Armor Digimon originated in ancient times with the development of the pseudo-evolutionary process of Armor Evolution. In order to compensate for limited evolution options and limited likelihood of ever evolving, Ancient Species Digimon developed the technology of Digimentals which compatible Digimon could use to Armor Evolve. However, the technology is now lost.
Each individual Armor Digimon is the result of using a specific Digimental. Armor Digimon draw their power from their Digimentals, specifically from the Digimental's elemental attribute, which generally grants them both the ability to wield that element, and other enhancement effects that in some manner tie in to the element. Relying on borrowed power from Digimentals instead of their own innate power enables Armor Digimon to easily draw upon great power; for this reason, Armor Evolution was viewed as dangerous in the ancient Digital World.
Armor Digimon typically, but not universally, evolve from Child Digimon. There are exceptions, most notably Tailmon. The ability to Armor Evolve is also limited to compatible Digimon, usually Ancient Species or those who inherit their genes, although there are exceptions such as, once again, Tailmon, who instead gains the ability by awakening dormant special abilities.
The power of Armor Digimon can vary considerably, so some are categorized as belonging to an Evolution Stage of equivalent power for clarity. The affinity between a Digimon and Digimental affects the power of the resulting Armor Digimon, which increases the better the affinity is, and it is said that if they have perfect compatibility with each other, then the resulting Digimon will even be able to express Ultimate-class power. Another factor is the Digimental used, as two Digimentals—Miracles and Fate—are associated with granting their users exceptional, potentially Ultimate-class, power.
It is possible to evolve into Armor Digimon without using Digimentals. For example, on occasion a Centalmon will evolve into Sagittarimon not through Armor Evolution with a Digimental, but as a spontaneous mutation.
Since the power levels of Armor Digimon vary considerably, it is common to rate them on the scale of, or categorize them as, conventional Evolution Stages for the sake of clarity. Power level is often determined by the affinity between a Digimon and the Digimon who has used it: if they have good affinity, the resulting Armor Digimon will have greater power, sometimes even Ultimate-class power.
The mechanics of video and card games often require that all Digimon, including Armor Digimon, be treated in some way as either equivalent to a conventional Evolution Stage, or treated as an ordinary Digimon who outright belongs to one of these Stages. The majority of Digimon media either treats the Armor level as roughly equivalent to the Adult level, or simply assigns Armor Digimon directly to the Adult level.
A common exception are certain Digimon who are created using the Digimentals of Miracles and Fate—Magnamon, Rapidmon Armor, and Gold V-dramon—who are often described as either outright possessing Ultimate-class power, having the potential to exert Ultimate-class power on occasion, or in some media, are simply assigned the Ultimate level directly.
Notably, X-Antibody variants of Armor Digimon are only infrequently assigned the Armor level. The Digimon Reference Book defines the majority of them as conventional Adult Digimon, again with the exception of Magnamon (X-Antibody) and Rapidmon (X-Antibody), who are assigned the Ultimate level. Rapidmon's profile notes that the X-Antibody has enabled it to consistently maintain Ultimate-class power.
Notable examples of media featuring Armor Digimon which have diverged from other media in representing their power level include:
- Digital Monster Card Game:
All Armor Digimon, including X-Antibody Armor Digimon, are assigned Level IV (Adult), and as such are able to evolve into Perfect Digimon like any other Level IV Digimon. Their only distinguishing feature from other Adults is that some (but not all) of their cards have "Armor Evolution" as a Fusion Requirement which uses Digimental cards.
- Digimon Adventure 02:
The topic of relative power levels for Armor Digimon is not raised, as the series is generally focused on a) the utility of Armor Evolution to circumvent Dark Towers, b) being able to disable Dark Towers, Evil Rings and Evil Spirals to free Digimon rather than overpower the Digimon themselves, and c) the specific utilities of certain Armor Digimon (e.g. the flight mobility of Holsmon and Nefertimon, the underwater mobility of Submarimon).
