Advancing Through Four Castlevania Classics (Backlog Tale)

I have been enjoying the Castlevania games ever since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night won me over. The castle labyrinth with its secrets and fun gameplay made me wish I got into the series earlier and play other games in this fashion. While I would later play Castlevania: Order of Ecclessia and some of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, there were older games in the series that I missed out on completely (especially for someone who loved the GBA). Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, & Aria of Sorrow were three Castlevania games that came out on the Gameboy Advance. All three games followed the structure of Symphony of the Night with the core gameplay of explore a castle with various rooms while finding items to increase your abilities and clap Dracula’s cheeks at the end. All three games are regarded as great games for the GBA and have high standards in the Castlevania franchise. Originally, I was going to purchase all three games via the Wii U Virtual Console (because good luck getting them for cheap physically), but one magically day, rumors started flying around about an Advance collection that had all three games in one package. Great for me, sad day for my Wii U. So for the month of October, I set out to complete as many of the games that I could. I finished all three GBA titles plus Dracula X which was included for some reason. Each game gave off different impressions for me, which made playing each a good different experience than playing the same game with a different skin. I will be going over all four games in the order that I played them. This post may get long, so get comfy and play any of the Castlevania soundtracks for background noise (all of the soundtracks can be found on Spotify)

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Intro

It is the year 2035. Since that is 14 years from now, I am not surprise that the threat of Dracula still haunts us. Soma Cruz and his friend Mina Hakuba are enjoying the lunar eclipse when they are suddenly transported to Dracula’s Castle. Meet by not Alucard, Soma finds himself drawn to the castle as if he was a teenager who likes to trespass onto people’s property. He soon learns that he can absorb the souls of monsters if he is lucky enough, and has to stop a man named Graham from becoming the next Dracula.

This All Feels Familiar…

I will be completely honest here. This is not my first time playing through Aria of Sorrow. I played it back in the day when I first discovered emulation and it was one of the first games that I played with that method. That didn’t disrupt my experience with replaying this game since I had mostly forgotten the layout of the castle. The only thing I remembered were the three souls required in order to get the true ending of the game (for clarity I went for the true ending for all three games). Castlevania games have a tendency for including multiple endings with specific requirements in order to obtain the true ending. Just know for this game you need to obtain and equip the Flame Demon soul, Succubus soul, and Giant Bat soul during your fight with Graham to unlock the true ending route.

Mechanically speaking, Aria of Sorrow is the best out of the trio. The controls, movement, and items that you can obtain are similar to Symphony of the Night while standing out on its own thanks to the Soul Absorption mechanic. You can absorb the soul of every enemy in the game and it will add a new ability for Soma. There are three different types of souls: Bullet Souls shoot projectiles for long range attacks, Guardian Souls that can either transform or provide offensive or defensive buffs, and Enchanted Souls that provide stat boosts. What the three different soul types provide are multiple play styles that you can choose from during each playthrough. There are definitely certain souls that you want to utilize for effectiveness, but having the option to make your playthrough easier or more difficult is something I like to see in games. Along with souls, Soma can equip different weapons that change up his basic attack. Weapons range from shortswords, lances, hammers, brass knuckles, and even a gun. Each weapon also changes how you go about fighting enemies since they each weapon has a different animation, range, element, or aliment attribute to them. Just because one weapon has the higher attack value doesn’t mean that you can tackle all enemies and bosses with ease. During my playthrough I had to switch up weapons since some were harder to hit certain weapons. That all changes once you find Claimh Solais and start murdering enemies since the sword takes up most of the screen.


Difficulty is present in this Castlevania game. Throughout my playthrough there were definitely times where I felt outclassed or the enemies were just kicking my ass over and over. Being a Castlevania game, you are encouraged to explore each area you visit to ensure you find weapons, armor, and souls that can help you get through some of the castle’s challenges. The game is an RPG, so it tricks you into thinking that you need to grind levels in order to be more powerful to tackle these areas. If there is one thing that you take from me about almost all the Castlevania games is that you do not (I repeat DO NOT) need to grind levels. Obstacles require patience and understanding of how certain enemies more, what their weaknesses are, and understanding the best way to overcome their BS. The solution is not thinking that once you get to a higher level you can go on a killing spree. Just like the boss fights, the enemies in this game require your respect and a well thought out plan will get you through their obstacles.

Overall, Aria of Sorrow provided me with a good challenge and a great time navigating Dracula’s Castle (which felt like the shortest out of the three). Collecting souls, finding hidden areas, and blazing through the castle always feels good and the game provided. If I had to complain about something it would probably be the length of the game. I finished the game in about 5 hours across five sessions. I found navigating the castle to be simple and I hardly had to stop and consult a guide on where I had to go to next. Each area is very telling if you should be here on not, and once you find an ability soul for a specific ability, you pretty much know where to go to next. The game is super fun and replayable; I highly recommend playing this in the collection.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Intro

The year is 1830. While the Belmonts were off playing dead or something, Dracula took the opportunity to plan his resurrection for the seventeenth time with the help from Carmilla. Because this tale is non-canon to the series, a vampire slayer by the name of Morris Baldwin, accompany by his apprentices Hugh Baldwin and Nathan Graves, storm the castle to stop the ritual. They fail as Morris is captured so that his blood can be used in the final ritual, and Nathan and Hugh demonstrate what you will be doing for most of the game by falling down a large pit. Hugh rushes off to save his master/father while leaving us with Nathan to ponder why the fall didn’t crush their tendons.

Oh boy….

Easily the worst game in the trilogy. I had high hopes for this game since people were talking good things about the game; the collection proudly features Nathan on the title and home screen, and it had high reviews at the time. This was the biggest let down for me and I was hoping that the game would turn around for me at some point, but it never did.

