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Digimon World 3
Score: 40%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Bandai
Developer: Bandai
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
If you think of the expression, 'a moving target,' you should have the image of something that never stays still for long and is hard to hit. Bandai's approach to Digimon World 3 is more than a moving target. Basically, playing through this series has been comparable to someone moving the target and then pushing your arm when you take a shot and also changing your gun after every shot. I mean, the series seemed to take a decidedly poor turn in the last installment, especially with graphics. The game didn't look awful, but it took forever to load, and the repetition present in battles was a total deal killer. So, it was with great dismay that I found the battles in Digimon World 3 to be quick-loading but absolutely butt-ugly. I mean 1995 ugly, people!! Why anyone would think that sacrificing quality graphics for speed (if that was even the intention) would make sense, I don't know. The overall presentation is done quite differently outside of battle, more along the lines of an old-school RPG. And that's nice. Still plenty of loading as you move through towns, which is a drag. And, when the battle kicks in, you just can't really believe you're seeing what you're seeing. What it amounts to is a bargain presentation. For fans of the series who signed on only because they love seeing Digimon, the weak graphics may not detract too much, but as someone just looking for a nice playable PSOne game I was not willing to sit through hours and hours of poor looking battles.

The sound comes out about even (and I mean quality, not stereo, wiseguy!), although I liked the vocalization of the individual Digimon better in the last game. As the music accompanies you through towns, it will grow on you, and fans will enjoy hearing familiar tunes.

The story that serves as the underpinning for Digimon World 3 seems like a set-up for the upcoming Dot-Hack game Bandai showcased at E3. The experience of leading characters through a world that is taken from the experience of playing a massively multiplayer RPG, even though you are totally offline, is a brilliant idea. Those of us who enjoy RPG gaming anyway and may have a little exposure or interest in the MMPOG experience will appreciate the whole integration of the Digimon world with the human world. Since characters download their consciousness into the world of Digimon Online, the actions they take and the challenges they face are completely virtual. So, a different twist on the more physical presence Digimon have in the TV series, right? But, the connection to Digimon Online helps create an entirely new game world with almost infinite possibilities. Sadly, Bandai ends up creating some fairly bland and repetitive action that doesn't make much out of all this potential.

After some lengthy explanation of the world you'll be exploring, you choose a name and a set of Digimon to take with you in the world of Digimon Online. You're asked to choose carefully, since each group or 'pack' of Digimon represent a unique way of fighting. After you get started in the world, you'll be given objectives and led through the story, as Junior helps his friends escape from limbo in this digital world. The process of getting through towns and the world at large involves a great deal of fighting and training. The breeding and digivolution part of the game means it is more involved than a typical RPG. You may love or hate this if you've never experienced Digimon, but even hardcore fans may find there is more to swallow here than they're ready for. I liked how Digimon can evolve, learn new techniques and develop along unique lines, and from watching the show it's cool to see characters represented in the game. Along with the Digimon battling, you can collect cards and battle other characters in that way to earn special items and rewards. The card game is involved, too much so in my opinion. But, like the card game in Final Fantasy VIII, it looks more complicated than it really is. When you start playing, you'll quickly learn from your opponent, and the various 'modes' and modifications you can make to your cards will make more sense. With the battles looking as weak as they do, I almost wonder if it wouldn't have made more sense to just create a card battling game for this third round in the series.

My impression of the gameplay style here - long, involved and highly repetitive - is that only the hardest of the hardcore need apply, meaning the Digimon fans who would do anything to play as their favorite character. Much of the style present in battles before has been lost, and even if it did take forever to load I would rather look at some pretties. What we've gained is more of a traditional RPG feeling, and that I like. So, considering this is targeting a very niche market, I say the balance is shifted slightly toward the positive.

Like most games with convoluted gameplay and poorly designed interfaces, Digimon World 3 makes things harder than they need to be. Learning all the intricacies of battle should be a fun experience, but instead it is frustrating because of poorly balanced enemy AI, weak presentation and a set of controls that you may play the entire game without learning. And that doesn't even include the crazy card game. Not providing a simple interface is the biggest problem, and because this game keeps morphing its style, one can't just rely on a knowledge of the last installment. Believe me, I tried this and failed.

Game Mechanics:
The many points of the game's engine include a fairly well done 2D interface used for navigating the game world and towns, a poorly done 3D interface used for battles, and computer animation sequences that don't do much more than tease you. Getting through the many menus to find information you need during the game is tiresome, and the first main screen of information on any single Digimon includes no less than 20 points you'll need to monitor. In battle, you can easily keep track of your hit points and magic points, but the methodology behind why you should care is the crux of the game. Learning how your particular combination of Digimon will go into battle, their strength and weakness against different forms of attack, is key to winning. Understanding the separate elemental attributes of your Digimon and the different attributes they are effective against is key to winning. Learning to Digivolve, which will usually have both negative and positive effects on the former points, is key to winning. And finally, combining two Digimon in a 'DNA Digivolution' under special circumstances is key to winning. Oh, not really 'finally' there, because learning the incredibly complicated card game is also fairly key to winning. I'm all for a game that challenges you and teaches you some intricate ways of handling your characters, and character development is key to the success of any serious RPG, but trying to throw all this at you from the beginning makes Digimon World 3 feel like a melting pot that just won't melt. In fact, it makes it feel like a big mess. If you want to spend the time and you seriously love Digimon, there may be gold at the end of the rainbow, but I found that the journey was simply too uncomfortable and confusing to make any amount of payoff worthwhile. It seems more like a jumble of things that everyone wanted to get in the last game than a well planned and executed follow-up to the previous Digimon game. Whoever thought this was a better game than its predecessor is seriously out of touch.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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