Review by Sui89

Reviewed: 06/01/09

It's a Wonderful Experience

Square Enix is a company that’s most well known for the Final Fantasy series. A few years ago, Final Fantasy combined itself with Disney in a game known as Kingdom Hearts. It was in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories that Square Enix first teamed up with Jupiter. This title was met with mixed feelings from many people. Last year, Jupiter teamed up with Square Enix again, this time making an entirely new title called The World Ends With You (called It’s a Wonderful World in Japan). The World Ends With You was met with almost entirely positive comments from critics and has been highly praised by fans ever since its release, and for good reason. The World Ends With You took entirely new and fresh concepts for an RPG and put them together into a game that has both an engaging storyline, and one of the most fun battle systems in a game to date.

Story (9/10)

Unlike essentially all other RPGs today, The World Ends With You takes place in an actual place in the world – Shibuya, Japan. It also takes place in modern day Shibuya, meaning everyone is wearing things they’d actually wear today, and eating things you’d typically see people adding. This real kind of atmosphere is a pretty different concept for an RPG, and it really adds a lot to the experience because it’s so different from what companies typically do for RPG settings. Seeing people use cell phones, having different areas prefer different trends, having to run around crowded streets and around skyscrapers – all of these things add a lot to the feeling to the game. It’s different, and it’s refreshing.

The protagonist of this story is a teenager named Neku. He wakes up in the streets of Shibuya one day with no memories of what had happened before that. He gets a strange text message on his cell phone: “Reach 104. You have 60 minutes. Fail, and face Erasure – The Reapers.” Neku dismisses this message as spam and deletes it. However, the message won’t erase, and stays on his phone. Suddenly, a timer appears on his hand, counting down from 60 minutes. There’s also a billboard above him saying that he has seven days. All of a sudden, strange frogs attacked Neku, and he was unable to do anything, and had no chance to run for the time being. Shortly after, he meets a young girl named Shiki, and they inadvertently form a pact. With their pact form, they’re then able to destroy the creatures. And thus, they begin their week together in the Reaper’s Game.

As for the details of the Reaper’s Game, I can’t actually go into much detail without spoiling anything. Suffice to say, the Reaper’s Game is a game conducted by the Reapers. The “Players” team up together and try to make it through a week. Each day, the Players have to complete different tasks, or face erasure (meaning, essentially, that they’re killed, or erased from existence). The normal people of Shibuya cannot see Players, and thus, the Game can be played without their intervention (shopkeepers can see you basically for the purpose of you being able to shop, however). This is the basic story of The World Ends With You – a game that’s being played to fight for your life. While this is a pretty brief and simple explanation of the story, it’s about all that can be said without spoiling anything. Suffice to say, the story of The World Ends With You is fairly well written. It’s a pretty interesting concept for a plot, and a welcome change from the norm. There are a couple plot twists in particular that are especially surprising, which make the game’s plot all the more exciting. The originality of the storyline, along with the excellent plot twists in parts make this plot one of the most enjoyable plots I’ve seen in a game for a long time.

Something to be aware of, however, is the dialogue of the game, which is sometimes a little over the top. Beat, for example, is a kind of skater/gangster of sorts, and some of the things he says are a little exaggerated, to the point where it’s a little unbelievable that someone would say some of those things. While it’s nice that Square Enix was trying to stress his personality, it was a little too over the top. This isn’t especially noticeable at all times, but it’s a noticeable flaw in an otherwise nice game.

It should be noted that the Japanese name for this game is “It’s a Wonderful World.” Throughout the game, I went back and forth with which name I thought was a more appropriate name for this game. This was one of the most interesting concepts during the game, I thought, since the two titles seem so contradictory at first look. However, through the game, you’ll begin to understand the reason for the name change. Right now, I think I like “It’s a Wonderful World” a little better, but not by a lot.

Gameplay (9/10)

To put it simply: The World Ends With You’s battle system is fun. The battle system takes place on both the touch screen and the top screen. Neku is controlled on the bottom screen with the stylus, while your partner is controlled on the top screen with either the D-pad or the XYAB buttons (making the game more left-hand person happy). To make the battling simpler for beginners, the top screen can be put on Auto (or delayed auto, which will take over after so many seconds of being inactive).

