Can you believe that it's almost time for a brand new Digimon game here in the West? Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is launching early next month on PlayStation 4 and Vita, and we've little doubt that long time fans are starting to feel the hype. Digimon titles are a real rarity outside of Japan these days, so we thought that we may as well make the most of the occasion by asking producer Kazumasa Habu a few questions with regards to the upcoming release.
Push Square: Just to start with, can you give us a quick overview of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth? What's the game about, and what are you trying to achieve with it?
Kazumasa Habu: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth succeeds the game system from the 'Digimon Story' series that was on Nintendo DS from back in 2007.
It is a role-playing game where you to collect, raise, and evolve Digimon and then adventure together.
It has been 17 years since Digimon was created. The fans are now older than before, and we would like for those who no longer play the more child-oriented Digimon games to play once again. So, we have completely changed the Digimon game image to focus more on the Digimon fans that have now grown up. The visuals, world outlook, and game systems have evolved significantly, while keeping the basic concept of 'raise Digimon, adventure together, and battle'.
Digimon was at the peak of its popularity in the 90s - at least here in the West - but the franchise has always had its core fans. Was Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth designed with these older fans in mind, or do you think that it will appeal to newcomers, too?
The fans that continue to support Digimon to this day are essential. However, we thought strongly about the current adults that used to be fans of Digimon, and those who used to like Digimon but may be a little out of touch with the franchise now.
It is important to gain the new fans, but as long as it is a Digimon game, we would like to give people the chance to enjoy the games again.
Digimon collecting and training is obviously a big part of Cyber Sleuth, which has led to some calling it 'the Pokémon of PlayStation'. What do you think of that title?
To be honest, there is an immense difference in the contents and appeal between Digimon in comparison to Pokémon. I personally think that the concepts between Digimon and Pokémon are very different.
Pokémon is set in the fantasy world where the Pokémon's existence is normal. However, Digimon is based on a structure in which the various dramas are created by the encounters between the human beings of our reality and the Digimon from the unusual digital world.
While the Digimon's existence is abnormal and they are drawn as monsters, their common senses change through meetings between Digimon and humans, and then new relationships are created. I think this is the interesting, essential quality of Digimon.
We have focused on this point with the development of Cyber Sleuth.
A lot of role-playing games are stepping away from turn-based combat these days, but Cyber Sleuth hasn't. What were the main reasons behind using a turn-based system?
There are several reasons.
The Digimon title's characteristic is that the humans use the Digimon for battle. For a highly action-oriented game, the player would directly control the Digimon, but in this case, the player is no longer the human who uses the Digimon - the player becomes the Digimon itself. Therefore, we felt that the turn based combat system was the most suitable format to reflect the intervention of the human character in the game world.
We also intend with this game to get a large range of people to play. When we thought how we can make it accessible to many people, we chose the turn based RPG, which is a familiar system without any difficult controls. This allows many people to play without explanation.
With the new Digimon Adventure tri. anime getting quite a lot of attention, do you think it's a good time for Digimon to be making something of a comeback in the West? Do you think that Cyber Sleuth can help the franchise do that?
In Japan, the flow is rather that the Digimon games, such as Digimon World Re:Digitaize and Digimon Collectors shifted the age target higher, and the franchise grew more successful from this. It gave the opportunity to start a project like Digimon Adventure tri.
In Europe, Digimon became popular from the anime, so it is in contrast to Japan. But we hope that the game will be welcomed along with Digimon Adventure tri. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is as dramatic as the Digimon anime, so I hope that it helps Digimon achieve some kind of comeback.
Cyber Sleuth is coming to both PlayStation 4 and Vita, but it originally only launched on Vita in Japan. Is the PS4's huge success in the West the main reason as to why the game is being ported to the home console?
When Cyber Sleuth was developed, there was no plan to launch outside of Japan (in the US or Europe). But thanks to the overseas fans' enthusiasm and dedication to campaigning for a release, we can now release a Digimon game after so long. We are very thrilled.
The hardware market in Western territories drove us to decide on the PS4 addition overseas. We are very sorry that the launch is very much delayed compared to the Japanese version due to this.
If this title becomes a success, we can hopefully consider a worldwide, simultaneous launch for the next title.
Are there any differences between the PS4 and Vita versions of the game?
In terms of game content, there is no difference between the PS4 and Vita versions of the game.
Bandai Namco has been doing a lot of localisation work during this generation of consoles so far. Can we expect to see more Digimon games come West in the future, or will that depend on the success of Cyber Sleuth?
Yes, it will all depend on this title's success for the future.
However, we love to develop the Digimon games for Europe and we hope we continue to do this, so we really appreciate your support for Cyber Sleuth!
Are you looking forward to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth? Will you be playing on PS4, or Vita? Dive into the digital world otherwise known as the comments section below.
[ Thanks to Kazumasa Habu for taking the time to answer our questions. Special thanks to Gareth Bagg and the team at Bandai Namco for making this interview possible ]