Review by LtCardboard

Reviewed: 08/02/10

The world could end with this game and I would be happy.

The last company I’d ever expect to reinvent the RPG genre would be Square Enix. They hit the nail on the head with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest all those years ago and have lead the charge for turn based RPGs ever since. The World Ends With You (TWEWY) is nothing… nothing like those games. Nothing. It’s an action RPG, for starters. Seconds up, it’s set in modern day Tokyo. Shibuya to be precise. Third? It’s got one of the most unique and ingenious plots I’ve ever seen in a video game.

You control Neku. He’s woken up in a place called the Underground, with no idea how he got there. The Underground is ruled by the Reapers, and they want to play a game. The game is to survive. Stay alive for 7 days and you’re free. Free to return to the normal world. But there’s a catch: each player has a partner. If their partner dies, they’ll shortly follow. Survival is based around teamwork and synergy.

This is the forefront for TWEWY’s unique battle system. It’s controlled over the two screens. Neku on the the bottom, is controlled with the touch screen. Attacks and movements are performed using various swipes and circles around the screen. It can be a tad fiddly at times, Neku sometimes moving instead of attacking or vice versa, but it’s never a massive issue. Meanwhile, Neku’s partner fights, simultaneously, on the top screen. You can’t control the partner’s movements, only their attacks, which are inputted by playing relatively simple card games of highs and lows, and matching similar cards. The games are simple, but while you’re being pounded by enemies on two screens, it is surprisingly difficult to get it right.

Most unique about the battle system is the fact that both partners fight the same enemies. It’s a tricky one to explain, but kill an enemy on one screen and he’s defeated on the other as well. It’s also worth stating that both partners share the same health bar. If one dies, they both do. This is a brilliant system which means you can’t place too much focus on one or the other will take a beating. Finally, there’s a synergy factor involved. By alternating attacks between the screens in time, it’s possible to build up a damage multiplier. Teamwork is very much essential to survive, far more so than in most RPGs.

The Underground is a fascinating place. Basically, it’s Shibuya, but no one can see Neku but other players and reapers in the game. It’s a world in which pins (badges) provide power. It’s possible to level up and even evolve pins by using them in battles or, bizarrely, by turning off the game. Fashion also plays a major role. Wearing popular or unpopular brands in a certain district has an effect on your strength in battle. They key is to manipulate trends by fighting battles in certain brands. Shopping for new items is even more bizarre. You must build up a rapport with the particular sales assistant before new items become available.

To advance in the Reaper’s game, you must complete certain tasks. To do this often involves influencing factors in the real world. You must search for clues by reading people’s thoughts, then change their behaviour by implanting new thoughts them. There’s a linear progression, almost an investigation side to the game which provides a very interesting diversion to the battling.

Most superb about the battles is that the vast majority are completely optional. If you wish to fight you must seek out the battles themselves. This brings in the risk/reward element to the gameplay. By chaining battles, you earn more experience, but wounds carry over from each battle to the next. What’s more, it’s possible to manually lower your current level. The lower your current level compared to your current max, the greater chance of rare items being dropped. It’s even possible to change the difficulty on the fly which, again, influences item drops. Genius doesn’t describe this.

The World Ends With You is an incredibly complex game, both technically and in terms of story. It is an absolutely ingenious game. The plot is superb. The characters are truly memorable and the scripting is brilliant. On top of that, The World Ends With You has a great soundtrack, compiled of a range of genres from J-Pop to Hip-Hop to Rock. It’s a long game too, with the basic story taking about 25 hours before a chance to jump much deeper into the world is offered. This really is the most innovative RPG I have ever played. But innovation means nothing without brilliance, which TWEWY has in abundance. It’s astonishingly good, and it truly deserves to stand up there as one of the greatest RPGs of all time.

One final word. Try not to read any of the manual. There’s quite a major spoiler in it, which is bizarre. The less you know about this game, the better, which is why I scrimped on the story details. Trust me on this one. You can thank me later.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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

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