Review by Merco64
The world of clichés has ended
For the most part (or perhaps the whole part), Square's frequent releases of RPGs play it very safe. They've remained successful for a very long time with their conventional and overall cliche fantasy themed RPGs. The outright lack of ambition and bravery has always turned me off of their titles. So what happens to my world when Square releases a title which is the single most unique and stylish RPG I've ever played? It ends.
The World Ends With You handles every aspect of both presentation and gameplay in way that stands out. Of course, the risk of standing out is having untested ideas and concepts bomb. So let's talk about some of those gameplay mechanics now.
First off, you have a battle system divided in two. That is, you are controlling two characters simultaneously (one on the top screen and one on the bottom). Other than shared HP among heroes and foes, the battles are completely independent.
Neku, the protagonist, is controlled on the bottom screen entirely with the stylus. Aside from moving, Neku's control completely changes depending on what pins he has equipped to his pin slots. So you could have a pin that enables you to summon lightning to where you tap the screen or a pin that will deal damage to enemies if Neku dashes through them. Square has taken the steps necessary to prevent players from exploiting any one pin too much. Each pin can only be used a certain number of times before it must reboot and you may also have to wait for your pin to boot before being able to use it in battle. So these three ratings must be considered about each pin.
The characters on the top screen are controlled entirely by the D-Pad and each play differently. What turns many people off about The World Ends With You is that its impossible to focus on both battles at once. Honestly, either screen can really benefit from your full attention. Clever gamers, however, will adapt to following a "light puck" which is sent between the two screens with successful hits and delivers large bonus damage.
Once you reach the top of that steep learning curve and are able to follow the light puck for maximum efficiency, you should be satisfied with having independent control over two characters. However, I can't help but wonder if the method could have been improved a little. Blindly hitting inputs for one character is bound to happen even for seasoned players. Maybe if Square could have implemented some kind of sound queue into the battle mechanics that could give a rough indication of what to do. Even if it only helped in, say, dodging on the top screen, I feel that it would have improved the system.
So, the combat works. I should note that for once there is no heavy emphasis on healing in a title from Square. This is something I'm very thankful for.
There's so much to this title that it would take a novel to discuss every portion of it. Navigating the world, enemy encounters, equipment, local and Wi-Fi connections - this game has left a mark on everything. Because of many of these things, a good chunk of your time will be spent navigating the menu system and managing things like the exceptional food system. Everything is very functional and welcomed.
Of course presentation plays a big role too. The story is a great concept, but later (and especially post ending) it's too ambitious for its own good and consequently becomes sloppy and full of plot holes. However, this story is told with a very hip soundtrack which has my approval on every song. And take a look at those visuals... Have you ever seen so many sprites on a DS screen before?
Fresh ideas all over the place
Exceptional handle on difficulty
Some weak story elements
A learning curve higher than most people can see
I spent a lot of time with this game and obtained close to 100% everything. Since there was always so much changing in the way I controlled Neku and defeated my foes, I never got bored. The fact that it's not pick-up and play makes it difficult for people to maintain a grip on it, but those people just need to hold on tighter.
9.3 / 10.0
RPGs just got 72% more hip
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: The World Ends with You (US, 04/22/08)
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