Digimon Survive Review - Digital Devolution
Digimon has never been shy to delve into storylines and topics that society too often wishes to ignore--the first episode of the 1999 anime literally begins with the main character monologuing about climate change and how it's destroying the planet. Most of the stories in the series explore these topics within the scope of being trapped within a fantasy world inhabited by cute monsters. It's here where the characters must come to terms with the irresponsibility of finding solace in the black-and-white morality of their new reality--an alluring alternative to the nuanced wants and needs of the real world. Pushing on this notion a bit further to dip its toes into the horrifying realities of physical and verbal abuse, terminal illness, psychotic breaks, and weaponizing relationships, Digimon Survive tells one of the darkest tales that the franchise has ever covered. All told, it amounts to a deeply compelling visual novel that's driven by likable characters and an intriguing mystery but that aspect of it is too often interrupted by boring tactical combat.
In Digimon Survive, you play as middle-schooler Takuma, who is attending a camp over spring break alongside friends Minoru and Aoi and acquaintances Saki, Ryo, and Shuuji. Upon learning that the camp is close to a temple famous for its legend about a festival in which human children were sacrificed to beast gods, the six investigate, and they're soon joined by local brother and sister duo Kaito and Mio. The misadventure ultimately results in the kids becoming lost in a world inhabited by the so-called beast gods known as Digimon.
If you're not careful, your choices will result in your friends' deaths.
It's a familiar setup for a Digimon story (or any isekai story, really), and Digimon Survive spends way too long laying the groundwork with meandering dialogue and unnecessary character backstory. The game dangles the foreshadowing that these kids are about to be trapped in another world, but then spends hours getting there, and then leaves the group confused as to what's happened to them for a while after. It's frustrating to see three separate people theorizing that maybe the group is now no longer on Earth when you as the player arrived at that conclusion hours prior and just want the actual adventure to kick off.
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