Some cool people over at GBATemp have just finished a three year long project to translate what was already a long awaited sequel: Digimon World Re:Digitize, for the Playstation Portable, a 13-year-later sequel to Digimon World for the Playstation One. It makes sense why players were so devoted to tranlating the text so new audiences could play it; this game, which combines virtual pet features of the 90s with community simulation features and RPG tropes of more modern times, builds a gaming experience that is very difficult to find in other games. Much like the original, it quickly became a cult classic as a result. But DW:Re, despite being a spirtual sequel and probably the closest to a remake the franchise has ever done, still offers a somewhat unique experience compared to its first iteration, most of which largely boils down to the changing times of gaming over the last decade.
The Age of Easier Difficulty
These days, when people discuss remakes or long awaited sequels, it’s become almost cliche to point out how later sequels are easier; modern audiences don’t have the time or patience (or, to a pessimist, skill) of older generations, and so many series, such as Final Fantasy or Super Mario, have gradually become easier as time went on. Other games, wanting to respond to this trend by keeping the loyal fans on their toes, have made games somewhat more difficult in illogical ways. But DW:Re, learning from both, sort of has a middle ground stance between the two. By this I mean that the beginning is drastically easier, while the ending bosses are a little harder.
In the first game, poverty was pretty much the quickest way to die if you haven’t really played enough to know how this world works. The plot of both games revolves around File City, which was once a booming community that slowly had people wander away from it until it became a ghost town. In the first game, there are considerably fewer hints as to where to go, and not many places where the plot forced you to visit, so depending on luck and sense of adventure you’d be stuck with a useless town of limited resources for a very long time before being able to progress. Not only that, but because the other aspect of the game involves taking care of a 90s virtual pet that hungers, poops, sleeps, and eventually dies, you will probably feel a crippling sense of frustration from not being able to afford all the best care. This is probably one of the only games that left me staring sad at a creature, saying “Sorry, we don’t have any food left. I know you’re hungry, but we can’t afford to eat now.”
But DW:Re offers more daily food rations than the first one from the get go, and has a much larger margin of error in terms of how long you can leave a partner starving, sleep deprived, sick, or constipated before it actually starts to affect health and care mistakes. The thought bubbles that alert you to your partner’s needs have drastically grown in size and color, giving them a more vibrant sensation you’d be hard pressed to miss.
Conversely, the ease of care is compensated for by higher possible stat totals for the final bosses. Machinedramon, the final boss of DW, sports 9400 HP, and generally has all stats well within the parameters of what your partner can achieve, even in the stronger rematch in post game. But the final boss of DW:Re (name withheld to avoid minor spoilers) has dramatically higher stats and higher HP than is possible for your partner to ever get. A lot of the time, if you go in with the stats that were the bare minimum for taking down DW‘s final boss, you’ll be outclassed sorely with the same stat totals in DW:Re – and this extends to many of the later game bosses as well.
The biggest disappointment of the game is one that, unfortunately, came down to hardware issues. The PS1 would frequently use CD discs that were about 700 MB, while the PSP uses a UMD that holds 1.8 gigs at most. This means that for a game that has rapidly expanded as much as the transition from DW to DW:Re has, cuts are going to have to come from somewhere. In exchange for the dramatically larger maps, more possible partners, added email features, and multiple extra storage options within each individual file, the game loses one of its biggest charms from the original: map swaps. In the original game, the town represents the way File City has been abandoned with a city void of buildings, and as you brought people to the city you would find a deliciously rewarding experience in watching the city you cultivate grow new buildings or expand old ones.
In this one, the city itself is more or less established, and buildings just add the characters you bring in. It makes sense when you realize how much extra space loading multiple variants of the map would require (especially considering how any more possible recruits there even are), but it’s still a great loss nonetheless.
