An Introduction to the Digital World
Digimon World is a video game for the Sony Playstation 1 that was released in North America on May 21st, 2000, and in Europe on July 6th, 2001. Without letting my nostalgia cloud my judgment, I am incredibly fond of this game.
Growing up in the era of the PlayStation 1, I stumbled upon Digimon World in an unexpected way. I was a huge fan of Crash Bandicoot games, so when my dad went to rent a game from Xtravision, I had my sights set on Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Unfortunately, it was out of stock. Instead, my dad chose Digimon World as a substitute. I started playing and was instantly captivated, quickly ranking it among my all-time favorite PS1 games.
Digimon World has left a lasting impression on me due to its remarkable legacy. Despite being released over two decades ago, the game still holds up well in various aspects. Its distinctive gameplay mechanics and unforgettable characters have helped it stand the test of time. However, it wasn’t widely appreciated when it first came out. Let’s delve into the game and provide our own review of it!
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The Gameplay Loop
First, let’s talk about the Gameplay. Digimon World provides a fulfilling experience by allowing you to raise and guide a single Digimon through its entire life cycle. Although it may be challenging to accept your beloved Digimon’s death and start anew, this cycle becomes incredibly addictive and satisfying. It’s very reminiscent of the physical Tamogatchi experience it attempted to emulate.
The game begins with an impressive CGI cutscene, which is remarkable for a PS1 game. The protagonist is transported into a digital device and taken to File Island, the native land of Digimon. Upon waking up in File City, you meet Jijimon, the leader of File City, along with some other Digimon. Jijimon informs you that File Island is in a critical situation as many citizens of File City have left and succumbed to some form of madness. Your task is to explore the island and try to recruit as many of these Digimon as possible to help them return.
To begin your adventure, select one of two Rookie Digimon: Agumon or Gabumon. Jijimon will ask you a series of questions to help you “choose” your starter Digimon. After selecting your Digimon, Jijimon will give you a speech about bringing more Digimon back to the city. Between Agumon and Gabumon, Agumon is the superior choice. This is because he has a better starting attack (Spit Fire instead of Sonic Jab), a better evolution line, and can evolve into Greymon, one of the best champion Digimon.
With your choice in hand, you are now given complete control of the game with little further explanation. This can overwhelm new users as it initially provides a “now what do I do?” experience.
Explore the city and interact with the NPCs to learn more about the island you’re on. Moving to the left from the starting screen will take you to the Green Gym area, the most common location in the game. Your Digimon has several stats, including HP, MP, Offense, Defense, Speed, and Brains, that are crucial for your progress. You can increase these stats by training in the various sections of the Green Gym area or by battling other Digimon and using stat-raising items.
Monitoring your Digimon’s stats is just one aspect of taking care of it. You must also ensure it is well-fed and uses the toilet properly to avoid “Care Mistakes.” Too many mistakes can result in your Digimon’s death or an undesirable Digi-evolution. Additionally, keeping an eye on your Digimon’s happiness and discipline levels is essential. Scolding your Digimon increases its discipline but decreases its happiness while praising it boosts happiness but lowers discipline. These factors all play a role in determining the type of Digimon you will get when it’s time to Digi-evolve.
As you venture out of the starting township, you stumble upon a peaceful grassy spot (and a distinct lack of any game music) until an Agumon appears and challenges you to your first battle in the game.
The battle system in Digimon World is unique in comparison to other games you may have played. The process is primarily automated, even before auto-battler games became popular. Your Digimon will move around the screen and launch attacks at the opposing Digimon to reduce their HP gauge. Each attack you use will also drain some of your Digimon’s MP gauge, which means you only have a limited number of attacks before needing to restore MP with an item. You can equip up to three different types of attacks, and they all use different MP values. The same basic concept applies to the enemy Digimon, except they have an infinite MP gauge. As previously mentioned, your stats are crucial to your success in battle. For example, when you reach a Brains stat of 100, you can start directing your Digimon more efficiently by instructing them to use their stronger attacks.
If your Digimon is defeated in battle, you have a 5-second window to use a revive item and get them back in the fight. Failing to do so will cause your Digimon to lose a “life,” and you will return to Jijimon. If your Digimon loses three lives in their lifespan, they will die, and you will receive a new egg. Additionally, losing a Digimon this way may lower your Tamer rank, which is a rank that indicates how well you are raising your Digimon.
Once you’ve defeated Agumon, he becomes a willing participant in your city’s growth. On his return to the city, he establishes a bank, a simple item storage system. This initiates a captivating routine where you develop your Digimon, train them in various ways, venture onto the island, and recruit additional Digimon for your city. Every new addition introduces fresh features to the city, increasing the game’s enjoyment. This is where the addictive loop holds you and keeps you wanting more!
The graphics in Digimon World still hold up well today due to the use of pre-rendered backgrounds, which help maintain the game’s quality. While the main character has a chibi appearance, the Digimon are depicted with fantastic and unique 3D models that stand out. This feature makes it easy to come back to the game, which is something only some games from this era can claim. When a Digimon evolves, players are treated to a visually exciting experience as their Digimon glows and slowly transforms into a brand new Digimon. However, the disappointment is real when a Numemon Digimon is obtained (trust me, this will happen to new players). When a Digimon eventually dies, players will see individual polygons falling away from the creature in a sad display instead of the beautiful glowing Digi-volution.
