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Digimon World: Data Squad

Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai

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PS2 Review - 'Digimon World: Data Squad'

by Aaron "Istanbul" Swersky on July 4, 2009 @ 12:39 a.m. PDT

Spanning over a dozen stages with a storyline that parallels the cartoon, players can team up with more than 140 Digimon characters to battle against evil and save the world. As gamers increase in skill and find new items, so too can their Digimon be upgraded through leveling up and "Digivolution." With over 250 items to collect and complex puzzles to solve, Digimon World Data Squad represents the evolution of the common RPG on the PS2.

Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: BEC
Release Date: September 18, 2007

It makes sense, really. Whenever there's a hot property that kids are going for, the producers of that property are going to try to spin it off into as much merchandising as possible. One stellar example is the Pok√©mon series; you can buy action figures, lunchboxes, toothbrushes, watches — everything you could possibly need to surround yourself and inundate your life with the characters from the original video game series. We can't really blame the creators of Digimon World: Data Squad for trying to spin off their popular series into a PlayStation 2 console game, so that you can spend your time in front of the television having fun with the characters you know and love.

We can, however, blame them for the atrocious quality of the game.

The plotline is fairly self-explanatory. You're Marcus Damon, a Digimon tamer and a member of the DATS, a squad of enforcers that polices the real world for invasions from the Digital World, the place from which all Digimon originate. As the game begins, a new invasion has begun, and you're sent on a quest to discover why this has happened and put an end to it by turning all of the renegade Digimon back into Digi-Eggs. As you progress, you'll meet up with your friends and battle alongside them against your foes. That's basically the gist of the story; fortunately, it leaves a lot of room for the writers, as all manner of things can and does happen within that context. There are even a few plot twists that occur as you progress, making the plot undoubtedly one of the most refined elements of this game.

It would be remiss of anyone who reviews this game to not go over the characters. First of all, you have Marcus Damon, your main character. He is, to put it bluntly, an absolute idiot. The best way to elaborate on his personality is to take your average gutsy Japanese hero, give him triple espressos until he gets sick to his stomach, continue feeding them to him until he develops a tolerance, and let him loose on an unsuspecting world. All he ever seems to do is shout and run, and the other characters in the story even remark on how "enthusiastic" he seems. This guy makes Naruto and Goku look positively comatose, and he's about as deep as a kiddie pool. None of the other characters are any better, mind you; each and every single character in this title is a horrendous stereotype. The girl naturally has a flower Digimon whose first line in the game is, "We'll always make a happy and cute pair!", the chief of the DATS team is authoritative (bordering on abusive), etc.  These characters are positively of cookie-cutter quality, sometimes almost offensively so.

By this point, anyone who still purchases games for his or her PlayStation 2 accepts certain limitations; apart from the occasional cut scene, the system simply isn't going to live up to the current generation of consoles in terms of audio and visual quality. Visually, the game is a jumble; menu screens are overcrowded and difficult to navigate, the colors are garish and painful to look at most of the time, and the map is absolutely awful. Worse yet, every character in the game is cel-shaded … badly. Characters turn out blocky and indistinguishable in parts, and the black outline is often thick enough to distract from any sense of immersion you might enjoy. Take note, game designers: If you're going to have your character running around in a 3-D world, you need to have the ability to rotate the map and adjust the player's view more than "zoom in" and "zoom out." Large portions of the game will be spent wondering what's around the corner, simply because you often can't see where you're going, and the game defaults to a view that's zoomed in so tightly that you can't see the area in your immediate vicinity.

The sound is actually worse.  While the music is positively bearable, the voice acting is abysmal, and it's everywhere. There's an awful lot of talking in this game, and the horrid voices track it every step of the way, with ear-splitting accuracy. Don't think you'll escape it in combat, either; every allied Digimon feels the need to state the name of an attack as it's used … over and over and over again.

The gameplay is an absolute abomination; within 30 minutes, I found myself desperately wishing that I could turn off the game and not have to finish reviewing it. Random battles occur with groan-inducing frequency, abruptly sucking you away from the nearly inscrutable map screen, forcing you into a loading screen and then dropping you into a turn-based battling system that would make any role-playing game fan cringe and fall over in an apoplectic fit. Your Digimon doesn't have four commands. No, it has a grid of several dozen, and it's your job to make your little pal happier by figuring out which command is the most common and use that one. This can be an exhaustive process when you have four or five different attacks at your disposal, all of which look like they're present in almost the same quantity. Mind you, sometimes your Digimon will want to use a stat-boosting ability over and over again, even if it's already strong enough to one-hit your opponents.

Sometimes you can digivolve into a stronger form. What determines when you can evolve? Not sure. The game never really tells you what triggers it, and a hunt through the instruction manual offered no clues. Items are available as well.  While some items, such as hit point restoration and status effect removal, have obvious uses, some of them are arcane and incomprehensible. Reduce my Digimon's Anger? Increase its Tension? Great, what do those do? The game doesn't say, and neither does the instruction manual, leaving players to guess at what effect their actions will have.

Finally, the game just proves flat-out boring a lot of the time. Gameplay proceeds as follows: Receive mission, go to map location, fight Digimon, run around, open treasure chests, fight more Digimon, fight even more Digimon, eventually find and fight the correct Digimon, occasionally listen to painful dialogue, and return to base. Repeat the above sequence ad nauseam. Don't forget to feel ripped off.

The battle system's greatest challenge is in learning how to navigate it, the difficulty of battling ranges from effortless to impossible with very little room in between, and exploration is mostly a matter of figuring out where the heck you're going. I've desperately tried to find some aspect of this title that would appeal to anyone, and I'm hard-pressed to come up with an answer.  The slowness of Digimon World Data Squad might help to offset the grindingly boring gameplay, and the pretty colors might cheer you up despite the exceedingly poor production values of … well, everything.

Score: 3.5/10


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