Review by bluej33

Reviewed: 07/28/08

The definitive DS RPG and possibly the best game on the system

Forget everything you know about role-playing games. You won’t need it any more.

The World Ends with You is an incredible game. It’s made all the more fantastic by the fact that it’s created by Square Enix, a developer that’s known for remakes and rehashes on the DS. But with The World Ends with You, Square has given us something original, something beautiful, and something absolutely unforgettable. The World Ends with You is a game that you must buy, play, and love. It deserves nothing less.

The World Ends with You takes your traditional RPG and completely turns it on its head. That’s not to say it does away with such aspects as story, item-collecting, enemy-battling, and experiencing-gaining. Rather, they’re handled in such a way that you’ll wonder how you ever had fun with simple turn-based battles, uninspired “save the world” stories, or monotonous level-grinding. The World Ends with You has revolutionized one of the most time-honored genres of gaming, and the end result is something wonderful.

From the second you power on this game, it’s going to impress you. The story starts out simply enough, but soon elevates into an epic fight for the main character Neku’s life, friends, and home. The game is full of loveable characters, but what stays with you is the incredible depth that this story about moody adolescents manages to pull off. As Neku evolves from an introverted jerk to a kind, caring and passionate human being, he and his companions will undergo dramatic changes. They’re thrust into a microcosm of chaos and fear, and the implications regarding those who make it through are profound.

Beyond the game’s characters, the themes that are dealt with by The World Ends with You are incredible. Death is the title’s most prominent, but along the way to the game’s explosive finale, Neku undergoes an existential catharsis of emotion and the player realizes just how representative Neku is of all of us. And his final self-realization is one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Play the game for it’s unique role-playing mechanics. But remember it for its unique, profound message.

As a hardcore gamer this is a bit embarrassing, but to be honest there are a lot of RPGs that I just don’t like. There are plenty of games out there that offer a fun, solid role-playing romp, but at the same time there are too many games out there that can’t get out of the antiquated turn-based battle system. The former are to be commended; the latter condemned. Innovation and progression are what the genre needs, and it’s exactly what The World Ends with You injects into a sometimes-floundering niche of games.

To begin with, The World Ends with You is just fun. It takes everything that you might love from RPGs and strips away all the stuff that gets in the way of that fun. You’re given complete freedom over your battle strategy, thanks to the various pins in your game. These pins are what give you your different attacks, and there are hundreds of them scattered throughout the game (although admittedly, many of them are duplicates of each other). You can create a “deck” of up to 6 pins and creating the perfect combination of attack and defense in your deck is an addictive and satisfying experience.

Square didn’t stop there with the battle mechanic: it takes things a step further and adds an independently-attacking character to the top screen. It’s at this point that things begin to get hectic and undeniably overwhelming for beginning players. You use the touch screen to control Neku’s many attacks, while the d-pad or face buttons are used to control his partner on the top screen. As you attack you’re given branching options of which attack to use, and by building up combos on the top screen you can unleash a devastating dual attack.

What’s really impressive is that even with all complexity in the battle system, The World Ends with You still lets you play the game as you want. If you want to just focus on controlling Neku, that’s cool -- set the computer to control your partner up top automatically. Or feel free to focus more on racking up combos up top to allow for more dual-attacks; just make sure your dodging enemy attacks with Neku. These strategies work, but by far the most satisfying is attempting to master working both screens at once. It takes a while to get the hang of, but once you do it’s a really thrilling experience.

The World Ends with You includes many traditional role-playing elements, but they’re all present with significant changes. Experience points and leveling-up are par for the course that is RPGs. But The World Ends with You lets you set your level (as well as difficulty) to whatever you want. If you’re level 50, you can set your characters anywhere from level 1 to 50. What’s the point of setting it lower? Defeating enemies at a low-level nets you more dropped items at the end of the battle. Most items and pins also have a specific brand -- each area of Shibuya has its brand preferences and wearing a popular brand gives your stats a big boost. But this system seems a bit moot since you can manipulate the popularity charts and place your favorite brands at the top of the list.

Even now, only the surface of this game has been scratched. The beauty of this game is that it’s so incredibly complex and the game mechanic itself is so very deep. Every time you think you’ve got it all figured out, the game will throw you something new. Admittedly, some of these concepts are handled better than others. For example, eating food and then digesting it by fighting battles to gain stat bonuses is pretty freaking awesome. But a concept called memes, which allows you to imprint certain thoughts into peoples’ heads thereby get them to do what you want them to do feels a bit half-baked. This is about as close as the game gets to puzzle-solving and it’s only used a few times throughout the game. That said, there are so many gameplay facets of The World Ends with You that even with a minor problem in one, you can be sure that another will pick up the slack.

And despite its complexity, The World Ends with You is surprisingly easy to pick up. If you wanted to play Final Fantasy III and couldn’t get around the shameless level-grinding requirement or overpowered, frequently-encountered enemies, The World Ends with You is a game for you. It’s for everybody who wanted to enjoy an RPG but hated the obscure puzzle solving or classic “where to go next” conundrum. The ability to set the game’s difficulty setting is fantastic; make the title as easy or difficult as you want. Fighting enemies is such a fun and unique experience that you’ll gain levels without even realizing it.Square allows you to custom fit this game to your playing preferences, and by doing so makes The World Ends with You one of the most accessible titles on the DS. Especially considering it’s an RPG, that’s pretty impressive.

The World Ends with You is a paradox; how does it manage to be so intricate and yet so accessible? Star such a seemingly-shallow character and yet spin such an unforgettable storyline? It’s by far Square’s most successful and memorable outing on the DS, and is a perfect game for both enthusiasts of and newcomers to the role-playing genre. It is a beautiful, memorable, emotional adventure that everyone needs to experience.

Buy The World Ends with You. You Have Seven Days.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: The World Ends with You (US, 04/22/08)

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