Let’s get my biggest complaints out of the way. I understand that some people may not like the long hallway sections in these games since they are giant time wasters that have nothing interesting in them except hordes of zombies or skeletons. Now, take those horizontal hallways of nothingness, set them up vertically, and make most of you map based on that. The game is essentially a repetitive notion of climbing up sections just to go through a few rooms that make up climb us less, to then climb up some more until you eventually need to go back down to get somewhere else. This wouldn’t be an issue if they included some cool enemies to challenge you on your way up or vary up the platforming a little besides the clock tower. Each ascent just feels the same and their are hardly any enemies or platforming tricks to make the climb feel engaging. It is interesting to have a Castlevania game focus on vertical progression over mostly horizontal exploration, but if there is nothing interesting to do or see while climbing, then its just a waste of time. This bothered me the most during my playthrough since I would get lost often on where to go next; only to find that I need to be on the other side of the castle and will have to backtrack mostly on foot (since there are no warp points at the bottom of the castle) to continue progress. Just writing about it makes me mad and makes me dread playing it again in the future.


Another thing that baffled me was at the beginning of the game. When you start off, Nathan has the classic slow walk like in the classic Castlevania games. You cannot run, you cannot get running starts to some platforms, and it is a slow experience to start the game with. This would deter most newcomers as it seems ridiculous to play a game at this speed until you found the ability to run. What I found to be bad game design is that in the third room that you go into, you find the boots that make you run. What was the point of not having it at the beginning if you are just going to get it without a fight or trial. It feels completely useless to start you off without the ability to dash, only to go through one room with where you fall and get pass a couple of enemies to then be rewarded with the privilege to play the game at a distant speed. If I hadn’t committed myself to play the game all the way through, I would have stopped playing the game right then and there out of spite and worried what other questionable game design choices the devs made.

Okay. Some non-negative things about the game now. I did enjoy the Dual Set-up System (DSS) mechanic that Nathan uses. Defeating certain enemies will make sometimes make a card drop representing an action or attribute. By choosing different combinations of action and attribute cards, you can turn Nathan’s main weapon into a different type of weapon or create spells that can help you offensively or defensively. My favorite spell was to combine the ice attribute card with the barrier action to create a rotating shield that helped me defensively as well as with offense. It made traversing much more tolerable and made some boss fights a joke since my barrier would destroy any projectiles they had. I hardly used any other skill once I had access to this.


Another enjoyable feature that is included in the Castlevania Advance Collection is the ability to create save states and rewind. I didn’t mention these features when I was talking about Aria of Sorrow since I hardly utilized them but would occasionally use the rewind function if I did something stupid. In Circle of the Moon I abused the hell out of these two mechanics. Since running around the castle was a pain, I would use a save state on one side of the castle, and if I realized the path I took was a horrible mistake, I would just reload the save state and choose a different path. No shame in doing that. I would also save state outside of boss rooms since I didn’t have the patience to restart the fight if I somehow lost. This didn’t matter since I abused the hell out of the rewind function during boss fights since I wanted to be done with this game as soon as possible. This made the final Dracula fight so much better since he had this stupid one hit kill rush that you have to avoid or start the whole fight again. I didn’t have the time or patience for that so I became a time wizard and just rewind time to avoid my untimely deaths. Again, I have no shame in using those tools. Without them I probably would not have finished them game and would have caused some minor property damage.

Overall, Circle of the Moon was a chore to get done and I hated every minute of it. I get why some people were excited to revisit what was possibly their first Castlevania experience on the GBA, but with so many better games that came before and after this game, I don’t get it. The slow start, boring level design, and worthless vertical progression just makes me want to stay away from this game forever (knowing me however I will probably stupidly want to go back and 100% it).

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Intro

It is the year 1748. Juste Belmont gets an invitation to a party in Dracula’s Castle. Attending the party are Maxim Kischine, Juste’s friend who went on a self-discover quest only to forget who he was, Lydie Erlanger, the damsel in distress plot, and the typical rose gallery of monsters you would find in these games. Juste and Maxim work together to find their friend Lydie who is held captive somewhere in the castle. While zooming through the castle, Juste realizes that the castle keeps changing, and Maxim goes from chum to chad depending on where he goes. It’s up to Juste to use his Belmont powers to crash the party, save his friends, and maybe murder Dracula along the way.

Better Than Expecting

I won’t lie. I thought this was going to be the game that I would hate in the collection. I found the pixel art for the characters to be awful and one of the driving factors to why I never bothered to play this game. Once I got past that issue, I found this game to be enjoyable and now one of my favorites in the series. Who knew that if you look past a game’s visuals you can find a fun game underneath?

I think the first thing that made this game for me was the speed at which Juste can move. Unlike Soma and definitely Nathan, Juste starts off with a forward dash that he can do with a push of the trigger buttons. It is about the same speed as doing a backstep in Aria of Sorrow or Symphony of the Night, but you are able to spam the dash to make Juste fly through some of the rooms. This made retracting places so much better in my opinion since instead of backstepping my way through places, I could keep a forward momentum while facing forward in case I had to dispatch enemies on my way. The speed at which Juste moves is also a good thing considering this has the biggest map out of the GBA trilogy. Iga wanted to bring back the feel of going through the same castle like in Symphony of the Night. The only difference is that Castle B isn’t upside down like in SoTN. Castle B is more than least the same as Castle A, so it makes you flip through two copies of the same map with the only thing that are different are enemies, background visuals, and items that you have to find. This may be disappointing for some who believe this to be lazy game design just to inflate the length of the game, but I didn’t mind it.