The soundtrack in Digimon World is incredible! Even to this day, I still listen to it. The game has a unique system where it only plays soundtracks in specific locations such as File City and during battles. You’ll hear ambient noises like birds chirping or a volcano rumbling when exploring the island. The battle and boss soundtracks are fantastic and add to the excitement of the game. Additionally, some areas have both day and night soundtracks, which was a great touch. My favorite is File City Night, one of the most relaxing video game themes I’ve ever heard.
One weird issue with the soundtrack I have experienced across multiple physical PAL copies of the game is that it sometimes restarts a theme from the beginning during certain portions of the game instead of continuing on. This can feel abrupt and weird when it occurs.
I have come across another audio issue while playing the game. Sometimes, there is a delay of around 20 seconds when transitioning between screens. During this time, the sound of footsteps repeats continuously as if you are still walking. At first, I thought it could be because of the PAL copy of my game, but I noticed this happening across all three copies of the game I tested. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often.
Some people might find Digimon World 1 challenging, especially for new players. The lack of explanation at the beginning can be frustrating and difficult to overcome without a guide.
However, mastering the primary gameplay loop and training your Digimon properly can make the game significantly more manageable. Keeping a well-stocked inventory of HP/MP restoring items can also help you brute-force through many encounters.
The game’s most complex and commonly reported aspect is training your Digimon correctly. You must do so to avoid ending up with the weak Numemon or Sukamon Digimon, making battles even more challenging. Correctly training your Digimon and achieving better Digivolutions will provide a smoother difficulty curve.
Fortunately, the game offers a “fix” for Numemon and Sukamon. You can take Numemon to Toy Town, where it can climb into an empty teddy costume and instantly Digivolve into the powerful Monzaemon. Alternatively, King Sukamon in Trash Mountain can help you revert Sukamon’s evolution. However, reaching these areas and overcoming enemies can be challenging with these Digimon, and Digivolving into them in the first place counts as a Care Mistake.
Once you progress further in the game, the difficulty does ease off quite a bit if you have managed to move into a semi-decent Digivolution pool. In my playthrough, where I achieved a 100 prosperity rating (equivalent to a 100% story completion), my MetalGreymon proved capable of handling nearly every challenge the game presented.
Unfortunately, Digimon World is not without its bugs! In fact, it has quite a few, some of which are entirely game-breaking. I could actually be here for quite a while if I had to list them all off but let me showcase some of the more dangerous ones:
- The game will crash when interacting with the Giromon jukebox (NTSC only)
- The game has a rare chance to freeze/lock up during specific enemy encounters. I’ve had the game freeze entirely on a text panel without the conversation continuing (PAL/NTSC)
- Sometimes, when a battle begins, your Digimon might move to a part of the screen where they cannot move out anymore. When this happens, they become completely stuck in that area.
I’ve noticed a potential issue in the game that could be considered a game-breaker. During two occasions in the game, a Digimon may attack you outside Jijimon’s house in File City. If you only have a baby or rookie Digimon at the time, these battles can range from virtually impossible to extremely difficult. Losing the fight brings you back inside Jijimon’s house while leaving, causing the battle to restart. This creates an infinite loop that can be frustrating and game-breaking. These battles occur after recruiting a certain number of Digimon, so keeping track and preparing is essential.
Various glitches and bugs are present in the game, and one of the most well-known among them is the Mojyamon money glitch. You can obtain infinite money by repeating the grinding process and traveling between Mojyamon and File City. However, I strongly suggest that new players refrain from exploiting this glitch. Playing the game naturally and enjoying the initial playthrough without relying on such shortcuts is better.
From what I have investigated online, the NTSC version of the game is more prone to glitches and bugs, while the PAL version consists of fewer “game-breaking” bugs. I’ve read many stories where NTSC players have been unable to complete the game due to a bug. If Digimon World is one day added to PSN, I hope they offer us the ability to play both the PAL and NTSC versions of the game.
Overall, Digimon World is a fascinating game that has rarely been replicated. It has gained a cult following since its release and can now be found getting speedrun on Twitch.tv. IGN gave it a review score of 5.8/10 on July 6th, 2000; I can’t help but feel that was a harsh score. It’s a brief review that doesn’t explain why it got its score. Most notably, they make no mention of the game’s numerous bugs, which would have possibly resulted in an even lower score.
Apart from the occasional bug, the fundamental gameplay loop of Digimon is intriguing and captivating. As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed raising a strong Digimon, engaging in battles, acquiring new moves, and exploring new territories. Even now, this remains a delightful and enjoyable experience. It is commendable when a game can maintain its entertainment value over the years.
The only game I have played in the years since that has come remotely close to the same experience is the spiritual successor Digimon World Next Order which is available on PS Vita with a more enhanced edition available on PS4. I also highly recommend this one!
- Addicting gameplay loop
- Large number of Digimon to use
- Beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds
- Lack of guidance
- You probably need a guide