Review: The World Ends with You
Posted 01 Aug 2008 at 11:27 by Nicholas Hintze
|"The World Ends With You takes the old tried and tested formula from Square Enix's traditional RPGs, sticks it in a blender, and mixes it up a little by creating a fusion between Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, stealing all the best parts from them and turning it into a new and refreshing experience."
We all know Square Enix for creating some of the finest games in the videogame industry. However, recently they've been playing it safe by providing us with remakes and spin-offs of their older franchises, many of which have been released on the DS. It seems to me that every week there is a new variation of Final Fantasy of some sort... but I digress. The World Ends With You is a breath of fresh air for the DS and it's great to see Square Enix take a plunge into the deep end again and bring us what looks like it could be the beginning of a magnificent new franchise for them.
The World Ends With You takes the old tried and tested formula from Square Enix's traditional RPGs, sticks it in a blender, and mixes it up a little by creating a fusion between Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, stealing all the best parts from them and turning it into a new and refreshing experience. Firstly this game is set in modern day Tokyo and your adventure takes place in Shibuya, which is an overcrowded shopping district. Each area is vibrant and very colourful with recognisable buildings from the real Shibuya.
When you first turn on the game you are met with a simple but impressive menu as the music kicks into gear straight away. You start off playing as Neku a lonely, antisocial 15 year old who dislikes everything and has amnesia. He hasn't got a clue who he is and why he is in Shibuya. So far it doesn't sound like anything that hasn't been done before and the character sounds like a walking cliché - complete with spiky hair - but the way in which the story slowly changes Neku as a person is truly fascinating to witness, and he immerses you completely into the game. The story revolves around this idea of survival as Neku quickly learns that he is in a "reapers" game and each day along with other people in the game he has to complete a set of challenges within a time limit or face erasure from existence. He is forced to team up with a girl called Shiki (who is obsessed with fashion) as it essential to have a partner. Neku and the others are invisible to the normal folk in Shibuya, though with a special pin he is able to read there minds. This offers a amusing little detour, as you can spend a few minutes just reading what people are thinking. I won't spoil any more of the story, but there are plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the player thrilled with a slice of genuine emotion on the side.
The only thing I have been a little disappointed with is the lack of full voice acting in the cut scenes. It promises it at the beginning but after that it substitutes it for text with the odd word and grunt thrown in. This works fine, but it may have worked a lot better with voices. This hardly detracts from the game though as the writing and the story is a joy to read. Although it can get a bit text heavy at times, the game is full of clever and witty dialogue (my personal favourite being, "The proof is in the pudding. The pudding of their doom.") which helps to flesh out the characters. The art style in these cut scenes is brilliant, showing us how 2D visuals still looks great. Every character is entertaining and each has their own individual personalities and idiosyncrasies. The music is another one of the games strong points and is fabulous to listen to. There are a lot of different styles in there including J-Rock, J-Pop and Techno and it's worth buying the game alone just to listen to these songs. They help capture the mood whether it be tense and exciting within a battle or calm and relaxing while shopping.
This brings me nicely into the gameplay; to control Neku around Shibuya you can touch the screen to move him or use the D-Pad. Moving him with the touch screen is really responsive and swift when you want to move from A to B. The combat system is where the game really shines and at first you don't realise the genius behind this. There aren't any random encounters with enemies, but sometimes after a cut scene you are forced into a fight, though normally you can choose to attack them when you feel well-equipped and prepared. I made the mistake of scanning the area and plunging head first into a battle with no idea how the combat system works. The action came thick and fast and was placed upon both screens. My eyes could hardly keep up with what was happening and so I panicked and frantically started slashing the screen and mashing the buttons in an attempt to kill all the godforsaken frogs that were hopping about on screen. Through some miracle I managed to do it. This lead me to believe that Square Enix had managed to create another overly complicated fighting system that doesn't really work - how wrong I was.
The battle system involves you collecting and levelling up different pins which are given to you, bought or even dropped by a defeated enemy. Each pin has a different power, such as the ability to produce a trail of flames or giant icicles. You are allowed up to three pins when in battle to begin with, but that gradually increases as you progress. The pins level up and some can evolve. Once they are at their highest level, they are mastered and deal the most damage. All the pins have their own way of being activated and you can read how to do this in the pin section of the menu screen. In battle the pins usually respond very well to the stylus' movements but sometimes a pins actions clashes and you may have activated one you didn't want to. This problem can be solved through subbing which allows you to use the pin when you want to.
Before you enter a battle it is wise to invest sometime into learning these mechanics as there is a lot you have to try and stuff into your cranium. The game helps you with this though, as throughout the game it introduces more elements which is great as it gives you time to get to grips with the basics while still building upon what you already know. The usual stats and figures are present and you can level up your characters and pins. A lot of what the gameplay has to offer isn't necessary to win a battle but it certainly makes it a lot easier if you do manage to learn all of it. The battle on the top screen isn't as complicated as it first looks and you really just have to quickly bash the D-pad in certain directions. Doing this enables the characters to connect to each other and unleash a special move. On the bottom screen you use the stylus to control Neku and make him perform the equipped pins abilities. There are a number of different things you can do such as tap the screen or slash vertically up or horizontally. The battles are very fast paced, slick and run very smoothly.
After a few battles it becomes second nature to fight on both screens but if it is still too much for you can set the top screen to auto. I didn't find this very helpful as I often came out with a Rank E where as when I controlled them directly, I came out with a Rank B or higher. The rewards you get for battling, apart from being able to move onto the next stage, are money, pins and PP to increase the level of your all-important pins. There are over 300 pins for you to master and the idea of food and clothes offers a whole new deeper level of gameplay for you to explore. Food increases your health and synchronisation with your partner, and clothes can do that to when worn but also a number of other things like an increase in the attack and defence of the wearer. A little touch that would have been nice is too see your character actually wearing the clothes, though this would have been too much to expect as there is an awful lot of clothes to buy. The game can become extremely addictive and time-consuming.
The main story is wealthy in length but the game doesn't end there. There is plenty for you to do afterwards as well. All in all this game will have you playing for weeks exploring every corner of it's world. The graphics are what wraps this title tightly together. They are some of the best visuals I've seen on the DS and the sprites and back world look great in all their 2D glory.
This is a solid RPG and I have never seen anything like this on the DS before in terms of originality. It's a fantastic adventure which should not be missed; I have not had this much fun on my DS in ages. An almost flawless game that excels in style, design and is a must have for all DS owners regardless of whether you enjoy RPGs or not. It's one of the best, if not the best, DS titles around. I hope and pray for a sequel!
The scores and final verdict are as always, and for some mysteriously elusive reason, underneath the comments.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Fantastic visuals, a wonderful soundtrack and original and compelling gameplay make this a must-have gem for the DS.
A compelling and intriguing story.
The music is brilliant.
The game has beautiful visuals.
The battle system is a bit complicated.
There is a lot of text to get through.
The controls for the Pins do not always respond.
There aren't enough hours in the day to play it.