Digimon Survive review: Dark spin on beloved franchise won’t be for everyone

A screenshot from the Digimon Survive title screen, featuring Takuma and Agumon.Bandai Namco / Hyde

Digimon Survive is the latest game to come out of the RPG franchise, and the visual novel tactical RPG hybrid offers perhaps the most captivating Digimon story yet – but it won’t be a game for everyone.

In many ways, Digimon Survive feels like an homage to the original Digimon Adventure. The game kicks off much like the beloved 1990s series, with a group of kids at summer camp. It’s not long before a series of strange phenomena cause Takuma – our resident goggle-wearing protagonist – and seven others to find themselves in an unknown land, interacting with strange monster-like creatures.

Where Survive noticeably differs from its predecessors however is in tone. Delivering a dark story that’s unafraid to address mature themes and explore a rich horror undertone that pulls direct inspiration from Japanese folklore.

The result is an extremely compelling visual novel experience that, while not without its flaws, will surely please many fans of the genre and Digimon alike.

Digimon Survive key details

  • Developer: Hyde
  • Price: Various from £34.99 / $42.99 – £54.99 – $59.99 depending on platform
  • Release date: July 29, 2022
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Digimon Survive trailer

A Dark and Winding Road

A screenshot from the visual novel gameplay of Digimon Survive, featuring Takuma talking to Agumon.Bandai Namco / Hyde
The majority of Digimon Survive is experienced through a stunning visual novel presentation.

With an approximate 70 – 30% gameplay split, Digimon Survive is first and foremost a visual novel. It’s a text-heavy adventure that’s extremely story-centric and relies heavily on its characters to keep players interested. Thankfully, the kids that make up the game’s core group (and their adorable Digimon companions) are a lovable bunch. Vibrant and unique designs set them apart from one another, and fantastic performances across the board from the Japanese voice cast effectively bring them to life. From the wisecracking, childish Minoru to the stern and serious Shuuji, each of the eight kids is easy to get invested in.

Get too invested however and your heart might just break because every single decision you make in Digimon Survive matters and could result in deadly consequences. Each major dialogue and story beat includes three optional choices (referred to in-game as “Karma”), Morality, Harmony, and Wrathful. The route you take can impact everything from (Takuma’s partner) Agumon’s evolution line, to which kids make it out alive when the credits roll. The branching possibilities, plot twists, and brooding sense of dread that engulfs the story do an excellent job of keeping the player engaged in the lengthy sequences.

Exploration and free actions are the active elements of the visual novel. At times Takuma will need to explore specific locations to gather important information to progress the story. His smartphone turns out to be an essential investigation tool with a camera that can uncover otherwise invisible clues and find handy consumable items. A nice design touch is that the game’s main menu is also presented in a smartphone layout, emphasizing the importance of the everyday item.

Free actions provide some rare downtown to raise affinity with Takuma’s classmates, however, actions are limited so players will have to think carefully about who they choose to interact with. Affinity works similarly to the confidant system in Persona where stronger bonds can provide you with unique combat buffs such as increased attack and HP restoration.

Time to Digivolve!

An image of the Digimon Survive battle screen.Bandai Namco / Hyde
Players can take up to 6 Digimon into combat.

Combat in Digimon Survive uses a tactical grid-based system that fans of strategy JRPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics and the Fire Emblem franchise should be familiar with. Battles have a charming Chibi art style that highlights each unique Digimon design with adorable sprites, which is a nice contrast to the detailed anime visuals outside of combat.

At the start of each encounter players can choose up to 6 Digimon to send onto the field, and battles play out in a turn-based manner. Digimon can move across a limited number of squares and use items, or attack during their turn. Each fighter has unique abilities – Labramon for example can provide HP buffs, while Agumon specializes in ranged attacks – so you’ll need to think carefully about who you bring onto the battlefield. Managing Skill Points, positioning, and timing Evolutions properly are just a number of things you’ll need to keep an eye on during the active and engaging fights.

Another core aspect of combat is the option to talk to your enemies and recruit them – a mechanic that mirrors persuading demons to join you in Persona. It can be rewarding to collect new creatures (especially with over 100 Digimon to find!) but frustrating at times given the conversations consist of a 5 step dialogue process with 4 possible answers to each question.

The menacing bosses can get particularly challenging and developers Hyde has implemented a system to keep players comfortable. A difficulty prompt appears at the start of every encounter that ranges from Very Easy to Hard, so players can always head into a fight with a level of challenge that suits them.

Battles are few and far between compared to the visual novel portions of the game but the “Free battle” option during exploration allows you to practice, grind experience, and add more Digimon to your party. It’s great to take advantage of before a big battle and essentially acts as Survive’s version of side quests.

Not All Sunshine and Spider Lilies

A screenshot from Digimon Survive featuring characters Aoi, Kaito and Shuuji.Bandai Namco / Hyde
The game’s localization is unfortunately less than perfect.

Digimon Survive isn’t without its faults and its biggest stumble comes with the localization. There’s no English dub option in the game and the translation, unfortunately, suffers from a margin of grammatical errors which does undercut the overall solid writing.

A lot of care was evidently put into all major aspects of gameplay so it’s disappointing the same can’t be said about the localization. It’s not enough to spoil the experience but it is certainly frustrating when a streak of spelling mistakes pulls you straight out of an intense conversation. Some bizarre uses of slang also outdate the dialogue in a few instances (Honestly, when was the last time you heard somebody say “weaksauce”?) but that’s a minor gripe in comparison.

On the exploration side of things, one setback is a lack of navigation. Traversing between areas can only be done by opening the map menu which always triggers repetitive music that can spoil the atmosphere of tense moments. The fact that just a simple walking simulator could have measurably improved immersion here is frustrating to think about.

Verdict – 8/10

Digimon Survive is by no means a flawless experience but it is an exciting and unique Digimon game. With multiple endings to see, different evolutions to discover, and over 100 Digimon to recruit the replay and content value is excellent.

Due to its text-heavy nature, this game won’t be for everybody, and those who were hoping for more action may leave disappointed. Visual novel fans however will find a lot to love, and if you’re looking for a darker story set in the Digimon universe, Digimon Survive could be the perfect pickup.

Reviewed on PlayStation 5

Where to buy Digimon Survive

You can purchase Digimon Survive by following these links to Amazon or Best Buy, but please note that if you click on a product link on this page, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

For more reviews, be sure to check out our thoughts on the latest releases:

Multiversus | Diablo Immortal | V Rising Early Access | Sniper Elite 5 | Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course | Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review | Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak review | As Dusk Falls

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