One of the reasons I didn’t mind it was because for the first time in a good while, I got lost on what to do next. The game doesn’t really spell it out to you on where to go next like in the other two games. It gives you plenty of guesses on where to go on the map, but most of the times it is an impassable wall or requires a certain item to get through it. Harmony of Dissonance took me the longest to finish by only an hour, but it was mostly because I was constantly getting lost at certain points, and then when I found my correct path it was a euphoric moment. For context, I didn’t use a guide at any point during this game until it came down to finding one item. When I consulted the guide, it basically told me that I was at the end of the game, and I felt good about figuring things out on my own up to that point. This does make the game hard for newcomers who are not use to the gameplay flow of Castlevania to retrace steps to find hidden secrets and retain knowledge on how to get back to certain areas. I did feel good that I am used to this type of gameplay, but I would find this game tortures to anyone playing it for the first time.

Going back to Juste. I found him to be extremely powerful for having nothing but his whip and sub weapons to mostly rely on. Harmony of Dissonance is still an RPG, so you will have to spend some time outfitting Juste with armor and accessories to boost his stats. I did find this game to rely more on the RPG aspect as it gives you four slots to outfit Juste with head, body, arm, and leg armor with you picking and choosing what fits best for your playstyle. Juste only has the Vampire Killer whip at his disposal, but that is all he needs to kick ass. During your journey, you will find certain tips that you can equip to the Vampire Killer. This tips are mostly elemental tips that you can change out to deal elemental damage to enemies, but some have special properties like the Crash Stone that can destroy certain walls and the Platinum tip that adds a +20 attack to the whip. Classic sub weapons are present like the dagger, axe, holy water, bible, knuckles (which is new), and my favorite, the cross. If your basic whip attack is too short, these projectiles have you back as always, but can be helpful in other ways. Another mechanic that Juste has access to are spell books that can be used to change how sub weapons are used. I would like to be honest and tell you which each did, but there was only two that I used. Those were the cross + fire book spell which creates a giant flaming cross that can stay in one place until you input the command again, and the cross + lighting spell that turns Juste invincible for a moment and summons a giant pillar of crosses that deal massive damage. Boss fights became a joke with that last spell since I would use up most of my magic just casting that and then finishing the job with my whip. The spell book system is something that you can turn off and on when you need to, and it is wise to turn it off when you don’t need it. Sub weapons require hearts to use them, but spells require MP in order to be used. So if you are in a fight and run out of MP, turn the spell book off and you will be able to use the sub weapon no problem since you didn’t have to waste hearts while combined with a spell. This versatility may seem simple, but it makes Juste feel deadly and one of the strongest Castlevania characters that I’ve ever played.


If there is one more complaint I could make it would be the lack of secrets that you can find and things that you could miss. I spent a lot of my time hitting walls thinking that one of them would be a secret room, but in my entire playthrough I didn’t find a single one. Breakable walls have been a staple of the Castlevania series, and if I knew this game didn’t have any besides the visible ones that you need a certain item for, then I wouldn’t have wasted my time checking everywhere I went. Instead of breakable walls, you do discover that some walls have an invisible path that you just have to discover on your own. To my knowledge, no other Castlevania game features invisible walls, so it trips up both newcomers and veterans to check for stuff like that. Going along with this, there are relics around the castle that help you travers different areas. There is a point in the game where you get the high jump ability, but you will sometimes find barriers that you can’t get through. You would think that you would need to find a relic to help you get through that barrier, but that is not the case. There are random boots that you have to find located off the beaten path that gives you the ability to break those barriers when equipped. The same thing happens when you come across one dark area and have to find night vision goggles to get through the area. For something as important that you need to get the things you need to unlock the final area, I wish it was a little bit clearer that these boots were important. If I didn’t read the description of them, I would have missed the fact that performing the high jump while they are equipped will destroy the barrier. Something minor that most people won’t have a problem with, but I could have spent another hour searching for something that I already had in my possession.

Overall, I was surprise that I enjoyed this game. Looks were very deceiving and I was not expecting to have a good time. So far, Juste may be my second favorite Belmont right behind Richter (his game on the other hand makes me rage).

Castlevania: Dracula X

Intro

One day while watching people suffer while playing Castlevania 3, Toru Hagihara was displeased that he didn’t have a bombing soundtrack to go along with his entertainment. He decided to task Akira Souji, Keizo Makamura, Reika Bando, Koji Yamada, and Satan himself to create on of the best soundtracks that they could come up with. After months of work, they created one of the best soundtracks that blew everyone away. To market on this great soundtrack, Hagihara had the great idea to program a game around it and sell it as a video game instead of a music CD. The team decided to call this album, Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) and release it as a computer game to get pass customs and dominate the PC music genre. While they saw great success for the PC version, they quickly realized that they didn’t live in the era of the PC master race and not many people played/listened to music on their home computer. The team then decided to re-release the soundtrack two years later in a cartridge format to fit into people’s cars. The cartridge wouldn’t fit into most commercial car radios, but it would fit perfectly in Nintendo’s Super Nintendo at the time. They were also lucky that Hagihara’s game program was also on the cartridge so that listeners could do something while jamming out to the music. Thus, Castlevania: Dracula X came to existence. Oh yeah and I guess the game has something to do about a guy named Richter Belmont storming Dracula’s Castle in order to save his lover Annette or something…

I am bad at this game

I played this entire game without figuring out how to perform the Item Crash ability. That should set the tone of how badly this playthrough went. I will admit that when it comes to Castlevania, I am a bigger fan of the “metroidvania” design over the 2-D platformer. The difficulty curve that they can throw always infuriated me with how bad I am with platformer games to begin with. It is all about trial and error and knowing how to utilize the tools that are at your disposal. None of that really translate to my brain much as I’m just trying my best to get to each goal as best as I can. It doesn’t help that health is hidden in each stage and there are limited. Thus, this creates a stressful environment for me where I am trying to play my best while avoiding hits that make me unprepared for the next screen or boss fight. I like to play games to relax and not send me to my therapist office every Friday evening.

