Digimon World Next Order (Switch) Review – The True Nature of Digimon

    Title: Digimon World: Next Order
    Developer: HYDE, Inc.
    Release Date: February 22, 2023
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Bandai Namco Interactive
    Genre: RPG, Simulation

I first heard of the Digimon World series while watching a livestream of someone playing the original game, Digimon World, on the PS1. The high amount of time they spent in the menus and, not to mention the numerous restarting attempts of their save file, left me curious as to how anyone could find enjoyment with this type of simulation RPG.

This experience impacted me, but when I found out that the newest entry, Digimon World Next Order, was already a few years old by that point, I didn’t know when I would have a chance to play. However, that was until its recent release on Nintendo Switch and PC. So, now it’s my turn to see what kind of Digi-Tamer I am, and with the portability of the Switch, it’s probably the most accessible this experience has ever been outside of Japan.

In Digimon World: Next Order, you play as a young DigiTamer who gets sucked into the Digital World. The objective is simple: Defeat the MachineDramon spread all across the DigiWorld and bring peace to the realm. And to do this, you must bring in all of the Digimon to help prosper the hub world of Floatia. In total, there are only four chapters in the entire narrative.

But if you thought that four chapters would mean that you could beat this in just 15 to 20 hours, then think again. Most of your time will be spent raising your two Digimon partners, notably at the Training Hall, where you’ll increase their stats and evolve them. While I would hesitate to call Digimon World Next Order an “open world” (after all, there are several points of differentiation), it certainly gives you relative freedom. Even after playing for over 30 hours, I’ve barely inched closer to Chapter 2.

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By raising your partners, you’ll steadily obtain what are known as DigiEvolution hints, which can be accessed through the History menu. That way, you can figure out what stat is required for that Digimon to evolve, though it is worth noting that it’s all but random at the end of the day. But, of course, you also never know when the inevitable death of your precious Partner will come knocking on the door, so I suggest preparing yourself emotionally.

No matter how many days elapse, however, Digimon World: Next Order has no time limit in the traditional way that a bad ending will trigger after a certain amount of time. Still, I certainly wouldn’t blame someone for using a guide because, good grief, it can get very confusing at times, especially when it comes to fulfilling specific Digimon requests or knowing where to go next without consulting the Map every 10 seconds.

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Still, let’s get to the two things that might be why you clicked on this review in the first place. The first of them, of course, is how well Digimon World Next Order runs on the Nintendo Switch. And throughout my time, I didn’t experience any crashes, and the framerate managed to maintain a consistent sixty the whole time. Although perhaps the occasional frame drop happened during some crazy attack effects.

Furthermore, this is the “first time” that Digimon World: Next Order is on a portable console. While the Vita version was released in Japan, a western release never came. Fun fact: After asking one of our staff, I learned that the Vita version had the English translation implemented into the code but was never released officially. Nonetheless, while the PS4 version frequently goes on sale, the Switch version is currently at a full retail price, which stings a bit.

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And the full retail price is why we have to consider two new features into the equation: Beginner Mode and the ability to Dash while in the overworld. I personally don’t understand why dashing is touted as a selling point, but I digress. After comparing it to the original PS4 release’s Easy Mode, Beginner Mode feels more forgiving. Still, it doesn’t seem to make a significant difference, though that is nigh impossible to tell since your mileage can significantly vary. However, it should be noted that in this release, Hard Mode now requires you to beat the Final Boss once to unlock it.

Furthermore, the dash feature, while handy, requires you to hold the Pro Controller in a highly uncomfortable position. This is because to dash, you must keep holding the B Button to run, and not only is the speed increase not that impressive, but I also found myself having to do this “claw” grip on my controller because of the positioning of the buttons. It doesn’t get any better with the JoyCons, either. In fact, I would say it’s even more uncomfortable there.

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I strongly advise first-time players and fans of the Digimon franchise not to pick Next Order as their first series game. The controls and the gameplay are incredibly unintuitive, and it’s easy to get confused about what to do. Plus, the menus are undeniably clunky. Even though the two-partner System and Beginner Mode does make it a bit forgiving, it relies a lot on your series’ knowledge.

Nonetheless, I strongly think that this is, without a doubt, the authentic Digimon experience: it feels a lot like raising a Tamagotchi but with several further steps involved if that makes sense. Raising your Digimon requires constantly giving them items which can lead to you running out of resources if you’re not careful. Something that bothered me was that there are only three save files in total, which means “rewinding to an earlier save” is practically impossible unless you’re creative with your save file juggling.

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Digimon World Next Order feels and plays fantastically on the Nintendo Switch. But unfortunately, it relies on you being familiar with its established gameplay mechanics, which can be daunting for newcomers. Despite the newly added Beginner Mode and Dash features, I feel like this iteration of the digital world is targeted toward longtime fans or new ones who have a lot of time to learn its many nuances. Still, the portability of the Switch makes this perfect for western gamers raising Digimon on the go.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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