Review by NettoSaito
The World Ends With You - It is a Wonderful World!
The World Ends With You is a Japanese Role Playing Game released on the Nintendo DS, and created by the very same team that created the well know Kingdom Hearts series. So, just how is the KH team's first original title? Can it compare to Kingdom Hearts, or is it just another one of them JRPGs that will get lost in the sea. Well...
You have 7 days:
Neku Sakuraba is your standard anti social 15 year old, who flat out just doesn't "give a crap" about anyone but himself. He walks around with head phones to block out the rest of the world, he doesn't care about anyone's values except his own, and as far as he's concerned, everyone else can just vanish and never come back. Neku truly doesn't care about anyone else, and all he wants is to be left alone. "Out of my face! You're blocking my view... Shut up!!! Stop talking... All the world needs is me... I got my values, so you can keep yours, all right?"
After going off on his little "all the world needs is me" speech, Neku soon finds himself laying in the middle of the Shibuya crossings with a strange black pin in his hand. How did he get there? What is this black pin? Neku has no idea, but after tossing the black pin in the air, the thoughts of the world rush into his mind, and everything changes. A countdown timer appears Neku's hand, frogs appear out of thin air, people around Neku scream as they vanish, and before he knows it, Neku himself is under attack!
Not knowing what else to do, Neku decides to run for his life, and hopefully escape the crazy frog monsters that are chasing him; however, he soon finds out that it is useless. At least, until Shiki came along! After being told by a strange girl to make a pact with her, Neku finds that all of the frogs have vanished, and he is once again "safe." Even so, Neku still has no idea what is going on, and to make matters worse, he now has this "annoying" Shiki girl yelling at him, telling him what to do.
Although Neku doesn't want to believe it, he is dead, and he is being forced to play what is known as the Reaper's Game. With his "entry fee" to play the game being his memory, Neku truly has no idea what is going on around him, and all he knows is that he must do whatever he can to survive. He has 7 days to survive, and each day he must complete a mission with the help of his partner, or else he will be erased.
Soon, what starts out as a "simple game" of fighting to survive evolves into much more, and Neku finds himself at the center of it all. Just who is in charge of this game? How did he die? What about the other players? Just what is the deal with this Shiki girl? Neku will work his way to getting to the bottom of all of these questions, while uncovering the true nature of the Reaper's Game in the process. It's going to be a long 7 days.
F (for fabulous) everything:
The World Ends With You is not your standard JRPG, and on top of that, it has a very "pop" culture type setting. The game takes place in the Shibuya shopping district of Tokyo, and because of that, fads are EVERYTHING! Every single area in Shibuya has a fad chart, which actually plays a major role in the game.
Every piece of clothing, and every pin (which will be touched on a bit later in this review) has a brand name, and different brand names are popular in different areas of the city. By wearing different brands in popular areas of the city, your stats will actually be boosted, and Neku will preform much better in battle; however, if you wear hated brands in different sections of the city, Neku's stats will take a major blow. By wearing different brands of pins, and by battling with them in different areas, you can actually influence which brands are popular, but sometimes it may just be easier to change your clothing.
Like armor in other JRPGs, the clothing system in TWEWY is basically your standard equipment set up; however, there is still a bit more too it than that. Besides the whole style system, each piece of clothing has different effects depending on who wears them, and there's a "bravery" system as well.
As you buy clothing from different shops, you can actually become friends with the workers, and in return, unlock clothing abilities. Sometimes these abilities are unlocked just by looking at a piece of clothing in the actual shop, but other times shop owners will actually like the clothing you have on, and that will unlock it's ability. Like I said before, there are quite a lot of different abilities out there, but not all of them actually work for every character. Some may work only for Neku, some may only work for Shiki, and others may only work for other partners. Although all pieces of clothing add stats, it's sometimes best to just stick with what works best for each character.
