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.

August 2021 Report

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these end-of-the-month reports. The layout is mostly the same, but there will be some additional content included in these reports.

It feels good to get back in to writing. I say this as I’ve been struggling to sit down and actually write things out. The beginning of August saw some positive changes to my life as new possibilities are open to me. I was excited to start some new things and spend more time on the things, but as always, life sometimes has different plans. Work really picked up the second half of August with getting ready for the new school year and training some of our new part-timers. My schedule was altered these last few weeks, so any habits and motivations I had before then have to be reestablished. Luckily, things should be fairly constant now, so here’s to getting back into a normal routine.

Finished Games

Hey look! I have less responsibilities now. Meaning I can actually get games done! I managed to get three games done this month! Let’s see if I can keep this streak going next month (probably not since Tales of Arise is coming out).

Astro’s Playroom

Astro's Playroom Box Front

I didn’t make a big deal about it when I got it, but I was able to obtain one of those new fancy gaming devices that people have been after. In true fashion, I stumbled on what to play first, but I ended up going with Astro’s Playroom since it was preloaded on the system. For a tech demo, this has to be one of my favorites. I feel like I not only understand the hype behind the DualSense controller better, but I felt like this was a big ‘ol love letter to PlayStation’s history. It was fun to located all the easter eggs and find all the collectables since it felt like finding artifacts to put in your museum. The entire presentation and vibe just made it fun to play (so much that Kat ended up playing the majority of the game on my profile). I don’t think I will write a full Backlog Tale on this game since I basically said all I had to say right there. Definitely a better (and cheaper) tech demo demonstrating the PS5 than what Nintendo did with the Switch (would compare Xbox but they have no demos).

The World Ends With You: Final Remix

This month’s unexpected finisher was The World Ends With You: Final Remix. I just happened to start the game up on a whim one afternoon and eventually finished it a few days later. I was not prepared to get hooked on this game with its shitty controls on the Switch, but I ended up really enjoying the story in this game. Finishing the game on the Switch has compelled me to finish the original on the DS and eventually get Neo: The World Ends With You when I eventually get around to getting it. As I write this I am listening to the soundtrack on Spotify since I find it weirdly catchy. There will be a full Backlog Tale on this game coming next month.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

The other big shocker to me is that I finished Dragon Quest XI a few days ago. This is a game that I have been playing off and on since 2019. It’s not a bad game, I’m just really bad at finishing games that I’ve started. I enjoyed playing this Dragon Quest and I can see why people praise it so highly. It’s definitely pretty and has one of the best cast of characters. I just have a few nitpicks with it that places it at my #2 Dragon Quest game. To find out more of my thoughts on this game, you will have to wait until I write about it in a Backlog Tale next month.


New Additions

Demon’s Souls

This was the game I was looking forward to playing the most when I finally acquired my PS5. I had two gift cards that I had to use up before I forgot about them, and this was one of those purchases. I played the original on the PS3, but oh boy do those framerates hold it back from being fun. I managed to play up to the part where I left of in the PS3 version, so now I am back at playing the game of trail and error to figure out where I’m going. Otherwise, I am enjoying this remaster.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

You know, I’m just going to say it. Skyward Sword may be my favorite 3D Zelda title. It was the first one that I played and finished when it came out on the Wii. There is something about it that’s appealing to me where the other 3D Zelda games didn’t. I wasn’t planning on getting this anytime soon, but I had that second gift card and this was the first to catch my attention.

Samurai Warriors 5

Somehow this game escaped my radar. When I was getting the other two games, I saw an ad for it. I asked if they had a copy and they found a used copy that was cheap enough for me to buy it. So far this game is a comfort musou game that I was looking for this year. I did play Persona 5 Strikers, but that is more of a Persona game than a musou game. The only thing that throws me off in this game is the lack of a dash button since I’m used to having one. Other than that, I’m having fun playing this in burst when I just need to mow down hoards of people out of frustration.

