Digimon World: Next Order finally makes its way to Nintendo Switch this month with the arrival of the monster raising RPG from Bandai Namco. The new version promises some minor QOL improvements over the Vita and PS4 versions, so let’s take a look and see if it’s worth picking up together.
Next Order sees you take on the role of either a male or female protagonist transported to the digital world after an attack on the world leaves the barrier between the human and digital worlds weakened, causing you to be transported to a world full of adventure and intelligent monsters on the brink of destruction.
Alongside your two Digimon partners, you must help the digital world recover from the damage caused before your arrival as well as uncover and stop the root cause of the strange events taking place. Over the course of your travels, you will encounter other humans that found themselves in this world as well as the inhabitants displaced by the events prior to your arrival, which will once again encourage them to join the city and build it up to what it once was.
The game isn’t exactly story-heavy and is often quite predictable, but there are a few twists and turns that make it at the very least passable as far as the main story goes. That is to say that all the key plot points are there, meaning the story makes sense and gives clear goals, but it’s kind of bare bones; overall, it simply does its job to move you along but falls short against the story of Cyber Sleuth and Digimon Survive.
Graphically, the fact that the Next Order is for all intensive purposes a straight port of a Vita game means I’d once again use the term passable. While the visuals may be a bit dated overall, the anime art style and the cartoonized world have a level of charm to them that doesn’t conjure up thoughts of the game being ugly or unsatisfying to play.
To be honest, keeping in mind the age of the title and its original release console, I actually liked the art style as well as the designs for a lot of the monsters. It’s hardly at the standard of many modern games that try for realistic graphics, but that’s just fine for the type of game we have here. Even if we weren’t taking into account the age of the port, I wouldn’t be too upset to receive a game with these visuals even today.
The audio has to be one of my two favorite parts of the title; not only is the BGM throughout on point and enjoyable, but the performance of Eir Aoi’s Accentier for the opening and at key moments in the game was a superb choice and something I found really enjoyable. One thing that did seem like a strange decision regarding the audio, however, was the removal of the Japanese VA, meaning the title oddly only has an English while not terrible, seems like an odd decision to me.
For fans of the Cyber Sleuth games or even the new visual novel Survive, The Next Order will be a huge departure from what they are used to and will likely only appeal to an even more niche audience thanks to its combination of virtual pet mechanics and open-world RPG gameplay. For anyone not familiar with the world games these a good chance of a steep learning curve at the start as you manage your monsters hunger, toilet and training needs while trying to ensure they don’t die causing you to start over even then death and rebirth are a prominent feature of this title and combined with tamer skills and the reconstruction of the city it will be some time before you can freely do what you want and acquire monsters of you choice easily.
With that being said, I’d argue that of the Digimon titles utilizing these mechanics, Next Order is probably the easier game even without the difficulty options.
Fortunately, the Switch release of The Next Order comes with a new beginner mode that alleviates much of the difficulty spikes throughout the original release, making progress much smoother even through the early stages and allowing you to get much more done with your new initial partners before they get reborn, thus making each next rebirth grow quicker as you acquire more skills and facilities without hitting nearly so many progression walls.
As a side note before we continue on, I also want to make mention of the ability to “run” with this version. It’s been some time since I played the original version, so forgive me if this was always a thing, but I really don’t recall it. With that said, running is… Ok, like I guess it helps; I mean, it feels more like a slow jog, but at least you move a little faster, so it’s kind of a positive, but well, that’s about all I have to say about it.
Combat in Next Order is unlike that of the Digimon story games that most western fans are likely familiar with, unless they played the original Digimon world game back in the days of the PS1. The title opts for a battle system that focuses on your partners acting on their own according to the game’s AI unless you have enough “order power” saved up from cheering them on. This “order power” allows you to give orders to your individual Digimon, such as using certain techniques or abilities, as well as make use of the ExE function that has its own set of requirements and can turn the tide of tough battles, though this is unlikely to crop up until you get the hang of things.
Ultimately the gameplay loop comes round to management of your stats via caregiving and training and growing your city as you progress through the story. The death and rebirth function can feel like you have taken a huge step back at times, but it’s integral for raising stronger monsters without simply giving you access to the strongest from the start, and while I have admitted that it may be a bit overwhelming at first, it soon becomes second nature, and with the inclusion of the multiple difficulty modes the game can be quite easy or challenging. With that said, it’s unlikely to be a quick game, and there are some gaps in progression as you retrain monsters that can lead to some repetitive moments that will either put you off completely or be enjoyable depending on you as a player.
Overall, as a fan of the series, I love the game just as much as when I originally played it; however, as a reviewer, aside from the fact that it’s on Switch now, I’m not sure why it’s had a port. To be honest, from what I’ve seen, die-hard Digimon fans are sure to love this if they haven’t got it on PS4 already, and while it may interest some of the fans who have only played the story games, there’s just no reason for me to recommend it to someone who’s already played it. Sure, beginner mode is nice for new players, and the game itself is decent enough to enjoy, but it’s nothing new, so if you’re wanting to try Next Order for the first time, go for it. Beginner mode is a great addition for fresh players, but if you already own it, I’d suggest just dusting off your old copy unless playing it handheld is a big factor for you.
For those picking it up for the first time, you get a great soundtrack, charming visuals, and some interesting mechanics inside Digital World. The story isn’t going to become award-winning, but it does the job it’s required to do just fine. The core loop of training up your Tamagotchi monster to do battle while experimenting with its growth is the main allure with this one, so if you’ve played any of the world games before, you know exactly what to expect; if you haven’t, this may be a new challenge for you, but that will ultimately come down to whether you like the idea of the gameplay.
Great game for digi-fans ported to Nintys handheld, but I can’t recommend a full price double dip.