By Joseph Walter
This wasn't a mistake: I lusted for Mega Man X5 after devouring articles about it in "Expert Gamer" and, after having played it with my best friend (the one who is scared of clowns), I desperately needed more, especially because its music is absolutely amazing.
On the other hand, Digimon World 2 was something of a random choice. I liked Digimon, and I certainly wasn't a huge fan of it when compared to Pokémon, but there was just something about this game that drew me to it.
Unsure what to expect, I found myself surprised that Digimon World 2 was nothing like the glimpses I caught of Digimon World 1, and was, instead, a decidedly hardcore dungeon crawler. It was slow, punishing, ruthless and, without a Memory Card, impossible to make any kind of meaningful progress. Yet I still liked it.
After finally acquiring a PS1 and PS2 a year or two ago, I made sure to add both Mega Man X5 and Digimon World 2 to my collection for their sentimental value. And while it was a ton of fun to relive my youth by revisiting X5, it ended up being DW2 that I was most excited to check out.
As has become increasingly apparent in recent months, I'm a major fan of the "dungeon crawling" genre, so the thought of playing through this punishing digital adventure from the past (armed with a Memory Card, this time!) was thrilling.
Yes, it's slow. Yes, it's unfair. Yes, it's ruthless.
... but it's also addicting.
sfs How should I prepare my Digi-Beetle, the tank in which I travel through the perilous, randomized "Domains?" What items and equipment should I bring? Should I risk limited inventory space with gifts for Wild Digimon, in the hopes that they'll join me? Or should I instead focus on anti-trap and healing items?
Then there's the whole Digivolution system, which seals the deal in terms of addictive gameplay loops. Unlike Pokémon, where evolution is almost always A -> B -> C, the evolution in the Digimon World games isn't set in stone.
Using an immensely complex system (that's so complicated it's not even fully understood today), countless traits, factors and criteria determine the growth of your digital pet, meaning it might transform from A into B, but it also might go to G, or possibly 1, or maybe even 1b or 2c.
Furthering the fun, DW2 also incorporates "DNA Digivolving," which is basically the classic "monster breeding" mechanic where two parents create an offspring, pass down some attributes and techniques, and then disappear into the sunset, leaving their weak baby behind... but this weak baby has the potential to grow far more powerful than either parent ever was.
The prepping, exploring and Digivolving, coupled with some straightforward (but still fun) RPG battles mix together to create a rough, but satisfying experience... and it's made even better by a few excellent tracks of music ('bout time I got to the point, huh?)
Let's have a listen!
1. "Digital City" (LISTEN HERE!)
However, it's the moment at :41 that really seals the deal on this piece's coolness, with an unexpected breakdown that blends the feelings of heroism, adventure, peril and the unknown into a fitting mixture, and culminates in a driving, string-led sequence that makes you feel like you're about to bravely set out on your digital journey!
2. "SCSI Domain" (LISTEN HERE!)
The core of the piece is a triumphant sense of hopefulness, overflowing with the spirt of adventure, yet those quick, sharp bursts of brass coupled with uncertain-sounding strings hint at the underlying peril of exploring these dangerous Domains!
Finally, at :55, there's an airy and delightful string sequence (which also contains a tinge of menace) that somehow manages to musically boil down the entire genre into a single thought: despite the unknown perils of dungeon crawling, these games are FUN!
3. "First Boss Theme" (Listen Here!)
A heavy use of digital sounds, desperate strings, driving percussion and incredible dynamics (like knowing when to ease back on the intensity from :18 - :31, only to surge towards a new climax that brings it back with an even greater force!) all combine into one heck of an awesome track, and one that covers all the bases for what makes a thrilling boss theme (moments of despair, moments of hope, moments of triumph and a general sense of this being an all-or-nothing encounter.)
Alas, considering that this is easily the best boss music in the game (by far), it's a real shame that it was wasted by being placed at the very start of the adventure, where the difficulty in minuscule, and you barely understand what you're doing, meaning you can't appreciate it as much as it deserves to be appreciated.