Digimon World Dawn & Dusk
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Bec
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 09/18/07
Japan 03/29/07
Official Website: English Site

Graphics: 75%
Sound: 83%
Gameplay: 78%
Control: 70%
Story: 50%
Overall: 75%
Reviews Grading Scale
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Don't hurt me, I'm a giant teddy bear!
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My DigiEggs bring all the boys to the yard...they're better than yours...
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Check out my normal, regular, absolutely mediocre attack!
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Meeting with the head honcho; I hope I put on deodorant this morning.
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Patrick Gann
Digimon World Dawn & Dusk
Patrick Gann

Perhaps in an attempt to ride the success of the newest Pokémon titles (Diamond and Pearl), Namco Bandai has released a pair of Digimon titles for the DS. Digimon World: Dawn and Digimon World: Dusk are essentially the same game rolled up into two different packages. Their similarities and differences will be assessed throughout this review, while we also pick apart the game and see if it's worth your time/money.

Come to the Dark Side

Though I dabbled with both Dawn and Dusk, it was Dusk that I played to completion. It's just natural to want to play the "dark" side. But, as it turns out, these distinctions had little to do with morality, or even style and character portrayal. Whether you're a member of SunshineCITY or DarkmoonCITY, everyone around you is cordial and supportive of everyone else. These two rival "teams" in the digital world seem to have a healthy competition going and they respect each other as well. The big difference is in who your lead digimon is. If you're playing Dawn, you get a light-based digimon as your lead. If you're playing Dusk, you get a dark-based digimon. The two cities each specialize in four different digimon types, which we will discuss below.

When you start the game, you have the option to be either a male or female character. There are no default names, however. The character design for the male is basically the same in Dawn and Dusk, and the same goes for the female design. Whichever gender you choose, your opposing city's counterpart (a person who plays a significant role in the plot) will be the opposite gender. No, there is no love interest. I guess they just wanted some diversity.

As the story goes...

Routine training for you, a rookie digimon tamer that hopes to ascend the ranks, is interrupted when a mysterious force rips through an entire "DigiArea," causing chaos among your friends. Some digimon go berserk, others devolve back to their lower forms, and even some humans lose consciousness. And so it is, that we are confronted with our nemesis. The unnamed foe will spend the entirety of the game planning the destruction of the entire DigiWorld; for what purpose, no one knows.

The plot progresses with various "union" missions, but these are not accessible unless you do some "species" quests. In other words, the game runs on a quest-based system. Pick some random fetch quests to do, and after you do enough, you may progress through the main plot a little more. As you do, your digimon will have the chance to evolve, and by the time you reach the game's end, you should have "Ultimate" digimon ready to fight.

So the game's light on plot. That was to be expected.

Yes, I still play with my Digimon.

As I said earlier, Dawn and Dusk split up the eight species, so that each game specializes in four. In Dawn, you have a focus on Light, Dragon, Aquatic, and Bird digimon. In Dusk, the focus is on Dark, Insect/Plant, Machine, and Beast digimon. The "species" quests (generally, fetch quests) are done at four different counters. If you're playing Dawn, you get the aforementioned four groups to choose from; if you're playing Dusk, the latter four. The quests are tailored in certain ways, but generally, the two versions of the game send you to the same areas around the same point in the game to do basically the same quest. There is a little variation between Dawn and Dusk at this point.

Fortunately, regardless of which version you play, all eight digimon types are available to join your party. Indeed, digimon growth is a huge part of this game. Your tamer home is privy to a "DigiFarm" and a "DigiLab." In the farm, you can place digimon that don't fit in your six-person party to slowly grow at their own rate. The farm's design determines much of how the digimon grows. You can place specific items in the farm to boost particular stats, and you can change the farm's "layout" board and even it's BGM to put added growth on particular digimon-type experience points. If you want to have a lot of decent endgame digimon, this is the way to do it. The DigiLab is the place to do "Digivolution." You can do this in the main menu as well, but the DigiLab also allows specialized forms of evolution. You can cross two digimon to create one altered digimon and there is also a high-level "armor" evolution function that I never fully grasped, but seems to be significant for your high-level digimon. But most importantly, DigiLab is the place where you can create new digimon based on the scans you've done in battle. Good news: scans are done automatically at the start of battle. Even if you run, you got some scanning in. Depending on your tamer "rank" (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum), each discovered digimon gets you a small scanned percentage. Once you've gotten to 100% (or over), you can create that digimon in the DigiLab.

