What if you woke up in a strange town with no memory, only to find out that you are now a Player in some weird game where losing means death? That’s exactly what a 15 year old boy, Neku, is faced with right from the beginning of The World Ends With You. You have to control Neku and his friends to save them from becoming “erased” through a series of tough battles and puzzling challenges.
Right from the start, I really enjoyed this game. I bought it on a whim at a pawn shop before school, and was instantly hooked. The storyline easily sucks you in, and the challenges will keep you wanting to come back.
The storyline is engaging, with bright graphics and great character voice overs. After Neku awakens in a strange district of Tokyo called Shibuya, a timer is branded on his hand and he receives a text message, saying that he has to finish a mission or face erasure! What’s worse, the message is from a group with the terrifying name “The Reapers”. Through running about trying to make sense of this new life he’s been handed, he meets many friends, Shiki, a fashionista the same age as Neku, whom has a soft spot for the boy and bonds with him, Beat, a skater and Neku’s polar opposite, Rhyme, Beat’s partner and a helpful and cheerful girl, and Joshua, who succeeds in irritating Neku even more than Shiki. Little do they know, the youths need to work together to survive this deadly game. The game is seven days long, with a different mission on each day. The missions grow increasingly difficult with each passing day. But after day seven, don’t think your game has ended. It has only just begun! I loved the shocking twists the storyline throws at you, this is one game that will never get boring.
The gameplay is a little hard to get used to, as it is different from most DS titles, but it gives you ample time to make sense of the controls. The stylus is used very much in the game, whether used to move Neku, attack enemies, or proceed through dialogue in the story. You may also control Neku and dialogue with the buttons, but for combat, things can get very confusing.
The main antagonists in the game are the Reapers, which control monsters known as “Noise”. Noise can’t be seen unless you run a scan for them, by pressing the Player Pin button on the bottom of your screen. When you do a scan, little symbols will appear and float around the screen. These symbols are Noise, and touching one of them will throw you into a fight. Noise symbols can be big or really small, indicating the difficulty of the monsters. They also come in a variety of colors, each meaning something different. Most noise are red, but some can be orange or even green!
Neku and Shiki battle together, each character on a different screen. At the start of the game they form a “pact” meaning they are now partners until the end. You use the stylus to control Neku, whom’s specialty is using pins, which make it possible to perform attacks called “psych”. Each pin can do a different command, and has different instructions for how to execute it. Neku’s attacks are triggered by using the stylus, either tapping, slashing or dragging it to perform different moves. As the game progresses, you can use more pins at one time and strengthen your arsenal of attacks. Lucky for him, Neku can use many types of pins, which can land amazing attacks such as shooting bullets, flipping cars, or even summoning lightening or fire to roast your enemy. I like to think of his psychs like magic, since he has such a huge range of devastating abilities.
Shiki fights on the top screen, and will fight on autoplay if you don’t control her. In the phone menu, you can set how autoplay sets in. You can make autoplay take over very fast, or after a set number of seconds. To fight with her, use the buttons and tap them in the direction you want her to fight. Shiki doesn’t fight alone, however, her homemade stuffed cat, Mr.Mew, somehow comes alive and fights on her behalf. This cute little kitty can land some devastating slices on enemies. Shiki declares that the stuffed animal is her psych, the only one she can use to fight with.
Even though they are separated, Neku and Shiki share the same HP gauge, and same number of monsters. If Shiki kills a monster, it also disappears from Neku’s screen. Even though it wouldn’t seem so, the battles are unified. Shiki and Neku even talk back and forth during fights! I always focus on controlling Neku, as he does not have the autoplay feature that Shiki possesses. It can be very confusing at first, but it is easy to get used to. As a bonus, in the first chapter, you have no HP gauge in order to get used to this unique set of rules. You may use this time to fight Noise however long you wish to get adapted to the way the game controls.
Combat is not the only interesting part of the game. While you are exploring the world, you can use your Player Pin, given to you on the first day of the Game to signify you are a player, to scan the surrounding area to uncover clues for the mission. Through scanning, you can read normal people’s thoughts. Normal people cannot see you; Players exist in a parallel Shibuya to the normal world. Features such as scanning are very useful in coming chapters for uncovering the puzzling secrets of your mission objectives. Even if it does not help you advance at all, reading the thoughts of others can be very entertaining when you’re stuck.
The graphics are very nice, flowing similar to a manga. What’s better, everything is in full, shocking color. The game also has a series of cut scenes, and the characters have little voice clips for some of their dialogue. Even though it may appear static and progresses in boxes like manga does, characters can move their bodies and such, making it seem like an anime at times. I absolutely loved the graphics all the way through.
I’m not usually one for game music, it is mostly just background noise to me. However, I love the music in this game. It actually plays songs with lyrics, and they sound really good. Even the songs lacking lyrics really fit and make the game unique. Through the game, you can buy more “Tunes” and change the track. Neku always wears his headphones, and I’m led to believe that those are the source of the game’s music. Be careful, the songs might have you signing and humming along!
As for things you can buy in the game, food and clothing items are available, which each have a unique effect that boots Neku or Shiki’s abilities. For food, each item has a certain number of “bytes” the character needs to digest. Each time you fight a battle, one “byte” is digested. When all “bytes” have been digested, the character gains that stat boost. Each character may only eat three food items a day. The days run in real time, not game days. The game will alert you to when the food has been digested, it will come up as a stat boost after you fight a battle. Food can do amazing things like up Neku or Shiki's attack, defense, or bravery points. Bravery is what the character needs to equip clothing. Clothing can give some of the same effects in the form of stat boots. Although these take effect as soon as the clothing is equipped to your character.
So, with all these great things to buy, how can you make money to afford them? Well, you will soon learn that just like in Japan, the currency is Yen. It is easy to make yen by fighting Noise or finishing puzzles, where you can get pin rewards in different amounts. For example, if you get a strange pin called “500 Yen Pin” you can cash this in to make 500 yen. These pins come in different amounts, some very high and some very low.
In conclusion, this game is now easily taking over the prestigious spot of my favorite game of all time. It is currently the only one I will make time for myself to play right now, just because of the heartwarming and humorous characters, popping graphics, and catchy tunes. Square Enix has really outdone themselves this time, I find this game even better than Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy. I would highly recommend this to gamers who already enjoy those titles.
(Just thought I'd leave you guys with a little humor. This was one of my most favorite dialogues so far. xD )