Harvest Moon: Magical Melody

I found this in a second hand store (the same place where I seem to be finding a lot of good retro games). I have good memories of the other Harvest Moon game on the GameCube, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. I have never seen Magical Melody in the wild before, so I took this as a sign of good faith to get it. For an obscure GameCube game, I was surprise that it wasn’t expensive like other GameCube games. Nice to have this in the collection and I’m looking forward to giving this game a try.

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town

I have never owned this game, and the only reason I got it was so that I could try the feature out on A Wonderful Life where you have to hook up the GBA game to the GameCube game via the link cable. Have I done it yet? No. I got too busy finishing the other games I was working on. I would say I would do it in September, but you know…Tales of Arise.

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature

YES I BOUGHT A THIRD HARVEST MOON GAME! SO WHAT! COME AND SUE ME IF YOU WILL! ….I saw it when I was getting Friends of Mineral Town and bought it as well because you can never have too much Harvest Moon. Just be happy I stopped there and didn’t pick up Save the Homeland as well.

Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland

Scarlet Nexus

Fantasy Sci-fi is hard for me to get into sometimes. Scarlet Nexus has my attention solely because it was made by present/former members of the Tales of series. Picked it up on sale. I will be going into this game blind since the only thing I know about this game is anime and psychic powers.

Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 1

This compilation snuck in at the last minute; arriving at my door step yesterday evening. I preordered this a ways back and wasn’t expecting it to come in time since I was getting email from NIS America that the game was going to be late due to deluxe edition items arriving late. It didn’t make my top 10 games, but I adore Phantom Brave and it might be one of my favorite strategy RPG. Soul Nomad is a great bonus since I played the game on the PS2. Sadly I had to sell my copy since the game would freeze at the start of the final boss fight. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen again.


Currently Playing

Since I just finished playing Dragon Quest XI, I don’t have any real plans currently. I want to do the post game content in Dragon Quest XI, but I don’t want to make that the main focus of my gaming time. I am about to embark on the Shadowbringers content for Final Fantasy XIV, so I am excited for that. The word is that Shadowbringers has one of the best stories in Final Fantasy, so I’m ready to see if the hype is real. Also if it seems like I am playing a lot of Square Enix games recently, I promise that it is just a giant coincidence.

Plans for Next Month

My current playlist is sparse right now since I am waiting for the release of Tales of Arise. If there were ever times to get me to stop playing something because something new was coming out, it would have to be a new Monster Hunter, Tales of game, or a new mainline Pokémon. After playing the demo for Arise, I am interested in seeing how the full mechanics playout and to get a real handle on combat. Using R1 for your standard attack is new and weird, but pulling off combos has never been easier and more fun. I’m going to have a good time with this game and hopefully I don’t procrastinate around to get it done.

Once I get off my lazy ass to do it, I hope to debut my Collection Tales series next month. Collection Tales are post where I talk about things in my collection and stories of how I came across them and the game itself. I’ve had the first one sitting in my drafts folder since about March, so I think it’s time to finish that up and get that series started.

50/50 Challenge Update

I had a good routine going on. I was exercising daily and made sure to keep track of everything. The work schedule change however ruined my routine and the heat outside had sapped the remaining energy out of me. I have not given up yet though! There shouldn’t be any schedule changes for me for the rest of the year, so I can reestablish my habits again. Unfortunately, I feel like I undid any work I put in at the beginning and feel like I’m back at square one. I don’t have a working scale at home, so I can’t monitor where I’m at throughout the week. In the next update post, I will have an update with how many pounds I’ve lost so far.

As for games, I am in a good spot right now. I don’t count Astro’s Playroom since I finished it before I started my challenge (got to keep those technicalities in there). If I can keep going at this pace, I should be able to meet my challenge goals (if I can stop playing 60+ hour RPGs).

Challenge Statistics:

Weight loss: ???
Pounds to go: 50

Games Finished This Month: 2
Total Games Finished: 2/50

That’s all I got this month. Here’s to seeing if I can regain my lost motivation and start kicking ass in September.

