UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead
The World Ends With You is a good game for the DS’s library at a time when it is a bit lacking of decent titles. It is an action RPG with a lot of depth and things going on, which can be a bit overwhelming at first, but you get used to all the craziness after a brief time, and can choose to ignore some of the deeper elements if you want to.
The story starts out mysteriously, as you play the role of Neku, a loner emoish kid who doesn’t care about anybody but himself. He starts not knowing where he is or what’s going on, but is forced to team up with a girl and other partners if he wants to survive. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but basically, you have to have a partner to complete daily missions in order to get a second chance at life. This game lasts a week, so you have seven missions, and if you complete them all, you will win. TWEWY features three weeks, and you get a new partner each week, each of whom has a slightly different battle system.
There are two types of battle systems to play with, each of which go on continuously. On the bottom screen, Neku fights and is controlled via the touch screen. His moves and powers are decided by the pins he currently wears. At the beginning of the game, you can only wear two pins, but as you play, you gain the ability to wear more and more, for a total of six. Pins are a huge part of the game, and there are a massive amount of different ones to collect and power up. Pins are activated in a variety of ways, depending on the pin, such as simply clicking on the pin’s emblem, clicking on an enemy, swiping at an enemy, drawing a circle, tapping on the screen, or swiping through Neku. Each pin can only be used a few times before it needs to reload its power, so using them at certain times and with precision is critical. Well, not critical, but yeah. They reload fairly quickly and the fighting is faced paced, so don’t get the wrong impression. You can also move Neku by tapping on him and then sliding in the direction you want him to move. For this reason, it can get pretty hectic and sometimes causes problems as you can’t always do exactly what you want to, but for the most part, the system works out.
Your partner fights on the top screen at the same time and you control him or her via the D-pad, or A,B,X,Y buttons for you lefties. By pressing the left or right button, you choose to attack in that direction. From there, you must complete a sequence of button presses that verge into three different attacks. Luckily, one of the sequences is simply left presses or right presses, depending on your initial button press, so you can easily perform an attack without having to memorize the button patterns or focus solely on the top screen. Also, if looking and controlling both characters is too much for you, you can choose to have your partner control him or herself, or choose to have that done after a few seconds of inactivity. Luckily, each of the three possible moves switches between attacks, so if you are like me and merely press the left and right buttons, you’ll be fine. However, using different combos can help. With each character, there is a special combo that you can team up to do damage to all the on-screen enemies. Each partner has a special card system, and they may receive a card when they perform an attack. Each of the three attacks possible has a different card at the end of said combo. Then they may get that card, depending on the circumstances, and with each card, they may receive a star. When they get enough stars, around five, you can perform the special combo by simply tapping on the special icon that appears on the touch screen.
A battle ensues. Here, you currently have 6 pins equipped and the special team combo is available(The double star icon on the right). Those three cards on the top of the top screen are what I was talking about, with deciding which move you use for your partner, which you can see in the next screen.
By scanning the area, a bit on that next, you can see the enemy symbols, and by clicking on a symbol, you start a battle. In the battles, the same enemies appear on both the top and bottom, so your goal of course is to destroy all of them. Also, you and your partner share the same HP, so be careful. There is also this green “puck” that travels between you and your partner and whomever has it does more damage to enemies, and with some enemies, is the only one to be able to do damage to it. Also, there is this popularity system that works with brands, which deal with pins and clothing. There are thirteen brands and each area in the game as a popularity chart, and if the brands you are wearing are at the top of the chart, then your pins will do more damage and your clothes will be more effective. On the other side, if your items are on the bottom of the charts, then your items won’t work as well, so it is beneficial to keep your eyes on the charts. At the end of the battle, you are graded on the time it took you to finish the fight, wink wink other gaming reference, and the amount of damage you took. Enemies may drop pins and other items depending on a number of factors, one of which is your current level, which you can change at any time. The lower the level, the least amount of HP you have and the more likely it is for enemies to drop pins. You can also change the difficulty level at any time too, which is nice, and if a battle is too tough, you can retry it at a lower difficulty level, so there is never really the fear or losing a battle and having to start over to your last save marker you made an hour ago.
The "auto-play" on the bottom of the top screen signifies that you are not controlling your partner. You can set the time of inactivity in which this occurs or make it so that you never have to control your partner. Also, the amount of effects and moves you can do as Neku is very impressive, with each pin having a unique attack. Some can even give you the ability to throw objects off the street, such as signs, cones, and cars.
