Review by Kilaybay
"When You Give Up On Yourself..."
You Give Up On Everything.
Welcome to Shibuya. A mystical land where anything can happen. A place where all sorts of people live, work, and play. A place of wonder, a place of mystery. Anything is possible in the mystical land, hopes and dreams are fulfilled and crushed on a daily basis. And, in an amazing plot point, this amazing land is actually a district of Tokyo.
The World Ends With You is the most innovative RPG to hit the States in a long while. It's generated a lot of hype, and deserves every good score given to it. While, I'm forced to admit it isn't for everyone, especially people unable to multi-task, but those who think they're awesome enough to play it should pick it up now. It's an amazing system wrapped up in a fun experience and heartwarming message.
During cut scenes, the player is treated to hand drawn cut outs of the characters, who have several cookie cutter expressions. Text bubbles show up between the characters, in different shapes depending on the tone of the words. On the bottom screen, either a screen shot of your characters before you entered the scene, or plot important pictures, such as graffiti or flowers. Either way, they're hands-down beautiful. Some of the characters(read: Shiki) are in ridiculous clothes(read: obnoxiously small skirt) but it doesn't at all detract from the experience. If anything, it adds to the message of the game, and helps prove the point that Shibuya is a place that takes all kinds to make it special.
In a battle, however, or just whilst walking around Shibuya, the graphics are pretty standard 64bit 3D sprites. They aren't glamorous, but they certainly do look nice. A fair number of the attacks look simply amazing. They aren't spectacular, by any means, and this game probably won't win any awards in the graphics department for these, but they're still better than a lot of games out there they could be compared to. The frame rate is always smooth, and the graphics aren't ever blocky or fuzzy, unless they're supposed to be. Overall, I can't think of a major complaint. They could be better, but they aren't bad.
The sound in this game is a bit of a toss up. The soundtrack was left largely intact from the Japanese game, even with all the English songs. It's mostly pretty diverse in the sounds, really. I guess if you had to classify it as anything, it's J-pop. I wasn't a fan of some of the songs, mostly because they're overplayed to death, and one line or phrase would irritate me every time I heard it("Is it real, or is it a dream?" and "I always dress in black" come to mind immediately. But, during boss battles, or other important occasions, the music tends to fit extremely well to whatever is happening. And any music is better than the eerie silence you're forced into in one part of the game. In the end, it all comes down to taste. It diverts from the standard game music into tracks that you could sit and listen to. Uncommon, especially for a handheld game.
There's also some fantastic voice work in the game. Not much, usually just some yells or grunts, but every so often, one of the characters will say a full sentence. And the voice acting, what little there is, is simply amazing. They really pegged the voices for all the characters.
Overall, with sound, repetitiveness is my only complaint, with maybe two or three of the songs. But it's a gamble to turn the sound off. You may miss one of the amazing voice acting scenes.
This is the meat to the bread and butter that was sound and graphics. The gameplay is what makes this game spectacular. As I'm sure anyone reading this knows by now, the battle system is a real-time, two-front affair, with one character one the top screen, controlled with the D-pad (or buttons, for lefties. Isn't the DS awesome with that?) and one(the main) character on the bottom, controlled via Stylus. And, while it's super confusing at first, the game takes you through it slowly. With the ability to put top screen on Auto, you could even choose to ignore the second front all together. Attacks on the bottom screen are chosen by equipping certain "pins". And this is the first way TWEWY deviates from most games. There isn't an Attack button. The command is different for every pin. Whether it's scratch an enemy, draw a circle, poke him, drag the DS along empty space, or even blow into the Mic, the game never fails to be original. And while many pins use the same command, you learn new ones through most of the game.
Outside the battle system , you have the main world. You can walk around many places in Shibuya, though some will always be restricted. In the bottom left corner of the screen, there's a pin with a stylized skull and crossbones. You can press that to read people's minds, or to find Noise. Noise are, essentially, the bad monsters of the game. But, one thing this game does differently, is that there are no random battles. You have to find Noise before you can fight them. Or you can choose not to level up.
Finally, there's the equipment screen, that I really must mention. You can wear up to 4 articles of clothing, and each has something to offer in terms of special abilities and stat boosting. But you need a high enough Bravery to wear it. What? Yeah. You need to be brave enough to wear these clothes! Also, each character has a spot for food. Each food item(you can find quite a few) takes a certain number of "bytes" to eat. You have 24 bytes per real time day. Want to eat that Hot Dog and receive +12 HP? you have to wait a day for your bytes counter to be reset. It's a pretty compelling part of gameplay.
Gameplay is simply amazing, though overwhelming at first. Fortunately, the game introduces it at an easy-to-understand pace, and there's always the choice to ignore it. There's one other thing I now feel I should mention, the slider that lets you choose which level you want(lower lever, more reward) which adds a bit of a challenge for bored players. Overall, really, there isn't a complaint I've got with any of it. Maybe it's a bit complicated at times? Nothing Major, though
This game has a compelling story, but reveals it so slow that I'm afraid to say much without spoiling it. Pretty much , you need to know that you play as Neku Sakuraba, a young, antisocial boy, who is playing the week long "Reapers game." You get missions, with time limits. Failure to complete the mission will result in erasure. You meet a number of characters throughout, and they all grow on you, really. Even characters you start out hating grow on you, until you like them as much as, or more than, Neku. With a few interesting plot twists, an annoying habit of ripping you away from someone you love, and a main villain who helps you remember Sine Cosine and Tangent, there isn't much lacking in this story, hence the perfect score.
Replay Value: 10/10
With over 300 pins to collect, a story full of plotholes and an after-game quest to fill them all in, and the sheer fun of this fighting, it has immense replay value. The main story is pretty short, 15 hours on a casual playthrough, but it still holds a lot to come back for.
Buy or Rent?
Buy it. Run out and pay whatever you must for it right now. It's one of the best handheld RPGs ever, and an amazing game to add to any DS collection. And, on a rent, it's impossible to answer all the lingering questions.
Final Score: 10/10
Overall...this game is amazing, for every reason I can think of. There really isn't a single qualm I had with this game. Maybe I'm insane for finding it perfect, but it's quickly turned into my favorite game to play. It's nice to know that Square cares enough to bring over a great title that could have been Japan-only. Now if Nintendo could only do the same with Mother and Mother 3, I think we'd be set with great RPGs.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/08
Game Release: The World Ends With You (US, 04/21/08)
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