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Digimon World 4
Score: 50%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Bandai
Developer: Bandai
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
In the realm of digital pets, two entities fight for the attention of kids everywhere: Poke'mon and Digimon. While both revolve around the same nucleus of training a pet monster to fight and eventually evolve into a more powerful form, both take entirely different paths. The same is true for their respective video game versions. Poke'mon has largely stuck to the tried and true formula of exploration and collection with few trips outside the general framework of the series. On the other hand, the Digimon series has been the braver of the two and branched out to different genres, including kart racing and fighting games. Digimon World 4 takes the series into yet another game type, this time the world of hack and slash RPGs. While the premise is strong, an unbalanced single-player mode and several technical complexities hurt the game and keep it well out of the reach of its intended audience.

While the game's look won't impress older gamers, the bright colors and big characters will easily appeal to the younger set. Nearly every Digimon from the series is represented in the game, and while kids may not get the chance to play as their favorites, it's still fun to see them. Visually, Digimon World 4 fits the general look of the series, but with a slight twist. Instead of the vast digital world seen in the series, the world resembles something that could easily be mistaken for something out of the MegaMan Battle Network games or even Tron to some extent. The center of the world is a sleek, cyber-world filled with Digimon busily monitoring their surroundings. Once you enter the dungeons, the area takes on more of the world that fans of the series are used to seeing, yet still retains the general "cyberspace" appearance.

Sound is decent, but won't overwhelm you with quality. There's little in the way of voice work, so expect some light reading as you gather information about the basic plot.

The core element behind Digimon World 4 is to produce an action-based RPG in the vein of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy or Champions of Norrath. After selecting one of four Digimon, you're recruited to help save the Digital World form dark forces. It's not the most original set-up, but it gets the job done. From here, you're charged with traveling through gates to various areas in the Digital World to either look for clues, rescue other Digimon or clean up the messes left behind by other exploration teams (which usually leads to a rescue mission of some sort). Completing these missions usually requires having to navigate dungeons and collect items.

Had the designers stuck with a more basic game, Digimon World 4 would have been a much better title. Instead, they decided to include every complexity of a game geared towards older players, bringing us to the game's major problem -- it doesn't know its audience. Though I am always one to call out developers for making their kid-oriented games a little too shallow, I don't think throwing in aspects that even seasoned gamers will find overly complex is a good way to go. For example, the weapons system, while deep, is nearly unusable due to a convoluted presentation. After one look of the equipment system, I decided it better to just stick with my default weapon. It's a rare thing to make even the simple act of navigating through a weapons menu a difficult task. Button presses never seem to do what you think they should do and, while instructions are presented in the simplest of terms, they aren't adequate enough to let you know what's going on.

Sometimes less is more.

Digimon World 4 supports up to four players and it is clear from the start that the game was built with multiplayer, and only multiplayer, games in mind. Enemies are incredibly hard and do nearly double the damage of your character. In addition, there's an unrelenting spawn rate in levels, which often leads to enemies crowding you. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if the combat system worked, enemies didn't block three out of every four attacks and didn't damage you just by touching you. Throw in the lack of save points, checkpoints, healing items and even an annoying "death penalty", and you've got one hard game.

To put it in clearer terms, I was able to complete both Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry 3, two of the most difficult games to hit consoles in recent years, and I still had trouble getting past the first level of Digimon World 4.

Game Mechanics:
Once again, Digimon World 4 is able to take the simplest of things and build them into overly complex exercises. Basic combat is as easy as pressing a button, however just swinging a sword, or using a gun if you choose, won't get you very far. Combat moves add a second layer of complexity into the mix. A few of the more basic moves are easy, while others (like a spin move) require near-perfect timing to pull off, and even then they don't feel all that effective. While playing through the brief VR training, moves seem a little more useful then they turn out to be in the game world. The difference is that in the Training mode, you're only going against one or two enemies while the game throws four to six powerful enemies at you in one small area. On top of that, they block nearly every attack you hit them with, including your special moves -- making them useless.

On the defensive side of combat, you're also given the ability to block, only your ability to block isnít as effective as your enemy's. Also, considering the number of enemies you're facing at once, blocking really isn't an option if you want to clear some headroom. No matter what you do, you're likely to get hit with a cheap shot and, when you're surrounded, it's not uncommon to helplessly bounce between enemies as your life slowly ticks away.

On the surface, Digimon World 4 has all the makings of a fun, fast-paced Action RPG. Once you get past the shiny exterior, you're presented with a game that, for whatever reason, throws every complexity at you for the sake of adding depth and because the developers could. But, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Unless you're a gamer who enjoys punishing gaming experiences, it's really hard to recommend Digimon World 4. If you're the parent of a Digi-fan, at least rent the game first before subjecting yourself to the screams of frustration Digimon World 4 is likely to produce.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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