Blast From The Past
Blast from the Past: Digimon World

During the wake of Nintendo’s Pokémon franchise, Digimon reared its head as what many saw as a shameless rip off. While it didn’t necessarily slam Nintendo into the ground. Digimon had and continues to remain fairly popular.

The original Digimon World released on the PlayStation 1 was the first game to spawn from the tamagotchi-like devices released in 1997 as Digimon’s premiering toy. Digimon World centred around the original keychain devices acting a portal to the Digimon world. The protagonist was sucked into one of the toys and tasked with returning peace to the Digimon World after the inhabitants of the city lose their memories and run away.

Digimon World enticed players in just the same Pokemon Stadium would two months later. Seeing your raised creatures turn from flat black & white sprites into fully 3D monsters was a sight to behold and cherish but BanDai’s attempt brought the adventuring aspect with it unlike Nintendo’s efforts with Pokémon Stadium. Something Digimon wasn’t capable of showing in the keychain devices.

Even the CD case of Digimon World was exciting. On the reverse side of the cover was a map more akin to a diagram naming the areas players would eventually reach. Without the proper detail it was hard to imagine just how big the in-game world was.

Taking the monsters to the big screen was a big deal. During the start of the game players would be asked a series of questions and given a “rookie” stage digimon based on their answers. Taking their new friend with them, players had to raise them with food, training and a discipline system which would all add up to play a role in the eventual evolution of their creature. Raising them in specific stats would result in a wide variety of different resulting creatures all bigger and badder than the last with bad raising being punished by evolving into the weak poop shaped creatures of Numemon and Sukemon – Classy Bandai and their animal cruelty lessons!

The battle system in place for Digimon World wasn’t revolutionary, but it was different. Rather than randomly running into another monster, bearing a transition screen and taking turns to smack each other in the face, Digimon World rendered all the enemies on screen within the environment. Running into one would begin a fight right there and then with you commanding your “mon” to attack specifically or just do whatever the hell it pleased. Often times it seemed broken with your monster and the opponent just running around and pausing before finally deciding to attack after what could be between 2-12 seconds. The fights were a little confusing but were admittedly a lot of fun with a lot of close calls and frantic, probably pointless button mashing – attack! attack! attack!.

Digimon World was as close to world as we could hope for on a console back then. Coming from an environment-less keychain game to a 3D utopia, players had a lot to look forward to. Wondering around the branch-pathed forest, you’d soon find yourself wandering through mines, climbing mountains, exploring a vampire filled mansion and even crossing the sea, each time being treated to more 3D representations of monsters previously unseen. There was no clear way to distinguish whether a certain enemy would wipe the floor with you or offer an easy victory, and while that may sound like a downfall, it probably resulted in the better caring of your creature through the sheer will to not get smashed into the floor.

It was disappointing to see the Digimon World series transform from such a promising game into a simple turn based dungeon crawler in the second release. It seemed like Bandai had abused the “digital” setting of the franchise to pump out an incredibly basic and boring design for its sequel. Bandai’s original 3D outing for their franchise was a gem ignored by most and defiantly something retro games should go back and play.


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