Will 2020 be the year for Digimon?

I’ve spoken before on here about how Pokémon fans seem to finally have had enough, and the franchise is beginning to lose its ability to churn out repetitive and arguably-mediocre products which still continue to be mindlessly gobbled up by the hordes of fans out there. With the introduction of the Nintendo Switch and its vast possibilities for next-gen gaming, Pokémon unfortunately hasn’t quite lived up to fans’ expectations and it seems like Game Freak finally need to start putting some serious thought into their business plan going forward, if they want to keep the series a true global franchise throughout the next decade.

Rival companies are certainly taking note of the recent public outcry surrounding the Pokémon franchise. Just recently, Spanish game developers CremaGames SL released their alpha for their new game, Temtem, an undeniable Pokémon rip-off, but one which Pokémon fans are accepting with open arms. From what fans have seen so far, Temtem seems to be embracing many challenges Pokémon are currently facing and resolving them in ways the fans have been asking for for quite some time. Many fans have expressed their pleasure to know that a direct Pokemon competitor is joining the market, to finally give GameFreak a reason to step their game up.

Another series which seems to be trying to rejuvenate itself in the wake of the Pokémon recession is Digimon: Digital Monsters. For the uninitiated, Digimon: Digital Monsters is a franchise which is, again, very similar to Pokémon with its emphasis on children battling with various powerful creatures. The first series of the anime aired in 1999 and the franchise has spawned seven series and 16 films.

As a kid, Digimon was always my favourite anime series, and still continues to be. The primary reason that I spend more time playing, talking about and writing about Pokémon is because we are oversaturated with continual Pokémon content, whereas Digimon has been floating along just treading water for the past 15 years, struggling to find its footing in a world that thinks of it merely as a Pokémon rip off, back before a few months ago when such concepts were considered shameful and unnecessary.

The Digimon anime immediately hooked me in as a child, and not just because of my immediate crush on Yamato with his swag as heck hairstyle and cool attitude. The series, unlike Pokémon, had real story progression, character arcs with significant development and covered real, serious issues that kids were dealing with and truly related to. Pokémon would never feature a character dying in the same way that Gatomon had to experience Wizardmon dying (not forgetting the mandatory once-per-season episode of Leomon popping his clogs). Pokémon’s plot was also unfortunately too shallow and episodic to cover topics such as adoption, divorce, loneliness and bullying with any sort of maturity and tenderness that Digimon did. Digimon discussed these topics with a surprising skilfulness, whilst still ensuring the show was an enjoyable form of escapism for preteens as they chow down on snacks after a long day of school. Seeing the characters grow older in Adventure 02 also felt truly special, as no other series when I was a kid seemed to take such care with its characters and show them evolving and developing in any way even close to this.

Digimon Adventure has certainly seen a resurgence in the past few years, with the celebration of its 20th anniversary. We saw Digimon Tri hit cinemas, which was… ok. For nostalgic purposes I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I can’t deny that the story was somewhat uninspiring and, also, they completely ruined Yamato’s trademark hair! The shift in animation style was also somewhat alienating, and strange considering that both the original series and Tri were both produced by Tori Animation. Yet, despite this, Tri was nonetheless a welcome addition to the series, if just to see a bit more of the Digidestined all grown up and to experience all their Digimon’s mega evolutions, which were never given enough attention in the original series.

Digimon Tri (2015) was a six-part film series chronicling the adventures of the original Digidestined, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the original series

Recently, Digimon held their DigiNavi broadcast- an announcement not dissimilar to Pokemon Direct, which showcases teasers of the various products and projects we have to look forward to from the franchise over the next few months. And wow, am I excited!

So, what is there to look forward to? It turns out, quite a lot.

We have another- yes, another- movie coming out! And this time the original Digidestined are even older! This film is entitled Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, and will hit US cinemas March 25th.

The animation for this film looks remarkably more polished than the Tri series, and I have to voice how pleased I am that they have returned Yamato’s hair back to its trademark spiky mess. He looks adorable and all my childhood feels have been restored. He is just as cute as a fully grown adult and I want to butter his buns.

This film is advertised as the ultimate, bittersweet finale for the Adventure 01 kids, a fitting tribute which is then immediately followed up by… a remake of the first series?

Yes! You heard that right. Merely one month later, the original Adventure 01 anime series is getting a remake! Currently fans are dubbing the series as Digimon Adventure Psi and it is scheduled to air every Sunday at 9am on Fuji TV, starting at some indeterminate point in April. It is worth noting that the new show will be produced by the creators of Adventure 02, as well as Xros Wars, so it is comforting to know that those handling the series are certified Digimon veterans.

Not much is known about the new TV series at the moment. Some fans suspect it to be a point-blank remake, whilst others are suspecting that it will play along the ‘parallel universe’ theme and feature the same kids but with a new storyline. Whatever the final result is, I am super excited to watch it!

Another piece of juicy gossip revealed at the DigiNavi broadcast is the upcoming release of a new Digimon card game! Currently, the new game is just simply subbed ‘Digimon Card Game’, but we have seen a sneak preview of some of the cards and the artwork is stunning. I can only hope and pray that they translate them and release them onto the Western market.

Spending all my money on collecting old Digi-Battle cards has been my hobby for the past year or so, and I’ve amassed a fairly impressive collection, including my prized Shreddies Digimon: The Movie complete promo card collection that must be kept sealed in a folder and away from the light of day.

It will be incredibly disappointing if these new cards don’t get released in the West. I bought several booster boxes of the Digimon Battle Spirits cards when they were first announced and thoroughly enjoyed opening them up, but having hundreds of cards just sat in a folder that I can’t play with because I can’t read them is just upsetting. And it makes my purse weep too. At least if these new cards are released in English, my purse will weep but I will be happy to get some use out of them!

The first look at the new Digimon card game

The final bit of news that wasn’t really covered much in DigiNavi, but is worth mentioning is, of course, the upcoming new game, Digimon Survive. The game will be available on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch sometime this year and looks remarkably different to all previous current-gen games we have received from the franchise.

I’m currently in the midst of playing Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory, and whilst I am enjoying it, I’m still amazed that they could make an entirely new game which is pretty much just recycling the locations, skins, artwork and animations of the previous game and just tells the story of the original game from the perspective of a side character. It just feels a little cheap and nasty to me.

Whilst we haven’t seen much yet of Digimon Survive, it echoes back to the original Digimon World games from the PS1 and the production quality seems notably improved. The opening animation is gorgeous and the short previews we have seen of in-game content are definitely very different to that of the Cyber Sleuth series, so I certainly expect good things.

The opening cutscene for Digimon Survive, scheduled for release sometime in 2020

The Digimon franchise has received a lot of flack over the years for just being a rip-off of Pokémon but, aside from its terrible naming conventions, I really don’t believe it deserves such harsh judgement. I really hope the series continues to grow and become successful, so it becomes a much bigger player in the industry and can become the true rival of Pokémon that it was always meant to be.

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