The standard RPG (role-playing game) formula has been done to death by all of the big publishers with huge series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. That makes it all the better when a fresh take on the genre comes along and changes things up. The World Ends With You for the Nintendo DS is an RPG developed by Jupiter in conjunction with Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts Team. Kingdom Hearts is another successful franchise with some RPG elements, so naturally there were high expectations for The World Ends With You. And boy, does it deliver.
As the game begins, we are introduced to our main character, the introverted Neku Sakuraba, who wakes up in Shibuya with no memory of how he arrived there. He soon meets up with his first partner, Shiki Misaki, who informs him about the threat of the creatures called Noise, and the two form a pact to fight the Noise. That’s about as much of the story I can reveal without spoiling any of the full plot, but suffice it to say that this game’s story, message, and characters will entice you and thrill you up to the moment you strike down the final boss.
As mentioned before, the main character whom you play as is Neku Sakuraba. He is an introvert with hatred towards society, and he always wears a pair of headphones so he can block out the world around him. It’s around him that the message of the game revolves, as throughout the game he slowly gains a higher respect for society as a whole.
Aside from Shiki, whose dream is to be a seamstress, you’ll also be partnering with the enigmatic Joshua and the overenthusiastic Beat, both of whom harbor secrets as part of the game’s overall plot. The villains of the game are known as The Reapers, who made the game that Neku and his partners are forced to play. During the game there are many additional characters you’ll meet like Beat’s first partner Rhyme, Mr. Hanekoma (who harbors a secret), and of course, the many Reapers. All of the characters you interact with will help enthrall you and draw you in for more.
In contrast to the rest of the JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) genre, The World Ends With You uses a unique gameplay style that makes full use of the DS’s capabilities. On the bottom screen, you’ll be using Neku’s various psychs, special abilities accessed through his pins, to attack. To activate these psychs, you’ll use various touchscreen commands like swiping an enemy, tapping empty space, pressing Neku, and many others. On the top screen, you’ll be controlling Neku’s various partners using the D pad, or for left-handed players, the AXBY buttons. By pulling off certain combos, the specifics of which depend on your partner, you can occasionally perform a powerful fusion attack that will do heavy damage to the enemies on the entire screen.
Outside of combat, it’s a pretty standard RPG overworld. However, rather than having random encounters, a staple in most JRPGs which can be rather annoying late in the game when you’ve had to deal with thousands of encounters, you can choose when to access the Noise plane using your player pin, and you can chain up to four battles (16 if you buy an upgrade mid-game) at a time. Touch the Noise symbols to enter battle. As opposed to armor in this game, you have clothes, and in order to make small stat buffs over the game, you have food which you digest by battling. This is all based around the cultural hotspot that is Shibuya. Speaking of…
The World Ends With You takes place in the real life district of Tokyo, Shibuya. Note that this is the only place you’ll be for the entire game, so bring no expectations of giant sweeping landscapes. Shibuya in the real world is a cultural hotspot, reflected in The World Ends With You by the clothes and food mentioned above. One of the appealing things about this is the way the characters interact differently with the world around them. Additionally, an interesting underlying tone is the interesting way Neku must expand his own world, and the fact that the game is enclosed in such a small area; this reflects Neku’s personality. The way this manifests is that as the game progresses and Neku starts to expand, the amount of places you can go increases. The symbolism here is incredible, reflecting the entire game with just a map.
In conclusion, The World Ends With You was a masterpiece when it came out, and because of its unique style, holds up well today. Everything, from the story, the characters, the gameplay, and the setting, meld to make one of the best games of all time that’s a must-have for any DS owner.
The World Ends With You