurricular activity, but a mysterious force throws them into another world. Not only are they now in a place they know nothing about, but this area is brimming with dangers and monsters they had not seen before.

Exploring this new world and uncovering some of its mysteries may be the key to going back home. As such, Takuma and his friends will have to cooperate with some creatures that don’t seem hostile and become their Digimon partners.

One intriguing aspect of Digimon Survive is that the worldbuilding boasts a different direction than the usual choices of the franchise. First of all, Digimon Survive doesn’t take place in the Digiworld. Instead, like Cyberspace EDEN in Digimon Story CyberSleuth or the DigiQuartz in Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Who Leapt Through Time, Survive has its own world.

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According to the images we’ve seen so far, this mysterious world looks like the surroundings of a remote Japanese village. This deserted locale seems to have some connection to ancient local legends, as the kids are spirited away after visiting a temple to the Beast Gods (Kemonogami).

These ties give Digimon Survive a unique atmosphere full of ancient mystique, and its lore may be yet another rendition of Digimon for compelling discussions. Curiously, the idea of tying Japanese mythology and Digimon isn’t exactly new, as the director of the first anime, Hiroyuki Kakudo, viewed these creatures as intimately connected to reality like yokai.

Habu mentioned in our interview that he plans to work with the question “What is a Digimon?” in Digimon Survive. With that in mind, we will probably see this connection come into play. The distinct exploration of humanity’s ancient ties with Digimon may be one fascinating topic to consider while playing the new game.

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Character Growth Impact From Digimon Evolution

Digimon Survive’s concept derives from the wish to represent the meaning of evolution discussed in the first anime series, Digimon Adventure. It all started from the desire to make a game that showed how character growth and human relationships impacted the evolution of the creatures we know as Digimon.

As such, Survive chooses to have a few new systems that could significantly affect the gameplay. For instance, players can select various options during conversations, increasing their Karma toward one of the three routes: Moral, Harmony, and Wrathful. These outcomes also impact the creatures’ evolutions. Further, different routes are likely to alter character allegiances.

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The Moral route connects to the Vaccine type (Greymon). If the name is anything to go by, we can expect this to be a storyline focused on justice. I hope this story offers a naive view of fairness with flaws pointed out by other characters.

Meanwhile, Harmony relates to the Data type (Tyrannomon). Considering the name and the usual gentle nature of the Digimon of that type, I’d be willing to bet this route will discuss coexistence. We don’t know the main forces of the game yet, but it may be related to some balance between them.

The Virus type blooms in the Wrathful route. We aren’t aware of the specific Agumon evolution here, but Skullgreymon is a Virus type, and so are villains such as Devimon, Myotismon, ZeedMillenniummon, and Bagramon. Though one could argue it also applies to creatures hunted by the system, such as Guilmon, the route name seems to imply a corruption arc in which the main character embraces strength for his own ends.

Besides those routes, New Game Plus will unlock the fourth (currently unnamed) option, which may be a True Ending of sorts. We hope it will offer epic battles and plot beats to end everything on a high note.

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Unique Mix Of Gameplay Styles

Digimon has touched upon many different game genres. While RPG and raising simulation may be the first ones to come to mind, there have been fighting games, card games, action games, Digimon Racing, and even at least one weird minigame collection. After some experimentation, the series settled on the raising sim series Digimon World and the RPG series Digimon Story, but it has always tried new ideas.

If we consider all releases, this isn’t the first tactical title in the franchise, as the Wonderswan had Digimon Adventure: Anode/Cathode Tamer. That title offered an intriguing story related to Ryo Akiyama, a legendary tamer whose story develops in both the Digimon Adventure and the Digimon Tamer series.

However, despite not being the first instance of a Digimon SRPG, Digimon Survive still seems to evolve in a different direction. Instead of being a Tactical RPG focused on combat, Survive’s focus is the story, and its official site describes it as a “visual novel with turn-based combat.” With inspiration from the Utawarerumono and the Summon Night series, it’s no wonder the word count would be lengthy.

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Still, the gameplay during text isn’t solely text, as players get to point and click on locations to find items and Digimon. You can choose where to go and who to interact with, with producer Habu also confirming that it’ll be possible to unlock a free battle option.

Meanwhile, combat seems to offer some meaty strategic options. Players must utilize positioning and type advantages to maximize damage. Digimon Survive classifies the creatures into vaccine, data, and virus groups, and they have affinities to six elements (fire, water, earth, wind, light, and dark).

Moreover, players can form a better team by recruiting new allies. Combat includes the option to coerce enemies through negotiations, just like in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Pick the right choices, and you may recruit new help, allowing for more diverse unit options across each map.

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As expected from a Digimon game, evolution is a system that can significantly impact battles. Evolved units will grow stronger and likely cause more damage. However, maintaining a higher evolution stage means having to pay an SP cost every turn, and once it’s down to 0, it’s all over. As such, handling this resource carefully should make a difference in battle.

Another battle system to remember is that human characters can do pep talks. With it, they may boost some stats or heal SP/HP. Items can also have that function, so players should have many options to consider when planning their turn.

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Not Just The Popular Mons

The Digimon Survive roster may initially seem lacking compared to the most recent games. It only offers 100+ playable creatures if you count all forms and evolutions. The company hasn’t released a Digimon list, but we know it’ll miss various fan favorites and famous monsters. Even Guilmon is a DLC character for physical preorders.

Nevertheless, despite that seeming like a con, it’s interesting to see the choices here. While the Digimon from Digimon Adventure like Patamon, Tentomon, Piyomon, Palmon, and Gabumon are in, only Agumon is part of the main partner roster. The other kids have creatures in an in-between position of fan recognition and bold choices.

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The Digimon partner most popular after Agumon is Lopmon, who is considerably less recognizable than his twin Terriermon. The others are rare pairs, with the original Falcomon form (instead of the one in Digimon Savers), Labramon, Kunemon, Floramon, Syakomon, and Dracmon. For someone deeply invested in many creatures like me, it’s fascinating to see the partner choices the team went with.

I’m curious to see how much of a spotlight each of those partners will have. They all have different personalities that either complement or clash considerably with their human counterpart. Kunemon’s relationship with Ryo Tominaga especially sounds like it could breed severe conflict as Ryo is a scaredy-cat who doesn’t handle bugs well. The fact that Kunemon sadly can’t speak any human language will likely complicate matters further.

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Digimon Survive has the chance to be a courageous change of pace for the franchise. Mixing visual novel and strategy RPG is a bold choice, and focusing on narrative rather than combat gameplay has already caused mixed reactions. Nonetheless, for any fan looking to dig deeper into what emotions Digimon can evoke, this game has the chance to become an essential experience. We eagerly anticipate seeing how it will turn out after years of waiting.

Digimon Survive is releasing for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on July 29, 2022.

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.