You’ve got to admire Bandai Namco for releasing a monster capturing/battling RPG just weeks before a certain selection of Pocket Monsters swarm the Nintendo Switch - but Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition offers more than enough in the way of different mechanics and content for those looking for an alternative to Game Freak's monster-catching behemoth. This Complete Edition bundles in two titles – 2015’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, and 2017’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker’s Memory – both originally released on PlayStation 4 and PS Vita.

Both are set between Tokyo and a virtual utopia known as EDEN, where players’ avatars can interact – and just like in the real world, some are more salubrious than others. Cyber Sleuth sees players step into the shoes of a half-digital character looking to retrieve their real-world body, while Hacker’s Memory has you hunting down an identity thief (always use two-factor authentication, folks) in events that run parallel to Cyber Sleuth. Cutscenes are well-animated, but most of the text is dropped on players through written exposition, making it feel more Visual Novel than RPG at times.

Despite the name suggesting some fact-finding and detective work, there’s no real sleuthing to do here. Thankfully, there is plenty of everything else, and between both storylines, you’re looking at a solid 90-or-so hours of content. We’d definitely recommend playing Cyber Sleuth first, otherwise it can feel like being thrown into a world where the rules are only gently touched on and never fully explained – plus you can import your save across from one game to the other. Plenty of the optional missions in both titles feel a little like filler, but they do add some flavour to the world.

The plot is all technobabble in reality, and feels like a very '90s-flavoured depiction of digital life – potentially a design choice, but also just as likely to be based on the fact that the anime version of Digimon began way back in 1999. Monsters themselves are framed as computer programs, but offer plenty of personality and varying designs to make trying to find all 340-odd digital beasts includec in the game a compelling chase.

While exploring and chatting to various NPCs in the overworld and battling monsters in turn-based combat may sound familiar, both titles here offer enough to distance themselves from those inevitable Pokémon comparisons. For one, monsters here evolve (sorry, “Digivolve”) into bigger, more powerful monsters, but they can also “devolve”, offering up more options for further evolutions. It means that there’s plenty of versatility to be found in the creature-nurturing systems and building out the ultimate team of critters takes some serious hard work and thought.

Secondly, battles aren’t one-on-one affairs, with most contests featuring three-against-three Digimon clashes. This makes having a balanced lineup of Digimon elemental affinities incredibly important, as one wrong move can leave you outnumbered and outgunned.

Finally, you don’t technically catch Digimon by throwing an object at them. Instead, you run into multiple monsters to fill up a meter. Once the meter hits 100%, you create your own version of that Digimon at the DigiLab, while finding more of them out in the wild allows you to create a more powerful instance of that Digimon.

This feeds into the game’s difficulty. On normal and below, it feels too easy – with auto-battling able to do much of the heavy lifting. We’d recommend playing on Hard – it’s not too tough, but there are some boss battles that you’ll need to grind to be able to beat. Unfortunately, these fights don’t feel particularly well signposted – so there’s some guesswork involved as to whether you’ll be ready to take them on or not. These difficulty spikes are fairly common, so if grinding the same opponents to level-up isn’t something you look for, your mileage will likely suffer.

On the plus side, this makes Digimon Story the ideal game to play in portable form – grinding up levels on the sofa, the bus, or a train journey. It also helps that while the game isn’t all that demanding visually, it feels most at home on the Switch’s portable screen; textures can feel a little stretched on a TV, but the Switch’s 720p display offers plenty of vibrant colour options. The digital world of EDEN’s reliance on blue architecture can feel a bit dull after a while (an issue present in both games), but that’s a small criticism.

Aside from the campaign, there’s multiplayer battling to be done as well – either through local wireless play or online and if nothing else, it’s a fun chance to compare strategies and lineups with other players.

Conclusion

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition is a content-packed RPG with plenty to see and do. Its evolution system feels wholly unique when compared to another monster-breeding game series you might find on Nintendo hardware, and while the grind may be too much for some, it’s comfortably one of the best creature-catchers on the Switch – although Pokémon still holds the crown, of course.