Japan, 1997: The Birth Of Digimon – Bandai took the world by storm with its Tamagotchi variant directed at young males. With a focus on training and fighting, it quickly became not only a great alternative to pet ownership but a competitive craze that would dominate the year as well as the few that followed.
Japan, 1999: A Whole New World – Bandai releases Digimon World for the PlayStation. A spiritual follow-up to the Sega Saturn title Digital Monster Ver. S: Digimon Tamer which would, one day, be lost in the shadow of what many consider to be the quintessential Digimon video game. Digimon World sucked Tamers into the world of the Virtual Pets they loved so much, introducing us all to a brand-new world.
Japan, 2012: A Missed Opportunity – Another addition to the Digimon World line; Digimon World Re:Digitize was released across Japan, but never in any other regions. This game saw Tamers, once again, return to the Digital World in much the same way as its descendant. While many other Digimon games had come and gone, it was Re:Digitize that carried on the true legacy that Digimon World had left behind.
Japan, 2016: Homecoming – Bandai Namco Entertainment released Digimon World: Next Order; a legitimate throwback to the original game, featuring a character the world has not seen for some seventeen years. It was revealed that this game would be getting a release outside of Japan and with said reveal came a collective sigh of relief as Tamers across the globe we’re now given access, after so many years, to the world that made their childhoods so grand.
Worldwide, 2017: Welcome Home – Thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment we, the collective Digimon fanbase, steps back into the Digital World once more, and while many things have changed one thing remains; it is an experience powerful enough to shake the soul. Finally…we’re heading home.
YOUR FATED RETURN TO THE DIGITAL WORLD!
The Digimon World series returns to the West with Digimon World: Next Order! An all-new adventure & story awaits!
The Digital World is in despair. Machinedramons are running rampant and causing utter chaos… The Digital World needs your help! Explore and traverse this exciting universe to solve a digi-mystery.
Recruit faithful Digimon companions and meet friends along the way to help you on this epic journey.
The Digital World is waiting for you… – Bandai Namco Entertainment
Next Order’s storyline does mirror that of the previous two mainline Digimon World video games: The Digital World is stricken with a “mysterious” virus that is turning usually peaceful Digimon into violent monsters. It is up to you as the protagonist to travel the Digital World, recruiting good Digimon and suppressing the bad, all the while attempting to unveil the antagonist who, for the most part, remains an enigma until close to the very end of the game.
The storyline of Next Order doesn’t simply have that in common with its ancestor, it also features a particular trio of characters, one who is alluded to be the true antagonist, that originally appeared in the 1999 game and have returned for this one. Despite this, it is never outright proclaimed that this game is indeed a direct sequel. Instead, Next Order finds subtle and charming ways to explain to the audience that this isn’t the first time the Digital World has been in disorder.
Now, truth be told, Next Order is light on story. What I detailed above is, essentially, what you’ll get, that is, alongside gradual character development and world building. This, as a matter of fact, is what makes the game so great. Instead of being bogged down by over-explanation of the game’s events, you’re left to your own devices, creating a story unique to yourself. Now, of course, there is a story to follow, the game isn’t THAT open-ended, but Next Order finds a way to deliver key points of information to you without breaking your stride or slowing you down.
The Digital World tells a story of its own, too, outside of the game’s main focus. While travelling, you’ll come across a population of Digital Monsters all living individual lives and you, as a passerby, are able to experience in snippets which, by the end of the game, give you such a grand image of what this world is truly made up of. The gears in this game never stop moving, and it truly feels as though it is alive; ever changing, ever growing.
Playing through Next Order can sometimes be, actually…quite a drag. It’s fun! Don’t get me wrong, but it also retains most, if not all, of the gameplay elements featured in the original. This time, instead of just the one, you raise two Digimon partners who will Digivolve and die at individual rates meaning that it will be very rare that you have two of the same level Digimon at the one time making things all the more difficult as you attempt to keep one alive while the other carries the weight of every battle on its shoulders. Still, this is the essence of the Digimon World series, so one must be aware of this when jumping in.