But, Rondo of Blood/Dracula X felt different from other classic Castlevania titles. Sure there were some unfair enemy placements to create that artificial difficulty, but the game didn’t feel impossible or cheap like the time I played Dracula’s Curse. I could actually tell that the game was trying to help me get through the stages with helpful sub weapon placement and telegraphed enemy movements that makes playing the game easier if you notice these things. Of course there were times where I felt like my own skill level was preventing me from tackling things better, but once I took my time to analyze things and work at my own pace, I found the journey rewarding and manageable. I still don’t like the idea that Richter will jump back like a meter to the nearest pit if he gets hit, but all of this became manageable once I started utilizing the best feature of the game.


Yup, I used the reset function like crazy in this game. I probably used it more here than in Circle of the Moon due to my zero patience for platformer games. Does this diminish some of the difficulty of the game? Absolutely. Do I give a flying fuck? Absolutely not. When you are garbage at platformer games like me, you take all the advantages that you can take, and since the rewind feature is built into this version of the game, hell yeah it becomes a game mechanic. This doesn’t mean that I was going about rewinding after every hit or death. There are such things as strategic defeats in order to gain the upper hand. This mostly came in when I was low on health and couldn’t get past the onslaught of obstacles in my way. Dying will put you at the beginning of that screen, and then from there it is just practice to find the best ways to get past enemies. Randomly on like Stage 6, I finally discovered the backflip ability that you have access to at the beginning of the game…so that helped me out a lot going forward. Bosses can either be challenging or a joke if you can see their attack pattern coming ahead. Surprisingly, boss fights weren’t difficult to me since instead of platforming I just had to learn their pattern and attack when the opportunity came. The Dracula fight however is extremely tedious and requires you to jump on several platforms just for the change to attack him, and the time it took me just for the chance to hit him almost killed me before he got the chance to do so. The second phase however is a joke if you came to the fight with the cross (the cross will always be my favorite sub-weapon).

So with all of that, it would be no surprise that I didn’t like the game for being a challenging platformer game right? Well, as a shocker to myself as well, I came to enjoy this game once I got a feel for it all. The soundtrack to the game definitely helps since it was one of the driving forces that kept me pumped for more. Of course Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears are instant bangers, but other tracks like Richter’s theme Blood Relations and the Cemetery just struck a cord with me that boosted my moral. Without the rewind function, I probably would not have finished this game as fast as I did, but with it, I discovered what is now probably my favorite classic Castlevania game. I will have to play the game one day without the rewind feature, but hopefully by then I will know the game well enough that I don’t have to rely on it (and my blood levels can stay stable).

Advance Collection Overall

Honestly I am really glad that I experienced these games in this format. Playing the original games with an actual Game Boy Advance will probably feel like the best way to play these, but this collection makes these so easy to play. I played the collection on my Switch and the first advice I can give is to play these games with a comfortable controller. I played everything with my 8bitdo controller since it is in the shape of a Super Nintendo controller and felt comfortable playing games like this on. You do have the ability to customize your button layouts and that was a saving grace for me for attacking and jumping comfortably (its an available option, use it). Each game has a built in tracker that helps keeps tracks of relics that you find, cards and souls that enemies drop if you are trying to collect them all. This is super helpful and makes collecting items so much easier. There is also the after mentioned save states and replay functions. If you are having problems playing through the games due to their difficulty, please please please use these features to help make the games more tolerable. They are built in functions for you to use; use them to the fullest and never feel bad about it.

Overall, these are all good games that are worth playing (even if I think one of them is technically bad). They take no time to beat and can be replayed over again. If I had to rank them out of my personal enjoyment it would go as following:

1. Aria of Sorrow
2. Harmony of Dissonance
3. Dracula X
4. Circle of the Moon

Thanks for reading this really long post!

Backlog Tale – Mario Golf: Super Rush

Mario Golf: Super Rush was a fun game to play for the two weeks I spent playing it. I haven’t played a Mario Golf game since the N64 version. I enjoy that version and the Game Boy Color version as well. Super Rush is easily one of my favorite to control and understand, but I can’t help but to feel that some of the charm has been lost. When I compare this to some of the older Mario sports games in general, I can’t help but to notice the Mushroom Kingdom “charm” feels missing outside of some elements that were paste in. What I’m left with is a fun game that functions great, but doesn’t get me excited with its level design and boring plot to a story mode.

Synopsis

What if golf was Mario Kart?

A Neat Idea That Can Be Frustrating

Despite not liking most sports, I do enjoy them when you add some fun, wacky mechanics to it. To me, it makes the game more interesting when bombs are flying all over the field or you have fun characters to play as. Mario Golf: Super Rush found a way to make golf interesting by adding a new mode called Speed Golf. While I think the real world equivalent would be watching a bunch of golfers take meth and run and scream after they hit their ball, this game gives me a close equivalent to what that would be like. Speed Golf requires you to race to your ball after hitting it down the green and race your opponents to see who can sink their ball the fastest. There are different variations to this mode like just playing normally under a time limit, or earning points based on your placement. It is a fun mode and adds to the crazy chaotic fun that I enjoy in some of my games.

One thing that I don’t like is Cross Country (XC) Golf. This mode in the Adventure Mode let’s you pick which holes you want to go for in any order as long as you do them within the number of strokes. The stage that you play this mode on has a ton of cliffs that you have to send your ball upwards in order to clear. For someone who tried using the recommended methods to get past these obstacles, it made me want to send my controller down the fairway. Even worse, the game times you so you don’t feel like you can get enough time to adjust and figure out the best ways to clear the cliffs. It was aggravating and could completely be my fault for not using the right technique, but nevertheless frustrating.

