Credits rolled at 13:55, whereas Cyber Sleuth clocked in at something like 50 hours since I did most sidequests. This illustrates the type of game Next Order is. Cyber Sleuth is, by all means, a regular monster-collecting RPG with a heavy focus on story. It’s got enough stuff to appeal to people who aren’t particularly fans of Digimon or those who grew out of it as the second half gives strong SMT vibes and the world and characters are really rich. The battles were the regular turn-based business and you could carry around many Digimon with you and stick even more in the farm. Rather than a normal RPG, Next Order is more like a pseudo open-world monster raising game. You can only have two Digimon at once, and you have to care for them like actual digital pets until the day they die, at which then they turn back into an egg and you can start the raising process from the beginning again. I tried describing it to people and they said it sounds like Digimon 1, if that says anything.
You get two partner Digimon, who start from egg selection and evolve with age and stats. The game operates on an in-game clock (1 minute = 1 second IRL) and your Digimon will get hungry, want to poop after eating, and need to sleep at night. Every day they age by one year, and they will die at the end of their lifespan and reincarnate into an egg with some inherited stats. There’s a world out there full of wild Digimon to attack you, and you have to fight them off with your partner Digimon.
Battles are basically automatic and your Digimon will move, attack, and use skills by themselves. You can command either Digimon to guard, use a specific skill they have equipped, or use their special. Giving commands requires Order Points, which are gained by cheering on your Digimon in battle. You gain more OP by cheering them on at the right times, like when they attack or take damage. You can also throw items in battle to buff, revive, heal, etc. There’s not that much input required from the player since the Digimon will act on their own, so most battles boil down to press O when your Digimon attacks –> unleash their special when you can –> revive when they die. You get quite a bit of freedom to roam the map so it’s easy to randomly run into Digimon that are too strong to beat early on. I got wiped out by my very first map encounter by going the wrong way. Fortunately you just get taken back to town if you lose.
Your base of operations is a town called Floatia and to unlock its various facilities you have to recruit NPC Digimon from around the world map. There’s 200 recruitable NPC Digimon in total, and most of them require you to do them a favor before joining you, be it getting an item or defeating them in battle. If you accept their quest, they’ll send you a text message about it and unlike a normal quest log there’s no way to check your progress or whether you’ve completely their task or not! Better not have any unfinished quests buried under more recent completed ones, because you probably can’t tell whether you finished it or not. I guess you’re supposed to rely on your brain for memory.
Once you unlock a facility, you can level it up by getting the necessary upgrading materials, which can be gathered from gathering spots on the map. There’s a lot of additional stuff to do in the game if you like to see big numbers and completed lists. Heck, filling out the encyclopedia of Digimon would probably take over 100 hours as you can only have two at once.
Some random observations/thoughts as I played through the game:
- The lower their evolution tier, the more the Digimon needs to poop. 究極体 rarely need to go, but your Agumon will want to take a dump all the time, most likely right when you pass the area with a washroom. I bought 99 portable toilets so I can stop having to run back to the washroom, but it’s not the same. Their mood doesn’t get better if they shit in a portable toilet as opposed to the washroom.
- I accidentally let Agumon poop on training gym’s floor and it was still there the next day.
- Apparently if you let your Digimon shit on the ground enough, it will evolve into Scamon. I never tried.
- I have experienced, more than once, where my Digimon would die of old age right before I was about to go fight a boss. This includes the final boss. Fun times.
- You can go fishing at various spots on the world map, but why would you when you can just gather the materials to upgrade the fishing area in the town?
- There doesn’t seem to be a shortcut for the large map, or if there is it’s not anything intuitive. You have to open the map from the menu each time you look at it.
- The character designs are really good but they translate terribly into 3D models. Cyber Sleuth had better models for sure.
- The models for the Digimon are good. A lot of 究極体 Digimon look really cool. Too bad the environments have terrible textures so you have nice modern Digimon running on blurry ground.
- Game actually runs very smoothly considering how games developed with Unity have had a history of poor performance on the Vita. Maybe things do work when you actually optimize your game for the platform.
- Music is great, hit my Digimon nostalgia with full force
Anyways it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t my kind of game. There’s a lot of “content” if you want to make absolute most of the game and do everything, but the world outside of your town is composed of fields with aggressive Digimon and items on the ground and nothing else. It’s also not very big for a game that is pseudo open-world, as you can explore every map other than the post-game dungeon at 15 hours of normal gameplay. The enemies are weak and if you can defeat the story’s final boss you can basically go anywhere and come out unscratched. I’m pretty sure I complained about Cyber Sleuth’s dungeons being too short and battles too easy, but Next Order’s battles are just as if not easier, and also less fun.
Well it was refreshing enough while it lasted, since I’ve technically never played anything like it. Maybe I’ll stick with the game a little longer, but I doubt I’ll go for encyclopedia completion or anything crazy.