Review by Mykas0

Reviewed: 08/02/07 | Updated: 06/09/08

It's a Wonderful Game

Last time Jupiter and Square-Enix teamed-up, they brought us "Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories", a popular Kingdom Hearts spin-off title whose main gameplay relied mostly on cards. The influences of such title are quite clear in this game, with Tetsuya Nomura returning as a designer. Fortunately, both titles feature no other resemblances, and the lack of connection with any other RPGs is probably one of the most enjoyable features of this game.

You won't be saving princesses, killing legendary monsters or saving the world from unexpected natural events. Instead, this game allows you to play as Neku, a 15-year-old who seems to live in Shibuya, one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Japan. Eventually, he wakes up in the middle of the street, along with a strange medal that allows him to read people's thoughts. Shortly after, he is joined by a girl (named Shiki) and they are forced to play "Death's game", which is sort of a reality TV series where only the winner survives. As part of this adventure, you're told (via a text message on the Neku's cellular phone) that you can't leave Shibuya and you'll have to accomplish several tasks in a seven day period.

This may sound like a predictable plot, but the game itself isn't held in real-time and, as odd it may sound, your adventure actually continues after that initial period of seven days. I won't spoil the many surprises this game offers, but there are plenty of enjoyable plot twists and, more often than not, players will probably be astonished by the events they have to face.

In fact, "surprise" is probably this game's middle name. Since the game occurs in modern age and in real Japan, there aren't many weapons for your characters to pick. Instead, their stats are improved (or halved) depending on the clothes that you provide them, which can be purchased in the many stores available in the streets of Shibuya. There are all kinds of clothes, and if you are a goth, a rapper or just a normal person, you may find in-game clothes that reflect your real style. Unfortunately, these pieces of equipment are only shown in the equipment screen, and in no way reflect the final look of your character, which is slightly disappointing.

Apart from clothes, players can also purchase many different types of medals, which have several purposes. A few are used as money (you gotta sell them to earn a specific amount), while most unleash in-battle moves, available after being equipped to a set number of Neku's slots. This number increases as you advance in the adventure, allowing you to develop more complex combos and improved attack strategies, which you'll need in order to face more powerful foes.

When it comes to battles, the way they were implemented is also surprising. Instead of throwing you to a bunch of random confrontations, you're allowed to skip all kinds of unimportant battles, which can be done by simply avoiding Neku's ability to read people's minds, which also allows you to spot where this game's enemies, called Noise, are hanging. It is actually possible to complete the game without facing any random battles at all, but doing so would lead to several issues, eventually preventing you from beating certain boss battles and acquiring all kinds of bonuses. For example, there's a bestiary to complete, and medals require BP to master, with battles being its primary source.

While your main character can normally be controlled with both the stylus and the directional pad, things change drastically during battles. While facing those, the lower screen is used to control all of Neku's actions, allowing him to move around and attack enemies by performing simple motions, with almost every medal being having different control methods. Just to name a few, "Cut" requires you to tap your enemy, "Psychokinesis" allows you to drag an object until it hits an enemy and "Cure Drink" can be pressed to restore some of your HP. However, battles are also held in the the upper screen. Since you can't take Neku up there, your secondary character will be restricted to such area, where she (or he) will have to face the same opponents that Neku is seeing, with each enemy disappearing after either fellow depletes the enemy's HP. You can allow your partner to fight by herself, but you can also control her manually, by using the directional pad to perform particular combos.

This gameplay isn't as easy as it may sound, since more complex techniques are discovered as you advanced in the game. Shortly after Shiki joins you, you'll see that she has a few strange icons appearing on top of her screen. When she manages to unleash particular combos, you'll be allowed to summon a powerful attack where she and Neku fight together, causing heavy damage to your enemy. Whether this event occurs often or not depends mostly on the player, which can opt by controlling both characters by himself or allow the partner to move alone, with her proficiency depending on what you have fed her.

Food, which tends to play an unimportant role in this game, is also part of the collectibles that the game has to offer. You can not only collect new types of food, but also clothes, new monsters (along with references to what items they drop) and badges (or medals, feel free to pick your favourite name...), which have several different ways to be upgraded. If all of this is not enough for you, there are four difficulty modes which you can pick in the middle of your adventure, granting you tougher battles and different drops from all enemies, which become even more common if you decide to lower your character's level in order to increase the drop rates. As odd as it may sound, that's actually one of this game's features, which enables you to temporarily drop your character's level in order to increase the drop rate of all items.

There's also a mini-game included in this game, which reminds me of Beyblade. Controlling the strength and direction of your current badges, you have to try pushing the ones of your opponent off the board. This is easily said but hard to do, with sheer luck appearing to be more important than actual skill when you're playing

Unfortunately, none of these interesting features makes this a perfect game. It doesn't feature any kind of online play, with wireless functions being reserved to simple data exchange between you and your opponent. A few unimportant items are extremely difficult to obtain, with minor badges such as "5 YEN" taking a lot more trouble to find than the astonishing "10000 YEN". Ultimately, a few impatient players may think some of the cut scenes take too much time, preventing them from jumping right into action.

Graphically, I believe this title couldn't be much better. Everything was drawn in beautiful 2D, allowing you to clearly see all characters and their current actions, discarding any needs of 3D animations. Special occasions feature cute cut scenes, which are unlike any others I've seen in this console. One could think that they look strange, but bearing in mind the environment and spirit that this game transpires, they are fitting to the adventure and very stylish.

While not all cut scenes contain voiced characters, there are plenty of sound effects to hear as you explore the game, making your experience a lot more enjoyable. This game's soundtrack is amazing, with almost every song having proper lyrics, which fit the game and its theme. In a game which is probably aimed at teenagers, this soundtrack has all kinds of songs that they will enjoy, allowing them to hear their favourite songs while playing this fantastic game.

Overall, this is an amazing game which most players will probably enjoy, despite the dark tone of its storyline.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Subarashiki Kono Sekai: It's A Wonderful World (JP, 07/27/07)

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