Yep, this is officially the longest title of anything I’ve ever reviewed on my blog! I thought I’d talk about a Digimon game that I’ve been getting into as of late, a rather forgotten title known as “Digimon Adventure Anode/Cathode Tamer”. This was one of the first Digimon video-games ever made, and was created while the series was at its most popular in Japan. It also introduced the world to Ryo Akiyama, a character who would make appearances in the first three seasons of the series.
This game was the series’ first foray into tactical RPGs, and one of their last. Sadly, the series would rarely revisit this genre. Regardless, I want to discuss this game. With Digimon’s 20th anniversary fast approaching, I feel it’s time I take a look at a forgotten classic. Without further adieu, let’s dive right in!
Digimon Adventure Anode Tamer was originally released in 1999 for the Wonderswan, which was a Japanese exclusive console. A second version was released in 2000 called “Cathode Tamer”, and eventually a third a version of the game was released for the Wondereswan Color. This will be the version I’m looking at, the one known as “Veedramon Version”.
Unlike the other two versions released, Veedramon had an English version and was primarily released in English-speaking parts of Hong Kong. The Digimon Tamer series on Wonderswan proved to be very popular, and soon the main character Ryo Akiyama started making appearances in the show. It started off as a few cameos, but eventually he became a canon part of both the second and third seasons.
Taking place after the end of the first season, Digimon Anode/Cathode Tamer focuses on a young man name Ryo. One day, Ryo is chatting on a message-board, until he gets a strange message on his computer. After foolishly touching a Digi-vice (a tool used on the show to enhance the power of a Digimon) our hero is pulled into the Digital World.
This is where he meets Digital Monsters, known as Digimon. Ryo is forced to work alongside a lizard-like Digimon named Agumon, in order to rescue the Digidestined from the original show. You see, all the kids have been defeated and captured by the villains of the first season, who have resurrected and become more powerful in the process. Ryo is tasked with using Tai’s Digivice, along with partnering up with the chosen Digimon to once again defeat all of the Digidestined’s foes. Not only this, but Ryo has to go up again an all new villain named “Milleniumon”, an evil hybrid Digimon who represents the Y2K virus.
Yeah, the plot for this game is pretty generic. While it’s cool that you get to fight all the villains from the first season in game form, the reason they are all there feels a bit like a cop-out. They are all conveniently resurrected by the new villain, and none of them offer any interesting bits of dialogue. I get that this is a Wonderswan Color game, and that they were limited in what they were allowed to do.
Still, I can’t help but feel that they could’ve done more with the setting. Digimon Adventure was a show that had a universe that was ripe for expanding upon. Instead, they decided to rehash season 1 all over again. This wouldn’t bother me so much if they got the character portrayals wrong. Sadly though, characters behave in a very unfitting way. For example, after you save every Digidestined, they just leave the Digital World and basically abandon you to your quest. They never offer to help or stay, and they never come to your aid.
I get that this is done so that more attention is put on the player character, as opposed to side-characters. It’s just really out of character for the Chosen Children to just have somebody else do all the work for them. Am I thinking too deeply about this? I probably am, that’s just how my brain works. Regardless, I felt the plot to be very bland and forgettable. Very few interesting things happen, and it just ends up feeling like a hollow story overall.
The game is pretty basic in terms of structure. You can have a maximum of 3 Digimon in your party at at time, same goes for your opponent. In these 3v3 fights, you take turns with each individual Digimon. You move them across the grid to attack your opponent Digimon. While it seems simple, there are some things thrown in that help spice up the gameplay.
The game introduces something called “Variable Moves”. These are basically Digivolutions, a form of transformation evoked by Digimon in the series. However, Variable Moves are different in that they only last for one turn, where Digivolutions often last a lot longer in other games. Variable Moves are basically special summon attacks, and can be used to attack your opponent, heal an ally, or even buff your part members.
