The World Ends With You - Staff Review  

This is Not Your Typical World
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

The World Ends with You
20-40 Hours
+ Compelling characters and plot
+ Impressive visuals
+ Diverse soundtrack
- Lots of useless pins
- Occassional unresponsive controls
- Some boring missions
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   What a wonderful world this is. This world is full of themes about life and death. As wonderful as this world is, though, it's all just a game. If you lose, it is game over, and you're gone, erased from existence. The game is the Reaper's Game, and it is the focus of Square Enix's The World Ends With You. This DS title was developed by the team that created Kingdom Hearts and features fast-paced, touch screen combat, a unique and compelling storyline, and an impressive presentation.

   Gamers take on the role of Neku, a player in the Reaper's Game. At the start of the game, Neku wakes in the middle of Shibuya and inexplicably is able to hear the thoughts of all those around him. Before long, Neku is attacked by enemies known as Noise, creatures drawn to people's negative emotions, but he cannot defeat them alone. It is then that he encounters another player named Shiki, and the two form a pact. This pairing allows them to play in the Reaper's Game and be able to fight Noise. A typical Reaper's Game is set for seven days, and each day features a mission to accomplish in order to survive. Fail, and it is erasure for both players.

   Interactions and character development are handled extremely well. As the cast spends day after day venturing around Shibuya, completing quests, and uncovering mysteries, it becomes clearer that there is more to the plot than meets the eye. The plot will keep most players guessing and have them caring about the characters and what happens next. Story pacing is only slowed by a few select missions which have players spending most of the day performing some meaningless task. Other than those distracting side quests, the game is engaging from beginning to end, and players can easily find themselves growing attached to the game's cast.

Chaos Controlled Chaos

   Combat in The World Ends With You is very fast-paced and interactive. In the game, Neku is given pins which allow him to combat Noise. Each stylish pin features a specific method of implementation, ranging from slashing across the screen to holding the stylus on an enemy to blowing into the microphone. This aspect of the battle system works really well and allows an almost overwhelming variety of pins to find, so players can pick a style of play that fits them and stick with it for most of the game. It is important to note that specific pins are occasionally required for missions, so players should take care to make sure to keep up with how each pin operates, because if they don't, they will be in mid-battle with no way of telling how to use it. Pins level up and evolve as they are used in combat, so swapping around a lot can lead to having underpowered pins. Also, the more a pin of a specific name brand is used in an area, the stronger pins of that brand will become there. A few missions will have players helping certain brands become trendy by fighting numerous battles in an area.

   Battles within the game are not random, as players must scan an area for enemies. Once the scan has begun, players then will tap the icons of enemies they wish to fight. They can tap a single enemy or chain fights together by tapping multiple ones. Greater rewards are given as players fight consecutive battles, but players must do so at their own risk, as they don't recover between fights. Enemy types are varied and each have their own method of combat. Some will fire projectiles, some will charge Neku, and others will fly through the air. Different pins will have varying levels of success against each enemy type, so this helps add variety to the gameplay. Even though encounters are not random, they are numerous, as the vast majority of missions will require engaging in combat, so battling can become repetitive after a while.

   Along with controlling Neku on the touch screen, players will also manage a partner on the top screen. This management could consist of merely giving up control and allowing the A.I. to take over, or attempting to control two characters simultaneously. Working both characters at once is chaotic, but allows for greater control if one is able to manage it. If the top character meets a certain condition during battle, the two are able to perform a high-powered fusion attack that damages all enemies on screen. Both characters share HP, so managing them in the most efficient way is suggested and will vary by player. Touch controls make interacting simple, but during combat, some pins don't work as well as others. There are times when a slash across the screen that was intended to perform an attack will have Neku dash across instead. Along with that, there is a lot of combat variety, but there are times when players are forced to use a certain combination of pins to proceed, thereby hindering the player's style of combat. The gameplay is enjoyable, but the occasional flawed execution keeps it from being fantastic.

I hear into your brain.

   Like so much else about The World Ends With You, the presentation is a unique, trendy look at modern Japan. The visuals are bright and colorful and blend well with the frantic action of the combat system. The game's soundtrack is composed by Takeharu Ishimoto and features a blend of J-Pop, hip hop, techno, and other haunting and peaceful melodies. The soundtrack's modern Japanese feel helps to make it one of the most modern soundtracks ever heard in an RPG. One minor complaint is that the vocal sound effects that are used during dialogue scenes seem tacked on and often out of place, but they aren't over used so it is not a huge issue. Both the visuals and the audio fit in perfectly with the game's setting and help players really feel like they are in the game world.

   The World Ends With You lasts about thirty hours for a complete playthrough of the main story line and even longer if players want to continue on with extras afterward. Gamers can save almost anywhere and can modify the difficulty setting between battles, so if things are getting a bit tough, the challenge can be dropped down temporarily, only sacrificing the quality of possible drops after battle. With the ability to adjust the difficulty level, players of all kinds should find this game accessible. Its unique presentation, compelling story, likeable characters, and intense gameplay make The World Ends With You a very impressive game. It only suffers from unresponsive controls for some pins and a handful of boring missions, but even with those complaints, The World Ends With You is a solid game.

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