And with the pins, while there are a ton of different ones, you will usually stick with a few of the most powerful, unless you really get into the trends and brands and what to stick with using the top brands, although you don’t really have to. For instance, I have about 60 or so different pins, but have only used 10 or 15. There is just no need to keep switching or anything, although you can have up to five decks of pins if you like, but I didn’t personally get in with all the depth the game has to offer.
Here, you can change the clothes you have on, which give you ability boosts, and you can feed your characters. Each character can only consume 24 bytes in a day, and each food item takes up a specific amount of bytes and takes a certain number of battles to fully consume. While you are eating the food, you get a special ability boost, and when you finish it, you get another permanent boost.
You can also scan areas, like I mentioned at the beginning of the last section. Scanning has a variety of purposes. For starters, you can scan the areas for enemies and then choose to attack one or many. Scanning is also used to read people’s minds. There are a few times in the game where you need to scan certain people to get information or progress the story in a certain way, however, for the most part, this is useless. You can scan and read people’s minds, but they only think about crap that isn’t important in any way, so it is basically a waste of time.
Along with reading all that crap people are thinking of, there is a lot of text. Seeing as how it is an RPG, this isn’t too surprising, but it can get a little tedious at times. Overall however, the text sequences don’t last very long and they progress quickly. The real problem is with the quests themselves.
Everyday, you are given a new quest, most of which make you go from place to place in order to solve a variety of problems to reach your overall goal. The problem here is that the game itself takes place in the city of Shibuya, which contains twenty or so small areas that take literally no more than ten seconds to run through, so the overall environment is very small, and you have to run through these parts over and over again and talk to the same group of people over and over again. Also, you generally know the solution to the riddles in the game, however, the people you are playing as don’t, so you have to go around until they figure it out, which can be tedious. Some of the missions themselves just seem weird and don’t really progress the story at all, and it just seems like mindless running around for no reason sometimes, so its like, what’s the point? In the game, each mission is given a specific amount of time to complete, in which a timer is imprinted on the players’ hands and counts down. If the timer reaches zero, you lose. However, the timer doesn’t actually work in real time, so you have all the time you want to to complete these missions. This could have given the game a bigger sense of purpose and urgency, but no. However, I’m sure if the timer actually did work, I would be complaining that this makes the game too hard and doesn’t give you a chance to calm down and explore your surroundings, but it is what it is.
Here, you can see the map of Shibuya and all of the locations in it, which usually have some marking to let you know that's where you need to go. You can also see the top of the popularity chart, so keep checking to stay on the up and up. On the bottom, you can check all of your stats and such, and adjust the difficulty whenever you like.
Aside from the main game, there is a mini-game that takes place during the story and is the feature of multiplayer, called Tin Pin Slammer. This game is played with the pins you currently have equipped and your goal is to knock all of your opponents’ pins outside of the “ring”. The ring comes in a variety of shapes and the game can be played with numerous players. Tin Pin Slammer is played via the touch screen and you simply press on your pin and fling it into another pin to bump it around. The depth in the game comes in the form of power-ups that are activated via the D-pad. Each direction activates a different move, from swinging a hammer around, to flicking you back in the ring if knocked out. There are a limited amount of these abilities with each pin, so using them at the opportune time is vital. Tin Pin Slammer is a fun little distraction, but nothing that will have you playing for too terribly long.
Two pins in action. The top screen shows off the arena and where your opponents are. You can also see how many pins you and your opponent have left, the points you've earned, and power ups you have left.
There is a lot of replay-ability, in fact, the entire game is replayable. After you beat the game, you are given the ability to select any chapter to play in that you wish. You keep all your pins and stats and everything, which is definitely nice, but your goal is to complete a few tasks in each chapter. If you complete all of a chapter’s tasks, then you unlock a special document that clear up a few foggy parts of the story. There is also a special chapter that acts as a humorous alternate reality, so you’ll definitely want to check that out.
Overall, the game is pretty good, with a decent story that you will want to see through until the end. While the quests seem a bit weird and tedious at times, the battles are fun and if you get really good, can be awesome and rewarding, as you can just get with the flow and into the zone and dominate some Noise and Reapers, the bad guys. Unfortunately, all the depth the game has to offer can be easily overlooked and ignored, as it didn’t seem to have much effect. For instance, you don’t really need to shop at the stores, pay attention to the green puck or trends or which pins you use. Of course, you can choose to follow these things, which might increase the enjoyment. It is also good that you can control two separate difficulty levels so if you aren’t good, then you can make the game fairly easy, but if you are, you can make it harder which makes it more rewarding. Recently, there haven’t been that many good DS games it seems, so you might want to pick this one up if you like the genre and want to try something a bit different with the battle system.