The World Ends with You (DS) review
"It's been a long time since I've had a good RPG to sit down with. Square Enix releasing an original game that doesn't have Final Fantasy in the title is a sight to behold. When I discovered that the team behind Kingdom Hearts was working on The World Ends With You, I was ecstatic! As I knew this would be something to keep me busy until the real Kingdom Hearts III comes out. "
It's been a long time since I've had a good RPG to sit down with. Square Enix releasing an original game that doesn't have Final Fantasy in the title is a sight to behold. When I discovered that the team behind Kingdom Hearts was working on The World Ends With You, I was ecstatic! As I knew this would be something to keep me busy until the real Kingdom Hearts III comes out.
Unlike the bright and happy themes of Kingdom Hearts, however, The World Ends With You has a fairly dark premise to it. The story is mix of Darkwatch and Battle Royale. In which a foul-mouthed, emo-driven youth named Neku, gets knocked out unconscious and awakens in a parallel dimension of his home in the Shibuya district of Japan. Neku meets up with a girl named Shiki, and a few other characters, and they learn they must fight their way through a week-long game or die.
While that's a basic gist of the story, it gets more detailed as the game progresses, and you realize the game is much longer than expected. Sometimes I felt the game should have been called The World Never Ends With You. Much of the story is told through lengthy dialogue segments between the characters as you tap the touch screen through an endless stream of quote bubbles with random gasps and giggles thrown into the mix. Once you realized that the themes are trust and not being a douchebag, the rest of the story basically drags on for the 30 or so hours it takes to finish the game.
When you're not paging through the story, the rest of the game is pretty enjoyable. At first, only a small portion of Shibuya is open to you, but as you get farther into the game, the whole city is available. Each day, you're given a mission you have to complete in order to move on. Missions vary from solving a riddle to defeating a boss located at a certain location. The game is fairly linear in terms of you have to do everything in the order that the game plans it out to be. But you do have some freedom in the areas you can access.
Since Shibuya is a bustling shopping center, there are dozens of stores of varying brands you can shop at. You can buy clothing at the stores, which can help increase your stats such as HP and Defense. Others may have special abilities attached to them that you won't know until you buy from the same merchant long enough. Each section of Shibuya has a popular brand of clothing that grant more power if you are wearing the corresponding brands.
There are also food places where you can buy and consume food to increase your stats. Each character can only eat one thing at a time and you have to fight a few battles for the food to digest and for the stat bonuses to take effect. Also, each character can only digest so much food in a real life day, so once you consume the maximum amount, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to eat some more.
In addition to shopping and eating, you'll have to defeat the enemies in the area called Noise. You can only see them by touching the black skull pin on the touch screen. Doing so will allow Neku to scan the immediate area. You can read people's minds while scanning and also seeing weird floating shapes. Touching the shapes will cause them to be drawn towards you and the battle screen will start.
Combat is the highlight of the game and is probably one of the more intuitive styles of fighting in recent games. It's in real-time and you're fighting the same Noise on both screens simultaneously. So if you kill an enemy on the bottom screen, they'll also die on the top screen and vice versa. Neku battles on the touch screen with pins that you equip. Pins are Neku's weapons of choice and he has the ability to harness the powers within them, called psyches. These are basically like magic attacks that can be activated through a variety of touch screen actions. Some of these attacks can range from sword slashes, drawing a path of fire at an enemy, touching an enemy with the stylus to shoot bullets at them, and other actions. Each pin has a certain number of uses at a time, and once they're used up, you have to wait a few seconds for them to recharge. One problem I noticed with the pins is some of the attacks can lump together and you may be using an attack you didn't mean to use instead.
On the top screen, your partner fights with physical attacks. You can attack with him or her by pressing the corresponding direction of the arrows that appear on the screen with the control pad (or the face buttons if you're a superior lefty, like myself). Attacks also have a special sequence that you can try to hit. For example, Shiki's combos end with cards that have a plus sign, circle, or wavy lines. At the top of the screen there's three cards face down and whenever you execute a combo the order of one of the cards is revealed. If you get the correct order completely, you get a fusion point. Getting a certain number of fusion points will prompt a large pin to appear on the touch screen. Touching the pin will initiate a fusion attack, which is a brief cutscene of both characters owning all of the enemies on the two screens. If handling two screens at once is too difficult for you (because button-mashing and randomly touching the screen is quite an ordeal), you can let the computer take care of the top screen, and just control Neku. While all of this is going on, there's a green ball that travels between the screens and you can pass it on by executing a combo. The more times it's passed, the stronger your attacks become.
Depending on your performance, you may be rewarded with more experience points for your pins, which level up and become stronger and eventually evolve into Charizard! Just kidding! They evolve into different pins. You can also adjust the rate that more valuable pins and other loot drop by decreasing your character level and increasing the enemy difficulty. Later in the game, you'll be able to chain battles by touching multiple Noise symbols and you'll have back-to-back battles with no breaks. Doing so will allow you to earn even more experience and treasure. The battles overall, are really fun, but have a fairly steep learning curve.
Earlier, I mentioned how you can only eat so much in one day. Well, there are other real life activities that can affect this game. One of which is your pins get experience points when you quit the game and turn the power off for a period of time. Another feature is mingle mode. When you set the game to mingle and close your DS, your game will be sending and receiving wireless signals in the immediate area. These signals can originate from other people in mingle mode, to other people playing other DS games, to wireless signals from Wi-Fi. When you're done mingling, you may receive items from the signals your DS picked up. It's a pretty neat feature. Other games like Nintendogs utilize it and I hope more will pick up on it too.
Since Tetsuya Nomura and the rest of the Kingdom Hearts crew designed The World Ends With You, it's no surprise that the character art for both games look similar. If you look at the cover of the game, the characters look like malnourished versions of Sora, Riku, and Kairi. One thing I noticed about Shiki is amount of exposed midriff. Her skirt is so low that half of her thigh is revealed, but since the game is rated only T, there's nothing to get excited about. But the marvel of how she's able to keep the **BLEEP** thing from falling is beyond me. Then again, if it doesn't have large breasts or is scantily clad, then it's not a video game female. Lewd comments aside, if you're not into anime art styles, then what are you doing playing a JRPG?
Like the graphics, the audio is very Japanese-driven. The background music consists of a variety of JPop and JRock styles, which is good if you're into that. If not, then you'll be better off with the sound turned down. Character voices are pretty good. There are a few instances where dialogue is spoken, primarily between each major act of the story and quite a bit of speech during battles. I found the dialogue spoken during battles to be pretty entertaining, such as one fusion attack where one character shouts, "Follow my lead!" and the other responds with, "Screw that!" In general, I enjoyed the sound, especially the bubblegum-rock boss theme.
All in all, The World Ends With You is a definite buy if you're into RPG's. You may be annoyed by the game if you're not into Japanese culture or if reading large amounts of text isn't your thing. It's a fun game, and it could possibly be one of the better RPG's of the year.
Community review by Ness (July 25, 2008)
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