*DISCLAIMER! I WILL BE TALKING ABOUT SPOILERS FOR THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU. THAT IS YOUR DISCLAIMER!*
I remember when I first heard of The World Ends With You. It was this mobile RPG that was ported to the Nintendo DS on April 22, 2008. Published by Square Enix, this weird title utilized a hybrid combat system that required the use of the touch screen and D-pad to get through its challenges. At the time, I was interested in the titles that Square was releasing, but this game never grabbed my attention. It didn’t look like an interesting RPG to me at the time, and I opted out from checking it out for some other game that was probably crappy.
Thirteen years later, I am kicking younger me for not giving this game a chance. I feel like younger Danames would have really enjoyed The World Ends With You at that time of his life. The themes of friendship, change, and acceptance would have made the final years of high school go by with a little more optimistic outlook. Nevertheless, what I experienced from this title left me with a positive experience with the game’s enjoyable story that is full of twists and turns, and short playtime that manages to not waste your time with anything. This is my experience with The World Ends With You.
Hell looks like a mid-2000s Japanese metropolis. Neku Sakabura wakes up in the middle of the Shibuya Crosswalk and amazed that he hasn’t been run over or trampled to death at this point. Like a true anime protagonist, Neku has lost his memories and has no idea what is going on and why people seem to be ignoring him. The only thing that he has going for him is a message and a cool clock tattoo on his hand. Young Neku must learn the rules of this altered Shibuya to survive at the end of seven days. Throughout his journey, he meets people who reluctantly enter his new life and do the young people thing of becoming friends at the end.
The Reaper’s Game
I am going to go ahead and get my biggest complaint out of the way. They turned this DS game into a Wii game for the remaster. In an attempt to keep the original gameplay and feel of the game, the game can only be played with one joycon and by pointing and clicking at the screen. This will be an immediate turn-off for some people. As you can expect, some of the motion actions that you are require to do to activate pins will sometimes not work. This would happen to me constantly with pins where I had to click and drag objects into enemies. Despite clicking the item and trying to drag it, the game would not register it and I would have one less move at my disposal. One saving grace is the option to push a button to realign your pointer to the center of the screen. If you are not position exactly center to your monitor, pushing the realign button will make wherever your joycon is pointing to the new center point. Learning how to abuse this a little bit helped me during some fights as losing my pointer happened constantly. This will not however help you for one of the most annoying minigame that I have ever played in a video game.
Fuck Tin Pin Slammer. Fuck the rules, fuck the mechanics, fuck the anime protagonist who wants to be the best Tin Pin Slammer, and fuck the bonus day at the end of the game that revolves around this broken, garbage game. I hate this minigame with a passion and congratulate those with the patience to deal with it. Tin Pin Slammer is a minigame where you take the pins in your collection and use them to knock your opponent’s pins off the table. You can use any pin in your inventory since each come with their own stats for Tin Pin. There are pins however specifically designed for Tin Pin Slammer, so you want to get those if you want to be better at the game. I would argue that that is all pointless since Tin Pin Fuck has terrible controls. This is still a motion control game, so in order to slam your pins, you need to hold a button down and use your joycon to flick your pin into your opponents. The issue obviously is that the joycon can’t register what a simple flick is or you just tossing your pin across the room. Most of my matches ended with my pin going over the edge when I’m just trying to position it. What makes things worse is that you can’t see the entire board; little alone your opponent’s pin until it is close enough to yours. I haven’t gotten to the Tin Pin Slammer part in the DS version, but I imagine that it was easier to control than the unresponsive motion on the Switch. I hated Tin Pin Slammer.
Trust Your Partner
Okay so I had my beef with the motion controls. What kept me engaged with the game? If I were to tell you that this has one of the best stories that modern Square Enix has made, would you believe me? What kept me playing each day in this game was to solve answers that the game was throwing at me. I like to believe that I can see a twist in a story very earlier since some writers like to make the evidence obvious from the get go. I got most of my guesses correct, but I was surprise when the narrative took a new turn that I didn’t predict. It’s simple hooks like this that keep me invested in games and find ways to tolerate difficult controls if the game is short enough to keep me invested.
*SPOILER SECTION* SPOILER SECTION* SPOILER SECTION*
At the end of the game, you come to realize that Neku is not the unexpected hero that the game builds him up for. It turns out, Neku is meant to be the villain and bring about the destruction of Shibuya. Some of the actions that Neku does during his three week tour help lead the world to it’s destruction. Neku is an unwilling pawn in the schemes of the Conductor; who happens to be Joshua.
