I don’t think I’ll ever recapture the positive vibes I felt that first summer Pokémon Go.
This is the closest thing to a world-uniting “Aliens Visit Earth” type of event that I believe I will ever experience. One where everyone I knew from my college roommates to my middle-aged dad downloaded the app and ran outside to catch virtual monsters.
The Bandai Vital Bracelet Digital Monster isn’t like the first few perfect months of Pokémon Go, but I think the comparison could be appropriate. Just like in the early days of Pokémon Go, the Japan-only Bandai Vital Bracelet Digital Monster has the nostalgic appeal of anyone who grew up with Digimon and some of the unnecessary, Tamagotchi-esque mechanical complications that make these tech connections interesting.
The vital bracelet is not the best pedometer or heart rate monitor – it is mostly a toy. But figuring out how to get it working is a lot of fun and just might be convincing enough to pay $ 65 to import one from Japan.
Input can receive a portion of sales when you purchase a product through a link in this article. We only include products that have been independently selected by the editorial staff of Input.
The vital bracelet is available in different versions, depending on which Digimon you want to start with. I have the Impulse City Vital bracelet that is vaguely engaged in electricity and starts with Dokimon (which later becomes Bibimon and Pulsemon).
The vital bracelet has a white, plastic-like body with a matching, pre-assembled, stiff rubber strap. It’s not exactly a thin device – the heart rate monitor actually protrudes above your body – but it’s also not as uncomfortable or awkward as you might expect. My sense of what’s annoying to wear is a bit skewed than someone who has worn an Apple Watch and Amazon’s Halo band double on their wrist for much of a year, but really, it’s not that bad.
The Vital armband’s actual screen is vertical and narrower and smaller than I’d like it to be, but it’s pretty bright, which makes your Digimon’s pixelated sprite renderings all the better. Unfortunately, the screen is easy to wear off – the plastic can’t withstand much in my short time with the bracelet. Since it is not a touchscreen, you interact with the Vital Armband via two buttons on the side of the device. It’s easy to forget what these do, and in some cases there are variations. In general, the upper button is used to scroll through the selection and the lower button to confirm.
The Vital bracelet is significantly thicker and stiffer than the Apple Watch Series 7. Ian Carlos Campbell / Input
Next to these buttons are two connections, one for charging via MicroUSB (the Vital Bracelet charges in around 3-4 hours) and another for inserting DIM (Digimon Identified Memory) cards, the Vital Bracelet’s method, to get new digital ones Reach monsters. As far as I can tell, DIM cards – which appear to cost around $ 15 per card, but often sell in packs of two for around $ 30 – mainly unlock the visual aesthetics of various Digimon as opposed to entirely new game elements . They don’t change anything about what the Vital Bracelet does other than what you can hatch and raise Digimon and the details of their evolution flowchart. The Vital Bracelet also supports NFC but only appears to use it to transfer monsters to and from a companion mobile app.
The DIM cards replace the Digimon that you have saved in your vital bracelet. Ian Carlos Campbell / input
Using the Vital bracelet is a bit like winding a Tamagotchi. Inserting the DIM card transfers an egg to your bracelet which hatches and then feeds into an intricate flowchart of developments (seriously, I don’t think I would understand all of this without serious love efforts from fans). Pushing your digital friend through different shapes is the main reason to wear the vital bracelet in the first place. It’s not as practical as a Tamagotchi – there is no virtual poop to pick up, for example – but seeing your Digimon grow in real time and evolve based on your actions does the same job of making you a little virtual Creature that does a Tamagotchi’s virtual pet grooming.
The path to different evolutions is becoming more and more complex
The obstacle to enjoying all of the Digimon content that the vital bracelet has to offer is the built-in complexity of the device. This is not just due to the obvious language barrier. The Vital Bracelet is technically a Japanese product, but much of its user interface is textless except in a few cases where your Digimon’s name is left in untranslated katakana. Even the accompanying mobile app offers an English language option.
The problem really is how complex it is to use the device if you really want to use it as intended. The translated user guide / manual is a great help, as are any fan-made instructions that help explain Digimon development. It’s not ridiculously difficult to understand, maybe you wouldn’t expect something like that from a toy or a step tracker. It takes time. The challenge of figuring out how to evolve my Digimon appealed to me, but there is your warning, it won’t be for everyone.
figure figure out how to do it make it work is a lot fun.
To understand how to develop your Dokimon into a Pulsemon, you need to understand your vital signs. You get vital points by increasing your heart rate, running more kilometers and winning battles with your Digimon. How these different actions are actually broken down into points varies, and there are a number of separate “missions” that are unlocked and have their own effect on your Digimon’s development.
According to the English translation of the vital bracelet manual, the vital signs will increase based on your base heart rate and your current heart rate. As I understand it, the greater the difference between the two numbers, the more points will be transferred to your Digimon. It’s a little easier with “miles” or the number of steps. Fifty “miles” mean one vital point and the bracelet automatically checks your steps every three minutes.
The number of battles your Digimon wins also contributes to the total score, although it changes depending on the current development of your Digimon and the condition of your Digimon (good, normal and bad). Of course, there is also a sophisticated table for this.
Battles can have a variety of effects on your Digimon’s vital points, Bandai
The Vital Bracelet’s companion app also comes into play during battles. The Digital Monster Vital Bracelet Lab app adds another layer of complications. If you transfer your Digimon to the app via NFC (by simply putting the app and your bracelet in a transfer mode and touching the two devices together), you can unlock a virtual currency to unlock items and boosts for your Digimon, view their stats and battle. The combat mechanic is a fairly simple timing mini-game, but it’s not without its small challenges.
Missions are the final way to earn vital points and also the next way that the vital bracelet can actually control how you move and exercise while wearing your Digimon. What you need to do to complete each mission is different. In some cases, you need to take a certain number of steps, get a certain heart rate, do a certain number of basic exercises like squats or pushups, or do a combination of all three. I’m not convinced that the vital bracelet is actually advanced enough to even know if you’re actually doing a push-up, but the fact that it’s fun and I loved to play along. For a child, the vital bracelet is a brilliant way to gamify sport; Adults, especially Digimon fans, may need more motivation. There are new missions every day, so with the vital bracelet you also have many options for enticing you to exercise.
You can transfer your Digimon to a companion app using NFC. Ian Carlos Campbell / input
The vital bracelet is surprisingly complicated and dull, completely independent of the fact that one has to deal with a possibly imperfect translation of an instruction manual. That quality also makes it interesting. Sure, seeing recognizable Digimon evolutions gave me a satisfying dose of nostalgia, but it was navigating the Vital bracelet’s various paths to digital monster development under the guidance of fan-made guides that stuck with me.
The vital bracelet is Yes, really cool.
The Bandai Vital Bracelet Digital Monster won’t replace anyone’s Apple Watch or Fitbit, and you could get more nostalgic enjoyment from watching Digimon: The Movie (if I may suggest an AMV). But as an implementation of Digimon’s bizarre spin on Pokémon and Tamagotchi, in which all digital elements are literally instead of a necessary suspension of disbelief, the vital bracelet is really cool – and frankly cheap. A toy that offers plenty of space for experimentation and discovery.