Digimon World: Dusk Review

Digimon World: Dusk is one of those unfortunate titles which is going to be judged before it even boots up in the Nintendo DS. With the Pokemon franchise finally being released on the DS, any monster training RPG is going to be compared to Nintendo’s popular cash cow. Digimon World: Dusk is no different. The second nail in the coffin is that Digimon World: Dusk is not a better game than Pokemon Diamond or Pearl. It has problems, which make it even more unlikely that the game will find the same critical acclaim or sales numbers that Pokemon enjoys. That isn’t to say that Digimon World: Dusk is bad. In fact, for someone who has grown up playing Pokemon games, the tweaks to the familiar formula feel quite refreshing. Dare I say that some should be incorporated into the next Pokemon games? If Bandai Entertainment fixes some of the problems Digimon World: Dusk has in future games, then Pokemon’s dominance over the DS may be in question. Until then, though, this game just doesn’t Digivole enough.

Digimon World: Dusk along with Digimon World: Dawn (two SKUs in a nod to the Pokemon franchise) follows the adventures of a young hero or heroine. During the course of a regular tournament in the digital world a viscous virus infects the system, turning the all powerful Digimon into eggs, and reducing your own Digimon into their lower forms. It is a terrible tease to get the gamer hooked early. To start out with all-powerful Digimon and then have them downgraded gives the gamer incentive to get back to the powerful team he or she had before. After this attack the story falls into a series of quests that reduce the narrative. On paper the quests, given out by the more powerful Digimon not affected by the virus, could have worked. In execution, it doesn’t. Part of the emotional connection between the quests is lost, and it feels more like a series of errand runs than a progression of the story. It doesn’t help either that the dialogue is boring. Much of the what the characters say is predictable. Compared to Pokemon’s light hearted, excellently paced adventure, Dusk’s story doesn’t feel up to par.

But we all know the story is not the most important part about a game of this genre. It’s all about the turn-based battles, and the monsters which populate the player’s army. The battle system in Dusk is familiar to the system from Final Fantasy X. On the top display of the DS is set of boxes displaying who will get to act, and in which order. It helps for planning out complicated attacks, and is much better than Pokemon’s "Ok I think my guy gets to go now," system. In addition to the action list, the battle ground is divided into two grids of five panels each; one for the player’s Digimon and one for the enemies. Each Digimon and enemy player takes a spot on the grid, with certain Digimon receiving offensive or defensive bonuses based on who is fighting next to them. This grid system also plays a role in the attacks with some being able to hit more than one grid space at a time. Battles play out until one side falls.

The Digimon which populate either side are also very impressive. Sure the lower evolved versions of come creatures could easily be mistaken with another franchise’s animals, but hit the Ultimate version of these Digimon and try and use that argument again. The more evolved Digimon look baddass, and should appeal to those older gamers who are tired of fighting with their Charizards and Pikachus. Seeing the evolved versions of the Digimon alone is worth putting in the time. These Digimon also have different strengths and weaknesses based on their type. Since this is standard fare for almost any RPG of today, though, this shouldn’t surprise too many people. It does take an hour or so to get used to who is strong against what. Dusk changes up some of the typical strength/weakness relationships we are accustomed to.

With all these additions to strategy one would think Digimon World: Dusk trumps Pokemon when it comes to the battles. It does, in certain areas, but overall the experience just isn’t as satisfying. The biggest negative is the presentation. First, players don’t get to see their Digimon during combat, just their portraits which don’t do the complicated pixel creations justice. Second, the user interface for the battle itself is downright ugly. Green, pink, and purple are not colors that should be slapped together. Add this to the busy UI, and one will quickly want stuff to be simplified. That is not to say the UI isn’t functional. Everything is where it should be and is very easy to understand. But why they couldn’t have toned down the whole interface is a mystery. The battles also don’t feel as epic as other games of this genre — at least at first. While the Digimon on screen do react convincingly to the damage they are dealt, it isn’t until later in the game the really amazing attacks make their appearance. The beginning hours can feel like a boring chore, then the start of an adventure like Pokemon. This may turn some casual gamers away, and leave them missing out on some of the cooler content later on.

The other annoying aspect about Dusk is the dungeons. Populated with a tremendous amount of random battles the dungeons can also become a chore. The worst part is navigating the maze of pathways, some of which lead to no where. There is nothing worse than taking the time to pursue a certain pathway only to find that the path is either blocked, or is a dead end with not even a treasure chest to reward you for the effort. Imagine doing this with the large amounts of random battles.

One area which is enjoyable is leveling up the Digimon. It takes more then just a level cap to bring about the next evolutionary step. Digimon not only have to be a certain level, but also meet an amount of friendship with their trainer, and have the right amount and type of experience. Experience is awarded numerically regardless of who is fought, but what type of experience this is, varies on which type of monster was encountered. Take down machine monsters and machine exp is earned. Same withs with aqua Digimon and so forth. The specific requirements make the evolution feel more like an accomplishment when compared to the numbers crunch of Pokemon. Add in DigiFarm which lets you decide how the farm will effect Digimon placed thanks to customization via items and the leveling process doesn’t become a bore. If there is one area where Digimon World: Dusk trumps the Pokemon franchise, this is it.

The same can’t be said for the graphics and sound, though. To be blunt, the only cool part about the graphics are the Digimon designs. Everything else looks like a GBA game. This hurts the game substantially, no matter how detailed the on screen sprites look. When we know the abilities of the DS, and a developer doesn’t take advantage of that power, it makes one scratched their head wondering why the extra time and care wasn’t applied. The same can be said for the sound. It is fine, but not outstanding. Everything from the sound of the attacks, to the world music or battle score don’t stand out. Know how one can hum the Pokemon themes? That won’t be happening with Digimon World: Dusk.

Some may see it unfair to constantly compare Digimon World: Dusk to the Pokemon franchise, but there isn’t any other standard to measure it against. Any FPS coming out now will obviously be weighed against Halo 3 and Half-Life 2, the "kings" of the genre. Why wouldn’t we compare monster RPGs to Pokemon? Those who enjoyed the Pokemon franchise but are tired of experiencing the same gameplay mechanics, despite how polished they are, should definitely give Digimon World: Dusk a go. If you can get past the graphics, sound, and slow first few hours Digimon World: Dusk can become a rewarding experience. If the next Digimon game fixes some of the problems, then Pokemon might be sweating it out when the next game hits.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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