I Highly Recommend Smelling this Concrete Rose
The World Ends With You has some really nice things going for it, especially when it comes to utilizing all that the Nintendo DS hardware allows for. From using pretty-much every single gesture the Touch Screen has to offer, to the Microphone, to the “Mingle Mode” and “Tin Pin Slammer” (local Wi-Fi), it's all here. The only thing really missing from this wonderfully amazing package is online play, but being as it's an Action RPG it's totally understandable.
Beyond the gameplay mechanics and story, there's one thing I usually don't even pay attention to with my Nintendo DS games… the music. I'm usually got my ears strapped-into my music phone while I'm drudging around the city via pub-trans, playing my muted DS. I will say it outright; The World Ends With You has the best soundtrack you have ever heard on your Nintendo DS. It's truly amazing what Square Enix and Jupiter did with the music in this game! I just can't get enough.
As far as the story goes, you play as a 15 year old boy named Neku, who finds himself waking-up in the middle of Shibuya Tokyo with a spam text message from hell that just won't be deleted, a sweet looking Emo Pin with artwork resembling a skull, and not to mention a demonic timer imprinted on his hand. The text message is Neku's first in a series of missions. The timer is just for story's sake and does not intervene with gameplay as you really can take as much time as you want with each mission, making it much more like the Action RPG that it is then some crazy fast-paced Arcade game.
I found the story within the game quite engrossing, shrouded in a nice layer of mystery, which thoroughly excited me; at first. Unfortunately, as I neared the end of the game I was thoroughly bored. The final “Chapter” of the game totally had my interest lost, when it came to the plot. But none-the-less, the engaging gameplay and collection aspects had me coming back for more… and as a side-note, the dialog in The World Ends With You is perfect. Hats-off to the localization team!
Anyway, your main means of interacting with the world is with the Touch Screen. Moving your Party from place to place, going through menus, buying the most fashionable clothes and music from stores. The Touch Screen works just as great in The World Ends With You as most other DS games of this generation. But what sets it apart from other DS games is the combat, and that is where The World Ends With You really shines. They left no touch gesture unturned and you really have to play it for yourself to see how nice it all works.
Combat is played-out on both screens, simultaneously. The main character, Neku, battles on the bottom Touch Screen while his partner, at the time, battles on the top screen. Neku uses touch gestures (and sometimes the microphone) and his partner uses the D-pad/buttons. This is an extremely daunting task at first, until you start getting used to it… but even if you can't, they've got you covered. From Auto-Play partner mode to Easy difficulty settings. Just know that using these 2 options will not necessarily net you the best loot and the highest battle scores, which can be used to really rack-up the PP (Pin Points) for your Pins. Neku uses these Pins as abilities in battle. This works really well for the most part, but there are a few instances where some combinations of the Pin's touch gestures kind of over-power other ones; and as such, some abilities don't work too well with each-other. But none-the-less, this is an extremely small gripe. For the most part, the Pins and Touch Screen systems are really awesome!
You'll also be Evolving (Upgrading) said Pins, creating newer and more powerful versions, with even more sweet art to drool over. I found this part of the game really satisfying when it actually happened, but very disappointing when not. The problem here is that the game uses different kind of Pin Points and if you didn't use the correct kind, your Pin may not evolve for the best; or most likely, not at all. One thing I strongly feel that Square Enix and Jupiter should have done with the game is to allow for a fully “Mastered” Pin to duplicate… much like how Materia does in Final Fantasy VII. This would have allowed for more experimentation and tries at evolving your Pins just right. When it comes down to it, I really didn't like having so many types of Points to put into my Pins and would have also like a way to remove certain kinds of Pin Points, much like how you can “untrain” in many MMORPGs. Nothing's more frustrating than forgetting to unequipped a certain Pin before turning-off your DS, only to have it Level-up and not Evolve with “Shutdown Pin Points” the next time you fire-it-back-up. :(
The World Ends With You has some extremely solid ideas packed-in, but the lack of an epic RPG story and few other minor game system grips slightly holds it back. I immediately liked The World Ends With You, but as the repetition set in as the game's end approached, my initial impression gave way to some slight disappointments. Collecting every Pin, CD, and Clothing item was more of what The World Ends With You turned-into (which this game has an eerie sense of calling to me when my DS is turned-off and lying still on the table), than caring about the story or it's amazingly cool as hell characters.
The World Ends With You is not the blockbuster game of the year, deserving a 4.5 or 5… but a 4? Yes, this game deserves the solid 4 out of 5 Stars that I'm giving-it, and nothing more. With that said, The World Ends With You is a must buy for the Nintendo DS, and I'm really looking forward to the next game in the series where Square Enix and Jupiter will create that A+ 5/5 title next time around.