Monday, July 17, 2017

The World Ends with You (DS)

The World Ends with You is an action RPG set in the Shibuya district of Tokyo.  Initially released exclusively for the Nintendo DS, it later received a port to mobile devices with a revamped battle system.  This is because the game heavily uses the features unique to the DS, namely, the two screens.  The game has a heavily stylized art direction that's very distinct and holds up really well to this day.  It features 2D graphics and even with the lower resolution of the DS screen, it looks fantastic.  The unique battle system is probably what would make people either hate or love the game.  It's called the Stride Cross Battle System, in which you control two characters independently on two screens at once.  Monsters appear on both the top screen and the bottom screen.  However, each monster pairing on the two screens share the same HP bar, so if you damage the top, you're reducing the same HP bar as if you're damaging the bottom.  This is likewise with your characters, you only lose the game when the whole HP bar is completely depleted as once the HP of one of your characters depletes, any further damage will deplete the other character's.

The confusing part occurs that there are different battle inputs for the top and bottom screen.  The top character attacks via button inputs to create combos.  It has a pattern gimmick minigame, whereby once you match enough you can execute a powerful fusion attack.  The bottom character, which is always the protagonist, Neku, requires the use of the stylus.  Dragging the stylus will move Neku around or dash.  Different attacks will require different types of touch input such as dragging, swiping or tapping.  Attacks take on the form of Pins, thereby allowing you to heavily customize your fighting style.  You can collect Pins (and thus expand your arsenal of attacks) via progressing through the story, defeating enemies or purchasing them from shops.  Neku can initially only equip two pins at once but can eventually up it to six.  It is a confusing battle system for sure at first since it is really difficult to manage two characters at once.  With enough practice though, it is manageable and a lot of fun.  It is challenging and to ease you into it, the top screen's character has an "auto" function where if you leave the character idle, the computer automatically takes over to assist.  It is not recommended though since you can definitely deal a lot more damage if you control it yourself, even if you resort to mashing the button and only paying attention to Neku on the bottom screen.

There are three different characters to pair up with, each with their slight differences in how the combo minigame works.  There are various toggles in the main menu to influence the game.  The player has the option to decrease their character's levels, lowering it will make the game harder but will also increase the drop rate of items from enemies.  You can also change difficulty at any time and once you're far enough into the game, losing a battle means you can retry instantly . One of the neat things is that random encounters don't exist in the game.  The player presses a button to "scan" the area and then tap enemies to engage them.  The game is set in Shibuya with stylized versions of real buildings and landmarks.  It can get confusing at first but is fairly large to explore.  You can buy clothes and food to increase your character's stats, as well as a typical level up system.  As the game plays primarily with the touchscreen, including movement on the field, it is best to play with the DS resting on a desk otherwise you'll probably get hand cramps.  The game is balanced well in terms of difficult.  There were only a few boss battles where it feels cheaty since the bosses like to teleport to different sides of the screen.

With bosses that do like to teleport frequently, it makes focusing on screens at once even harder since they warp too quickly for you to adapt your attacks.  It feels unfair and the final boss battle can be obtuse when it's not too obvious at first glance what you are supposed to do, resulting in it regenerating its health at a faster rate than you can reduce it.  If you're stuck in any battle, most of the time changing your Pins or even lowering the difficulty will allow you to progress.  The story starts off so so in the early beginnings but soon after, gets very interesting.  You quickly develop a bond with Neku and Shiki, and as things are revealed over the game, it just gets better.  Neku wakes up with no memory and is thrust into a game taking place at Shibuya.  He meets and makes a pact with Shiki and together, they must survive 7 days otherwise they will be permanently erased.  They have to participate and complete missions given to them by Reapers, who are also around to erase the Players.  Monsters called Noise roam around to attack Players.  There is one major minigame called Ten Pin Slammer.  It is a ring out game which isn't that fun to play, thankfully you're only forced to play it for the story in a few spots.

After completing the game, you can select any day to replay but keep all your items and stats.  You can also unlock an additional chapter called Another Day, which takes place in a parallel universe.  This chapter mostly involve the minigame and also a boss rush.  Playing through the chapters again completing specific objectives will unlock "Secret Reports" which provide a lot more background to the game, going much deeper into the lore than the game had done so far.  The game spans over three in-game weeks, each with 7 days.  It depends whether know where to go but it can take around 10-20 hours to complete the story.  As you progress through the plot, you can see the character development within Neku, from a reclusive unlikable character when he was first introduced to a loyal, caring, yet still cool, person.  The ending was a bit confusing at first but was good in the end.  There were a few revelations and the slow unraveling of Neku's death was handled really well.  You'll grow to like all the characters and it has some pretty big emotional impacts.  Overall, The World Ends with You is an absolutely stellar game.  It has a unique and fun battle system that doesn't get boring even after you finish the game.  The story told is much more nuanced and detailed than you'd expect.  It is definitely a game that should not be missed if you have a DS.


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