This was all to say that the digimon growth system is very well developed. It is complex and involved. I enjoyed collecting different Digimon using this system, and I really enjoyed evolving the different digimon down this or that path to create the ultimate digimon. Of course, this is what makes these sorts of monster-raising games fun, and again, Pokémon trumps virtually all other games. But I really believe Namco Bandai did a good job with this particular game, and fans of the Digimon franchise will agree with me on this point.

Now let's talk about battles. This is also an exciting part of the game. Battles are simple, but the design is one that is not commonly employed in turn-based RPGs anymore. As you can see in the screen shots, you work in a first-person perspective. Enemies appear on any of five spots (from left to right). Your attacks target one or more of these spots (sometimes in different patterns, not always adjacent squares), and you choose where to hit. This small strategy element was much appreciated, both for offense and defense. Indeed, of the three "active" members you can have in battle, it's important for you to decide whether or not you will group your digimon next to each other or spread them out.

Generally, the game is not a challenge. But should you choose it, there are challenging places to go and challenging battles to face. Also, if you aren't wise in how (and when) you evolve your digimon, you may end up in a predicament. Each time you evolve a digimon, their level drops back to 1. All the game's equipment is level-based, so if your Agumon was wearing a bunch of high-level gear, and then you evolve to MetalGreymon, you'll actually have a fairly weak digimon on your hands for a few rounds, until you can get it back to a reasonable level. So, it's a bad idea to rush digivolving, especially if you're about to face a boss battle. At the very least, having some strong high-level characters in your reserve party is a good idea.

Oh, and there's a multiplayer battle feature. I actually found someone who owned Dawn, so we messed around with it a bit. Always a good time.

The gameplay, in all its quest-based exploration and turn-based battle glory, isn't groundbreaking, but it's simple, old-fashioned fun. And at this point in time, I can really appreciate that. If you do too, maybe you'll want to check this game out.

We don't like all this high-falootin' stuff

For a DS game, one thing this game lacks is DS functionality. Yes, the touch screen works, but you can (and I did) play the entire game without using it. The most interesting feature it had was camera-scrolling on the field by pressing the stylus on the screen, marking a "center" point, and then moving around to get a slightly larger view of your surroundings. This is a potential time-saver so that you don't walk into a dead-end (a costly mistake, given the game's high encounter rate). The microphone is never used, which is a shame. The top screen gets some use. Once you have a farm up and running, your farm runs in the background, and you can see what your digimon are up to. During battle, the top screen is used to display information and turn order.

Also, the game is entirely 2D, with sprites and simple cartoon-like characters dominating the screen. So, you're looking at an oldschool RPG that could have easily been put on the Game Boy Advance. Honestly, I didn't mind. For a low budget title, it's best not to try and attempt something you're not capable of doing (see the PlayStation 2 Digimon game that was released at the same time as the DS Dawn/Dusk pair. It's awful).

The one thing that surprised me most about Digimon World Dawn/Dusk was the music. I wasn't expecting a decent soundtrack, but honestly, it's good stuff. Town themes, battle themes, dungeon themes, are all above average for a DS RPG. The end credits displayed a large number of music composers and sound programmers, which led me to believe that there was some TLC put into this game's soundtrack. That made me happy.

Like night and day

The difference between these titles and the Digimon World: Data Squad for PlayStation 2 is like the difference between night and day. This is a strange simile to use, I know, considering the pair of games refer to night and day (Dusk and Dawn). But regardless of the version you pick up, what matters is that you'll have, in your hands, a solid RPG for a franchise that no one thought would last this long. Give this one a chance, especially if you're into this unique brand of games. If you were surprised by the quality of the new Pokémon games, or if you're a long-time Digimon fan, this might be a game worth playing. Just don't expect a plot (deep or otherwise), or exceptional graphics, and you'll be set.


© 2007 Namco Bandai Games.
All Rights Reserved.

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