The bravery system is another major feature when it comes to clothing, and it is also a system that can really limit you for quite awhile. Depending on what a piece of clothing looks like, just like in real life, each character has to have at least some brave part in their body to even try it on. While simple/standard clothing like a T shirt is something everyone is willing to wear, a samurai outfit just is not. As you go through the game, and level up, characters will become a bit more braver, which will allow them to put on these different types of clothing, but until then, you're stuck with playing it safe.
Another unique feature TWEWY brings is the whole food system. Once again, TWEWY is one of them games that tries to bring in the real world, and food is just another part of that. By eating different types of food, you can actually easily increase your characters stats, but there is a catch. Each piece of food takes so many bytes to eat, and the more bytes you take of something, the longer it takes for it to digest. Yep, you heard me, digest.
Every single time you enter a battle, Neku or his partner will digest a piece of the food they ate. Normally it'll only take 8 or so battles to digest each piece of food, but larger "full" meals will actually take much more time, and this can be quite the problem. Like in real life, characters get full, and there's only so many times you can eat a day. Although you can in fact eat food over and over again until you reach the map, you are normally limited to eating only about 3 times a day, and that's what keeps you from boosting your stats non stop. The game does in fact keep track of what time it is in real life, and the food system is just one of the ways it is put into use.
Shibuya Pop -
Like I said earlier, Shibuya has the whole "cultural pop" deal going on, and it is clear around every corner. People walk through the streets talking about the latest fad, everyone has a great sense of style, street art can be seen drawn on walls, and to top it all off, the game has an amazing soundtrack!
Although near the start of the game you'll only be hearing the same tracks, as time goes on many more open up, and before you know it, you'll be singing along. The soundtrack is mixed with Jpop (both in English and Japanese), and rap, and it just flat out sounds great. Even if you're not a fan of the Jpop or rap genre, I myself actually hate rap, you'll be shocked to find yourself actually enjoying the game's soundtrack.
Everything about Shibuya really does pop, and because of that, TWEWY has a truly unique style, and one of the best video game settings you'll ever see; especially in a JRPG!
Around Shibuya and fighting the Noise:
The gameplay in TWEWY is also another one of it's very unique features, that really helps set it apart from other JRPGs.
At the start of each day you'll find that Neku and his partner is at a different section of Shibuya, and each day they will receive a different mission on their cell phones from the Reapers. Although each mission will state you are on a time limit, time in game actually only passes as you see different story cutscenes. In other words, you can never run out of time during a mission, and you are in fact free to explore Shibuya and do whatever you want; however, once again, there is a catch.
Each day different sections of Shibuya will be locked by invisible walls, and the only way to open these walls is to talk to the Reapers guarding them, and complete their missions. These missions can range from "bring me food" to "clear out of all the noise in the area," but either way, they normally end up being something simple. For the most part you will be required to open these walls to gain access to different areas to complete the mission, but from time to time you will come across extra walls as well. While actually in the city, you can move Neku around the map by either using the touch screen, D-Pad, or the face buttons, but in battle Neku's movements are completely controlled by the touch screen.
Besides actual navigation, the touch screen is also used for a number of other things in the city as well. By tapping on the little "player in" icon at the bottom right of the touch screen Neku can read the thoughts of the people around him, and also battle the Noise which build up in the area. Depending on how strong each noise cluster is, their icon will larger or smaller, with special pig noises for side quests, and special blue noises for extra bosses. The game never pulls you into random battles, that are not story related at least, so by using Neku's scan ability, you can freely pick when you fight, and when you don't. It really is a nice system, and it really does help speed up the game.
From time to time you'll also be able to talk to NPCs in Shibuya, but most of the "standard talking" will actually come from reading peoples thoughts. Since Neku is dead, and in what they call the "Underground," he can't actually interact with the people around him. The only characters he can actually talk to are Reapers, and players, with the people in the real world mostly only interacting with each other.
Fighting Noise -
The Battle System in The World Ends With you is one of them battle systems you will either love or hate, and it takes multitasking to the extreme! As I said before, you will actually control Neku on the bottom screen with touch controls, but that is actually only half of the battle system. Since both Neku and his partner battle in different dimensions against the same enemies, both characters must be controlled at the same time, both characters share the shame health, and both characters will be attacking the same enemies at the same time. So just how does this work? Well, with the top screen of course!
