The World Ends With You

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The World Ends With You (2008)

Have you ever visited the website urbandictionary.com? It’s this fantastic user-generated trove of slang and turns of phrase from regions all over the world. It’s a real eye-opener: I now know that my name means a “huge sarcastic asshole that ends up becoming amazingly sweet”, and that I am in possession of both moobies and a chode. There’s hundreds o’ thousands o’ bits o’ vernacular backchat on there, definitions for just about any colloquialism you’ve ever heard, and racism that I didn’t even know existed.

Not every word gets upvoted, however; there’s always glaring, tryhard submissions that get panned by the exalted slang critics (that’s you and me). That’s why ‘frape’ according to some slightly dim contributor means ‘frat jocks, fake grapes or fake drapes’ and someone takes it upon themselves to inform us all that ‘bae’ is in fact a Danish word for faecal matter. It’s almost worth looking at the very worst definitions on there, just to see how people can comically miss the point.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the English localisers of The World Ends With You for DS elected to crowbar as many of these urbandictionary stinkers as possible into the game. That’s why you don’t “Run” from battle in this game, it’s “Gotta bounce!”, and instead of “I say, I’m going to strike you ferociously”, it’s “The beat is on!” Well, it all sounds a bit hokey, it has to be said. But that’s just what the psyche of The World Ends With You is all about.

In addition to a few Final Fantasys, a Kingdom Hearts here and there, many Dragon Warriors and that long-awaited Chrono Trigger rerelease (it was about time, to use a tired old joke), Square Enix’s DS-oriented lads also had anticipation running high for this novel new RPG. And that wasn’t just typical weeaboo fervour either; with real-time battling scenes taking place across both of the DS’s screens, the game looked as ambitious as it did stylish.

You play as pale, young carrot-head Neku, who starts off ingame life as a surly, anti-social loner. The usual old story. But I assure you, he gets better – and he has to, because fiendish creatures called the Noise are trying to stick it to him all over the real-world location of Shibuya, Tokyo, and he can’t fend them off by himself.

In steps the convivial, almost shamelessly dressed Shiki to help Neku out, who begins to stick to him like glue and not for strictly romantic reasons either. The game’s twisty-turny-topsy-turvy plot kicks off, and it’s a good’un for once, well-crafted and multi-layered even if the tiny text boxes can be a bit of a chore to blast your way through.

The game’s tale does threaten to lurch into the deeply sad realms of animu RPG at times, with a dot-dot-dot protagonist, some J-Poppy tunes and the game’s art style in general. But the game manages to pull itself away from this ruinous abyss right at the very last moment – like an F-22 Raptor, periously hurtling towards the concrete floor before thrillingly pulling up from its nosedive, regaining its composure and roaring off into the glorious sunset.

Let’s get to the battles, the life-blood of any RPG. First and foremost, you’ll not be constantly dropping fat stacks on the latest swords and staves, which is already an improvement on the usual fare. In fact, Neku can’t even really strike the enemies by himself – he needs to equip Pins to do so. These pins give Neku slash attacks, psychokinesis attacks, attacks that interact with the environment and healing capabilities, and therein lies the customisation aspect.

To be honest, a lot of the game’s 300+ Pins are just minor variants of each other. And you’ll need a strategy guide plus the capacity to bully your Milhouse friend into buying another copy of the game in order to unlock half of ‘em. But there’s still a big enough variety of Pins easily available to give you different ways of battling, and it definitely keeps things in Shibuya interesting.

Meanwhile, on the top screen, your partner tries to do their bit to murderlize the enemy buggers as well. You hardly intereact with your partner during battle – you just pass a combo multiplier to each other every so often to get some special dual-moves going. This means that if Shiki is up there getting parred by cubist werewolves, Neku can’t rush in (or vice versa) and act the Hollywood hero by letting the beast rain blows down on his head instead. You’re both on your own in battle. So you’ll primarily be controlling Neku on the touch-screen, but your partner can either be controller manually via the face buttons or left in the deliberately dull-witted hands of the AI.

Now I’ve got to say, it’s probably best to just let the AI take care of its own business up there. I don’t know, I may be getting a bit too long in the tooth at this stage to maintain full control over a mere two screens. I mean, I am 23 now, which in gaming terms is a dinosaur. I should be out shaking my slippers at this new-fangled wireless internet and yelling at the cloud computer instead.

I’ve played through this game at least twice, getting into dastardly fisticuffs with thousands of enemies in that time, and I don’t think I could really say that I was ever fully in control of even one whole battle. But that’s no problem, really it isn’t, because you have a fair idea of what needs to be done, and often that’s enough – plus it’s not as if you’re waiting for dismal gauges to fill or silly menus to crop up. I reckon that battling in this game is one of those things that just works, and it’s impossible to pinpoint why, but try to change it too much and suddenly it stops working – like Snapchat or Top Gear.

I’m not saying that monitoring the action on two screens is too unwieldy and fiddly for players to get to work – after all, the developers at least made provisions for sinister lefties like me. That proves that they at least had their thinking caps on when they developed this unique way of battling. Anyway, I can only choose to admit that I’m past it and opt out of the full scope of the game’s battle system. I can at least console myself with the fact that TWEWY is still an absolutely fantastic game – even despite the fact that it really makes me start to feel old. And that’s probably fabulous praise, if you’ve got dog mess where your brains should be.

Special mention has to be made for the music and sounds (sorry, choons and noize). With great voice samples all throughout and more than a few fully-vocalised and atmospheric songs, the game sounds utterly fantastic. Worthy of headphones like those of Neku’s, in fact – the best possible acid test of any portable game’s sound.

I believe a sequel to The World Ends With You may be or is already on the way to our screens. It’s been a fair few years since the original’s release by now, so it’s high time we saw TWEWYOM (The World Ends With You… Once More…) roll onto the 3DS or the New 0900Super XL 3DSi lite or whatever we’re on now. Until that time comes, gotta bounce yo!

09 February 2015

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