The other new mode is called Battle Golf. In this mode, you compete against others sink your ball into the required amount of flags before your opponents. This is where the real chaos of Mario Golf: Super Rush comes in as the field is smaller than other maps, but with items being used everywhere and characters using their own abilities to disrupt others, it looks fun. I honestly did not spend much time in this mode, but probably will if I have friends who want to join in.

What is nice to know is that the game will be supported in the future with free updates. I know this goes into the topic of if the game was actually finished to begin with. I too wonder if the developers had more plans with the title but were force to ship it out on release day (more on that in the next section). I like this approach however for a title like this. I don’t see myself playing this every day or develop a routine with it. Giving me a reason to pick the game up once again outside of playing with friends might give me a reason to play this on occasion here and there. For a sports game, I am a little more accepting of picking it up when free updates are sent out (and not spending $60 for the same game with a different roster). If the content is worth it, then I will check it out.

As of the last update, there are 9 courses.

Adventures in Golf Land

I was excited to play the adventure mode since they were my favorite in the Game Boy entries. Adventure mode left me disappointed and honestly where I felt the most content was lacking. I know people want to say that the lack of content comes from the number of courses you can play on, but to me this is where the content was lacking. I felt like I was just going through the motions and not really caring about what was going on in the story. At the beginning it felt like some type of rivalry between you, Charging Chuck, Boo, and Toadette, but they kinda disappeared somewhere in the middle and suddenly I’m teaming up with Wario and Waluigi for “plot.” It also felt unfinished to me at the end where you save Bowser’s Castle, Toad says you can participate in Battle Mode, and then the credits just roll. You do get the ability to use your Mii in Battle Mode at that point, but I just ended up saying whatever at the end and moved on.

The other obvious complaint to adventure mode that I could make is how uncreative the areas and characters are. I know Nintendo is going through this phase of not allowing creative characters in Mario games anymore, but this game really suffered from that choice. Being surrounded by Toads and (Bowser’s) minions makes exploring and talking to them dull since you see them everywhere. I’m not saying that it could have the opposite effect if they were human characters, but making them all look the same and nothing creative about them just makes me uninterested in talking to them. I can see why they wouldn’t let Camelot use their human characters in the game, but if they were uptight about not having non-residents of the Mushroom Kingdom roaming around, then they could have used the next best thing, the Miis! If I’m allowed to run around as a Mii, then they could have easily implemented generic Miis in the adventure mode and make you go against these NPCs with an identity rather than a minion that shares the name of the others.

I can now play as my boi Koopa Troopa!

It’s Golf, but with Speed

This post feels short just because there is not a lot for me to talk about. It’s Mario Golf. You either like Mario Golf or you don’t like it. I enjoy Mario Golf games because they speak to me at my level on how to play golf. I had more fun just playing the regular golf mode with my father-in-law than anything that the adventure mode threw at me. I like some of the stages and characters, and I will most likely play through the new stages and content that come out later. If you like Mario Golf, I can recommend it to you since you will have a good time with this and the new modes that come with it. If you like golf but hate Mario and gimmicks, then you can skip this game a find a cheaper golf game to play. If you hate golf but like Mario, then play any of the other thousands of Mario games. If you hate golf and Mario, then why were you reading this in the first place? I enjoyed playing this for the time that I did, but don’t see myself playing it constantly in my rotation.

Backlog Tale – NEO: The World Ends With You

I am new to the whole TWENY world. I only played the first game a few months ago, and I was impressed with its story, unique vibe, and gameplay that I started to crave for more. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait like other poor souls for a follow-up. NEO: The World Ends With You is the sequel to 2008’s The World Ends With You. The first TWENY game was a different beast from most of Square Enix’s JRPGs. It’s unique style and gameplay made it a different experience that most reviewers seemed to enjoy back then. At the time, people wondered if a sequel or follow-up to the game would ever come out. They would soon join the Kingdom Hearts fans in the back of the classroom and wait patiently for the next thirteen years for a new mainline entry. As a newcomer to the series, I fell in love with the charm and story of TWENY that I wanted to play the sequel as soon as I finished the first. If you want to get an idea on my complete feelings about the first game, I wrote a post about it last month, so give that a read if you want to guess my thoughts about the sequel. With that out of the way, let’s see how NEO TWENTY compared to the original to me.

Synopsis

Hell looks like a late-2000s Japanese metropolis, now with more plaid. New to the Reaper’s madness are Rindo Kanade and his friend Tosai “Fret” Furesawa who just waltz their way into the UG version of Shibuya. Things get plot-ty when Rindo sees a vision of Fret getting 360 no scoped by a utility truck and alters the timeline to save him from meeting a flatten end. Greeted by a reaper named Shoko Sakurane, the boys learn that they have to survive 7 days in hell in order to escape. Along the way, they join forces with mathematician Sho Minaminoto, and weeb stalker (and best girl) Nagi Usui. Nagi learns that she can kill people in their mind with by diving into their LiveJournal, and Fret learns that he can help people remember where they left their car keys. Rindo learns that he can kill an alternate version of himself in the past to rewrite certain events to alter the future. Together with their powers, they seek to win the Reaper’s Game and get back to playing Final Fantasy GO (I wish I was making up that last part).

Since it hasn’t been that long since I played the original, I think this would be a fun time to compare my feelings for both games in a “Who Dun It Better” kinda way. Don’t worry about spoilers being mentioned anywhere for NEO: The World Ends With You since it is still fairly new and I don’t want to spoil anything. I will spoil things from the original game since its been thirteen years and you’ve had your chance by now.