Neku's partner is actually controlled with either the D-pad or face buttons (depending if you're right or left handed), and all of their combat will take place on the top screen, while you're also playing as Neku on the bottom. By pressing left/right, as well as up and down, you can navigate through different combo trees to preform different attacks with your partner, but at the same time there's a "puck" and special attack system you need to worry about as well.
At the end of each combo tree there is an icon which has different effects based on who your partner is. For example, while Shiki's combo trees lead to icons which you need to match with the panels shown at the top of the screen, another character's icons are actually cards that play out in a poker like style. Either way, it doesn't matter which character you use, by playing your combo trees right, you can unlock a special limit break attack, which will freeze time, and cause both Neku and his partner to go full out. It's a pretty deep system, but keep in mind that your partner is only half of the battle system.
While you're going through combo trees on the top screen as your partner, a puck will actually be passed from your partner to Neku, and in return, it will power up Neku's attacks. Every single time either Neku, or his partner, pulls off a combo, this puck will be shot from screen to screen, and if you keep up a nice rhythm, it's power will keep growing and growing. In the end, if you can pull it off, both Neku and his partner will be fighting together while keeping a set beat, and getting stronger and stronger with each puck pass. Still, this is only a minor part of the larger battle system. Still, if you're not a fan of the multitasking aspect of the game, you can turn it off and let the computer take over for your partner.
The final aspect of the battle system is Neku himself, but Neku's battle system really isn't that simple...
Neku and the Pins -
Pins are objects that play a major role in The World Ends With You, and without them, Neku wouldn't even be able to attack! There are actually HUNDREDS of pins in this game, and every single pin has its very own use, and it's up to you to decide which type of pins you want to use.
Although you can only hold six pins in your deck at a time, the pin system never really seems limiting, and it is easily a system you will spend a LOT of time with. Each pin has its own type of attack/ability attached to it, and they also have a limited amount of uses in battle before they must be recharged, but what makes these tins fun is how they are actually used! Each pin requires a different input on the touch screen to pull off, and because of that, battles can become quite hectic!
From slashing across enemies to, well, slash them, to flicking them up in the air to create ice spikes, to taping on the screen to warp to that spot, to tapping on an enemy to shock them with electricity, to dragging the stylus to create a path of fire, to drawing a circle around Neku to bring up a shield, and so on; there are a lot of different types of commands to go along with the hundreds of pins, and there are MANY different combos you can pull off! Still, that isn't all!
There are in fact many different types of pins, but these very same pins can level up to become stronger, and even evolve into other pins by doing different things! After each battle, Neku's pins will actually gain some EXP of their own, and once that EXP hits max, they will level up; however there's also different types of EXP, and different pins will evolve from gaining different types of EXP. For example, while one pin may actually evolve from battling with it, another pin may evolve by not even playing the game at all! Yep, by using the real time clock, TWEWY actually tracks how long you've kept your game offline, up to 7 days, and reward your pins with PP based on that time. In other words, the game actually rewards you for not playing as well!
Pins really are a deep and advance system, and they can take quite a lot of time to manage. Although you really don't start out with too many pins, as you unlock more later on in the game the battle system evolves, and it becomes one of the most addicting gameplay experiences out there! The World Ends With You doesn't require grinding or anything, but with this combat system, you might just want to fight.
EXP and Drop Rate -
The final aspect of the battle system is actually the level up system and drop rate. Just like in most JRPGs, Neku will level up as he fights enemies and gains EXP, but leveling up isn't really used in the way you might expect.
With each level up Neku's health actually grows, but that's really it! Yep, you might as well just stick to eating food that increases your health and not even worry about leveling, that is if you don't care about getting drop rates! Unlike in most games, you can actually change your level at any time in the game, and by doing so you can increase the drop rate of rare items. For example, if your max level is 49, but you have your level set to 1, you'll actually gain a times 49 drop rate making it easier to get them rare items!
