With a name like Digimon Survive, characters dying was basically common knowledge, but the first possible death is particularly soul-crushing. This isn’t just in terms of a visual or presentation standpoint, but from a story perspective as well.
The game’s producer, Kazumasa Habu, already made it known prior to the game’s release that the characters can die and be permanently killed off in the story. This goes without saying that the rest of this article will include spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Spoilers for Digimon Survive from this point onwards
We ask players to avoid posting anything on social media that may spoil the story from Chapter 5 onward for the first two months after Digimon Survive’s release.
Let’s keep Digimon Survive a one-of-a-kind experience! pic.twitter.com/ONeEH2tnpt
— Digimon Games (@digimon_games) July 27, 2022
Previously, Digimon Survive announced on Twitter requesting players to avoid spoilers for Chapter 5 onwards. This gave me the impression that the more hard-hitting bits took place in that chapter and beyond that.
However, to my shock and suffering, the first party member death that I got in Digimon Survive took place extremely early on, in Chapter 3. To give an idea of how early that is, the game stretches for a total of 12 chapters. In Chapter 3, our first few Digimon partners just started to unlock their first Evolution. The character who dies hasn’t even unlocked their Digimon partner’s first Evolution yet.
The cruellest aspect of this death is the fact that it’s unavoidable. No matter what you do, what choices you make or the alignment that you’re on, the first death is scripted. Players have even resorted to cheating, maxing out the character’s affinity (which is impossible this early in the game), and the death still occurs. This character can ONLY be saved in New Game+.
Looking up fan reaction online, it’s clear from the posts and comments that the player base is shaken by how sudden and hard-hitting this death is. As I mentioned in my review of Digimon Survive, it’s not just the scene of the character dying that hurts, it’s what’s immediately after that completely crushes the player.
The character in question’s Digimon partner disappearing is absolutely heartbreaking. This isn’t something like in the anime, where Leomon, a Digimon that literally looks like a man, dies and fades into nothingness. This is a Rookie Digimon—a creature that looks so cute and behaves like a child—being scared, confused, and unable to comprehend its death.
If that’s not enough, the other human children all react to the death in very realistic and painful ways. They grieve, they cope through forced (and very painful) humor. Some get over it quicker due to the threat at hand. Some blame themselves and take quite a while to move forward. Regardless, this death in Chapter 3 still carries tremendous weight even later on, as the threat of death and the necessity of survival is such a prevalent element in the game.
Regardless, by forcing players to go through such a traumatic event this early on, Digimon Survive really cemented itself as an emotional and gut-punching experience. This is just one potential death out of several. While deaths in visual novels are not exactly uncommon (say hello to Danganronpa and Doki Doki Literature Club!), it’s the constant reminder of the characters being children in this game which makes Survive so much more horrifying. This is an experience which—even if you’re not familiar with Digimon—I thoroughly recommend you to subject yourself to. It’s a masterclass in storytelling, simply put.
To stay updated with Digimon Survive, follow the game on Twitter.