Review by buruburu1

Reviewed: 11/21/08

Innovative and fun, one of the DS' finest games.

Graphics (27/30, judged by era)- Relying heavily on style to make up its visual charms, TWEWY recreates a miniaturized Shibuya, Tokyo by means of Adobe Illustrator-inspired backdrops, creatively drawn and skewed for effect. These backgrounds are interesting overall, but the graphics show their weak spot in the 2d sprites used on top of them. On the one hand, the enemies of the game are creatively conceived, well-drawn and animated—they are a credit to the designers. On the other, when walking around Shibuya's streets, it is made obvious that 2d has its limitations. Pedestrians, often numerous, are scaled to appear nearer or further away, and it is in these areas where you wonder why the sprites weren't drawn at a slightly higher resolution, given their minimal animation. After all, if sprites can look blocky on the DS' small screen, then you know something is wrong. Extensive dialogue portions are drawn well, using an anime/graffiti-art mashup that is quite effective. Story portions are similarly cleverly rendered using Flash-like animations. Spell effects vary from good to great and overall there is a great variety of items and such. A solid and consistent aesthetic therefore is marred by some weak links.

Sound- FX/Voice (7/10) Overall, a very good sound package. The game rarely makes sound integral to the experience, and so you find that you can play with the volume down and not miss necessary cues. Sound mainly comes down to battles, where they are well-done. Characters mutter one and two word phrases here and there which don't really add much, and occasionally detract, particularly in the case of the character Beat, whose pseudo-'hood slang really only serves to annoy, as voices often do.

Sound- Music (10/10) Easily a question of taste, the soundtrack is largely made up of contemporary club and J-Pop tracks. Many contain vocals, in English with a couple in Japanese. Typically I don't like this sort of music, but it is aided by the anonymity of the performers (it's easy to dislike contemporary soundtracks when you know and hate particular songs already). Still, large chunks of this soundtrack appealed to me greatly, and I'm not even a fan of most of the genres represented. Partly, it's the immersion factor, having spent some time in Japan, to hear music that was sonically familiar to the fictionalized Shibuya I was in this game exploring.

Gameplay- Length/Replay (15/15) It's hard to calculate the hours spent on the game when you've left the system on in Mingle Mode (below), since hours spent in that mode are added to your total, but it's fairly safe to say this was a 50-hour game. The game itself is fairly long, and the motivation to extend it willingly along the way, and to continue with post-game content is huge. You will not be disappointed by play length.

Gameplay- Story (5/5) The story here is integral to the game making any sense, even if the story itself is hard to make complete sense of. The characters definitely have their motivations, and there is a generous back-story created for the world and its mechanics, which is later detailed in Secret Reports, post-game. Beyond that, the dialog is generally well-written and plentiful, and even each of the hundreds of items have descriptions and text that were created with care.

Gameplay- Game Design (30/30)- TWEWY is a rarity in gaming—it's something new. Sure, it draws on many ideas from other titles, but puts many of them together in a smart way that surprises at many turns. Battle is rarely random, as in other RPGs, but the way battles are fought, the game actually motivates you to seek them out—a rarity when usually you are sick of random-battles. Fought on two screens, using two sets of simultaneous controls, battles can make you feel like you're rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. In the end you can only focus correctly on one screen at once, so you either get good by shifting focus up and down, or by sort of "auto-piloting" one screen for much of the time and focusing on the other. Either way, the battle style is ingenious, making use of almost every DS feature—even putting the game in sleep mode by closing the lid, at one point.

The game involves lots of exploration of a Shibuya that is sprawling, but almost not large enough. You will talk to folks, solve mysteries, fight lots of boss battles, and SHOP. Half the game is item-collection and shopping, and the game doesn't skimp at this point. Hundreds of items and "pins" (buttons you wear that give you abilities and attacks) are to be found and purchased throughout the game, allowing for a tremendous amount of customization. Unfortunately, the many clothing items you buy and wear do not affect your in-game appearance. Had this been the case, given the huge variety of such items, the graphical presentation would've been off the charts.

Leveling up is also smartly handled. Not only do your characters level up, but you can adjust your level willingly—backing it down increases the drop rate at the expense of HP, and you'll want to since so many items are given via drops. Pins themselves level up as you use them, and even when you're not playing. Relationships with shop-keepers level-up…the amount of this sort of thing goes on and on. As I said, TWEWY is a smart game with lots of carrots to keep you going.

**Final Thoughts: Consider this a must-play.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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