DanamesX

Backlog Tale – SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions

The SaGa series is one that I’ve been interested in getting into. I first attempted this series with Romancing SaGa on the PlayStation 2, but never finished it since I got lost. Then I attempted Romancing SaGa 2 when it was remastered back in 2017. I didn’t get far in that game either since the mechanics felt confusing for me at the time. Third time is the charm however and I was able to actually finish a SaGa game! SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions was one of the easiest SaGa games to get into, but also one of the hardest games that I have played.

Synopsis

This is all I got from the opening cutscene.


In the beginning, there were the twelve Celestials. These twelve decided who was cool enough to exist in this cool realm that they built and punished anyone who they didn’t like. One person they didn’t like was a scarlet star that was called the Firebringer. The Firebringer did something to betray the Celestials’ cool realm that they had going on and decided to banish him from the sky. He must have done something bad like mixing M&Ms, Recess’ Pieces, and Skittles all in one bowl and served it at a party or something. The Firebringer, not liking the idea of not partying in the heavens anymore, decided to grant man the gift of fire and force his way back into the heavens. Instead of doing something about it themselves, like all responsible deities, they decided to grant this one emperor’s bloodline the ability to defeat the Firebringer whenever he showed this spiky hair around. The emperor’s lineage was able to defeat the Firebringer six times before a future heir struck him down “permanently” on the seventh try. This shattered his body into scarlet shards, and peace fell over the realm; until it wasn’t. Humanity started to act like humanity and brought about the dark ages by worshiping Spirituals and Infernos that turned the world into a modern day Wednesday afternoon. The emperor’s bloodline came to a halt when he was assassinated with what the game calls a dagger but if you look at the cutscene that looks like a freaking jagged claymore. So now after all this time, the Firebringer plots his return to burn the heavens. It is up to YOU to stop him now; and when I say “You” I mean one of the four protagonist that you chose from after answering a Buzzfeed quiz.


The introduction is not that all important. You just need to know that shit is going down and it is the protagonist’s destiny to stop the Firebringer from returning. How that happens is all determined by the actions and choices that you make. For those who are new to SaGa games, each game follows the nonlinear, open world RPG mechanic where you are responsible for the story and adventure that you have. There have been games similar to this design that prove to be great experiences. What makes the SaGa games different, unique, and sometimes frustrating is how the game commits to your decisions and affect characters, items, and events that you can get if you miss out on it. The other good or annoying aspect of these games are the different character’s stories that you can play after finishing each of them. This can vary your playtime as the first playthrough could be longer than the next once you have the basic understanding of how the game works. SaGa games are not meant to be easy or hard, but they do challenge your understanding of how combat works, how to grow character’s skills, and your ability to save as often as possible.

I Can’t Tell If I’m Enjoying This Or Hating It

For my playthrough of SaGa: Scarlet Grace, I was given Urpina as my main character for this journey. Urpina is left in charge of watching her father’s kingdom as he goes off to war. While on patrol, she spots some shady characters hanging around and summon an Earth Inferno. After dealing with it, she gets word that he father is missing and brother has been kidnapped. Now it is up to her to track them down and stop the shady characters from summoning more Infernos around the world.

That is all I remember before I just stumbled around places to see what would happen. Thanks to the nonlinear nature of the game, I was free to chose how I would go about tackling the main story. This resulted in me missing out on some good characters and skills (like dual wielding) because I just didn’t know what was going to trigger what. To some this might sound exciting since each playthrough is its own experience that could be drastically different the next time. For someone like me who likes to do as much as possible and unlock as many options as I can, I felt like I missed out on a lot of things that may have made my playthrough more enjoyable. Its like finding a can opener that fits your inventory really well, but knowing you missed out on another can opener that has a bottle opener as well and can also shoot lightning. It is possible to unlock all characters and get most special items in one playthrough, but it requires a lot of research or trial and error that I did not have.