You can also use items both in and out of combat. These range from average healing items, to food or waste disposal items. That’s right, the game has some simulation elements to it. You have to take care of your Digimon, by both feeding it and cleaning up after it. Unfortunately, these particular elements of the game felt tacked on. More often than not, it felt like the hunger system was just an excuse to send me running back to the village to buy more meat. Thankfully, this doesn’t become too much of a problem, since you are given meat in battle.
Outside of combat, you can acquire new Digimon and travel the over-world. The over-world isn’t fancy, and it lacks any real depth to it. You just travel to new dungeons to send your Digimon to. There’s no secret areas, hidden zones, or anything to make it remotely interesting. Even the Pokemon games had wide open areas for you to explore! Sadly, the areas you explore feel so barren. There are very few Digimon to talk to in such areas as well.
Speaking of the game’s flaws, there was lot of elements to this game that generally rubbed me the wrong way. For example, the aforementioned Variable Moves system is rather annoying to get working properly. The game starts you off with no moves for any of your Digimon, you have to unlock them all by scratch by experimenting with different party combinations. The problem is that you get them entirely at random. It’s possible to get moves that could’ve been useful two dungeons, while in a completely new dungeon.
Balancing is another issue with the game. Certain Digimon that you are given at the start of the game feel way too overpowered. A good example of this was Veedramon, who pretty much broke most boss encounters. I liken Veedramon to Frederick from Fire Emblem, put in the middle of a battlefield and everyone will die in an attempt to take him out.
The game’s biggest offense though is its repetition and length. The game is very repetitive in its combat system. Certain fights will drag on for what feels like 30 minutes, sometimes longer. It gets really old, really fast. All the while, you’re stuck watching the same animations over and over again. It’s like if they made an episode of Digimon and only had a budget of 5 bucks and only about 20 frames of animation repeated over and over.
I feel like that’s an apt summary of this game in a nut-shell: “It’s like Digimon, but not as good and extremely dated”. It may sound cruel, but in terms of gameplay I feel it just doesn’t measure up to the flawed gem known as Digimon World, which came out the same year, but for a different console.
This game looks pretty good for the time, to be honest. The sprite work is typical of a Wonderswan Color game, but they manage to capture the art-style of the original show very well. Digimon are well-designed and the battle sprites look nice enough, even if a few of them can look a bit uncanny valley at times. Sprites on the over-world can look a bit too simplistic though.
The problem with this game comes in the sound department. It sounds pretty bad, which is a result of the console’s limitations, I know. Still, the soundtrack felt grating at times due to the loud blaring noises. Another problem I had with the game was the odd translation. For some reason, the English version of the game chose to use a mixture of both the Japanese names and the American localized names. This made certain scenes feel a little odd for me.
While I did like the graphics, I felt the localization and soundtrack were a bit too stale for my tastes. As previously mentioned, the audio was blaring and the game’s localization couldn’t decide which translation it wanted to stick to. In all honesty, I found the production values of this game to be fairly hit-or-miss.
I know that I have been fairly harsh on the game up until this point. I know it isn’t entirely fair, seeing as how this game was one of the first few Digimon games ever made. However, it did help kick-start an entire sub-franchise, and introduced the fandom to a character who would be popular for years to come. I guess I went into this game with too high of expectations.
Now, do I hate this game? No, but I have trouble saying that it’s a good game. It’s a middle-of-the-road game. I enjoyed parts of the game, and was totally a sucker for the nostalgic elements of it. The problem was that the game was too short, lacked an interesting plot, and didn’t do enough to distance itself from the many other tactical RPGs coming out around that time.
So, with that I can say that the game isn’t as sweet as syrup. Do I recommend it? Well, kind of. I can only really recommend this game to two kinds of people: Those who love Digimon and Ryo, and those who love tactical RPGs. While you can easily skip this game in favor of future games, I do suggest at least trying it. It does introduce the hero and villain of this series and is fun for an hour or two, but that’s about it. Anyways, that’s my personal thoughts on the game. If anyone else has played this game, I’d like to hear your thoughts on it as well. If you feel I presented any elements of the game incorrectly, feel free to call me out on it. Regardless, I hope you all have a great day!