Review by comicfire
Peripheral Vision Quest
Tetsuya Nomura is an insane man, but in his case, insanity breeds ingenuity.
The World Ends With You is a DS action RPG that makes better use of the DS's touch screen than even the bulk of Nintendo's 1st party games did. It's like a tech demo of the varied gameplay styles one could put in a game on the system, just with a nice story attached as well. Is this game for everyone? I'll explain why it's for me, and maybe convince you to give it a shot.
First, the story. Our protagonist, Neku Sakuraba is the epitome of teenage angst. "Shut up! Get out of my face! Go the hell away!" These are things you can expect to hear out of him in the first few seconds of starting a new game. Young Neku awakens in the Shibuya Scramble with no recollection of how he got there or what's going on. Even more alarmingly, nobody can see him! A harrowing message telling him to reach the 104 building in 60 minutes before he's "erased" shows up on his phone, followed by swarms of demonic frogs emerging from strange symbols. A mysterious girl forms a "pact" with him in order to gain the power to combat these frogs and the two set off to the 104 building, in search of the mysteries that surround them. This is a very cursory glance of the first half of the first day of the game and the game goes MUCH deeper, following Neku's path to learning how to let down his walls and see the value in others. It's a pretty nice tale with plenty of twists, turns, heartbreak and humor.
However, the real make or break facet of the game is the gameplay. I mentioned earlier that my plot summary covered the first half of the first day. Well, the game takes place over a set amount of days, with a mission being issued for each. If you've played Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, you'll be familiar with the pick up and play mission structure. That's not the real kicker though, the controls are.
Neku's abilities in battle are completely tied to Pins, each essentially being a spell or attack. Some pins require you to rapidly tap an enemy to activate, some require you to drag Neku around for a fast-tackle, some require you to swipe the screen to fire lightning bolts, others require you to touch empty space on the screen and drag it around to send flames everywhere. There are dozens of pin archetypes, with some even evolving into other pins based on three different types of Pin Points, or PP. The most common is Battle PP, which you get from encounters. If turn the game off and let it sit up to a week, you get Shutdown PP. If you interact with other people playing this game, among other options, you get Mingle PP. Some pins require the SDPP and MPP to evolve, and you won't know unless you look up a guide. It can be annoying, as can the other issue with touch screen based gameplay.
Certain pins in your six-pin deck can having conflicting control issues. For example, Enju is a Pin that activates by you slashing near an enemy. However, if you have Sweet Talk Tether, a pin that sends barbed wire across the screen by slashing the screen, the two actions conflict, meaning you won't always be in control. As you keep fighting, you'll eventually figure out ways to deal with any conflicting controls your deck may have, but it's an incredible annoyance at first.
Now for perhaps the most infamous aspect of The World Ends With You, the top screen.
You're not just controlling Neku on the bottom screen, you're also controlling your partner on the top screen. By mashing left or right on the D-Pad, depending on where the enemies are, your partner will begin throwing out attacks. It's just mashing the D-Pad, nothing fancier beyond blocking with the Down button and jumping/hovering with the Up button and attacking in midair. The AI can control your partner, but is significantly slower and less prone to probing the stronger offensive and defensive options your partner has. However, if you're paying sole attention to controlling your partner, you're leaving Neku wide open. This is the biggest problem with the game for many people and is enough for many of them to set it down. However, you don't necessarily have to pay super strict attention to your partner. Just mash the D-Pad left or right while paying attention to Neku and you'll often do just fine. You may accidentally keeping attacking empty air if the enemies aren't on that side, but a quick glance to the top screen now and again ought to do you just fine. Your DPS will increase massively if you do this, making the game go from rather difficult to manageable for a newbie.
One interesting feature is the ability to lower your level. After you hit level 2, you get the option to drop your level. Leveling mostly just increases your HP, and dropping your level means you have less HP. To compensate for this loss, you gain a multiplier to your Drop Rate, meaning defeated enemies will give you more pins or have a much better chance at getting rarer pins! You're never forced to do this, but if you want some of the harder to get pins, want to farm certain pins or just want a challenge, the game's got you covered!
The game's money system is loot-based. Enemies don't give you cash upon death, they give you pins. In the Pin Menu, you can throw these pins away in exchange for Yen. Nearly every pin can be chucked for a chunk of cash, including the dedicated Yen pins. These range from 1 Yen all the way to 10,000 Yen and several of the game's enemies carry these pins. Things can get a little pricey in this game and while you never need to buy anything, your life will be easier if you take a second to grind out random Noise every now and again.
You get into encounters by pressing the Player Pin icon on the bottom right of your screen in the overworld. After doing so, the map turns blue and you can read pedestrian's mind and see Noise symbols around. Touching them triggers a fight. You get the ability to "chain" Noise later. You can touch up to four Noise to keep fighting battles, which each new round making enemies stronger, but increasing their drop rate. Risk and reward, baby!
Outside of battle, you have three movement options to traverse Shibuya. You can move with the D-Pad, touch screen and the ABXY buttons. There's an option for everybody and it's kinda fun to use the ABXY buttons since the only other game I know that allows that is Kid Icarus: Uprising, and that came out years after this did!
The music is a massive part of this game and it has plenty of genres and tracks to keep you entertained. These range from the varied hip-hop, punk and blues battle themes to the primarily rap and ambient overworld themes. There's a little something for everyone, but if you REALLY hate rap or hip-hop, you're probably gonna wanna turn the volume down. Characters have the occasional voiced line as well, mostly during battle and cutscenes. Everyone's voice fits the character and there's no outstandingly good or bad performances, so it's safe to listen~
The World Ends With You gives back what you put into it. If you're not a fan of paying attention to two screens, loot-based reward system and the grinding that may result from that and the primarily hip-hop soundtrack, you're going to have a miserable time. But if you learn the systems and take every measure you can to reap the rewards the systems can give you, I'm willing to bet you're going to have a blast. This is one of my favorite games of all time and has been ever since I got it for Christmas in 2010. There's a lot to love here, and like any relationship, it takes a little work to keep going, but the rewards for doing so are oh so sweet~
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: The World Ends with You (US, 04/22/08)
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