Combat was something that I struggled with the most at the beginning, but slowly turned into an expert towards the end. You are able to bring 5 characters into a battle and select a formation that works best for what you have. Formations are important since each one carries a specific buff for characters in key positions and determines the amount of Battle Points (BP) you have in battle. BP determines the techniques that each character can use with basic techs costing less BP and stronger techs costing more. Enemies follow the same logic as well, but you can’t see what their BP gauge is, so just know that they can’t spam their strongest attacks if fighting in a large group. If I haven’t lost you yet in the explanation of the battle system then get ready to get a migraine after these next parts.

Like an RPG, enemies (and you) have weaknesses that you can exploit. There are weapons that can go slash, poke, and bonk, but there are also spells that are hot, cold, or shocking (oh my!). Monsters come in a variety of classes and each carry their own weakness and immunities that you have to take into account. Beastman for example, have no weaknesses what so ever, so hit them with status aliments to help bring them down quicker. The main problem I have with this game’s approach to strengths and weaknesses if that most of them are weak to one weapon type, but will resist multiple types. It becomes less of a game of exploiting weaknesses and more of finding ways to outsmart and overpower with what you have. I constantly had to have a weakness chart on hand mostly to remember what enemy types resisted or were immune to.

Give that child a cannon. Children love cannons.

Ok. Time for the hardest curveball. There are no levels or traditional stat increases that characters get at the end of each battle. The only things characters improve during battles are their HP stat, weapon proficiency, and the rank of their techniques. The most important thing to remember about this game is that character’s improve in battle AND the equipment that they have equipped. Each character comes with stats that cannot be improved in battle or consumable items, but can be affected by their equipment. Each stat (like always) corresponds with how effective they will be with certain weapon types. If you have someone with a good acuity, you better give them a spear or bow to make the most out of them. Some characters come with great stats in one or multiple areas that will tell you what they are made for. Characters become stronger when they have more proficiency with weapons they are good with, so try only using two weapons per character. Technique rank goes up the more times you use that technique in battle. The only difference is magic which staff users have to absorb flux in order to level up that spell. You get a certain amount of flux depending on the difficulty and element of the battle; and the staff wielder has to be in the battle to obtain flux.

Each battle will tell you the elemental boost of the field (I am not going to explain that one since I ignored it), how difficult the battle(s) will be, tasks that you can do during battle to get extra rewards, and a silhouette of the enemies you will be facing. One of the best things about this game is that there are no random encounters, and the game does a good job of giving you a heads up before you enter a fight so you can accept or decline. Once you accept a battle, you will have time to change up your party and formation and leave the fight if you feel like you are not prepared. A reason you may want to back out of a fight is if party members are hurting. Each character has a Life Point counter that goes down each time they fall in battle. If that number reaches zero, that character cannot be used in battles until their LP is fully restored (LP restores when they are not taking part in battles (about 1LP per 2 battles)). This is where having rotating party members come in handy so you are not left with your weaker characters taking on the harder fights while your MVPs are resting.

You Know What. I’m Tired Of Talking About Mechanics

As you can tell, there are a lot of mechanics that go into this game. The sheer amount of things to take into consideration like using a ranged attack on an enemy that has ??? under their icon to quell them from interrupting or countering is something to look out for. Defeating an enemy in-between two of your characters can trigger a united attack and vise versa with enemies. The despair you get when you are trying to protect someone only for some bullshit to happen and causes you the fight. It is a lot of information to process at all times, and that is one of the best and worse things about this game. What I found enjoyable and what got me to play through the entire game is the combat. As frustrating as it is to learn things through trial and error, I always felt satisfied when I was able to take down a tough opponent. There were fights where I was down to my last character, but thanks to counterattacks, it was easy to take them out since I would keep countering them. When you are able to pull off a united attack three times in a row and finish a battle in the same turn, it just feels good. Those are the moments when I felt like I had somewhat mastered the battle system. I was able to think ahead in a lot of situations and find ways to keep all of my party members alive at the end thanks to my planning ahead. There are no recover items that you can use in battle and the two healing spells that I got were pointless since they costs a lot of BP for little effect. When I was able to start predicting the flow of the battle, that is when I was starting to have the most fun.

