No, this isn’t a Pokemon clone. I don’t see how anyone could make that connection…
There’s no nice way to say it: Digimon is a rip-off of Pokemon. The cards, the anime series, the video games – it seems like whenever the latter sneaks its way into a new medium, the former is right behind them with a pen and paper, scribbling down copycat strategies. Digimon World DS follows this trend – it feels pretty similar to Nintendo’s franchise. Luckily, there are a few mechanics that separate the Digital World from the Town of Pallet or the Johto Region.
First, though, let’s get through everything it has “borrowed" from Pokemon. You’re a Digimon Trainer traversing sparsely developed environments in the pursuit of becoming one of the elite. You’ll start by picking one of three Digimon from the central hub, and from there, you’ll have to collect new party members to face threats that wild monsters might pose. And how will you do this? Blatantly traditional turn-based battles, of course!
Before the Big N files that lawsuit, however, here’s what the game does differently. Whereas we’re all used to buying Poke Balls and wearing down wild Pokemon before catching them, Digimon World actually showcases a pretty cool alternative. Each time you face a new opponent, it’ll scan their data, and give you a certain percentage. When that percentage reaches 100, you’re able to clone the data into a new party member. And since there are multiple evolutionary branches, you’re likely to do this more than once if you plan on really “catching them all." Ahem.
Furthermore, you’re able to own and manage Digi Farms, where Digimon not in your party (you can only have three in battle, with three alternates) can rest and train. To improve efficiency, you’ll also have to buy all sorts of equipment and goods along the way. As you progress, you’ll acquire multiple farms, so you’ll be able to beef up your Digimon fairly easily.
Thus far, the game must sound pretty decent, and even enjoyable, but unfortunately, there are quite a few shortcomings that drastically tear down the amount of fun you’ll have. For one thing, random battles are way too frequent – I actually counted, and I never went more than 10 seconds without being interrupted with a new fight. This actually got in the way of navigating; since I’d sometimes forget which direction I was heading in (everything looks the same!) – the lack of an overworld map doesn’t help much, either.
Also, the Wi-Fi mode is completely gimped. Instead of being able to match randomly (like most games), friend codes are required for online gameplay. Because of this restriction, I wasn’t able to test it out for myself, but based on what I’ve read, it’s very similar to Pokemon with a link cable (surprise, surprise) in that you’re able to trade and fight with others.
Visually, Digimon is lackluster. The art gives off a generic anime feel, and the sprites aren’t that sharp to begin with. Environments, while varied, look identical within their own area (“Oh hey, haven’t I seen that tree before? Why yes, I have. Everywhere!"). The music isn’t too bad, though – the battle theme in particular would be pretty enjoyable if it weren’t repeated so often.
If Digimon ever wants to step out of Pokemon’s shadow, it’s going to have to come up with more of its own mechanics. The capture method and digital farm idea are great start, but it’s just that – only a start.