Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The World Ends With You - DS

I was taking a look back at all the games I've played this year, and realised I hadn't written anything about this cracking DS game. It was released back in May, so I'm sure if you search around you'll get it for a decent price.

Taking control of a spiky-haired dude with a personality problem is nothing new in Japanese video games. Throw is an amnesia-driven storyline and you'd be forgiven in thinking The World Ends With You is just another run of the mill adventure.

However, this Square Enix game is anything but average and is actually one of the most refreshing games I've played in a long time.

Neku, the spiky-haired loner of the piece, wakes up in the middle of the fashionable Tokyo area of Shibuya. He has no idea how he got there and becomes even more confused when he receives a strange text message telling him that unless he plays 'The Game' during the course of the next seven days, he will face dire consequences.

It turns out that a group called the Reapers have roped Neku into their twisted game, and unless he complies with their requests, he will be erased... permanently.

Although the game is set in Shibuya, Neku and the other people embroiled in The Game - the Players - quickly learn they are actually in a ghostly alternate version of the trendy Tokyo district, and are invisible to the outside world.

Neku initially teams up with Shiki, a fashion-conscious teenager, and together they set out to complete their tasks and try and survive until the end of the week.

The first thing to strike you about The World Ends With You is its vibrant visuals and fantastic J-Pop soundtrack. Both elements bring the title to life, separating it from the usual bog standard RPG fare we're used to. The graphical style is also reminiscent of the classic Dreamcast title title, Jet Set Radio.

While the sights and sounds pull you into the game, it's the gameplay which proves to be the adventure's success story.

During battles you control both characters at the same time. Neku fights foes on the bottom screen, and you use swipes of the stylus to input his moves, while your partner fights on the top screen and the d-pad comes into play to input directional combos. This dual screen system is initially bewildering, however perseverance reaps rewards and it's extremely satisfying when everything clicks into place.

By defeating foes, you'll collect Pins - badges which have special powers. There are a jaw-dropping 300 varieties to be discovered, and deciding which set to use takes a bit of thought. It's a great system and only the truly committed will collect them all.

All the badges can be levelled up, and even when your DS is switched off, badges will still rise in experience. It becomes something of an obsession levelling up your favourites and soon you'll have a wide selection to choose between.

As the game is set in Shibuya - the fashion centre of Tokyo, where real life Japanese kids gather to show off their latest look - there are a multitude of clothing stores scattered about the game.

Each store sells a different brand of clothing, and deciding what to buy isn't as easy as it sounds. Each area is colour coded, indicating what fashions are hot. So wearing something that is deemed fashionable in some areas might not go down too well in others.

This can affect your stats when fighting, so it's always best to kit yourself out in what's in fashion in a particular area.

Add to this heady mix of styles the ability to dine in various restaurants - which again affects your stats - and you are left with an incredibly deep game, with a bewildering array of gameplay options.

This title is one of the best games I've ever played on the DS and games as good as this are few and far between. Any gamer who wants a thoroughly entertaining title packed with content should grab this as soon as they can.

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