Storytime

Let’s compare the stories. I praised TWENY for being able to tell a comprehensive story in a short time with few characters running the narrative. The storyline stayed focused and everything connected without throwing in surprise elements out of nowhere. Where NEO’s story started out strong for me with it’s biggest mystery upfront, it suffered towards the middle and end by not pacing quite right. It’s always a troubled feeling when the game introduces a new character in the final act only for that person to play a critical role during the climax. NEO tried to have a longer and engaging story than TWENY, but it ended up going on a little bit too long and rushing towards its conclusion. It is a shame because there were some good story moments in the game that kept me engaged and trying to solve the mystery on my own before the game could explain it to me. The twists throughout the game didn’t feel as strong as TWENY’s twists, so any grand revelations just felt like a “ah neat” moment.

A point for story goes to: TWENY

Characters

The casts of TWENY felt small and developed. By the end of the game, I was able to understand each character and all of their traits without needing to seek further information about them. The same can be said about NEO, minus the small casts. The casts in NEO feels almost double with the amount of players and reapers that you are introduced to. More so, you are given more details about the various NPCs in Shibuya thanks to the Reaper Social Network that acts as your sidequest tracker. The social network tracker not only gives you details about each character, but shows how some of them are related to one another and update as the story unfolds. I know I said TWENY had good characters and development, but NEO does as well and doesn’t falter when developing them as well. The main casts of Rindo, Fret, and Nagi all have their character development arcs that have a coherent beginning and end that travels throughout the entire narrative; just like Neku, Beat, and Joshua did in the original. The only main problem I have is Rindo. Throughout the game you learn that he has a hard time deciding things on his own and making quick decisions. I feel like this is a weak character trait compared to Neku’s character in TWENY. Neku had to learn how to open himself up to the people and world around him; hints the whole “the world ending with you” perspective. I don’t feel like Rindo’s world is crumbling around him just because he is a slow decision maker. I also don’t like the fact that the game knows that Rindo is somewhat boring and brings in more exciting characters throughout the game. But it is because of the better characters around him that I find NEO to have the better characters overall.

A point for characters goes to: NEO

Gameplay

I have played both versions of TWENY (DS and Switch). While both versions require interacting with the screen in some form, I greatly prefer the DS controls over the Switch. Seeing as the game was meant for a touch screen originally, this is no surprise. The only way the game could be better is if there were no motion gimmicks to begin with, which NEO provides. Each character is assigned a pin that represents a button on your controller. Pins are divided into pin types that fall under a different button input. This makes the gameplay so much better since I don’t have to worry about waving my arms just to pull off a certain input. This also leads to a better gameplay flow since characters can combo one another better than the sync mechanic from the original. Later on when you unlock the ability to set two characters to the same button input, the combos and damage that you can unleash can be quite satisfying. There isn’t much outside the gameplay of combat. You still go around and talk to people, buy clothes, and eat food for stat increases. I utilized the eating mechanic much more in NEO than the previous since there was a bit more of a challenge present despite having better controls. You can still freely adjust your level and difficulty settings whenever you like, but I only tone down the difficulty during certain side quest and the final boss since I was ready to see the end of it. If you haven’t guess it yet, I prefer the gameplay in NEO way more than in the original

A point for gameplay goes to: NEO

The Reaper’s Game

The original Reaper’s Game felt personal since you had to give up a personal thing to enter (besides your life). This lead to real stakes besides just avoiding death. There was also a deeper meaning to it since Neku’s whole arc was about trusting the people his life depended on. NEO’s reaper game felt less steaky since you were in teams playing for points to avoid erasure. The removal of a time limit also made the game feel like a giant inconvenience rather than a fight for your life. Having nothing to tie you to the game instead of just being forced to play didn’t make it feel as thrilling like in the original. If there was something more worth fighting for than not just dying at the end, then I feel like the game would be more exciting than just a survivor game show.

A point for the Reaper’s Game goes to: TWENY

Soundtrack

I still listen to TWENY’s soundtrack now and again. It’s just something that fits the atmosphere and plays well with the story and ascetic. NEO’s soundtrack is just as good with some real bangers and remixes from the original game. Some of the tracks feel a bit dated and out of place the mix of J-pop and heavy metal. When I asked for Kat’s opinion, she best described the soundtrack as “reliving her middle school rebellious phase.” With that, I have no problem with NEO’s soundtrack since it is still really good. However, since most of my favorites are remixes from the original soundtrack, I still prefer TWENY’s soundtrack over NEO’s. Shoutout to some of my favorite tracks like Ooparts -JP – NEO Mix, Someday – NEO Mix, World is Yours, and Your Ocean.

The point for soundtrack goes to: TWENY

Style and Visuals

TWENY has a certain style that makes it stand out and works with its presentation. NEO is the same way, but adds a third-dimension to the mix. Both games share the same art direction, but NEO is presented more of a graphic novel with its character cut-ins and expressive features. Both games have the weird visual of where the building look warped to make you feel like you are in a concrete jungle. Honestly, I couldn’t decide on which game had the better visuals, so I will consider this a tie.

A point for style and visuals goes to: Both

Side Quests and Minigames

TWENY has Tin Pin Slammer. You know my feelings about Tin Pin Sinner. NEO doesn’t have any minigames besides Scramble Slam, but that is part of the story progression. NEO does have side quests that the original didn’t have, but they are much to talk about besides opening up perks via the social network. Since NEO doesn’t have Tin Pin Skidoo in it, I think you know which one is better….

A point for side quests and minigames goes to: NEO

Performance

This isn’t really about comparing both games as much as the performance of NEO. I played NEO on my Switch the entire time and did not encounter any problems. I’ve seen some reports that the game will crash and some framerate issues for the Switch version, but honestly I didn’t encounter any problems that ruined my playtime. I played entirely in docked mode, but I have no idea if that matters to anything. Honestly, I feel comfortable to recommend playing the game on any system of your choice as long as you are having fun with it.

