The World Ends With You Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Style, Substance,
and Amazing Depth

At first, The World Ends With You seems to be a hodge-podge of Square-Enix’s most tried and true clichés. You’ve got the spiky haired male lead with a heart of stone. You have the ditzy but occasionally insightful female lead with an outrageous outfit and curves to match. And of course you even have the two friends whom you occasionally see and who become very important to the plot later on.

The World Ends With You screenshot

It’s amazing how many games you can think of that can satisfy this simple description. But when you think of these games, can you really say that you had a bad experience playing them? Did the archetypal characters and visual cues really put you off so much that you didn’t enjoy Final Fantasy X or Kingdom Hearts? Some of you might say yes, but I would venture to say that the majority of gamers would say they enjoyed these games. Although The World Ends With You largely conforms to the Square-Enix tried-and-true style, it is nonetheless a great game. There is enough here in terms of storyline, unique characters, and depth to make it a worthwhile experience

The game’s main character, Neku, has awoken in a strange place and has no idea where he is. As he starts to wander around his new surroundings, he reflects upon how much he hates people. But then a strange girl comes out of nowhere and asks him to forge a pact with her. This girl, Shiki, reveals you are now part of a reapers game where you must complete bizarre daily tasks…or your existence will be erased forever. Along the way you will also have to fight noise, which are spirits that can possess inanimate objects or even other creatures.

The World Ends With You screenshot

It is with this simple but intriguing premise that you take control of not one but both of your main characters. You generally walk as a pair, but when you enter battle mode you have to control both characters’ fighting movements at the same time. And this is no turn-based RPG. The battle system is completely active, and you’ll have to fight with Neku on the bottom screen via the stylus as well as fight with Shiki via the d-pad (or face buttons for lefties) on the top screen at the same time. If this idea sounds like it might be a little complex and confusing, trust me it is. This is compounded by the fact that success in battle is absolutely impossible unless both characters are performing certain timed attacks at precisely the right moment. The battle system will take some practice. The key is generally finding a rhythm that works and sticking to it fairly religiously. Even if you think that by controlling Shiki for an extra long period of time might benefit you short-term, know that if you don’t stick to the rhythm you will probably get burned, at least in the beginning.

But once you grasp the concept of controlling two characters at once in battle, the other components of the battle system fall into place rather nicely. Neku’s attacks are controlled via the stylus and resonate from various pin-on buttons you receive during the game. You can keep an infinite amount of buttons in your pockets, but you can only wear and activate a few during battle. These buttons give Neku special elemental powers, psychic powers, and few even have status and health effects. The button system is probably where this game stays truest to form in terms of being an RPG. You can combine many different button attacks to form your own strategy, and going on side quests for different buttons is an exciting facet of the gameplay. Shiki, your partner in crime, is controlled via the d-pad, and you have to perform some DDR-esque moves with the D-pad in order to initiate her attacks. When you are executing moves for both Shiki and Neku in some sort of synchronization, then you will be able to use special power-up moves to purge your enemies once and for all.

The World Ends With You screenshot

One really cool facet of this title is its real-time elements. Although most of the game is played in game-time, certain facets like digesting food or regaining health are triggered in real-time. The game actually encourages you to take a break from playing by enhancing your powers in real-time for up to seven days while the system is off. When you turn the system back on, you can see how much your status has increased since the last time you played. When you eat status-raising food in the game, you also are measured in real time. You can’t eat over a certain amount per day, and you have to wait a full 24 hours in real time before the effects of the food you ate are truly felt. Sorry marathon gamers, but it looks like this game really forces you to put it down in order to achieve success.

Visually, this game is pretty cool. It doesn’t have much in the way of amazing technical visuals, but the unique style of the game more than makes up for this minor shortcoming. Characters all have their signature looks, and the Shibuya district has its own funky-fresh feel to it.

The World Ends With You screenshot

In addition to fighting baddies and playing the reapers game, another big portion of the gameplay in The World Ends With You has to do with fashion. Shibuya is known for being a very youthful and trendy place in Japan, and if you’re not wearing the right outfit, you can be sure that there will be some major criticism coming your way. This title uses the fashion component of Shibuya life quite well. There are many clothing stores, and it will be up to you to keep an eye on brand lists so you can make sure your clothes are the hottest in town. And don’t think this is purely for vain reasons. Having ultra-trendy clothes can give you certain status upgrades.

From the energetic main menu music to the J-pop inspired level music, this title sounds great. I was really impressed with the fact that it includes “real songs” with vocals as opposed to simplistic tunes with no real instrumentations or vocals. Voice acting is also fairly good, and while the characters don’t speak in their own voices too much, when they do it is performed expertly.

Another fairly large boon for The World Ends With You is the sheer depth of gameplay. Not only do you have your main task at hand of winning the game against the reapers, but you also have to perform side quests to get pins, shop till you drop getting the hottest fashions, and even get into battles to level up (remember doing that?). There is a whole lot to do in this game and even more to unlock post-game, so even if you finish it fairly fast, there is plenty to do afterward, including a secret level that is only unlocked after 100% completion.

The World Ends With You screenshot

The World Ends With You is an excellent title that has enough Square Enix clichés to last a lifetime. However its innovative double character battle system along with its intriguing story are enough to make this game stand out, not only for Final Fantasy fans, but also for the uninitiated as well. It is a great example of innovative gameplay, and though it might take a while to get a hold on the actual battle mechanics, once you get going, you won’t be able to stop!

Very stylistic graphics don’t incredibly impress on a technical level, but what this title lacks in substance it definitely makes up for in style. 4.5 Control
The battle system will take quite a while to get used to. Controlling two characters by alternating the stylus and the d-pad takes some serious practice, but once you get it down you will love it. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The J-Pop tunes are awesome, and the voice acting is great. If you play for a long time the music gets a little agitating, but that takes quite a while. 4.3

Play Value
Even though the single mode is all-encompassing, there is so much to do and unlock that you won’t be able to put this one down for a while!

4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Innovative Stride-Cross Battle System allows players to control two characters simultaneously, unleashing special attacks with the stylus.
  • Collect a vast array of custom-designed pins, each with a powerful psychic ability that can be activated with the right touch or sound command.
  • Customize characters with Shibuya’s coolest fashions and exchange items with other players via Mingle Mode.
  • Experience an amazing soundtrack combining a fusion of musical influences from hip-hop to rock to electronic.

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