Digimon Survive will finally be launching at the end of this month and we were lucky enough to have an email interview with Digimon Survive’s producer Kazumasa Habu. He told us more about the game’s evolution mechanics and its inspiration from Digimon Adventure including that the story will have some parallels to novels like Lord of The Flies.
Habu has acted as the producer for a number of Digimon video games including Digimon World Re: Digitize and the Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth games. His answers in the interview emphasized that Digimon Survive will be a darker game where the player’s choices can have dire consequences.
How Survive Differs from Adventure
From the trailer, it’s clear that the team has a lot of love for Digimon Adventure so for our first question of the interview, we asked Habu about the inspiration the anime had for Digimon Survive.
He explained that while the team was influenced by Adventure, they also aimed to take Survive in a different direction, one that seems far darker in tone, ending with a direct comparison to William Golding’s Lord of The Flies.
Habu: “In terms of its story and setting, this title does not share any elements with Digimon Adventure. That being said, however, the influence of the Digimon Adventure series’ director, Hiroyuki Kakudo’s conceptions of the various Digimon visual identities is quite strong. In that respect, Digimon Survive concentrates less on the digital elements of the Digimon and treats them as mysterious and mystical beings from an alternate universe.
Although the story begins in a similar situation to that seen in Digimon Adventure, one major difference is that the heroes of Digimon Adventure are seen as the “chosen ones”, while the protagonists of our title are ordinary children caught up in events beyond their control. As a result, they each have their own responses to the situation — some accept their monsters while others reject them, some learn to overcome their problems and grow, and others are crushed beneath the pressure.
As our adolescent protagonists undergo trials that do not necessarily always lead to positive results, the story has some parallels to novels like Lord of the Flies.”
For those who don’t know, Lord of The Flies is a 1954 novel about a group of schoolboys that get stranded on a desert island. While at first, the boys attempt to keep order amongst their group, without larger societal structures in place, fear and anger soon cause them to become more tribal and violent, culminating in some of the boys attempting to fight and kill each other.
From the previous trailers, we can already see similarities between Lord of The Flies and Digimon Survive as the game also features children stranded in the digital world without any adult authority. With the confirmation that the characters, who are still teenagers, can die in this game, we’re beginning to see a clear picture of the heavier tone that Habu has emphasized.
Do The Digimon Permenantly Die in battle?
While characters may die, Habu also confirmed that these deaths would only be caused through choices in the visual novel story. Gameplay-wise, if a Digimon dies in battle, they’re only out for that level and can be used again afterward.
Habu: “The effects of battle performance are restricted to that battle, meaning that units which are forced to retreat in battle are not treated as if they have died.”
Evolution in Digimon Survive
He next told us more about the requirements for Digimon to evolve, specifically how partner Digimon will evolve in the super and how wild Digimon can evolve in battle.
Habu: “The main character’s partner Digimon will evolve as the story proceeds. How each Digimon evolves will depend on the “Karma” points accrued by the player through the decisions made over the course of the story. As a result, it will not be possible to unlock every Digivolution during a single playthrough of the game.
The Digimon of your companion characters will have their Digivolution events unlocked by accessing certain story branches or by developing strong bonds with the player character. Meanwhile, wild monsters can be evolved by using special items that can be obtained by searching or through other means.”
The idea of the Digimon evolving based on their partner’s mood and choices is similar to the idea of ‘dark digivolution’ that appears throughout the different Digimon anime.
Balancing Spectacle With Combat
An essential part of any Digimon game is to make the Digimon feel powerful. This however can be a little difficult in a strategy game where that spectacle will have to be balanced with things like positioning and grouping. We asked Habu how he and his team were able to achieve this balance.
Habu: “Battles use a classical tactical battle format. Incorporated within this framework are the elements of Digimon evolution and a triangular elemental system. While evolution does essentially result in a large-scale upgrade of the Digimon’s abilities, the use of levels to boost stats as well as advantages received by topographical features or elements do make it possible for less-evolved Digimon to defeat more evolved ones.
At the start of each battle, a maximum of 10 units will be selected to participate — the actual maximum may be lesser than that, depending on the battle. The units then take turns moving, based on their Speed scores. When it is the turn of a player’s unit, the player selects a command — for example, the Move Command makes the unit move along the squares on the battlefield.
Each monster possesses different abilities in terms of how far they can move and whether or not they are capable of climbing to a higher elevation. If an enemy is within the attacking range, the player can select the Attack Command, in which the attack range differs by the attack type.
Damage inflicted depends on a range of variables, including directional elements (attacking from the side or from behind), height elements (attacking from above), monster attributes (Data, Virus, Vaccine), and attack elements (Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Light, Dark).
Monsters can also use SP to execute attacks or evolve units. Although evolving a unit to a Digivolution state that has already been unlocked will dramatically increase its abilities, SP will be continuously consumed while in the evolved state. When the evolution is undone, and the unit returns to its less-evolved state, SP will be gradually restored every turn.
Additionally, SP can be restored by receiving support from allies by engaging in certain conversations with partners, or by using certain items. SP is the key energy resource in battle and must therefore be managed with extreme care.”
We got a lot of new information about how combat will work in Survive however the most interesting mechanic for me is how evolving will drain the Digimon’s SP. It reminds me a lot of how in Adventure where the Digimon wouldn’t be able to evolve if they were hungry due to lacking energy. It was a good way of balancing the Digimon and explaining why they didn’t just stay evolved for more extended periods of time. It’s cool to see something similar adapted into a game.
Giving minor Digimon the spotlight
The final question of the Digimon Survive interview we asked was about the choice of partner Digimon in the game. For the first time in the franchise, a lot of Digimon like Floramon, Labramon, Kunemon, and Shakomon, often relegated to minor roles in anime and games would be main characters. We asked Habo if he could tell us more about this decision.
Habu: “We felt that there are a lot of Digimon who haven’t really been given an opportunity to shine much in the franchise so far. Personally, I wanted to use this game as an opportunity to find a place for existing Digimon to have their day in the spotlight, and to showcase their unique charms and abilities to the fanbase as a whole.”
Considering Floramon and Shakomon are among my favorite Digimon, I’m certainly not complaining. There are a lot of creative designs among the older Digimon that just could certainly use more love, and I’m incredibly excited to see how the main Digimon art is portrayed in the game.
We’re very thankful to Mr. Kazumasa Habu for answering our questions about Digimon Survive for this interview. Digimon Survive is certainly shaping up to be a very different Digimon game. From the way it’s described, it sounds more or less like an interactive Digimon anime, converting plot aspects from across the TV series into a video game/visual novel format.
It also definitely sounds like Survive will focus on the darker aspects of the series. With Digimon’s history of approaching more mature topics, it’ll be interesting to see just how much more intense Survive could get. I suppose we’ll finally see for ourselves when the game finally releases at the end of the month.
Digimon Survive will launch on the 29th of July 2022 for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
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