The World Ends With You – Staff Review

Neku Sakuraba is a boy with a bit of a problem. He just woke up in the Shibuya’s scramble crossing, the busiest street crossing in the entire world, and he has no idea how he got there. In fact, he doesn’t remember anything other than his name. His only clue is a strange black pin with a skull on it. It’s not much to go on, and before he can figure things out, he is bombarded by peoples’ thoughts. Neku doesn’t even like other people, and yet, now he can hear everything they are thinking. If things weren’t going badly enough, he also got the strangest text message on his phone. “Get to 104. Fail and face erasure.” Despite his best efforts, Neku is unable to delete what is obviously some crazy spam message. And that’s when the frogs started attacking him. This is not a good day at all. In fact, it’s leading up to be a bad week.

This is the reality of The World Ends With You. Neku is unwittingly a part of the Reaper’s Game. It is a game that he doesn’t know how to play, why he is playing, or even how he started playing in the first place. Neku knows nothing, but shortly after running from the aforementioned frogs, he sees some more people get attacked. The people that get attacked disappear. Out of nowhere, a girl runs up and asks Neku to make a pact with her. She explains that only through this pact will they survive. Neku is given a pin and told to use it. Amazingly, flames erupt from the ground and destroy the frogs before they have a chance to return the favor. Thus, Neku and his partner Shiki begin playing the game, never knowing what will happen next. The only thing they know is that if they fail, they will cease to exist.minigame02.jpg

Combat in The World Ends With You is a bit complicated. By scanning for monsters, known as Noise, the player can pick and choose when to fight. Once things begin, Neku is sent to the bottom screen, and his partner is sent to the top. They are in two separate planes, but everything is shared. They are fighting the same monsters at the same time, and they have a common life bar. Neku is controlled by using the stylus to activate Psychs with his pins. Psychs can have a variety of effects, ranging from shooting energy blasts, making Neku kick, causing ice pillars to rise from the ground, or even heal Neku and his partner. Each pin is activated in a different way, but for the most part, there are only a few various methods of inputting commands. It mainly comes down to either tapping or swiping the stylus either on or in the direction of the thing that you want to attack. It should be noted that similar stylus actions are sometimes confused by the game, so it is easy to do an attack other than what was intended. But since this rarely comes with any consequences, it is not really a big deal. Eventually any and all pins will be used, even if not in the intended order.

The pins themselves also have limits. Each pin can be used a certain number of times before it runs out of power. Then, unless it is a limited use pin, it will reboot after a set amount of time. While it is rebooting, the pin cannot be used, so care must be taken to ensure that Neku and his partner aren’t killed while he is waiting to be able to attack again. In this way, combat moves on in real time while still having a bit of a turn-based aspect to it.

While the player is slashing away with the stylus on the bottom screen, Neku’s partner is busy fighting up top. The partner is controlled by using the directional pad (or the face buttons for left-handed players). The player inputs a series of commands to produce various attacks that can build up to a powerful combo attack that not only does extra damage but also heals the pair a little. Since it can be a handful just keeping tabs on Neku in the bottom screen, the action in the top can be completely controlled by the game, albeit somewhat randomly. To be truly successful, the player must learn to manage both screens simultaneously to produce the best results.

After a certain point in the game, the player is given the ability to take on multiple fights in rapid succession. By doing so, the chances the monsters will drop items is increased, and the currently equipped pins will gain more experience. This does not come without risk; each battle picks up exactly where the last one ended. Any pins that are still in the process of rebooting will not be available for use, and your HP will not be replenished. After all the Noise you’ve chosen to tackle are defeated, you are graded on your performance in battle and awarded PP, experience points for your pins. Neku and his partner also go back to full health in between battles.event05.jpg

Leveling in The World Ends With You takes many forms. Neku, his partner, and his pins can all level independently. Neku gains experience by defeating Noise in a traditional manner. His partner gains power by getting stickers either at various plot points or purchasing them in stores. Stickers boost things like attack power, defense, and the ability to do more powerful combo attacks, known as fusion attacks. Neku’s pins level in a variety of ways. The main way is by doing well in battle, but pins also earn experience in two other ways. The easiest way is by turning off the game. The game compares the clock on the DS to determine how long the system has been turned off, and any duration up to seven days is turned into experience. The other way involves setting the game to mingle mode. Then, all that is needed is for another DS that is looking for a signal to pass within range, or you can play Tin Pin Slammer, a minigame, against friends online to get this type of experience. By gaining various kinds of experience for your pins, they level up, and some pins even evolve into more powerful versions of the same Psych depending on which type of experience gained was the dominant one.

