Digimon World: Next Order is very much a Marmite game, you’re either going to love it or hate it. In my case, I had a wonderful time, love digivolving my cute lil crew, and will definitely replay it for a third or fourth time at some point.
I think it’s worth noting right from the get-go that Digimon World: Next Order is definitely not a game for everybody. I played the original game on PlayStation 4 way back when it first came out in 2016 and absolutely adored it, but I’m always the first person to admit my love for Digimon is shrouded in nostalgia and I also love messing about with Tamagotchi and Digivices in real life.
So, now you have that background knowledge on me, let me fill you in on what you can expect from this lovely little port. In Next Order, the protagonist is sucked into the digital world by some mysterious force, attacked by a Machinedramon, and finally lands in Floatia, a quaint little town run by a bearded Digimon named Jijimon.
This hairy chap lets you know that Floatia was once full of life and he tasks you with raising two adorable little ‘mons while you traverse the world and work out why the Machinedramon are suddenly attacking. A very simple premise, and a good way to hook anyone who likes a good mystery.
I’m not going to comment much further on the story beats, I’ll leave those to you to find out, but I do need to comment on its stop-and-start nature. An aspect of the game you’re going to spend a lot of time on is the raising of your digital pals, which involves you sat in a gym for hours on end mashing the A button over and over again. This sounds tedious, and I’ll admit I’m definitely on the fence about it. It’s very reminiscent of a real-life Tamagotchi or Digivice, and I do quite enjoy those… But this is a videogame, and I’m sure Bandai Namco could make this time spent in the game a little more engaging.
Why did I go on a quick tangent about raising Digimon when I was meant to be telling you about the story? Well, the game frequently has big difficulty spikes and if you’re Digimon are under-leveled or not at the correct development stage, there’s no way you can progress and learn more about the mystery. This is also a recurring issue, as if your Digimon passes away, you’re back to square one and need to return to the gym for more grinding.
The second aspect that stilts the story occasionally is the villager recruitment. This is much more interesting than training though, so I’m a little more forgiving. To bring Floatia back to its former glory you must travel around the world and complete tasks for Digimon in the wild to make them agree to come back to town. This pauses the story frequently as Jijimon just won’t tell you what needs to happen next unless your village’s prosperity level is over a certain number.
I know I’ve made training and recruitment seem tedious, but as I mentioned at the top of this review, I love Digimon and I love Digivices. Spending time in the gym grinding up my stats doesn’t bother me too much, I wholeheartedly enjoy unlocking new Digimon from the roster of over 200 and making a more powerful team, and as for recruitment, seeing Floatia expand and being able to do fresh new things about town is immensely satisfying. However! I very much believe this is an acquired taste.
I also think you need to manage your expectations if you’re a fan of another massive ‘mon series. Don’t expect turn-based battles going into Next Order, as the combat is also pretty unique in that your Digimon do mostly what they please while you cheer from the sideline. After enough support, you build up points and can choose moves, different types of in-battle digivolution, and passive boosts.
When you finally get in the swing of things, the gameplay loop of training up your Digimon, gathering resources, recruiting new townsfolk, and unravelling the story is pretty darn satisfying, and being able to pass through a previously impossible area with ease is a great feeling.
Now, “how does Digimon World: Next Order run on Nintendo Switch?” I hear you all scream… The answer to that is, perfectly! Quick load times, no lag, and the big selling point for me, portability. I completed Next Order on PS4 back in the day and desperately wanted a portable way to play (the PSVita version only ever released in Japan) so I could grind away while also watching a bit of television in the background, and the Switch is absolutely perfect for this.
You all know about the Switch performance now, so the screams have naturally changed into “should I buy Next Order?!” and you know what, maybe? If you have blinding Digimon nostalgia, love cute creatures, and want to essentially play an open-world Tamagotchi simulator, go ahead. I love this game, but I can see its flaws, and I would love to see a future entry into the series with a little more polish and a little less tedium.