Magnamon and Rapidmon Armor are exceptions, as they are treated as significantly more powerful than other Armor Digimon and they are put in situations where they must destroy Perfect and Ultimate Digimon.
- Digimon World 2:
Only two Armor Digimon are featured, and they are not only assigned conventional Evolution Stages, but different Evolution Stages from each other. Fladramon is an Adult Digimon, and Lighdramon is a Perfect Digimon.
- Digimon World: Digital Card Arena:
Armor is a separate Evolution Stage, treated as weaker than, or comparable to, Level IV (Adult) Digimon. Armor Digimon are unable to evolve again, but can be devolved back to Child.
- Digimon Visual Dictionary: Digital World Research White Paper:
States that Armor Digimon are said to have Perfect-class power, in addition to the standard comments about variable power influenced by Digimon-Digimental affinities.
- Digital Monster Card Game Alpha:
All Armor Digimon, including X-Antibody Armor Digimon, are assigned Level IV (Adult), and as such are able to evolve into Perfect Digimon like any other Level IV Digimon. However, they all also include clauses in the card effects that identify them as Armor level. Also, despite also being assigned Level IV, Magnamon and Magnamon (X-Antibody) have noticeably higher stats than other Level IV Digimon.
- Digimon RPG:
Armor is listed as a separate Evolution Stage. They have stats comparable to Perfect Digimon, and skills comparable to those of weak Ultimate Digimon.
When a Digimon Armor Evolves, the resulting Armor Digimon is presented as replacing the Digimon's form pre-Armor Evolution in its evolution tree, i.e. it is mapped on the tree as a Child or, in the case of Tailmon's Armor Evolutions, Adult. This is irrelevant to their gameplay function, and they do not have access to the base Digimon's evolution options.
- Digimon Savers:
In "Rush into the Digital World! Drimogemon's Trap" , Drimogemon (an Adult Digimon) evolves into Digmon (no stated Evolution Stage on-screen, but identified as Armor level in the Digimon Series Memorial Book). Thoma H. Norstein describes it as being "far more powerful" than Drimogemon.
Bio Thunderbirmon, Bio Coatlmon, and Bio Stegomon (Bio-Hybrid variants of regular Armor Digimon; no stated Evolution Stage on-screen, but identified as Armor level in the Digimon Series Memorial Book) all outclass the DATS team's partner Digimon in their Perfect forms in terms of power, and cannot be defeated until the DATS team learns to evolve their Digimon to the Ultimate level.
- Digimon Story:
Armor is listed as a separate Evolution Stage on Digimon stat screens. Armor Digimon are evolved from Adult Digimon using Digimentals, and are placed as Perfect Digimon in evolution trees.
- Digimon Story: Sunburst and Digimon Story: Moonlight:
Armor is treated as a separate Evolution Stage. Armor Digimon evolve from Child Digimon using Digimentals in the Special Evolution menu in the DigiLab. They are functionally treated as Perfect Digimon and are placed as such in evolution trees.
- Digimon Card Game:
All Armor Digimon are labeled accordingly in their cards' Form characteristic; however, for gameplay purposes, they are also folded into the numerical "Level" system of Evolution Stages in which they are assigned Lv.4 (Adult), and as such are able to evolve into Lv.5 (Perfect) Digimon like any other Lv.4 Digimon.
X-Antibody variants of Armor Digimon are not regarded as Armor Digimon at all, and are assigned the same conventional Evolution Stage that they are given in the Digimon Reference Book in their Form.
- Digimon Adventure::
Patamon and Palmon respectively acquire Pegasmon and Ponchomon as evolutions. Their Evolution Stage is presented in the show as "???", but they are effectively treated as alternate Adult forms.
- Vital Bracelet Digital Monster:
All Armor Digimon who appear are assigned conventional Evolution Stages, but they vary even more than usual and are arbitrarily spread across the Adult, Perfect, and Ultimate levels. For example, the Ancient Warriors Dim Card features Fladramon and Lighdramon as Adults, Sagittarimon and Gold V-dramon as Perfects, and Magnamon as an Ultimate.
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