“This is a Square game… It looks weird, but I need a new RPG to play” rang through my head as I looked oddly at the stylized Tokyo box art. Clearly going for an edgy approach of teen punk with it’s anime characters. Some overzealous skater delinquent with a skull beanie, posh Harajuku queenie, dopey girl with a hot topic deal waiting to happen, and square in the middle some pointy haired DB with eyes closed and headphones on. “What an odd collection of characters…” I was working at Best Buy at the time and constantly looking for excuses to use my discount so I ended up grabbing this game on a whim. Most of my RPGs were “safe” up to this point. Generic fantasy setting of swords and sorcery, or saving the world from a purely malevolent force with no motives other than the ruin of all. Good is good, bad is bad. RPG-by-numbers if you will.
Enter the wild world of weird of The World Ends With You.
Taking it home it started off by being exactly what I thought it’d be. Bizarre at every turn. Set in a modern time, in a real place no less. During combat both screens were functional real time combat controlled independently. A cast that’s a bunch of rejected punk kids. Trendy clothes were designed as the primary means of stat influence… and by trendy I mean exactly that. Different Tokyo districts would have their own take of what was in vogue as fashion does, altering the boosts to your stats with the rise and fall of your coolness factor. You traded strange pin/tops that you’d battle for further benefits. What the hell is going on here?! No armor, no swords, no magic spells, no overworld traversal with a late game airship. Just fashion gone mad as boss threads ruled the chic streets of Shibuya, Tokyo.
The other hitch of the gameplay comes from between combat and swag shopping. I found myself running around different sections of the city listening to others’ thoughts as they had no idea I was even there. It was strangely voyeuristic as you could hear complete strangers stray thoughts and fears. Oh, right, because the story is complete off the rails just like the gameplay. The main kid you play as? The DB with the headphones, Neko, is dead and can read minds now. That’s you. In fact all the characters are dead. You’re essentially ghosts roaming around playing “The Game” for your right to exist. Failing to survive in the game throws you into obliteration, a state of non-existence. I forget the prize for winning the game at this point – That ends up being less the reason to play. The really awesome part that drew me in was learning the story of each of the characters that share the cover art with you, as well as how you came to die in the first place. Not to go into total spoiler territory but in short you got screwed big time. Thankfully along the way you learned to appreciate the parts of life you took for granted when you were alive.
Holy shit. It was gripping to take this intimate, personal journey with the cast of TWEWY. I can’t recommend it enough.
It was a whirlwind of a good time, concluded with a completely atypical OST composed of a flurry of Jpop tracks. It was the polar opposite from the instrumental pieces of Square’s more iconic Final Fantasy series and completely at odds with being on a DS… pushing out radio or club quality songs out of a portable of all things! There’s no part of this game that I can’t look back at with complete adoration. It was the odd choice that completely paid off for both me and Square.
So yeah, it’s good every once in awhile to take a chance on a weird game. Grab the most bizarre and unusual purchase you can find, hear the Calling, and dive in. You might surprise yourself with a love you never knew you craved.
The World Ends with You is still readily available on DS, compatible with 3DS, as well as a “Solo Mix” version on both iOS and Android which optimizes gameplay for a single screen experience.