The 90s nostalgia is hitting an all-time high in the toy aisle, thanks in part to the return of the Digivice, the Digimon virtual monster-raising game that filled the fidgety hands of pre-Y2K boys and girls across America, from Mickey D drive-thrus to Blockbuster checkout lines – it was 1997, after all.
Bandai America, the Japanese tech company behind Tamagotchi, has brought the Digimon device back to the U.S. with new features and improved gameplay, but it’s still akin to its predecessor from more than 20 years ago. This U.S. re-release is comparable with a 20th-anniversary edition that hit Japanese shelves two years ago; and while it’s not an exact reproduction of the 1997 original, it provides the same monster-raising responsibilities and on-the-go gameplay.
The handheld game lets players raise one of more than 100 Digimons — from an egg-hatched baby or a rookie contender up to a battle-ready monster fighting for the title of the toughest Digimon in the Megalithic Mainframe. Raise the little fighter by feeding him, cleaning him, taking care of his health, and training him against fellow Digimons in your ordnance. Once a Digimon has fully evolved, players can begin raising multiple Digimons at a time thanks to a new split-screen caretaking feature. Players can also let their Digimons spar with another’s with the Dock ‘N Rock feature, activated by physically connecting two Digivices together (again: 1997 values, people).
The Digimons evolve slightly faster this time around, with monsters reaching full evolution in about a day and a half instead of the solid week they used to; this could be ideal for battling with friends as soon as possible, but it may be a slap in the face to the nostalgia-driven diehards.
This updated software also lets users give their Digimon a four-letter name upon startup, but be warned: There’s no renaming allowed without a complete factory restart, so button-mashers better beware.
The updated device nests in a yellow; gray; brick brown; or classic blue, brick-like housing, which is just as pocketable as ever with the nostalgic keychain in tow. These models also feature a slightly better battery life, preserving energy by turning the screen off (don’t panic!) at moments of heavy loading; however, frequent use will lead to a replacement battery in as early as a couple of months.
All in all, Bandai’s new Digivice is a respectable tribute to the original and a welcoming beginning for a new generation of users ages 8 and up — although it’s no doubt going to be the true 90s kids reaching for this one.
Age disparity aside, the TV theme song is sure to be stuck in all of our heads soon enough.
Photos: Bandai America