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[Review] Digimon World: Next Order

Posted on March 5, 2023 by (@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch, Switch eShop

Digimon World: Next Order review

System: Switch
Release date: February 22, 2023
Developer: Hyde
Publisher: Bandai Namco

Six years into the Switch’s lifecycle, it’s still the go-to destination for ports and bringing older, potentially forgotten games into a more modern setting and for a wider audience. Digimon World: Next Order adds itself to that list, giving it another chance to shine following the positive reception to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and Digimon Survive. With the Digimon World brand having been around since 1999 in Japan, Next Order brings the 2017 title from PlayStation 4 and PS Vita to a Nintendo system. Though Digimon has always been a flexible property and taken on almost every genre under the sun, Digimon World stood by as a fond memory for decades for fans, but Next Order in 2017 didn’t necessarily point the series or the property in the right direction. Now in 2022, we’re meant to revisit a game that, while fun, is just too subpar at best to really warrant paying full price all over again.

Digimon World has done well to mix elements of the Tamagotchi formula and isekai elements to create worlds that felt interactive and immersive, being able to interact, raise, and tame Digimon in great and exciting ways. For Digimon World: Next Order, the series sees one of two selectable protagonists, Takuto and Shiki, get transported to Floatia – a once vibrant and flourishing Digimon world that has been more or less left in ruin thanks to Machinedramon. Once transported, the player is forced into battle with the behemoth alongside Wargreymon and Metalgarurumon, but a vicious battle leaves all involved with their energy depleted before eventually Jijimon transports everyone to safety, including the Machinedramon that has reverted to a Tokomon. With a village that has been left in shambles and residents that have left to find refuge elsewhere, your job as a tamer is to rebuild, defend, and help bring hope and prosperity to where it once was.

Digimon World Next Order review

The story is fairly straightforward and doesn’t particularly get any better or worse from there – it just stays steady as a fair enough plot point to help keep things moving along and the goal for the player clear. It’s not as easy as one would seem, however, as anyone who has played simulation games or actual Tamagotchi devices knows that micromanaging, planning, and strategizing are all immensely important in making sure your influence on the future wavers in your favor. Things change slightly from chapter to chapter – in which there are five in total – as you meet other humans that have been transported but also have a desire to go back into the real world. Maintaining that serenity and balance in Digimon World: Next Order is important, however, and they make sure to prioritize that before anything else. The gameplay elements that all occur throughout, including its gameplay loop, are all engaging enough that if it clicks with the right players, it’ll undoubtedly be a difficult game to put down, but to the average player – even avid Digimon fans – it can easily be seen as a grind-heavy, repetitive, and mundane experience that overstays its welcome in more ways than one.

Despite its original 2017 release, it’s hard to guarantee that even a game like Digimon World: Next Order would be able to run and play as well as its initial outing, but Switch handles the game wonderfully in every aspect of its design. From its fluidity to crisp visuals, the title feels like it’s been given a new breath of fresh air on the system. Even better is that despite not much having changed outside of a new Beginner difficulty setting and the ability to run (adding 1.4x speed over the traditional walking method), the game, while still leaving a lot to be desired, feels much more comfortable and at home with Switch. Though the core foundation of the game hasn’t changed, the ergonomics can do wonders when played on a platform that’s as fitting as it is comfortable, especially for a game like Digimon World: Next Order where it can be played in a binge-like manner or in small spurts, making it perfect for both at-home and on-the-go play.

Digimon World Next Order review

Its allure can be lost on some, however, due to the fact that the aforementioned grind and dedication needed grants little reward by the end of it all. Even for hardcore Digimon fans or those that simply love to manage, nurture, and grow with their games, Digimon World: Next Order – even in its new Beginner Difficulty mode – can average between 80 and 120 hours depending on just how much micromanaging the player is doing. All of this happens passively, so even for those wanting to run through the story could find themselves getting that high, though I have no doubt some could get away with over 60 hours. In my initial playthrough on PlayStation 4 years ago, I had definitely neared the 90-hour mark by the time I had finished, and that was through a balance of rushing through story and going at my leisure depending on the mood. Digimon World: Next Order absolutely can be a relaxing game and have hours fly by in a moment’s notice, but its systems won’t be for everyone long-term even if it starts out extremely fun to most who play.

Taking care of the actual Digimon themselves can be endearing but also frustrating, and seeing as the relationship with them is incredibly important here even though it’s a staple for most games, players can risk death if they’re neglected. This adds a level of stress but also isn’t something particularly surprising given the design philosophy. Digimon are essentially raised from birth, and are then trained excessively until they’re ready to venture out into the world and its various regions. Throughout this process, you’ll need to make sure that training is steady, your Digimon are fed (preferably with the things they like as some can have mood swings), and are making frequent trips to the bathroom. Bathroom breaks are arguably one of the most annoying parts of the game as consistent neglect can cause it to become cursed, and once its curse raises to a certain point it’ll eventually turn into Sukamon, which is a poop-shaped Digimon that isn’t worth, well, exactly what it looks like. But outside of the immensely frustrating and all too frequent bathroom breaks, affecting the creature’s mood, bond, and communication through praising and scolding can be a fairly fun process for those that especially have an affinity for certain Digimon. Ensuring that they’re taken care of and get the best possible training they deserve to make them last as long as they possibly can out in battle and the world is important, but eventually they’ll all have to be changed due to various life expectancies, so it’s good not to get too attached and understand that this is a cycle is inherent to its gameplay loop.

Digimon World Next Order review

Out in battle, the tamer effectively acts as a sort of cheerleader. For those familiar with Yo-kai Watch or Monster Rancher, the systems here are similar as it’s more of an hands-off approach compared to traditional battles that you would see in a standard RPG. This can put less strain on the player as they focus on other aspects and a Digimon’s health/success by offering suggestions of moves, when to initiate fusion techniques, heal, and more. It works and is fine for what it essentially tries to do for a game of this caliber, but in 2023 it can feel immensely dated and is, truthfully, some of my least favorite parts of the game. The exploration factor, however, is fantastic, and being able to traverse the world with your Digimon as you find new recruits, materials, and more can be exciting. That is until your Digimon eventually have to go to the bathroom again.

Given the few enhancements that Digimon World: Next Order has had in its 2023 ports to PC and Switch, it’s a wonder why Bandai Namco decided to once again sell the game for full price when the game can be bought elsewhere on sale for just a few dollars almost every few weeks. It’s a hard recommendation even for the biggest Digimon fans, and though it feels, looks, and runs great on Switch, this is a game that will likely be retired by most people at about thirty hours in – if they even make it that far. If you’re interested in a definitive Digimon experience, your best bet is still Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth, which provides not only some of the best RPG games to come out in the last decade, but also farms to essentially raise, tame, breed, and bond with Digimon all the same in a much more robust and captivating world.

The Verdict

Speaking as a Digimon fan and to Digimon fans, the last couple of years has seen the series come back in a big way that’s given it footing in the west again, and the franchise has brought over tons of great content. Digimon World: Next Order, however, is mediocre, and considering not much was changed, what was once a subpar experience then still holds true now. Time may heal all wounds, but the port of Digimon World: Next Order on Switch – though it runs and looks great – now reopens memories to something that was better left off in the past unless it received a true overhaul. Those looking for an immersive Tamagotchi-esque experience may find lots to love here, but long-term the game just won’t have that grasp with most players to see it through to the end.

Digimon World: Next Order copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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