April 28, 2008

Review Extravaganza Monday: The World Ends With You

If you own a DS and you enjoy action RPGs, this game is a must buy. Seriously.
I mean, sure, there are plenty of reasons why you would think it’s not worth your time. “Zippers” Nomura obviously had paws all over this game, and I know that turns off a lot of people. There’s a lot of appeal in the music, which I’m sure it far from everyone’s favorite, and might turn it off. I’ll admit I buy into both of those things. But unlike other games, where it might just be thrown in, this creates a very cohesive whole.
The trick is that the whole game takes place in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district. It’s a place where this musical and visual style and fashion IS the thing, and thus it helps to set the setting, a place where wearing trendy clothes can help you out in battle and where you can sway people’s opinions to get bonuses based on the brand names you wear. It all comes together into a cohesive whole.
On top of that, you have a story that isn’t just fluff. Sure, it might not be greatest thing you’ve ever read, but at the very least all of the characters I’ve encountered thus far (I’m nearly done with the game) are completely believable. I get their motivations. They make sense, and they make me care about them. This is a feat not a lot of games do.
You add all this to a great battle system, and you have yourself a winner. If you haven’t been convinced that you can have a great action game using just the stylus, this game is going to prove to you that it’s possible. The controls are really, really great. You collect these hipster pins, and each one gives you a different “psyche,” or attack. Each one uses a different stylus movement. One might need you to tap on an enemy to throw fireballs. Another might need you to slash upward to do an uppercut. Another might need you to draw a wall of fire on screen, or drag background objects about to smack into enemies. You can equip only a certain number of these, and thus can customize yourself into different decks of pins with different attacks for different situations if you so wish. Meanwhile, your main character’s partner is battling on the other screen, where you play a little minigame using the d-pad to block and attack. This part sounds REALLY complicated, but it actually isn’t. You can just jam in the direction of the enemies to do basic attacks, and that can take out most things. Of course, you can do blocks and combos, too, if you really want to get into it, or ignore it completely and turn on the computer to do it for you, which works really well.
That leads me to the one thing I really appreciate about this game: It’s a completely customizable experience. You choose which of a wide variety of attacks you’re going to use, and they’re all useful in most situations. You choose whether to master fighting with the second character on the top screen or just let the computer take care of it. You choose what difficulty you want each battle to be. You’re rewarded for playing harder. Mastering the top screen combat means more crazy super attacks for you to trigger. Playing at harder difficulties gives you more and different phat lewt, not to mention more EXP. It doesn’t punish you for not playing that way, however. You can play on Easy at max character level the whole way through the game and still have a great time. Most important to me, you can play on fairly difficult most of the time, and easy when you get stuck. I’ve been playing on normal battles with my level about 10-15 below my max the whole game, but when I get stuck on a boss, I appreciate being able to kick my level back up to max and have a much easier time of it. There’s no frustration. Just fun. I like that.
This game is really great. It’s worth the SquareEnix tax. It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s not a rehash of a series you’ve seen 40 times before. If you own a DS, give it a go. Seriously.

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