As per usual, the Hot Take title says it all; Digimon is Better Than Pokemon. Specifically, whether or not any other medium is the same, the games certainly are. I’ve been on a bit of a Digimon binge of late. Re-playing Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth games for the third time. Going back to Digimon World 3, which I even wrote about recently. Then finally I just found out about the rebooted Digimon TCG. This TCG has some of the best card art of any series, by a mile. They look so good. So I’m fully on the Digi-Train at the moment.
So today I hope that I’ll give a few points that I think really make my case. This will probably be a short and sweet article so let’s get under way.
Let’s start off with the similarities between the two franchises. Of which there are many.
Both feature children taming monsters, monsters that change forms, and require the power of friendship. Side note: what is it with Japanese franchises and the power of friendship? Like for real, is there a reason or is it just one of those convenient plot devices? Like thanks to a smiley face on Yugi’s hand he was able to draw Exodia. Or because he hugged him once Ash’s Pokemon always seem to evolve. Weird trope.
Both have pretty strong presences in multiple mediums and genres. With many series of anime, multiple games and spin offs, movies, and card games. Just everything really. They follow very similar pathways and fill the same kind of space.
I mentioned this in my Digimon World 3 Gem Vault but the stories, even back then, are pretty good. With an actual story, dialogue, obvious motivations, and fleshed out villains. Specifically, I just mean more flushed out than an old guy who just wants to be mean like Giovanni.
I’ll say, I have always had a soft spot for the simple stories in the Pokemon games. They’re not good, they just have a certain amount of charm and are mostly enjoyable. They just cannot compete with a full sized JRPG story. The most recent Pokemon games don’t even compare to something like the PS1 Final Fantasy’s. Or Digimon games.
Story is probably the biggest shortcoming of every mainline Pokemon game. The biggest. So when Digimon keep putting out games that have actual stories, with some real effort, it’s a huge difference. Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth is probably my favourite and it has a competent story. Some twists, compelling villains, and a giant digital dragon flying through the sky. It has everything that you need.
To be clear, not all Pokemon games have a bad story. Some of the spin offs like Mystery Dungeon, Colosseum and XD Gale of Darkness. They’re not award winning stories but they’re a damn site better than the mainline.
Graphics are a contentious topic for the Pokemon franchise, especially with the Sword and Shield releases. Now to be clear, I don’t mind all that much. I have always liked, enjoyed, and embraced the Pokemon style. There is no question though that Pokemon hasn’t exactly led the graphics of the gaming world. There’s a chance that this will change with the coming Pokemon Legends Arceus. Until then, the graphics have been OK at best, with minimal upgrades over time. Even the moving from 3DS to the Switch was minimal.
On the other hand the more recent Digimon games have gone quite a bit further, with games like the Digimon Story Cyber Sleuths being a good example. With Cyber Sleuth actually being my favourite Digimon game to date, it looks absolutely fantastic. Some incredible cut scenes, overall design, and animations. Most interestingly is that both these games and the most recent Pokemon games are all on the Switch.
Using the same hardware, Digimon games have produced far better looking and more technically advanced games. It’s not like the Switch can’t handle more or that the Pokemon franchise couldn’t get the time or funding.
I’ll put this in as a side note but as of starting this piece New Pokemon Snap has released. It may be the best looking Pokemon game to date. It wasn’t developed by Game Freak though, it’s a shorter/ smaller spin off game developed by Bandai Namco. This is now the only Pokemon game that can compare to the more recent Digimon games.
Evolution (or Digi-volution… amirite?!)
This is probably the main reason I think Digimon is better than Pokemon. Again, for all I love in the Pokemon series there hasn’t exactly been all that evolution to the series. There are a fair few spinoffs and side stories but effectively everything has stayed the same. I even wrote a little while ago about how I think the Pokemon series needs to full reboot.
The main issue with the mainline Pokemon games is how formulaic they are. Other than a single additional mechanic every couple years, and often at the expense of older ones, unfortunately. The gameplay and the world of each game is largely the same.
Contrast that with Digimon, which technically has at least 2 “mainline” series at the same time. The first is the World series, with the second being the Story series. Often the games in each of this series are completely separate much like Pokemon. There are some exceptions but for the most part they’re different.
Games in each series can have entirely different genres too. Sometimes a World game will be a turn based RPG and other times it’s just a creature raising game. All of these games all have the same level of polish as any other.
Pokemon does have some spin offs, some of which I really like. Like the remaster of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. These games aren’t given the time, budget, or attention that they deserve though. The focus is always on the mainline games and they don’t change, at least not really.
The point I made above is probably the biggest mark against Pokemon as a whole. Not enough changes between games. It does seem like some changes are being attempted with Legends Arceus, it just remains to be seen if it works. If it gets the time and budget and, of course, if it’s even good.
So there you have it, Digimon is better than Pokemon. The main points of this article are simple. Digimon games are often better looking, have better stories, evolve more, and have much more refined gameplay. Maybe it’s because the Digimon games are financially less successful so they have to try different things. I honestly don’t know.
Given the choice though, I will pretty much always pick up a new Digimon Story game over any mainline Pokemon game. You get a better looking and inherently better game. Your time is valued higher and I personally get a lot more enjoyment out of them.