Review by IrenicApollyon
It isn't Pokemon, that's for sure.
Video games based off of cartoons have had a bad history with gamers since they end up, more often than not, a pathetic effort at milking a franchise for all its worth. Although Bandai has made several attempts at making Digimon the next Pokemon, none of them have had the impact that Nintendo's Pocket Monsters has. That doesn't mean they're giving up, though. Digimon World 4 is a marked change from previous installments in the series, moving from traditional console RPG to top-down action-RPG a la Icewind Dale and Diablo. While the transition isn't entirely a flop, several minor issues emerge that prevent this game from reaching the level of polished professionalism that Nintendo has behind Pokemon.
Digimon World 4 puts you in control of a new recruit of the D.G.S., the Digital Gateway Security team, which is responsible for the security of all servers on the web. Almost as soon as you arrive in the Digital World trouble begins. The server you've logged into is under attack by some deadly viruses and its up to the D.G.S. to defend it. The plot here is quite similar to Digimon World 3 and serves the same function: to get the player playing right off the bat. The lack of a decent plot isn't really something that takes away from the experience since an original -- and more importantly engaging -- story based off Digimon would be rather hard to pull off.
Breaking off from a Digimon World tradition, Digimon World 4 lets you take direct control of a Digimon. The decision to eliminate the "trainer" character that took lead role in previous installments came as a surprise, but the change in game genre makes this necessary. Something that became hard for me to adapt to was the idea of Digimon wielding weapons. From what I get from the show, each Digimon utilizes his own unique and innate abilities rather than relying on melee weaponry. This actually disconnects the game from the TV show, making it seem more like an action-RPG with Digimon characters rather than an action-RPG based off of the Digimon television series.
Playing isn't hard, as the tutorial stage shows you in the beginning of the game. X-button mashing here will be vital to your survival and you'll be doing that for hours on end. They let you use the square button to defend yourself, though oddly enough the game blocks for you randomly. This kind of hold-your-hand defensive style puts even more emphasis on the attack aspect of the fighting so the player will just end up banging the X-button and put the blocking in the hands of the game. Whether that's good or bad depends. Children -- which are the target market for this kind of title by the way -- will enjoy the game even more when they aren't dying as often from attacks but older gamers will be easily bored by the mundane button mashing. From the older gamer's point of view, the fighting eventually becomes a necessary, and very boring, chore. The long loading times don't help make it any more interesting. Averaging at around ten to fifteen seconds per screen loading times are just too long, especially considering how often you switch screens. Waiting fifteen seconds for a screen to load, only to make it from one end to the other in less than five and have another loading screen appear just kills the experience. Most gamers just don't have the patience for this kind of waiting.
The pain of waiting and repetitive gameplay in single player doesn't necessarily mean that multiplayer fails horribly. Quite the opposite. Multiplayer in Digimon World 4 makes space for up to four players to continue the story in co-op mode. Another great aspect of multiplayer is that players can come and go as they wish, meaning that progress the story you won't need all of the players you started the game with. So if you start a new game with four people and two of them want to leave, you and your last friend can keep the plot going. Fun stuff and something that other games should really consider implementing. The loading times are still too long, but with friends they're actually bareable. Though if you're someone around my age where you'll find three buddies to play a four-player co-op game of a Digimon title is beyond me.
Graphics have never been the strong point of Bandai's titles, and Digimon World 4 is no different, though the improvement is quite evident (though I personally preferred the sprites from DW3). Character models are true to their TV counterparts and animation is so-so. Nothing in this game is graphically stunning, in fact the level textures are surprisingly bland for a PS2 title, but graphics don't sell games.
The sound in this game really disappointed me. Here we have a Digimon title, based off the hit TV show and licensed by Bandai so naturally you would assume they could get the theme song and some voice acting to make the game seem more authentic. Strangely enough they didn't. No Digimon theme song (which I know is terrible, but hey) and no speech means a lot of reading. This just further proves Bandai's true intentions of milking Digimon for all its worth and that's just sad.
So what more can be said about this game that I haven't already mentioned above? The transition to a new game style is a welcome one, though it is far from perfect. Single player can be boring and the loading times are ridiculously long, especially considering how mediocre the graphics are. No official Digimon theme song is also a disappointment. However, the game redeems itself in multiplayer, transforming this uninteresting game into one that can be fun given time (and enough players). Older gamers won't find anything here to make it worth a purchase, but younger gamers and their friends should find the latest Digimon World title a blast.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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