In a lot of ways, Square-Enix’s recently released and hard-to-find Nintendo DS game, The World Ends With You, is a mixed bag.
See, the problem with Square Enix’s offerings is that they’ve felt a little stale for quite a while now. Their games are hardly ever what most gamers would call "bad," but how many remakes and spin-offs can the Final Fantasy brand actually be good for?
I mean, seriously, you start to wonder if these people even know what the word "final" actually means.
But the single greatest thing about The World Ends With You is that it tries so very hard and comes so close to being something different. At times it bucks convention and delivers the freshest material that I’ve seen in a Japanese RPG in as long as I can remember. Most notably, the battle system is pretty rocking. Players control two characters at the same time, each on one of the DS’ two screens. It’s pretty frantic, a little confusing, but really fun once you get the hang of it.
Another cool thing about The World Ends With You is the setting. The game takes place in modern day Tokyo, specifically in the Shibuyu shopping district. The story follows a teenager named Neku, who wakes up in the middle of the street and finds himself forcibly competing in a two-man contest called the Reapers’ Game. Each day Neku and his partner are given a new objective. Complete the objective and the day ends. It’s hard to describe how refreshing this feels compared to the legion of middle-ages type RPGs.
Some other cool innovations include following the clothing trends in Shibuyu as a way to upgrade Neku’s "armor" and the touch-screen-controlled Tin Pin mini-game. But aside from those points, The World Ends With You follows the depressingly analogous story-telling route of its Japanese RPG brethren. Spiky-haired protagonist? Check. Amnesia used as a plot device? Check. Cheesy dialogue and irritating support characters? Check and mate!
Instead of the player advancing the story, the story advances the player. This combination of archaic story design mixed with newer gameplay innovations makes for a strangely pungent potpourri, equal parts refreshing and overripe.
If you happen to like JRPGs, The World Ends With You is a solid addition to your gaming library. If you’re on the fence, I recommend picking it up; the differences alone make it worth at least one play through. If you don’t like the JRPG sub-genre, The World Ends With You will probably do little to change your mind.