Next Order gives Tamers a lot of help when it comes to, well…everything, but never too much as to give the impression that you’re being walked through the game by its difficulty system. I played, admittedly, on Easy and it still proved to be quite a handful for me at times. During your time with Next Order, you will be divided between grinding and battling. Grinding to raise worthwhile Digimon, and battling your way through the story.
I can see this turning many people away, especially because the last Digimon game to be released in the West was Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth; an RPG that focused more on the gradual betterment of a team of Digimon rather than the Virtual Pet-like system that Next Order so heavily rests on. In saying this, I found myself addicted to the game, etching out as much time as I could with it; grinding and battling, Digivolving and dying, barreling through it all hoping that it pays off, and let me tell you…it does.
Thanks to the game’s almost entire remake for its international release, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is, by far, the best looking Digimon game to be released, well…ever. Originally released for the PlayStation Vita only across Japan, Bandai Namco Entertainment decided on a complete overhaul for a worldwide release.
Environments are crips, clean, and feature great depth. Looking into the distance of any map gives you a distinct feeling of infinity as environments seemingly stretch in perpetuity. The variety of settings, though, also bring a great deal to the game: No two environments are the same, and they each follow an individual theme that range from your standard open field to a bay of ruined sea vessels, all the while sporting the type of Digimon aesthetics that we’ve come to know and love.
The Digimon themselves also received an overhaul, with each and every single one of the character models being converted into high definition to match not only that of the game’s setting but of the expectations that come with the game’s PlayStation 4 release. Next Order’s visual presence is one that simply cannot be ignored. While I would have loved a PlayStation Vita version, I can see why Bandai Namco Entertainment are so proud of what they have done with the PlayStation 4 alternative.
The only issue with Digimon World: Next Order as a whole but one that pertains to its visuals specifically is the game’s tight camera. While it can be moved around the character, it cannot be zoomed in or out which can be quite the issue when travelling in-between areas especially if your Digimon partners are some of the larger ones. It tends to crowd the screen heavily and cuts off visuals in a quite an obvious way. It’s unfortunate, but when you’re working with large models there needs to be a system in place to work the camera around them and in Next Order there just isn’t.
Another of Next Order’s throwbacks to the original game is that of its audio elements. While the soundtrack is brand-new and only shares general vibes with that of the original, the game retains all of the sound effects for the menu and for when your partners are engaged in battle. Nothing brought more of a smile to my face than hearing the battle tune once again after all these years, and to include the sound effects for when scrolling through the menu is quite the nice touch.
The soundtrack itself is as brilliant as it is varied, and does well at rekindling those same feelings from the original game while also giving itself room to develop past that. Each zone has its own music, and every set perfectly matches its environment. The tracks played throughout Next Order are also incredible catchy and will be, I hope, as fondly remembered as those featured in the original game.
While we don’t hear too much of it throughout the game, Next Order features a great English dub that really helps with story delivery seeing as whenever a character talks it is for important reasons. I was shocked to hear a Digimon game in English but was delighted at the high performance calibre.
To me, it seems as though Digimon World: Next Order is exactly what we could have expected from a modern day release of the original game. It hits all of the same notes while, at the very same time, propelling such a style of storytelling and such a set of gameplay mechanics well into the future. With great voice acting, great visuals, a great soundtrack, and a story that will compel you to continue playing, it’s hard to look at Digimon World: Next Order and see it as anything less than what the franchise needed to remind its fanbase of what I would call its humble beginnings.
Digimon, as a whole, has come so far. The latest Anime series no longer even refers to the creatures as Digimon, and while many do enjoy what Digimon has to offer in the modern age, including myself, there are many out there that wish to return to the simpler times in its history. Digimon World: Next Order is exactly that: A journey to the past that takes place in the future. It is an anomaly of a video game that reminds you not only where Digimon began but how far it has come since then. It is the true fusion of past and present that I hope fuels a resurgence of popularity across the world.
Digimon World: Next Order is filled with the blood, sweat, and tears of developer B.B. Studios and publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment. What Next Order delivered is not only exactly what I expected from it but what Bandai Namco Entertainment promised us throughout its promotional period. Digimon World: Next Order is the homecoming that will bring a tear to your eye.
Welcome back to the Digital World.
Digimon World: Next Order is available now thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment: Click Here