Review by Kaas

Reviewed: 02/06/09

Innovative combat, hundreds of collectibles and a brilliant story make for a wonderful experience.

Just imagine the following… You are a young boy in a big city somewhere in Japan, and you don’t care about anything but yourself. You’ve completely shut yourself in and just wish to be left alone. Suddenly, you wake up on a busy road in that town, and nobody can here you shout. Nobody sees you, and nobody will help you. Then you get attacked by monsters, and you can’t fight back, unless you form an alliance with a mysterious girl you’ve never seen before, and who seems to be the only one who can even detect you. Of course, by forming a pact, you’re doing the one thing you dislike; getting close to someone. Sounds interesting? Welcome to Square-Enix’ latest RPG on the DS, The World Ends With You (TWEWY).

The boy I was talking about is called Neku, and is the protagonist of the story. For some reason, he ended up in a game of life and death. He has to complete a mission every day for an entire week, or he will be erased, which basically means he will die. The mission can be anything; sometimes you will have to reach a certain part of the town ( which is called Shibuya), decipher a cryptic message or obtain a certain item. However, you will find plenty of obstacles on your way to completion of the mission. So-called Reapers (who are part of the game, and function as assistants of the game leader, the Conductor) are able to erect walls, which prevent you from moving from one area to another. To bring these walls down, you will have to fulfill smaller missions, like destroying 5 monsters, buy an item from a store or obtaining a certain pin. Obviously, since Square-Enix is involved, the story is way bigger and complex than I present it here. There are lots of important characters to meet, stories to discover, twists to encounter and enemies to defeat. The thing is, the story is one of the most interesting things of the game (and one of the best I’ve seen all year), and I absolutely don’t want to spoil it, since there’s a lot happening even in the beginning of the game. I must admit the game started a bit slow, but the more I played it, the more I wanted to keep playing. Since every day is a chapter, you can easily pick it up for a short while, complete a chapter, and go do something else.

Pins are one of the most important things of the game, and can be gotten by defeating enemies or meeting specific criteria in the game. You can use pins to attack enemies, heal yourself or even inflict status ailments on enemies (like lessen their defense). Every pin has its own method of being activated in battle. For instance, some will require to slash the enemy with your stylus, other may need to simply tap an area, while others are activated automatically. This method of fighting requires you to pay attention to the screen, which is a fresh way to deal with the RPG genre (which often has turn-based battles). Add to that the fact that you can have up to six active pins at the same time, and battles will never be boring again. TWEWY also has another unique characteristic in its battles: you fight on 2 screens at the same time. You (Neku) use the bottom screen of the DS, and will be using the stylus to activate pins and attack enemies. Your partner in battle will be using the top screen, and can be controlled by the d-pad. This clearly complicates the battle system, and is actually quite confusing to pull off. Luckily, the game lets you set your partner on “auto-play”, so you can practice fighting with the bottom screen before you move on to dual screen battles. Fighting on 2 screens bring s a few new things to watch for. For instance, you and your partner share your HP bar. If you don’t watch out, your partner might get hit too often, and you will both die. There’s also a so-called light-puck in play. You or your partner will be in possession of this puck. If you make an attack while in possession, your finishing move will do extra damage, after which it travels to the other screen. Bouncing it around keeps increasing the multiplier damage, so this is something else to keep in mind while fighting. I know it sounds confusing, but it’s actually well done and really works.

Fighting not only nets you experience to make your character better, it’s also one out of three ways to level up your pins (the other 2 being shutting off your DS and using your DS’ wi-fi). Leveling up pins make them do more damage, heal more or increases their number of uses. However, that’s not all fighting is good for. In TWEWY, you can buy all sorts of food in shops. If you eat this food, you will increase in attack, defense, health or bravery (a high number of this is required to wear certain clothes). However, you’ll need to digest this food by fighting. Every battle fought counts as a bite. Some food will consist out of only three bites, but some of the more useful types will need up to 24 bites, and therefore battles. Too bad you can only eat 24 bites a day… As mentioned, your character can wear different clothes, which you can buy in stores all over the town. These clothes increase certain stats, and have a (usually) hidden ability. Some of these abilities are simply the increase of defense, but some are extremely useful, like negating a certain amount of damage when you’re low on health.

While you’re battling around Shibuya, you’ll notice the city is looking quite good. Even though he area you play in is really small for an RPG, it’s looking great. The different parts of the city look different, and have all kinds of details in their backgrounds. Lots of people walk by (even though they don’t see you), and the cutscenes are looking brilliant. These scenes actually use both screens of the DS to create a beautiful animated scene to really get you into the story. Add the best voice-acting I’ve ever heard on the DS, a wonderful, large and diverse soundtrack (with actual singing in them), and you know there’s hardly any complaining necessary.

The adventure will take you around 15-20 hours to finish, which is not really long for an RPG, but luckily for us, the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you finished the main game, you can replay the game (or parts of it) for new items, new pins and new clothes. The game keeps track of what you’ve collected thus far, and there are literally a few hundred items to find. There’s even a (rather large) bonus chapter which really adds to the story. Oh, and did I mention the Tin Pin minigame, which can be played with friends online? Suffice to say I’ve logged over 120 hours before I completed this game 100%...

So, in closing, TWEWY is one of the best DS games out there, and is definitely one of the longest (well, if you like to finish your games completely). There’s plenty to do in it, there’s lots of interesting characters, and the story is better than I expected when I first started playing it. I love the music, I love the collecting, and the new combat is great once you’re used to it. It may be a bit hard to get into it (the story isn’t as enthralling when you first start, and the combat is hard to master), the town seems to be quite small, but those are just small annoyances, which I hope will be improved for the inevitable sequel. I’d definitely recommend buying this game, as it is well worth the price.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: The World Ends with You (EU, 04/18/08)

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