Though Neku levels up as in most other RPGs, he doesn’t have to be at his max level. At any time, the player can drop his current level. This lowers his stats, but it increases the rate that Noise drop items. This is not the only way to make the game more or less challenging. The player can physically change the difficulty of the game via the menu. On harder difficulties, enemies have higher defense, but they drop better pins. Between Neku’s max level, the number of battles chained, and the difficulty the game is set on, there exists a risk/reward balance that can be fine tuned at any time. The riskier you play, the greater the rewards, but if you bite off more than you can chew, all is not lost. After a few plot points, Neku gets a sticker that allows battles to be repeated if he is defeated. There is even an option to repeat the battle on the easiest setting to help you get through it. Most regular fights are pretty easy, and unless the difficulty is set too high, it is usually simple enough to work through them, but boss fights can be challenging until the player figures out the proper strategy. The ability to immediately try a battle again is a very welcome addition as the game goes on and bosses get harder.

One thing that sets The World Ends With You apart from most other RPGs is its soundtrack. It is a varied mix of including pop, rock, electronica, and punk, hip hop, and more, and all of it is very well done. In all, there are over 30 different songs, and it is a joy to listen to them. There is also a small bit of voice acting, but it mainly consists of aggravated grunts and a few short lines that are repeated a few times throughout the game.

Visually, the game does not tax the DS in any way, but The World Ends With You is full of little details. All of the art is drawn in a style similar to Japanese manga comics, and all the dialog takes place in speech bubbles. This gives the game a very Japanese feel, which is important considering the setting is Shibuya. There are also several landmarks from Shibuya in the game such as the aforementioned scramble crossing, the statue of Hachiko, and the 109 building, known as 104 in the game. All of the visuals consist of very detailed two-dimensional sprites that are quite pretty. The character designs are especially important since they are all based on youth culture from the actual Shibuya in Tokyo.battle02.jpg

Fashion shows up in more than just the art design. Throughout the game, fashion plays a major role. The game has 13 different designers, all of which sell clothing and pins. Wearing popular brands yield bonuses in combat, and using the most unpopular brand halves its effectiveness in battle. A brand that is popular in one section of Shibuya may or may not be popular in the next, but battling Noise in any area will boost the popularity of everything equipped. Generally a brand will skyrocket to the top of the chart within a few fights, so having unpopular threads is never a problem for very long.

Though a good battle system, graphics, and music are important elements to any game, arguably the most important factor is the plot. The World Ends With You has a deep plot with several twists and turns, many of which are not easily predictable. As the player delves deeper into the game, many questions about the Reaper’s Game are answered, as are questions about Neku’s partner and the people he interacts with. The plot stays consistently good throughout and even manages to get better as the game progresses without lagging. Since there are plenty of plot-based battles needed to finish, it is not necessary to endlessly level grind in order to get to the next chapter which helps keep things flowing nicely. There was also a lot of care taken in translating this game as all the characters have unique personalities, and there is a fair bit of humor in the dialog.

Completing the game will take approximately 20-30 hours to finish the main story, although more can be taken if the player wishes to work on leveling and evolving pins or spend a significant amount of time playing Tin Pin Slammer. As mentioned before, most of the regular battles are pretty easy, and bosses provide plenty of challenge. And if things get too hard, the player can drop the difficulty at any time to get past a particularly hairy battle. Once the main plot is finished, there is a new game+ opened up that allows the player to replay the game to get additional backstory for every chapter, and there is even an alternate first chapter which completely changes the characters’ personalities.

In conclusion, The World Ends With You is a fantastic game. The battle system is unique and engaging, the music is great to listen to, and with all the risk/reward systems in play, there are some really interesting ideas in this game. It blends just the right mix of challenge, quirk, and style to create one of the most unique gaming experiences around. Pair that with a plot that keeps getting better and better, and it’s a game that shouldn’t be passed up.

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