Early in the game, you are taught to always trust your partner. This is difficult for Neku who sees the value of friendship worthless and more of a hassle than a good thing. This makes him a perfect pawn for the Conductor (Joshua) to use in his own Reaper’s Game with the Composer of the game, Megumi Kitaniji. If Megumi can erase Joshua’s proxy in the allocated time, he can save Shibuya. If Megumi fails, both he and Shibuya will be erased. Joshua chooses Neku for his bleak perspectives of the world and believes that he is incapable of change. Things go to plan, until Neku has to replay the Reaper’s Game in order to save Shiki’s soul. On the seventh day with Shiki, Neku begins to open up the idea of letting people into his life even if they are a stranger. It’s when he has to fight for someone else’s life do we see him more concern for others than himself. Even when he has to team up with Beat in the final week, he finds a way to get along with him and earn each other’s trust. This accumulates at the end where Neku has to make a final choice and it is something Joshua was not expecting.
At the end, Neku has to make the choice of killing Joshua to save Shibuya, or be killed. As much as Neku wants to kill Joshua for everything that he put him through, he can’t find himself to pull the trigger. He instead decides to trust Joshua’s final decision on rather to erase Shibuya or not. Joshua has no hesitations of killing Neku right then and there, but is impressed with Neku’s personal growth over the previous days. Joshua declares himself the loser and revives everyone who has died and restores Shibuya. All of this is heavily implied since the final scenes are Joshua shooting Neku, Neku waking up in the real Shibuya, and all the characters live a happy life together. It is cryptic storytelling, but unlike other Square Enix games (Kingdom Hearts), it is easy to understand the events that transpired. You have all the understanding you need to know all of the character’s motivations and the story wrapped up nicely for a 15-20 hour game. The game offers some explanations in secret reports that you can get in the post game, but they serve as extra explanations in case you are still confused about the story for some reason.
This is what I loved about the game. The characters, plot, and buildup were perfect to me. Every character had a purpose to the story and there isn’t anyone that I hated (maybe except that fucking Tin Pin Slammer kid). I was left wanting more which is rare for a game to make me want. Sure I could play to get all the secret reports, but that would mean I’m playing for the gameplay and not the story that I became invested in. I want a side story where you play as Beat during the second week while he was a reaper. I want to explore Shibuya with Yashiro and Kariya and learn more of their lives before becoming reapers. Hell, I’ll take a math educational game with Minaminoto where his stupid math puns are in full scale. The World Ends With You isn’t one of my favorite games in the gameplay department, but it nails personality and character development for me that I was not expecting at all.
It’s So Wonderful
With everything that I loved and hated about The World Ends With You, there is one thing that was a constant plus, the soundtrack. Takeharu Ishimoto did a fantastic job of combining different genres to match the ascetic of Shibuya in the mid-2000s. There are mixes of solemn tracks with high energy hip-hop that matches the tone of each given situation. My favorite tracks from the game would have to be Hybrid, Someday, Satisfy, and Owari-Hajimari. The entire soundtrack can be found on most streaming services if you want to give it a listen.
At the moment, I am slowly playing through the DS version of the game and comparing the original to the Switch version. Immediately I can already tell you that I have mix feelings about the gameplay. The touch controls work perfectly in the DS version (shocker), but I have a problem keeping up with the different things happening on each screen. You control the characters on the top and bottom screen separately and it can get annoying sometimes. Luckily, you can switch your partner to auto-play and they will take care of themselves. You miss out on building your sync gauge quicker, but it takes some of the pressure off. That’s not to say that I’m breezing through the DS version. I have gotten more game overs just in the first chapter than I did in my entire playthrough on the Switch version. This is mostly because I am not used to your partner having a separate health gauge that I have to keep my eye on. The game looks like you share on health bar, but that is not the case. Once one character’s health reaches zero, then you immediately lose the battle and have to start from the last place you saved until you unlock the “retry battle” option later on. It made me realize that despite having issues with the motion controls, at least I was able to win most of my battles. Also if the final boss and the partner mechanics annoy you like they annoyed me, then change the difficulty level (which you can do at anytime) to easy and mop the floor with him. The final battle is not hard at all if you change the difficulty to easy.
In my playthrough of The World Ends With You: Final Remix, accomplished the following:
- 1 full playthrough
- ESPer Rank: Supernatural (D) – I mostly stuck to pins that didn’t give me a headache using
- Noise Report: 65 (61.9%, B) – Some noise you can only encounter by adjusting the difficulty, which I never went above Normal
- Item Collection: 134 types (24.6%, D) – I didn’t utilize food effects enough to make getting some clothes worth the effort.
- ESPer Points: 201 (E) – No idea what ESPer Points are or how to you get them
- Pin Mastery 28 types (8.6%, E) – Again, I didn’t want to bother with pins that gave me a headache trying to activate.
- Level When Finished: 30
- Total Game Time: Around 20 hours
I would highly recommend the story to anyone, but hesitate playing the game if you are not a fan of motion controls. If you do want to watch the story, you can either find it online or watch the anime adaptation of the game. It sticks to the story of the game and is the easiest way to enjoy it without breaking your controller or monitor. I wish I had the motivation to go back and collect everything, but that would involve playing Tin Pin Slammer and I do not have the patience for that.