Most JRPGs are standalone affairs, which is understandable in franchises spanning two decades, so when a direct sequel is released it piques my interest. Especially when it’s a sequel to one I reviewed and, despite the score, quite adored. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is billed as a prequel to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, which was released in 2016, although it’s more than that.
Your character, Keisuke Amazawa, joins the Hudie hacking group in an effort to get back his EDEN (basically this world’s internet) account, as it was stolen from him. Without his normal EDEN account, people think he’s a hacker, so the obvious way to dissuade this notion is to prove it absolutely correct. The other members of the group are the leader Ruiju, his sister Erica, and the second in command Chitose. Hudie take jobs from the bigger hacker group Zaxon to make ends meet - mostly firewall construction and tracking down bad hackers.
Before I get too far, I should mention that you can import your Cyber Sleuth save to Hacker’s Memory. It will give you some bonuses, such as a few items and unlocking whatever Digimon you discovered in the index. It does also decide whether you will encounter the male or female version of Aiba as you go through the story, which intersects with Cyber Sleuth’s in certain places.
Along the way to recover your identity you’re given a Digimon and the chance to take on “cases”. In the last game, that made sense - you were working for a private detective. In Hacker’s Memory, you’re just doing odd jobs posted onto a forum, so calling them “cases” is a misnomer. Most of these are side quests for XP and hacker rank, but a lot of story missions also start off as cases.
You will meet most of the characters and travel to the same places that appeared in Cyber Sleuth, as well as new sections of EDEN and Tokyo. Other changes include 85 new Digimon (bringing the total to 327), and new music - although some of the old music makes a return, but a key or two higher. Also, there is a new type of battle called Domination Battles, which take place during some cases.
Domination Battles take place on a grid, with each space being worth a set amount of points, with the aim to reach a certain total before the other team. You take turns moving up to two spaces at a time to take over a space, and if someone is already stood on a spot, you fight. Each Digimon does one attack and if you defeat them then you take over the square. If you're attacked and lose, you respawn on the next turn. I assume.
The thing about Hacker’s Memory is that it might be too easy. For the majority of my playtime I used three Digimon, and their digivolutions. I had other Digimon, but because each one costs a certain amount of memory, for a few hours I had managed to digivolve my main three so much that they were all I could afford out of nine possible spots on my team. The only times I lost a match were near the beginning when I only had a single Digimon on my team. The moment I had three, I didn’t lose again. I’m the first to say that I’m not exactly amazing at videogames, but I must be doing something right to never lose. Only one of my Digimon has been knocked out, too, and that was during a boss battle.
The other thing that annoys me is Keisuke Amazawa’s design. His eyes are the anime equivalent of having a movie character played by Malcolm McDowell. You know that shifty bastard is up to something, and he’s probably going to destroy a solar system to accomplish it. In honesty, I’ve not completed the game yet, so that’s not a spoiler, but because of those eyes, I’ve had the “He’s evil!” feeling since the first trailer for this game. Whilst playing, I can’t take my eyes off of his…
My complaint about the masses of XP overpowering my Digimon aside, there are some quality of life changes. Aiba was able to hack firewalls, become invisible and such whilst in EDEN, Amazawa has those abilities and more, which results in some nice level designs and hidden objects to interact with. Most notable amongst the new abilities is that you can “hack” yourself to run faster - and given the amount of backtracking involved in the nature of JRPGs, it’s a great idea.
Another improvement is in the textures because I noted that some Digimon, such as Tankmon, looked pretty bad in Cyber Sleuth. Unfortunately, not every texture has received the same improvement, as some are blurry as heck. For instance, since a lot of the game takes place in a manga café, there are a few signs on the counter. It’s distracting to see things literally next to each other as radically different resolutions.
I will give developer Media.Vision props for managing to avoid the same number of typos and Engrish as was in Cyber Sleuth. It’s not perfect, with some of the conversations you have via text message being absolute nonsense, but it’s much better. There are also a number of references and in-jokes you won’t really get without having played Cyber Sleuth, which is something I always enjoy. This is why I never play the sequel before the original, kids!
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is a fun return to the Cyber Sleuth world, and although giving less of a MegaMan Battle Network vibe than the last game, it retains the fun elements while making improvements. I just wish the difficulty curve was a bit sharper.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
It manages to improve upon the previous game, and thankfully fixes some of it's problems. Since you can import your save from the last game, you should probably check that out first - it will help give you a deeper understanding of the story too.