On the bottom screen with Neku, you use various pins to do your battling. Pins are essentially just different powers you can use in battle. The game has quite a wide range of pins you can use, ranging from slashing an enemy to attack, tapping them to shoot a bullet, slashing an empty space to create a damaging chain, pressing Neku for a charge attack, and much more. At the start of the game, you start with only a few pins slots (I believe it’s two) to use in battle, but you’ll eventually gain more (up to six by the end of the game) to use to equip different pins to use during battle.

The top screen (when it’s not on Auto) is controlled by pressing the direction of an enemy, after which your partner will attack in the direction you pushed. Each partner has a unique kind of “mini game” you can play with direction in order to accumulate points, which, when high enough, will allow you to do a special attack with your partner. This special attack damages all enemies, as well as restoring a good chunk of your HP. Additionally, the top and bottom screen pass a “light puck” back and forth to one another during the battle. The more times the puck is passed, the stronger the finisher of your combo gets. Also, during the end parts of the game, there are certain enemies that can only be harmed significantly by the player that has the puck, so getting used to using the puck passing effectively is a key to this battle system.

Similarly to the puck being shared, Neku and your partner share an HP bar. If Neku’s side of the HP bar is drained, it will then take HP out of the partner’s bar, and vise versa. While this is kind of nice since you don’t have to worry about random deaths, it’s sometimes frustrating if you’re playing with Auto, since your partner will sometimes cause you to lose due to taking much more damage than Neku on the bottom screen.

One of the nicest things about TWEWY’s battle system is the ability to control your level. Once you gain a level, you have the option to lower your level (all the way down to 1), essentially allowing you to make the game harder, if you so choose. In exchange for the harder difficulty, you gain an increased drop rate for items from enemies. This system not only allows you to make the game harder (if you want to, since there are also four difficulty levels you can select), but it also gives you a good way to get otherwise rare items by raising their drop rate.

Levels only affect how much HP you have, however. Your other stats (attack, defense, and bravery) are affected by the threads you wear (your clothes) and the food you eat. Food can be consumed to increase your stats permanently. However, you can only consume so many “bytes” of food every day. You have 24 bytes of food per day (different foods have different amounts of bytes that it takes to eat them, which will be digested after so many battles). After you consume 18 bytes, you can no longer eat foods that cost more than 6 bytes to eat for the rest of the day (in real time). For example, you could have a Cheeseburger, which costs something like 14 bytes to consume, after which you could have a Salad, which costs 8 bytes. This is 22 bytes. The next food you consume has to be 6 or less, until the next day. This is a pretty interesting system, and really allows you to decide what your characters stat lines look like. This system, however, will probably seem unnecessary for getting through the main game, since there are very few bosses that are actually difficult during the main game.

Threats (clothes), like food, increase your stats, but “add on” to your base stat, rather than permanently increasing the stat. Threats require a certain amount of “bravery” to equip (which can be increased by eating food), after which you can equip them freely, up to four different pieces. There are top threats (shirts), bottom threats (pants or skirts), top and bottom threads (something like a bikini or pajamas), accessories (watches, necklaces, etc), and shoes. Each piece of clothing has a hidden ability, which will only be revealed after becoming friends with the right shop keeper. These abilities can do anything from increasing stats to preventing status to giving you free fusion points (which will make you get a special attack faster). This system does a really good job at encouraging shopping, and works pretty decently for the most part.

One more thing to say about the gameplay is possibly the most significant thing I have to say: there are no random battles in this game. This is a huge plus for this game, since random encounters are extremely archaic, boring, and suck immensely. Games should have stopped using them YEARS ago. The World Ends With You lets you battle when YOU want to battle. You use your Player pin to scan for enemies, and touch them (and chain them together for a higher drop rate, if you want) to initiate battles. The only forced battles in the game are boss fights and certain fights towards the end of the game. This is really nice, and allows the player to do as little or as much battling as they want to at the time.

Basically, this game has one of the most fun battle systems I’ve ever played. The battle system is really engaging with the constant stylus use, and is probably a battle system you won’t get sick of regardless of how many battles you do. Not having random encounters is a huge plus for the game, and allows you to battle how you want. Threads and food are a new and unique way of determining stats, and are a welcome addition to the game. Finally, the game gets points for allowing you to not only choose from four different difficulty settings, but also forcibly lower your level if you want a harder experience.

There are two problems I have with the gameplay. The first is that initially, the top screen seems very difficult to learn to control, and encourages just smashing one direction instead of actually learning how to use it. The whole top screen seems kind of tacked on and kind of excessive at times. The main battle takes place on the bottom screen with Neku. The game wouldn’t really be missing that much if the top screen was either omitted altogether, or placed on permanent Auto (with better AI, if this was the case).

