The continued success of the Digimon series of games and cartoons might perplex parents, but for kids, there's no mystery. It should come as no surprise, then, that the upcoming Digimon World: Data Squad for the PlayStation 2 is aimed squarely at the younger set. We had a chance to check out Data Squad for ourselves at a recent Namco Bandai press event to see how this role-playing-game-lite is shaping up.
As you might expect, Data Squad is an RPG set in the Digimon universe, and it's one that's been created with younger gamers in mind. Many of the standard RPG conventions are intact; you'll guide your Digimon trainer through a map, encountering random monster battles as you go and, when in battle, you'll be able to control three Digimon monsters during the fight. The story behind the game will have you playing as Marcus, a new Digimon trainer who's responsible for protecting the world from a digital invasion of monsters and for discovering why kids are being kidnapped in the world. Once you add boss monsters that are supposedly inspired by the biblical seven deadly sins, you've got a storyline that may seem a bit grown-up for its intended audience. However, there's no denying that the bright, cartoon look of the game will be right up a kid's alley.
While collecting the 140-plus Digimon in the game will be a big part of the attraction, it isn't, of course, the only thing you can do with your ever-growing stable of digital monsters. Evolving them into higher digital forms will grant them more power on the battlefield, with a larger array of powerful attacks and guards from which to choose. You'll have two choices for evolving your Digimon: The first involves using a system known as the Galactic Evolution System. Here, you choose the path of your Digimon's evolution by mapping it out on what looks like a star system, with each star in the constellation representing a new destination on your evolutionary trail. The second method is to choose a random evolution, which will give your Digimon a random evolution, possibly a path you hadn't thought of before.
Another new feature in Data Squad is known as the emote feature. When in battle, you'll have a number of different options: attack, guard, item, or escape. Within each of these options, you'll have several choices, such as different kinds of attacks or attribute power-ups. Your Digimon's current mood will determine which particular action it wants to take at that given point in the battle. If you choose to follow your Digimon's mood and use that particular action, your Digimon will not only be more effective in battle, but it will be more apt to listen to your suggestions later in the game. Essentially, the emote system seems to be a help system for those new to RPGs or for kids who need a hand with defeating the many monsters they'll encounter along the way.
All of the Digimon in the game will fall into certain species or element categories; as a result, some Digimon will be more effective against certain enemies than others (it's up to you, as the trainer, to know those strengths and weaknesses). As you roam around the world, you'll be able to take up to four Digimon with you, though only three can accompany you into battle at any given moment. In addition, the game will have more than 250 items you can collect along the way to use on your party members or against enemies.
With approximately 20 hours of gameplay, Digimon World: Data Squad seems like it will be a nice introduction to the complex world of RPGs, especially for folks who are already fans of the Digimon universe. The game is currently due for release in fall of 2007.