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Anonymous wrote:The World Ends With You
To say that The World Ends With You is a good RPG is to damn it with faint praise. After all, Square-Enix have been in the business of RPGs for about twenty years now. It’s not really an exaggeration to call them masters of the genre and that every role-playing game that they have released, be it a Fantasy or a Quest, has been at least good. To say then that The World Ends With You is one of the best RPGs that Square-Enix have ever made might perhaps warrant explanation.
In the world of the Japanese RPG, things have always been a certain way; the setting fantastical, the world enormous, the battles turn-based, the clothing absurd. The World Ends With You defies all but the last convention. The setting isn’t some mythical land ejaculated from the imagination of some Lord of the Rings fanatic; it’s modern day Tokyo, a fashionable district called Shibuya to be precise. The world isn’t huge or deep; the district is divided into about twenty separate areas, none larger than three DS screens, and only a few have shops to enter. There are few NPCs to talk to, no side quests to partake, no dungeons to fight through. All the efforts that would distract you in other RPGs are gone, leaving you just battles and story. Happily, this is where TWEWY shines.
The story begins with lead character Neku waking up in the middle of a busy street with no recollection of how he got there, but he learns from a girl called Shiki that he has been entered into a week-long game called...well, The Game. To complete the tasks set him and not get “erased”, Neku is forced to cooperate with Shiki and the other Players, hopefully allowing him to retrieve his memory. While the basics of the plot are nothing new, it has a good pace and there are plenty of twists and turns that will ensure you keep playing.
The battle system is the main bulk of the game and much like the story’s primary theme, it’s sink or swim. So, deep breath and here we go...Fights are played in real time, with one character fighting on the top screen and being controlled with buttons, while simultaneously Neku is fighting on the bottom screen and is controlled with the stylus. The key is to follow what the game calls the light puck, a glowing green ball that switches between the characters as they fight. Using the character who is holding the puck causes their attacks to be more powerful and also increases an attack multiplier, so when the puck moves to the other character, their attacks will be more powerful still. You also have to consider what pins Neku is wearing, as different pins give him different abilities that are executed in different ways, some by touching enemies, some by drawing lines, some by blowing into the mic and so on. Then you have to equip characters with clothing which not only gives them stat boosts/reductions in areas like attack, defence etc. but also have special abilities that can only be revealed by becoming friends with the shop assistants. Additionally, you can eat various food items that will temporarily boost certain stats (but then have to be digested before you can eat more). As well as this, there is a risk/reward system where you can lower your character level to increase the chance of rare items being gained from winning the battle. You can also adjust general battle difficulty and how quickly the computer will take control of the top screen fight if you’re struggling. And that’s not mentioning joint attacks...
If the above paragraph seems overwhelming then it accurately reflects the game. TWEWY unhelpfully throws all this information at you very early on, when in reality things like clothes and digesting food only come into effect later when you have enough cash. It’s not that the game’s introduction is too difficult, it just tells you too much too soon, vomiting meaty chunks of information into your lap like a drunk after a donna kebab. The battle system in and of itself takes long enough to get to grips with and this blitzkrieg of information makes the game feel less accessible than if it was drip fed throughout. That said, when you do get your head around it all, the system is very flexible and offers the player a great deal of choice in how they fight.
The World Ends With You aggressively streamlines the traditional RPG experience, delivering a more linear experience than many of its peers. The modern day setting, inventive battle system, likable characters and superb soundtrack (a mix of J-pop, rock and hip hop) all build to give the game a distinct character that lets it stand out from the crowd. The very beginning can be a little daunting, but persevere and you will find one of the very best games available on DS, and one of the most original examples of its genre.
A couple of clunky bits (I know where you want to go with the first para, and it's a good way of introducing the review, but it's just not quite 'there') and there's a little too much on the battle system at the expense of anything else (I know it's hard to explain the story without spoilers, but there's some info you could have included that's not there).