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Digimon World review
A Vast, Unique and Original Game


Occasionally, a game pops up that completely changes the idea of its genre. And unfortunately, most of these games get overlooked by many of the prolific RPG fans in favour of more mainstream titles. Cue Digimon World.

It opens in classic Digimon fashion. A boy is sucked through a game and wakes up among a load of Digimon, before learning that the Digital World's inhabitants have become feral and he's the only one who can replenish order among Digimon. That's about where the game leaves it to you. Unlike many RPGs, Digimon World doesn't follow a fixed story. While it begins and ends at the same point, how you get between those points is up to you. The basic goal of the game is to gather enough Digimon in the city to solve the island's problems and build File City back up to its former size.

A large part of the game is simply making sure your Digimon is in any fit condition to fight. As well training its stats to allow it to transform (or "Digivolve") into bigger and better characters, what's different to many games is that you're not just working with stats. Digimon have to be given food, sleep and toilet breaks to ensure they're healthy. One element which probably sets Digimon World apart from its peers is its battle system. You don't have any direct control of your Digimon. Instead, you stand on the side of the battlefield and give instructions. The instructions available are directly tied to the Digimon's brain power, and as its intelligence rises, the selection of commands in your arsenal increases too. Might sound confusing, but it's more of a relief when it happens. Digimon World doesn't shift to a specialised battle screen when you encounter a feral Digimon, but instead holds the battle right there and then. Digimon navigate around the battlefield avoiding any obstacles in their way, and the terrain actually comes into play in battles. A large selection of techniques are available, and while the initial selection is limited to one weak technique, new moves can be learnt in a number of ways. As well as training its brains, it can also learn moves by observing opponents employing them in battle. Clever, isn't it?

While battles are certainly an integral part of the gameplay, it's not all there is to it. There are plenty of mini-games on offer on your quest, including running a shop, dodging sniper fire, fishing and, bizarrely, a sort-of-sci-fi version of curling. It's rare that recruiting a Digimon is simply a matter of bashing it up in battle, and there's normally something else to it - if it fights at all. There's a rather massive selection of playable Digimon available, and most Digimon can be Digivolved into multiple different forms. As well the basic goals aforementioned, for the hardcore gamer's benefit there are also a selection of challenges which reward the player with medals, and completing them is no mean feat.

Digimon are rendered in impressive polygon models and the areas are detailed quite pleasantly. Battles don't tend to lag unless there's an unusual amount going on. Voice acting within the game itself is quite limited, but the collection of growls, snarls and various other animal-like clips which comprise the Digimons' speech is a nice touch. The game's soundtrack is varied. File Island itself is quite sizable, with areas ranging from a grassy savanna to a frozen wasteland and the obligatory futuristic city. Digimon World also has a rather unique sense of humour. Amusingly, there seems to be a good dose of toilet humour, exemplified by the fact that the game's worst Digimon is a talking jobby. It's almost a case of "you are what you eat", or what it becomes, anyway. It's unusual for a game, but it's certainly amusing.

Once you've raised a decent Digimon, you can add it to your roster for the multiplayer mode. In the multiplayer mode, it's fairly simple to customise the battle the way you see fit. Matches can be best of one, three or five bouts and choosing a Digimon is easy. It even offers a selection of stages to battle on; only diehard tacticians will spot any significant advantages in any of the three arenas, but it's nice to be able to choose your venue. As you duel, like in the single-player arena, the camera angle moves around the battle to give you the battle from different areas. Granted, it's not exactly Rumble Arena, but it's fun to be able to compare your own Digimon with someone else's in real combat.

Digimon World's ability to appeal isn't limited solely to fans of the franchise, but it might be by people's tastes in RPGs. It's probably not going to appeal to fans of fast-paced games, and the lack of direct control might put traditional RPG fans off. But as a game, it's a unique adventure with nothing out there like it.

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