The Digimon World series has metamorphosed again, into an occasionally fun dungeon crawler with too many frustrations.
(-) it's easy to get lost in the nearly-identical environments; game-play fun for a while but gets old rather fast; not much to look at; missions often range from frustratingly hard to frustratingly shallow
Digimon World first originated on the original Playstation, meant to compete with the giant of Poke'mon on the then-current system Nintendo 64. With each game in the series, the game was completely overhauled and changed from the ground up, so each passing game were in reality similar to little more than just name alone. The first Digimon World was without a doubt the very best, a real-time RPG where you train your Digimon pet with real-life functionality to its needs, like feeding it and letting it sleep, as well as build a city where other lost Digimon are out in an open world and you need to fight them. It was a very engaging experience, and even the most reluctant non-fans would appreciate the unmistakable amount of depth. The second game, Digimon World 2, was more of a turn based battle RPG, where you wonder through environments with a buggy and battle other Digimon, without all the personal attributes for your Digimon's needs. Though that might seem stripped, but this one was the only one to include each and every Digmion as playable and collectible in the game, and it also had a good bit of length to it. Digimon World 3 wasn't as great, an even more stripped down turn based RPG with a limited amount of then-neo Digimon as you wonder through 8-bit environments like something you would see on the Gameboy color. But it was still decent to play through your first time, but it didn't have the substance to warrant another trip through it, even after not playing it for a few years after.
Digimon World 4 is ironically the most uninspired game in the series, which is ironic considering the nature of video game series' take in improving their approach from sequel to sequel. They've also made it multiplatform, on PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, probably in an effort to increase its sales. This time around, the game's focus has had its predictable transfusion into a dungeon crawler, where you have direct control over your Digimon with the use of weapons as well as MP attacks to use. The story begins as Leomon and other Digimon were captured and the entire network was disabled and you need to find them, as well as get all the applications working. Then shortly after, some grunts in the Central Room are captured by Numemon, smiley poop monsters (I wonder how Digimon got away with that without coming off somewhat awkward) and you need to free them from their captivity. I won't spoil it any more, in case you are just dying to know what happens in the Digital world, but I will tell you the entire duration of the story seems to follow the same pattern.
And sameness seems like a theme to Digimon World 4's game-play as well. During your typical missions, you're supposed to use your sword or gun, as well as special attacks, to destroy enemies that swerve down the screen. You start with the ability to choose a set of four Digimon, Agumon, Guilamon, and Veemon are recognizable, and as you gain experience you can turn into more powerful forms, or as some may say, Digivolve. But there are only a total of 16 playable characters in Digimon World 4, which is far fewer than any of its predecessors.
It's not difficult to learn the basics of the controls, but some aspects of them are needlessly difficult. You have a single attack button which you can use to spam on other monsters that try to attack you, and the game also gives you a spin attack which you can use when enemies surround you, but you have to turn the joystick all the way around during the attack and it's nearly impossible to do coherently. Another lingering issue is the blocking. The game gives you only a split second of guard, and you have to monitor the enemy's attack at the slightest split second, and you have to practically be psychic to do that effectively. If they took the same approach as Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End, give you unlimited blocking time until you take a certain amount of hits on a meter, this would seem much more manageable, but they didn't. And for the combat, this wouldn't seem much like a Digimon game as it is a generic dungeon crawler if everyone attacked with swords and guns, so the game also gives you the opportunity to use MP attacks. But to use Guilamon's Petit Fire attack, you press one button to get them into that stage then it becomes your default attack, then you switch back to your sword by pressing that button again so you don't run out of MP. It makes sense, but it feels just a tad bit weird.
The gameplay itself however will seem solid for a short amount of time, then playing further will result in some strain of tedium. Because you'll never escape the feeling that you're just attacking numerous on-screen enemies, walking into another room, attacking more enemies, open a door, rinse and repeat. The game attempts to draw you in one more time by offering some novel four player cooperative support. This would be great for an experienced player to chaperon for less seasoned players. But the game was intended for only one player, and even though it would be easier to attack the endless feats of enemies with friends by your side, actually progressing through the game can be frustrating because one player leads the way and the camera can even lose sight of the others. And for the guests, it could seem like they're only falling one player for extended periods of time with little to no individual involvement, and it can be easy to disjoin from the game that way.
And the situation of sameness isn't help by the structure of the dungeons themselves. A lot of them aren't exactly identical, but similar to one another. They all have the same core features, doors, bridges, destructible terrain, and lots and lots of re-spawning enemies. And even though there are different places to visit in name, Death Valley has different variants like Abyss of Grief and Doom Doom, but there are very little to distinguish one from another, and that can make the extended map system difficult to navigate through. Especially because you don't even always have a mini-map to assist you, which is imperative for games of this nature. You can sometimes find on on the ground and you'll have it for a period of time, but it disappears when you leave the area and that draws down at it's usefulness. A very strange design choice.
Though the game is mostly a dungeon crawler, it has other challenges as well. One has you on a boat to destroy the crates where members of the Central Room are held captive by Numemon. And this was one of the most frustrating moments of the game. You're supposed to float through the river and hit the targets where the members are captive to free them, while other enemies and turrets are shooting at you. This is already a trial-and-error mission, but things are made even more dreadfully difficult by a lack of target system. Which a target system should have been made in general, because it doesn't make sense for a shooting game not to have one. And after the mission, you're supposed to go on another lengthy quest and attack more respawning enemies in symmetrically identical rooms and fight another boss, which isn't much fun after the first five minutes. It's either frustratingly dull or frustratingly difficult, and sadly that principle has stayed at loot through all the time I spent playing this title.
The graphics in Digimon World 4 are by no means an eye-sore, but they are very underwhelming considering what the hardware this generation has established that these systems are capable of. The Digimon models look decent, if a bit washed up, and the environments are rather bland and visually blend in with one another, very similar to the gameplay itself. The lighting effects of the attacks aren't that great either, which would ordinarily save a game from looking shabby. The game does remain at a steady frame rate generally, but when a few too many enemies are on screen at once, things start to stutter. The camera is also operating at a 90 degree angle, like Alien Syndrome on the Wii, which means you don't get a very accurate perception of the environments and depth perception is completely out of the question. The audio isn't bad but it's forgettable, there are a few set noises that Digimon make when they receive a blow and they tend to repeat far too often, and the music is mostly transparent and difficult to focus on.
The only people who are going to appreciate Digimon World 4 that much are those who are loyal fans of the series of anthropomorphic monsters. Each game has been a hit or miss, mainly because they made the decision to make each one different than the last. And Digimon World 4, with all do's respect to the series, fares the worst of the 4 of them. It's not that it's completely terrible, but it's frustrating and monotonous most of the time, and those moments by far outnumber the decent ones, meaning that it just isn't necessary. True fans are probably better off replaying the first one though because it's definitely superior to them all. But as for this one, there are better Digimon World games, and dungeons crawlers, out there.