It all begins with a typical mission on a sunny digital island. The hero, Marcus, is here to defeat a trouble-maker and return it to Digiegg form. It turns out that Marcus and his Digimon, Agumon, are members of DATS, the Digital Accident Tactics Squad. DATS’s goal is to keep things peaceful between the real and digital worlds. Due to the rising number of disturbances, the heroes will end up taking on Creepymon and a number of other powerful Mao Digimon as they attempt to restore the peace.
In battle, each Digimon has a number of abilities available that are determined by their current Digivolution and mood. Though most Digivolutions allow a variety of abilities to be used, mood is a huge factor in determining which abilities are available and which they want to use. Though it’s possible to select any ability they don’t flat-out refuse to use, picking the ones the Digimon prefer will keep them happy. If the respective trainer is having a difficult time getting their Digimon to do what they want, they can cheer them on or try altering their mood. This typically works pretty well, but it can occasionally be troublesome when a Digimon decides that it doesn’t want to use a certain ability at a key moment. It can also occasionally cause problems, such as a healer being too scared to heal itself after taking a heavy attack.
Digivolving is another key portion of the game, and due to various story events, each Digimon will have a very broad selection of choices that will affect their statistics and abilities. This time around, some of the possibilities have very odd requirements such as hoarding money or taking a lot of damage instead of merely defeating certain types of enemies and having certain stats. Once a number of these are unlocked, it offers a good deal of flexibility to the player, though there are some forms that clearly outclass others.
Thanks to the variety of abilities and Digivolutions, Digimon World Data Squad has a few good concepts that allow for some strategy. Unfortunately, its potential is never really met. Instead, players are faced with a very high encounter rate for random battles which are typically mindless and easy. Lengthy load times, though not the worst the PS2 has seen, make these encounters drag out even longer. The good news is that some strategy comes into play during boss fights, which also offer a bit more of a challenge as well, but it’s not enough to make up for the rest.
A number of other problems are caused by the game’s interface. The largest of these is that a skill’s effect isn’t given until the action is taken. This isn’t a problem for most abilities, but a number of guard and support skills have odd names such as Weak Attack, Set Str, and Very Loose, which could mean a variety of things.
Yet another problem is that, with the exception of the later chapters of the game, the storyline is very minimal. Furthermore, it’s also fairly predictable. Digimon World Data Squad is an introduction to the upcoming Digimon anime, but most of the characters receive so little screen time that they come off as fairly two-dimensional. Only a select few receive any tangible level of development over the course of the game, though this may only be a side-effect of the storyline’s brief nature.
There is some voice acting, and some of it is pretty good, but it’s a bit brief due to the nature of the story. As a result, some characters receive only a few spoken lines. The sound effects are also decent enough, though not spectacular, and the same can be said for the music. The downside is that a lot of the music tracks are very short, so they’ll end up repeating a lot well before a dungeon has been explored even halfway.
Visually, Digimon World Data Squad does a decent enough job, with the Digimon themselves naturally being the highlight. The human characters and artwork aren’t bad either, and the environments will often have interesting effects in order to make the fact that they’re digital environments more apparent. That said, the visuals still have a bit of a hard time competing against other recent PS2 titles.
Digimon World Data Squad has potential thanks to its ability and Digivolution systems, as well as the fact that it was a lead-in to an anime. Sadly, the mindless random battles drag out dungeons so much that they overshadow the other parts of the game, including the story and boss battles. Also, even though a lot more could have been done with the story and characters due to its nature as an introduction, those parts are instead some of the game’s weaknesses. As a result, Digimon World Data Squad is a relatively poor game overall.