Review by maxim84
The World Begins With You
Although SquareEnix is one of the most popular RPG developers out there, I feel that most of their recent games just do not retain the same magic feel like before.
When I first saw The World Ends with You, the first thing that came into my mind was "Is this a sequel / spin-off from Kingdom Hearts? I approach this game sceptically. Wondering if SquareEnix still got the magic in them?
The World Ends with You battle system is really unique. You'll need some time to get used to the dual screen battle system (one of the reason why this game can only exist in the NDS) where you use two screen simultaneously to do your battle. You control two characters at once. First, you will control Neku (your main character) by using the stylus in the bottom screen. Second, you will need to control your partner (there are three throughout the course of the game) with the D-pad in the upper screen.
The dual battle system opens a lot of new possibilities in battle. Some people might choose to focus using Neku (and let the AI control the partner), some might choose to control only the partner to inflict bigger damage the enemy, while others might choose to control both screen simultaneously; aiming for higher combo damages.
Another important system that the battle system introduces is the pin and cloth system. Since this game is set in the real world Shibuya (more about this on the story section), there are a lot of fashion going around. You do not equip armour like conventional RPG but rather choose the coolest cloth represented by several Shibuya brands. Every section has their own fashion trend so having a lot of cloths (and following the fashion) is a one of the primary key to survive. Neku's attack in this game is adjusted by the pin he wears. There are more than 300 pins in this game with their own specific ability. Some pins allow Neku to slash his enemy, others allow him to shoot energy projectiles, while some others can be used to heal or boost his status. You are allowed to carry six pins maximum throughout the course of the game, so adjusting the pins for battle will be a freedom you can choose yourself.
If you think levelling up is the most important thing in this game, then you're wrong. In fact, even if levelling up in this game is quite easy, you would want to keep your level down in order to raise the challenge and achieve more powerful pins from the enemy. Take me as an example: during the course of this game, I barely raise my level limit above 10 except for some hard boss battles. It might be difficult at first, but once you get used to the level restriction, you'll find out that it makes the game even more flexible and adjustable to your taste.
If you can't level up, then how can you raise your status? Shibuya offers a lot of food stores where you can eat foods to boost up your status. Even junk food as simple as hamburger can boost up your status, although exclusive vitamin pills can surely boost your status even higher up.
One day Neku finds himself in Shibuya without his memory. He didn't understand how he ended up in Shibuya. Stranger even, no people seems to realize that he's in Shibuya; it's as if that he's an invisible ghost! In the middle of his confusion, suddenly a frog-like monster attacked him. Without having anything to protect him, Neku can only run away from those monsters. That's when suddenly a girl appears and made a pact with him. Together they defeated the monsters.
That girl name was Shiki. She told Neku that he was a part of a game called 'Reaper's Game'. This is a game where dead people gather together in order to win a chance back to life. Every day, they will be given a task to do something. Those who fail to finish the task or fall victims to the monster called 'Noise' will be erased from this reality. Will Neku and Shiki survive this 'Reaper's Game'? One thing for sure; there's definitely something fishy going on behind a survival game like this.
Graphic / Sounds
The graphic in this game was designed by Tetsuya Nomura (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts) and we can see the similarities of the design here. However, there is also the hip and cool feel inserted in the designs of this game, I love the Shibuya design of the game. Even though the game environment isn't really big (and somehow restricted and repetitive), it seems alive like a real Shibuya district.
However the part where this game really shines is its sound. The music in this game was a real treat for your ear. There are a lot of energetic music (hip-hop?) inserted in this game to accompany you whether youre travelling around, fighting enemies, fighting boss battles, or even shopping in the stores. I can go further to suggest you buy the soundtrack since I believe it'll be worth the price. The end theme song: Lullaby for You, was sang by Jyongri - a Korean singer who grew up in Japan. Lullaby for You had two version (the original Japanese version and translated English version), no versions are more superior than each other since the song is translated very well. It's a shame that Lullaby for You wasn't included in the OST CD of the game, since it's the perfect song to end the game (and represent the change Neku experiences throughout the course of the game).
Play Time / Replayability
You can finish The World Ends with You in around 20 - 25 hours. However, you can always revisit the game just to complete all the pins and fashions. If you think that level grinding is boring and not enough a reason to return to this game, SquareEnix also provide you a bonus mode called the secret report.
In the secret report mode, you can replay any chapter of the game, and by completing certain objective, you can read a secret report which tells the game from the view of Mr. H (a mysterious guy who often saves you from trouble in the main storyline). This secret report aren't necessary to read, but is a welcomed addition to understand the true nature of the 'Reaper's Game' that Neku and his friends played. After all is said and done, it might take you until 40 - 50 hours to achieve a perfect game.
The World Ends with You is a game that actually captures all the magic that SquareEnix lost these few years. Even this game might have some RPG cliches (an angst-amnesia hero who have a change of heart), there are a lot of genuine touching moments in this game that you can relate. After all, it's easier to feel connected to someone who felt insecure with the world around him rather than to feel connected with a hero who saves the whole world from an impending doom of an ancient evil.
If you feel that SquareEnix has lost their magic touch, give The World Ends With You a try. It might bring back your faith in the developer.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: The World Ends with You (US, 04/22/08)
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