Namco Bandai is at it again with Digimon World: Data Squad, a grinding role-playing game that's content to slap the Digimon name on some of the most tired Japanese RPG conventions and call it a day. But if you love Digimon and have a high tolerance for random encounters, as well as shallow turn-based combat, then boy howdy, you're in luck!
Digimon World: Data Squad exists predominately as a tie-in for the recent Digimon: Data Squad anime series, so it shouldn't be too surprising that the game spends little time on character introductions and cuts straight to the flimsy plot. There's a great evil in the digital world that's causing Digimon to act all crazy, threatening to break through to the real world, and it's up to the spiky-haired, androgynous Data Squad to investigate. Making things personal, the younger sister of one of the members of the Data Squad, along with a bunch of other young girls, has gone missing, and they believe there's a connection. Characters will occasionally pop up to shout some awkward dialogue, but once all the pieces are set, the rest of the game is mostly just a long, tedious dungeon crawl.
You'll start off playing as Data Squad member Marcus Damon, whose Digimon is the dinosaur-like Agumon. But before long, you'll be playing as the entire Data Squad, providing you with a small party of Digimon with which to fight. With your party in tow, you'll be sent to various locations to wander around aimlessly and get into random encounters with the same handful of enemies every few steps until you somehow find your way to the end, where you'll usually find a bigger boss Digimon to fight. After that, you'll head back to base to load up on items and head off to your next destination.
The game touts an emotion-based combat system, where your Digimon will be more effective if you choose actions that it likes. The game makes the Digimon's preferences clear when selecting an action by showing duplicate entries for a specific action. The more entries you see, the more your Digimon wants to perform that action. It seems like more often than not, the action that the Digimon wants to perform is the action you should perform, which alleviates what little thought the combat would've required otherwise. This way, you just hit the X button a couple of times when sending your Digimon into battle, allowing you to focus on more important things, such as staring idly into space.
Your Digimon will evolve over time, and there's a pretty huge number of different evolutionary paths each Digimon can take. You can influence this process by fulfilling specific conditions, which can include reaching certain experience levels and having an encounter with a specific enemy. The strengths and weaknesses of your party can change dramatically through evolution, which would have been totally interesting, if the game didn't basically play itself.
Perhaps worst of all is the fact that all of this plays out at a snail's pace. The environments are needlessly serpentine, and without a map to refer to, it's nearly impossible to tell one bland screen from the next. The frequency of the random encounters doesn't help, and once you're actually in combat, it seems like a single attack takes forever to play out. This is not because there's so much going on, but because the game pads the encounters out with needless pauses and constant camera angle changes. When you've got three Digimon on each side, it can take several minutes just to make your way through a single round of combat. On top of all that, Digimon World: Data Squad isn't much of a game to look at, with cheap, repetitive environments, enemies, and attack animations.
Digimon World: Data Squad is far less concerned with being a good game than it is with acting as a brand delivery mechanism for hungry Digimon fans. To an extent, the fact that it's a lousy game probably won't matter too much to the target audience. But if your criteria for a good game goes beyond "must contain Digimon," keep looking.