Anybody that has followed the development cycle of the new visual novel Digimon Survive will probably know that there were a series of red flags leading up to the release. Between the multiple delays and the very little footage publisher Bandai Namco was willing to show, the biggest red flag must’ve been when it was announced that, only a little over half a year before the release, Digimon Survive’s developer, Witchcraft, would be replaced with Hyde. Luckily, and somewhat miraculously, you’d never be able to tell by just looking at the end product.

Since some of the promotional footage makes Digimon Survive seem like a strategy game, let me immediately make it very clear that this is first and foremost a visual novel, with elements of a strategy game popping up occasionally throughout. You shouldn’t expect more than one fight for every hour of dialogue, if even that. So, of course this raises the question: is the writing any good? And that question can be answered with a resounding ‘yes’. Now, admittedly you might find some of the characters a little annoying at times. But that’s not an issue of bad writing, it’s just that some of these characters are people that act annoyingly in the given circumstances. Regardless of how you may feel about some of them at certain points, I can guarantee that it’s all there for a good reason and will eventually come around in a satisfying way.

Digimon Survive
Get used to choosing favourites between your friends

Since this is a game in the Digimon franchise, which many people consider to be primarily for children, you might go into this expecting a fun adventure with a group of loveable characters that bond with each other over time. Digimon Survive certainly delivers that in parts, but you shouldn’t be too surprised if the game suddenly turns a little darker in certain sections. How dark it gets, and how often, entirely depends on you and the choices you make during the game, but suicide, different forms of abuse, and the general idea of how to deal with losing a loved one, are some of the topics that you might come across in Digimon Survive. And for the most part, when those heavier moments do come, they hit.

But while the strategy aspects aren’t a big part of Digimon Survive, they are still a part of the game. Digimon Survive has a grid-based combat system and it’s… alright at best. It works for what it’s supposed to do, but it’s lacking depth, and therefore ends up feeling very similar a lot of the time. Thankfully it’s not a big part of the game, but it needed to be mentioned regardless. You should be playing Digimon Survive because you want a visual novel, not a strategy game. You will be talking and exploring the world in an almost point and click manner for most of the game. If you’re not interested in that, then probably stay a way from this one.

Digimon Survive
You’ll learn to love them… most of them

As you’d expect from a visual novel the artstyle is beautiful and the character designs are great, they look exactly how you’d expect Digimon protagonists to look like. Digimon Survive also makes use of some vibrant colours fitting for this kind of game. The environments are kept rather simple, but they work perfectly fine for the kind of game it is.

The other thing you’d expect to be great in a visual novel is the voice acting, and here Digimon Survive truly shines. The voice acting is outstanding, with some of the voices you know and love returning for familiar characters like Agumon. But all the new voices are doing a fantastic job as well, creating potentially one of the best ensemble casts of the year. It should be mentioned, however, that there is only a Japanese dub available and you’ll have to make due with subtitles for any other language.

Screenshot 165
It’s a lot more straightforward than it looks…

Sticking with the audio, the music is fantastic too. There are lots of tracks with strings and pianos that sound beautiful and create a calm atmosphere. The main theme in particular is an absolute pleasure to listen to every time it makes its appearance. There are also a few tracks that are a bit heavier, and play when they are needed.

While Digimon Survive might not be the strategy game some people wanted it to be, it’s a triumph as a visual novel that is sure to be a treat for any fans of the franchise, and potentially even newcomers.

Nairon played Digimon Survive on PC with his own copy. Digimon Survive is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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