The second problem I have is with the uselessness of certain kinds of pins, along with the uselessness of having different brands (and trends). Basically, any type of pin that has you stop, press Neku for a couple seconds, and then activate is pretty horribly outclassed by something faster. There are quite a few pins that take a second or two to activate like this, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re outclassed and no one plans to use them. They could have just been left out and no one would have noticed. A similar thing applies with the different brands and trends. Trends increase or decrease your pins power, depending on what area you’re in. This was a good idea in theory, but was pretty poorly executed. I think the idea was that you’d have constantly changing equipment based on the trends. However, what actually happens, is that you keep the same pins equipped, the trends change based on what you have equipped, and nothing happens. The only time you’ll actually care about trends are when you’re forced to change them to proceed, or if only one brand of pin works in the area. Both of these are annoying missions, and are another markdown for the system anyway. Again, it was a good idea, just poorly executed. It’s a pretty negligible point off of an otherwise really fun game from a gameplay perspective.

Graphics (10/10)

The graphics in this game are fairly amazing. The whole game feels like a giant comic. The lines that make up the characters and places are really thick, and the colors are all vibrant. The dialogue proceeds like a comic book, and everything in the game feels really comic-like. It’s a really unique look that I haven’t really seen in any other game. It’s also a look I wish more games would start using, since it’s really aesthetically pleasing, and adds a lot to the experience.

The actual animations in the game (aside from the dialogue scenes) are all fairly smooth as well. Everything is beautifully drawn, and there aren’t really any noticeable blips in animation anywhere.

That’s essentially all I have to say about the graphics. They’re stunning. A+.

Sound (9/10)

TWEWY has a pretty unique soundtrack. Instead of using casual background music composed by Nobuo Uematsu (who I like, by the way) that you won’t really notice and definitely won’t remember, the game’s soundtrack is made up almost entirely of J-pop music. There are vocals in a majority of the songs, in both English and Japanese, instead of being entirely instrumental. This is especially notable since this is part of the reason these songs are so memorable. They’re different from the norm, they’re catchy, and they fit the mood of the game almost perfectly.

The game has several different battle themes, so you won’t get sick of hearing the same one over and over and over again. Each of these themes is a little different, and you’ll enjoying each one, since each one is well done. All of the other songs in the game fit the game’s modern atmosphere really well and add to the mood of the game really well.

One thing I really liked about this game is that you could buy music tracks from shops in game, and then assign that song to the menu. Since you spend a lot of time in the menu assigning threads and pins to your characters, you’ll appreciate being able to listen to whatever song you want to while you’re doing this, and you’ll definitely appreciate being able to change that song every once in a while.

Overall, this soundtrack is excellently done. It fits well. It’s unique. It’s awesome. No perfect score for the sole reason of not being so appealing to people who don’t want to listen to J-Pop. Other than that, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy this soundtrack.

Replayability (8/10)

After you’re done playing TWEWY, you open up the “Chapter Selection” option in the menu, allowing you to go back and play through any day in the game. There are different objectives displayed for each day (which you probably didn’t accomplish during the game) which, when completed, will give you a “secret report” for that day. These secret reports are written by some of the Reapers about the Game, giving you some insight on what happened behind the scenes during the various days during the game (and also allows the writers to fill in a couple of unanswered questions you might have had at the end of the game). This alone gives you enough to go back and do after the game. Add to this the fact that there are four different difficulties, along with hundreds of pins to master, and all kinds of items to go and try on, and you’ve got plenty to go and replay the game for. Then again, the game is fun enough that you’ll probably want to keep playing after you beat the final boss anyway, so replayability is really pretty good regardless of all the extras you have to do afterwards.

Buy or Rent?

Buy, for sure. I went into the game not expecting to like it terribly much, and came out of it thoroughly amazed at what an awesome job Square Enix had done. If you buy it, you definitely won’t regret it.

Final Rating (9/10)

Basically, this is one of the most fun games on the DS to date, and one of the most fun RPGs I’ve ever played. Normally, Square Enix doesn’t impress me too much with their overhyped series and lack of innovation in other games. However, they’ve really outdone themselves for The World Ends With You. It’s a refreshing concept for a game in story, gameplay, graphics, and sound. There’s really nothing that was left unnoticed for this game. In the future, companies should look to this game as an example at how to create a new, refreshing game, in a market that’s saturated with a lot of the same thing. Great job, Square Enix.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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