This is probably the only reason I would’ve wished this game was remade on a console instead of going from a console in original iteration to a portable in the sequel. But at the same time, a game like this where you are out in the world, running around and exploring, is just as unsatisfying if you spend can’t take the adventure with you. And considering the TV franchise revolves around portable devices enabling the characters to use their powers, it makes sense that they would want to extend the series to a portable device – a weak argument, but a reasonable one given the target audience.
Of course, even with switching from console to portable, thirteen years is a long time for technology to improve, and we reap the benefits of that here and there with minor graphical updates. You’ll still have the annoying invisible walls and minor RPG issues, but the game possesses a few subtleties that weren’t fully possible in the original game. For example, there’s an area called Submerged Ruins where you’re largely walking on water thanks to powers another digimon gave you, and it is very easy to confuse the buildings below you with reflections of the ones above – but careful inspection shows they’re actually different entities. Areas like Powdery Cliff, Bonkeno Volcano, and most of all Night Canyon also show desolated areas that once presumably had booming life, which lets the someone with a more childlike imagination wonder what on earth happened in the time between games. The maps are similar enough to the original File City and File Island, which strongly implies this world just kept increasing with technology and had an entire rise and fall of civilization while players were gone.
The only thing about this sort of depiction of the world is that it worked a lot better thirteen years ago. Not only were storytelling capacities within games more limited back then, but the people who were loyal Digimon franchise fans were on average a younger age, so the imagination factor played a much bigger role than can be expected of gamers today. Still, for those who still have that ability to let the mind wander, the game leaves a lot of components just intricate enough to make you think but not so detailed that you know exactly why things exist the way they do.
Email, news media, and self expression
I still remember teachers in 1999 who would ask classes to raise their hand if they had a computer in their home, let alone internet. These days, both of those are just an assumption and expectation of the world around us. And with that comes mild adaptations when envisioning a sequel to DW; considering the entire setting of DW is a digital world comprised of data from real world computers, it’d be silly if the series didn’t at least try to keep up with technology.
This feature is pretty cool because characters can email attachments that have items you can manifest in your own inventory slots, but the biggest change here with email comes with a few snippets of emails that you get that are news articles. With many games where you are sucked into another world, you don’t really see how the rest of the world is handling things, but in this game you actually have the option of reading news articles about you and the other protagonists going missing in the real world, which adds a layer of immersion and empathy for these characters who are far away from home with no real way to tell their loved ones that they’re okay.
Social media, another thing that has rapidly expanded over the years, has made us a culture of constantly self expressing, and wanting to stand out from the crowd – something that, while apparent in older generations, seems to be getting more pronounced as time goes on. DW:Re adds a few ways to customize your partner digimon along the same vein, making it very clear that this is your partner, not anyone else’s. While the taking care of a living creature that will eventually die on you can get daunting at times where you just want to progress, dressing it up and making it your own can really give you a feeling of attachment and pride in your creation. You trained it, fed it, and now you customized it – your partner truly is something that is all your own hand.
To keep certain nostalgic values, both DW and DW:Re have very similar intros: the protagonist exists in a world where Digimon is a game, and regularly competes against others. But where DW uses virtual pets connecting in person at a local park, DW:Re has video chats and online gaming, complete with in-game leaderboards, just showing how much time has passed. Yet, amusingly enough, despite thirteen years of technological advancements, both protagonists get sucked into the digital world for the first time while their parents irresponsibly leave them home alone for undisclosed amounts of time, with no real knowledge that anything happened until it’s too late.
The game has a lot of ups and downs, and to go over them in any more detail would be more of a review than an analysis. But in its efforts to keep the magic of its predecessor, while still trying to improve, DW:Re serves as both a unique experience and a valuable trinket of an earlier, simpler time.
The game sort of contradicts and challenges the novelty of the predecessor, in that part of the charm was that there really wasn’t anything like it – but like all sequels and remakes this game earns the extra expansion of this world. Modernizing gives it a cool comparison of two generations, without losing any of the original magic.