At this point you are probably asking what happened to the story? All I can say is nothing really. There are some good moments like if you are unable to save Urpina’s brother (like me) and character moments that I actually found entertaining. I was able to recruit this lady (names Lady) who had a giant crush on Urpina and she was like “let’s go my love!” Moments like this made me want to find new party members and never turn down anyone that wanted to come along (you also learn new formations by recruiting more people). I missed a lot of people in my playthrough, but the team I assembled got most of the job done even when I started to default to the same 8 people over and over.

Remember To Always Save

All things get boring at some point. Towards the end I was starting to get my fill, so I decided to stop doing side quest and head straight to the final boss (after I was told that I could). I felt confident in beating the Firebringer since my team felt tight. Little did I know, the Firebringer likes to fight with AOE attacks that wiped my party out in about three turns. I felt like this was going to be impossible without a guide to help me get pass his bullshit. After finding a guide (there are not a lot of guides out there for this game) I learned that not only was I fighting him at his full strength, but he had 7 more forms that I had to beat in succession. Luckily, my guide told me that I needed to finish destroying the scarlet shards in order to make the final boss easier to manage. So I loaded up a previous save and got to work. The last shard requires you to fight against one of your party members, Elysed (best Mage in game), and depending on your decision, you can either “save” her or leave and get a powerful weapon. I didn’t want to lose one of my best characters before the final fight. So I fought her, won the battle, and the following dialogue scene says that she was going to stay home and support Urpina from there.

Uh, no. I need you to come with me to finish this fight.

Upon reading the guide again, Elysed needs to be one of your top 15 characters in order for you to keep her. Something wasn’t right then since she was in most of all my fights ever since I got her. So I grinded some battles really quick, redid the fight, and the dialogue still said that she was going to stay at home. In bewilderment, I checked my roster to see if she wasn’t truly there, but there she was in my party! I don’t know if it is just a translation issue or what, but I wasted so much of my time trying not to lose her when I still had her all this time. To add salt to the wound, when I went back to fight the Firebringer, Sasha (the character that has been following you to destroy the scarlet shards) will join your party for the final fight (only if you destroy the other shards, plus Urpina’s ring) and then she becomes the most powerful mage in your party. I spent hours trying to keep my favorite mage, but ended up tossing her back in the toy box when I got my new BMF (Best Mage Forever). Thanks to her (and destroying all the shards), the Firebringer fight was piss easy and none of my characters died during each phase. So much for throwing the biggest barbecue in the heavens.

No! Not again! I just want to grill steaks!

My Recommendations

At the end of the day, I ended up enjoying this game more than I had the right to. It is not an easy game for beginners or people new to the series, but it is also the easiest game to get into the series. Other games in the series has permadeath if a party member’s LP reaches zero unlike this game. This game has no random encounters and gives the player as much preparations and chances to back out a fight if needed (you can’t flee battles, but you can load up the last autosave if a fight is too hard, which will be right before you accept the battle). Honestly, if someone wanted to try out the series I would suggest them to start with this one to get a base understanding of the series. However, I cannot recommend this game to anyone unless you are seriously interested in this game or the series. For $30 USD, I don’t feel comfortable recommending this game to you unless you feel like you are going to have a good time playing it. I enjoyed my time playing this game, but I have no desire to play through the other three character’s stories anytime soon*. You definitely get your money’s worth with the content and replay value, but if you don’t like overcoming certain limitations and strategic battles, then I would say save your money. If game rental stores were still around, I would definitely recommend borrowing it and trying it out for yourself and then determine if you want to continue. But seeing as this is only a digital game outside of Japan, you either have to enjoy it or be sad that you wasted money.

*Hello! Future Danames here to tell you that I recently started a second playthrough. You do have the option to carry over some techs and skills over to the next playthrough to make that process a bit easier. I am on Taria’s story now and she is kinda busted with her role ability and the spells she starts off with. I haven’t gone too far in her story since I have other games to finish, but I enjoy having this on the backside if I need a break from what I’m currently working on. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to do more future things like pay the future tax. You have to pay a tax for going back to the past in the future. It sucks.