A point for performance goes to: Whatever your preference is.

Overall Enjoyment

TWENY made me fall in love with the series. I found the story, characters, and presentation to be strong and give me something that I haven’t played before. While the combat got frustrating to a point, I stuck it out just to see how this story would unfold. NEO fixed the gameplay issues that I had, but the story started out strong and then just got flat towards the end. I feel that if they kept a constant pace with the story instead of rushing it at the end, I would have put NEO higher than the original. Both games have their biggest strengths and flaws, but if I were to return to one of them and complete all of the hidden objectives, it would have to be NEO. I can ignore the story in NEO and just have fun playing the game and unlock all of the pins, clothes, music, and achievements. With TWENY, the story was the biggest draw for me outside the gameplay, and I would have a hard time collecting everything in TWENY just to unlock everything. And if I am going to return to a game, it has to be about me having fun while playing it. So while I feel that TWENY is more enjoying to experience, NEO is more fun to just play.

A point for overall enjoyment goes to: NEO

The Winner and Final Thoughts

By the counts, it seems like I enjoyed the sequel over the original. Both games have their strong points, but as a game, TWENY has a few gameplay flaws than NEO does. This doesn’t mean that I think NEO is the better game overall. It just has elements that make it a better game to play on repeat by default. I would honestly say that if you want to replay the original, do what I did and play the DS version for a better time. Overall, this is a great series that I have sunk into now. Now I can join the unfortunate crew that has to wait thirteen years for a new game to come out. Based on some dialogue at the end, they could possible do another game, but it would have to be with brand new characters and maybe a different setting to spice things up. For what its worth, NEO: The World Ends With You is a fun game to play if you are looking for an Action RPG with fun gameplay with a story that is inoffensive at the end.

During my playthrough of NEO: The World Ends With You, my stats were:

Finished on: 9/11/2021
1 Full Playthrough

Books Collected: 82/107
Music Collected: 1/51 (Didn’t feel like spending money on music)
Pins Collected: 161/333
Pins Mastered: 64/333
Threads Collected: 80/277
Food Dishes Ate: 53/95
Total Collection Completion: 43.6%

Noise Encountered: 77/92
Noisepedia Completion: 39.7% (Based on four different versions of each Noise)
Psychic Rank: Master Player
Graffiti (Achievements) Collected: 20/50 (39.2%)
Social Network Completion: 60.0%

Total Completion: 50%

And that was NEO: The World Ends With You. Give it a try if any of the things sounds interesting to you. Also let me know if you liked this comparison type of posts. It’s rare that I play games in a series back-to-back, but if it happens again I may or may not use this format again.

Backlog Tale – Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

I will start this post off by saying that I like Dragon Quest XI. I think as a JRPG, it does everything well to the point where I don’t have any personal flaws with it. The story is decent and honestly not one of my favorites to come out of this series. The characters however are some of my favorites from any game. It’s rare for me to enjoy every character in the ensemble, but Dragon Quest XI pulls it off to the point I enjoyed using all of them. With an early praise like that, you would think I would have nothing but good things to talk about this game. So why did I have such a hard time talking about this game? This is around my tenth attempt to write about this game; and every time I try to sit and write about it, my mind just draws a blank. I struggled to write about the good times that I had with the game and had very little negative thoughts about it. I understand why this game gets all the praise that it does, and I will admit that it is a solid JRPG that can easily be recommended. So why why why can’t I simply just talk about it? After the last attempt to write this, I finally came to an answer that most likely describes what I’m feeling. Dragon Quest XI is a comfort game. It does everything good that a JRPG should do, and it’s okay that it didn’t blow me away like other games have done before.

Synopsis

You are the Avatar. You were born to bring balance to the world and to stop evil. Unfortunately you were also born in Japan, so that makes you an anime protagonist instead. On the day of your birth, the anime antagonist was like “oh shit we can’t have this ruining my Bar Mitzvah” and decided to kill everyone that you knew and love; but not really since you were literarily less than 5 days old and couldn’t possibly remember anything. After pulling a baby Moses, you spend your childhood in the adaptive care of an old man and best mom out of any video game. After coming of age, you and your childhood friend Gemma climb a mountain to prove that you are real adults now and can do real adult things like read your grandpa’s chicken scratch handwriting to find out that you are adapted. Now it is up to you and your weird glow-in-the-evil tattoo to clear your name from being branded as the anime antagonist and travel through time (I think that’s what happens, that part in the story was never explained) to save the world and be the best Dragon Ball Z character ever created.

Confession Time

I played Dragon Quest XI on and off for the past three years. I started playing it a year after it came out. I played somewhat constantly up until you get to Gallopolis (about 5-6 hours in). Nine months later, I started Gondolia (the next story event) and went on another hiatus. Seven months later, I finished Gondolia and got the ship, but for some reason I put the game down again. TEN MONTHS LATER, I decided that I had put this game off for too long and was ready to commit myself to finishing it. No doubt school and other games that I wanted to play at the time had a part in this. The fact that a definitive version also came out while I was playing this also didn’t help (more on that later). So with that large gap in time that I had in the beginning of the game, something about the game must have not clicked with me to stay invested. Honestly, that wasn’t the case. Immediately when I started the game, I knew I was going to get hooked on it for a while, but my previous encounters with Dragon Quest games taught me that this may take me a while to finish. I was starting grad school at the time, so I was unsure of what my new time commitment to things was going to be like. Not to mention that I started playing at the beginning of 2019 and other games came along to distract my time. I made the subconscious decision to hold off on Dragon Quest XI until the time was right.

