The World Ends With You
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-08-03 Nintendo DS Action/RPG T (Teen) Square Enix

The World Ends With You is a new franchise for Square Enix, and one that goes in a very different direction as far as gameplay and presentation go.

The story takes place in Tokyo, present day, with the artwork taking several elements from Japanese trends such as music, fashion and food. It all begins in the middle of busy Shibuya shopping district, where our main character Neku receives a weird message: he must participate on a game and comply with the rules, or else he will be erased. This teenager with an attitude has a hard time accepting what is going on, but wouldn't you be reluctant too if a timer all of a sudden appeared on your hand?

The game is mainly an action/RPG, but I guess you could classify it as a 2D fighter, since that's how the combat is presented. But with some serious twist! Mostly you will be going to point A to point B, and encountering certain fights. Soon enough, you find someone else who is also participating in the Reaper's game, and she ends up joining you ? even though it's clear the main character is extremely anti-social.

Don't expect any sort of traditional turn-based combat system here. And to be honest, this was probably the most confusing combat system I have ever had to adjust to... and while it takes time to get the hang of it, it turns out to be really cool.

When you encounter some Noise (the monsters), you will enter a battle. On the bottom screen, you fight with Neku. You use the stylus to move around and dash, do different movements depending on the attack you want to use.

At the same time, there are more monsters attacking on the top screen too, where your partner will be fighting them. The trick is, the moves up there are done by pressing the D-pad and buttons. They work like a tree, you press the initial button and then it branches out into three different moves.

As if this wasn't confusing enough, there is also a combo system that happens when you attack alternatively with both characters. At the beginning of a battle, Neku will have a green glow around him, and after a successful attack, the glow will move up to the top screen, which means the combo continues there. Attack with the partner, and it moves back down to Neku. If you get too involved in the bottom screen, you can adjust your partner's AI responsiveness to kick in after a short period of inactivity.

Your characters get their special moves from psych pins, which you can equip a few at a time (up to six on higher levels). Depending on the type of pins (lightning, water, fire) you get different kinds of powers and specific moves to use them. Some are actually activated by yelling into the microphone.

There are about 300 pins in the game, and the more you use their abilities, the more powerful they become. This adds a strategic component to the game, since you have to count on the abilities of what you will be fighting and pick the pins that work best.

As far as other equipment, clothing will be your armor and its properties are dictated by how fashionable the brand is. I'm not too crazy about the concept (enough of that in real life as it is), but it definitely fits the theme of the game. You get bonuses in battle for how trendy your clothes and pins are, and fast food raises your stats after you digest it.

Multiplayer was not forgotten, but it's not too impressive. You can exchange Pin Points with other players in Mingle Mode (something similar to Nintendogs' Bark Mode), or you can battle up to three other people in the Tin Pin Slammer mini-game, where you try to knock them off a platform by shooting pins.

The World Ends With You is definitely an original game. The unique combat system, the electronic and J-pop soundtrack, some good bits of voice acting, interesting sound effects, neat artwork, and of course the present day theme and culture references make it an interesting game worthy of any DS owner's collection.

Special thanks to Klee Kuo and Square Enix for providing a copy of this title.