Raising Pokémon for competition has become a science. Players have perfected ways to raise well-seasoned warriors to face real, human trainers. It takes a lot of work and strategy if you want to rise to fame and glory in the world of competitive Pokémon. Digimon, Pokémon’s distant cousin, doesn’t have a bustling meta game of its own, but breeding Digimon, especially in the newly released Digimon World: Next Order, takes things to a whole new level of convoluted evolutionary paths and stat insanity.

Before your Digimon pairs can evolve, you first have to train them, and that’s a lot more complex than it sounds. You’re not just grinding out levels, you’re managing a full-on pet simulator while also paying very close attention to your creature’s stats.

See, Digimon evolve several times during their lifespan, passing through a number of different stages. In the early stages, you’ll be training your Digimon while feeding them, building your relationships with them, and yes, managing their potty time. If you mess any of this up and begin to neglect your Digimon, you run the risk of them evolving into Numemon, a useless, slug-like monster, or, even worse, Sukamon, an anthropomorphic turd. Blech. That also means you’ll have to start the whole careful process all over again.

Numemon
Remember – Numemon is failure in Digimon form. 

On top of training, 12 stats determine a Digimon’s evolutionary path: HP, MP, stamina, wisdom, speed, defense, weight, bathroom mishaps (yes, you read that correctly), your bond with your Digimon, personality, the number of battles won, and previous evolutionary forms. That’s … a lot to keep track of. Some of these stats have to be above a certain number, while others have to be below a certain number. Meanwhile, if there are multiple evolutionary paths, you’ll have to take into account paths that require similar stats so that your Digimon doesn’t default to evolving into a form you don’t need.

So how the heck do you find out which evolutions require which stats? Well, that’s also a sticky issue. It takes a lot of time and patience. The easiest way is to simply spend quality time with your Digimon to trigger “Communication” events. You can do this by going out into the field to fight monsters or complete training activities. These events increase your bond with your Digimon while, most importantly, revealing data that shows the Digimon’s potential evolutionary forms and one or two stats (not all at once!) needed to attain them.

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Digimon World: Next Order
A sample spreadsheet. 

Once you have the necessary data, you’ll need to chart your progress. The game doesn’t do it for you. Some people create spreadsheets so they can keep track of their Digimon and their evolution plan down to every last minute detail. It sounds obsessive, but it’s actually the best way to get the Digi-friend of your dreams while still maintaining your sanity.

That still seems pretty manageable until you remember that this is also a timed process. Digimon evolve regularly, so you’ll need to get those stat boosts in before that happens. Eventually, they’ll reach their mega form, and, after 20 in-game days they die, reverting back into Digi-eggs before hatching back into their initial forms. That means it’s back to the drawing board for you. Luckily all of the information you gather during Communication events doesn’t get wiped away.

'Digimon World: Next Order'
Training is hard work. 

There are some ways to avoid all of that hassle, though naturally they’re not available to you right away. Each Digimon has a special item that lets it evolve into the monster of your choosing. There are also items that do the same for any Digimon you choose.

It’s important to remember that the main goal of the game is to experiment and have fun. Don’t get too wrapped up in the details and simply try new things. With that said, if you’ve made it this far and are still wondering how you can sign up for some good, good Digimon evolution madness, you’re in luck. Digimon World: Next Order is now available for PlayStation 4.

Photos via Digimon Wiki , Gamers Heroes, Polygon, The Vita Lounge

Jessica is a freelance writer based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can read other stuff she writes on VICE, Rock Paper Shotgun, and Geek & Sundry.