I’m glad I took the time to play this when I was ready, because I was able to enjoy myself. It took me about a month to get to the “end” and not once did I feel my normal burnout. If I play a game constant for a while, I normally tend to get burnt out after a while and try to head straight towards the ending. Towards the end, I was still having a good time and felt good about getting to the end of it. I haven’t felt that way about finishing a game in a while, so I’m glad that I still possess that emotion somewhere. As I write this, the feel good feelings are still there, and I want to find some excuse to return to the game to finish the post-game content as well as obtaining the platinum trophy.

The Game Itself

Was it just me, or did this game feel “easier” than other Dragon Quest games? My first Dragon Quest experience was Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2 and I remember that game being really difficult. Dragon Quest IX had its moments as well, but thanks to multiplayer and a younger brother who likes to grind, it didn’t feel as difficult as its predecessor. Battles in Dragon Quest XI were engaging, but I didn’t struggle with many fights. Since the battles were engaging, I didn’t run away from a single encounter I went into. Heck, I would go out of my way to fight almost everything that came my way. There is something about the flow of battle that never made it boring to fight each battle. I didn’t feel like I was over leveled or anything, but I think I have matured to the point where I know how to build my characters well and know what abilities to use during certain fights. I didn’t know until the final boss with the Lord of Shadows that if your first four characters die in battle, the other four will replace them and the battle will continue. That never happened to me in my entire playthrough and it shocked me when it happened. This is not me saying that fights are easy, it just means that I was so familiar with each character’s strengths and abilities that I was able to utilize them to the fullest in each fight. Something that I’m hardly aware of in most JRPGs.

The presentation of this game is one for the books. One thing that I love about the Dragon Quest franchise is that they go out their way to make each region unique with their environment and the dialect that each region uses (even though character designs are almost the same). This game is gorgeous! I’m not the biggest explorer in most games, but the world felt adventurous for me to explore. Some of the details on enemies thanks to glorious HD make them standout a bit more than the older games. Their animations in the overworld almost make them feel like they are a natural part of it, and the death animations are expressive as well. The world of Erdrea just feels like an adventurer’s realm full of secrets and exciting places to discover. Most RPGs don’t bring out the adventurous side of me, but that feeling never really left even during the final hours.

A Merry Band of Heroes

Onto the main cast. I know I said I liked every character that you can play as, but the one character that I felt the least for was the Luminary. At first, I didn’t like his design. There is nothing that sticks out with his design, so he just felt bland to me. Also in my playthrough, he was the only person who didn’t have a dedicated role. Jade and *Spoiler* were powerhouses in my team and I could effectively rely on them to handle most fights. I was reluctant on using Rab for a while, but when he becomes your only magic user and healer for a while, you soon realize that he is a great secondary magic user. Plus, he has some ridiculous abilities that make fights a breeze. Erik became a last resort character since he was fast and could evade a lot of attacks. Serena outclasses Rab as a healer, but I still preferred Rab since he could do other stuff as well besides just waiting to support. Even when *MAJOR STORY SPOILER HAPPENS* Serena just couldn’t catch up to the work I put in with Rab. Veronica stayed powerful no matter what and she still easily outclassed Rab when it came to magic. Sylvando is a wonderful support character with his multitarget abilities and sex appeal. If you don’t like Sylvando, then you just need to find some enjoyment out of life darling. That just leaves your character, the Luminary. Honestly not a lot going on except the his Zap magic which is very effective on most enemies and his Giga abilities that deal large amounts of damage. He is the McGuffin that keeps the game going, I just personally wish he was more interesting.

I Found A Complaint!

Okay I do have one major complaint that I would like to talk about and it is not about the game. This is about the developer of the game, Square Enix, and how annoying it handled the release of Dragon Quest XI S. So, I played the original game when it came out on PS4. Around the time that I put the game down for the second time, we got news that a Switch version of the game was coming out and it would be the definitive version of the game. I didn’t bother with it much since I had already started the PS4 version and I wasn’t about to start over just for extra content. What does annoy me is that Square originally said that they weren’t going to bring the definitive edition to PS4 or PC because “reasons” just for them to release a definitive version for PS4, PC, XBONE, and Stadia a year later because they were dumb and forgot that they liked money for a moment. What’s more, if you owned the original on PS4 or PC, you couldn’t transfer your data over for again “reasons.” This means that a slowpoke like myself couldn’t experience the “definitive” version of the game because I hadn’t finished the original and could not justify paying $60 to start a game over that I hadn’t finished yet. I know this is a first-world problem, but I’m a guy who likes to play the full experience of a game preferably the first time around. If I had finished the original at the time it came out, maybe I would have double dipped to play it all again. As of now, I would like to play the definitive version to see what big difference there is, but that won’t happen until years from now. It makes me second guess playing Dragon Quest XII when it comes out since now I have to worry if a better version of the game will be released a few years after the original.

Overall

I think I have talked all about what I wanted to say about this game. It was difficult thinking of anything to say about this game since at the end of the day it is a really good JRPG. There are plenty of other articles and reviews that talk about how amazing the game is and why you should play them. The real vibe I want to leave you guys with is that it is okay if an amazing game does not blow you away. Sometimes it is good for a game just to be cozy and comfortable in order for it to be a good game. I definitely want to return to the game at some point to finish the post-game and get all the achievements since I enjoyed it so much. If you came reading for a hot take or a convincing argument to play this after all this time, I’m sorry to say but I got nothing for ya. The game is good. Play it if you like JRPGs or going on adventures because it is worth it and then you can help me put better words into how I feel neutral about this game.

Game Stats (So many things so I just took screenshots):

Thanks for reading,

DanamesX

Backlog Tale – The World Ends With You: Final Remix

*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.

Synopsis

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.

Let the hate flow Neku

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.

Tell me you wouldn’t play a math game with him

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.