Every single enemy in the game has four different drops, one for each difficulty (which also means you'll want to play on both easy and harder settings), and thanks to the whole level up system and drop rate system, it's actually much easier to get them rare drops. Sure you could play through the entire game at max level, but you really aren't doing anything but making the game easier.
You can also chain battles together to increase the drop rate as well, but that option doesn't become unlocked until later on in the game.
Tin Pin Slammer:
Tin Pin Slammer is another gameplay mode which can be accessed pretty early on into the game, and it basically just serves as an extra mini game as well as an extra way to get EXP for your pins. Basically every single pin in the game has "Tin Pin Stats" to go along with them, which actually tell you how well they will preform in the game.
To play Tin Pin Slammer, the rules are simple. Your pin is put in a battle arena with other pins, you click and line up your pin with others, and then release to launch them into the others, to hopefully knock them out of the arena! Yep, that's all there is too it! Think of it as this games version of one of them "battle top" games which were pretty popular in the 90s and early 2000s.
Although there are power ups that your pins can use, such as a spike ball and hammer, to try and win, the main aspect of Tin Pin Slammer is in fact slamming your pins into other pins, and hopefully knocking them off of the arena before time runs out. It really is a pretty fun, and addicting, mini game, but it's also a mini game that can be completely passed up. Outside of a few story events, the only time you'll actually play Tin Pin Slammer is if you actually go to the Tin Pin arena during your free time.
The Day Ends With You:
Normally I wouldn't bring this up in a video game review, but The World Ends With You is, like always, special. Although you can actually beat the game in about 15-20 hours, the game actually opens up much more once you complete it! Besides an extra mini story mode being unlocked, alternate missions/quests become open during the main game, and you can freely replay any of the older chapters!
Although the extra stories, and extra missions aren't actually required to complete the game, they do greatly expand the game's length, and it gives you a reason to actually replay it. Once you complete the game, it basically doubles in size, new items and clothing are unlocked, you can still play Tin Pin Slammer, and to top it all off, there's also the hundreds of pins to collect and level up. Heck if you want to spend even more time with this game, there's a lot of secret reports to unlock as well to help expand/improve the game's story!
In short, if you truly wanted to beat this game, you're looking at at least one hundred plus hours of gameplay.
The Good and the Bad:
The World Ends With You is unique (I'm pretty sure I've got that point across by now), but because of that, there is a LOT of good and a LOT of bad.
TWEWY is an amazing game, it has hundreds of hours worth of content, the battle system is amazing, pin collecting and leveling is crazy addictive, Tin Pin Slammer is a pretty nice mini game, the game's unique pop style is VERY refreshing, the music is outstanding, the story is great and filled with a lot of twists and turns, and the game does a lot of other things most JRPGs are scared to even try. The World Ends With You does its own thing, and because of that it easily stands out above ALL of the other JRPGs out there. Still, this isn't always a good thing.
If you are looking for a standard JRPG with a standard level up system, a standard battle system, a standard world map, with a generic story, and all of them other standard features you've come to know and love, then you'll be disappointed. The World Ends With You is NOTHING like the others, and that may be it's down fall. If you're looking for something new and unique, go for it, but if you're looking for the same old same old, this isn't where you'll find it.
So in the end, like a long dream, TWEWY is a satisfying game that will be calling you to play it! It is a non stop rush hour that will have you imprinting people with memories, slashing and slashing your way through enemies, getting together with friends, and fighting for your freedom as you also try to recover from amnesia! Sure at times you'll find Neku in despair, but the underground is a unique fashionable world, and fighting them noisy noise monsters will never get old! The game truly is unique with it's fad and economical shopping system, and although it can be quite challenging at times, you'll never be sad, or get that empty feeling, when you get a game over.
In short, The World Ends With You is a master piece of a game that will have you dancing in the streets, and maybe someday, everyone will give this game all the love it deserves. Sure not everyone will enjoy it, but it's still up to you to decide if this game makes it or breaks it.
The World Ends With You gets a perfect 10/10!
It's so wonderful, a Wonderful world!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: The World Ends with You (US, 04/22/08)
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