3.0

The World Ends with You: Solo Remix review
"The World Ends With You"; Also known as "An Exercise in Tedium".

Summary:

Reviewing "TWEWY" is as about as appealing as attempting to eat fish and chips in the middle of a flock of seagulls, as one word said against this supposedly ground-breaking game is going to send the seething, feathered masses of the internet into a frenzy of eyeball-pecking and spontaneous bowel movements. Unfortunately, in order to provide a truthful review I'm going to have to mention the game is an over-hyped and under-developed mess eventually, so I suppose I may as well get my raincoat on right from the start.

TWEWY gets off to a great start with the main character, a wafer-thin social outcast with an obnoxiously Japanese name (Neku) who hates everyone and everything around him. Writing likable lead characters is so cliché, so I have to appreciate a game that makes my dream of an infant boxing simulator (the main character of which being a velociraptor) a more feasible product to market. Of course, this honeymoon doesn't last long after the introduction of Generic Japanese Anime Female (also known as Shiki Misaki), a girl who quite hypocritically attempts to teach Neku the power of teamwork and friendship and all other things sugary-sweet. Instead of remaining true to his dark and brooding self, Neku quickly changes his whole life philosophy and becomes a more caring person.

Seeing as I'm already complaining about character development, this is probably a good time to mention that the rest of it is as rubbish as what I've just described. For example (and without giving too much away), Shiki has a rather big secret which should - theoretically - have a massive impact on her character and demeanor. In the end, it changes her for all of five seconds and then she - and presumably the script writers - forget all about it. Now, I don't necessarily require my games to have a deep and involving plot, but when main characters have less of an attention span than your average goldfish, I start to get worried.

Of course, the reason this game has caused such a stir in gaming circles is its combat. People claim that the game's unique, both-screens-at-once battle style revolutionizes the way we play games on the DS. I refer to these people most charitably as "misinformed", because nobody should be able to look me in the eye and tell me that action spanning both screens is a new concept on the Nintendo Dual Screen. Even supposing for a moment that this was the first time it had ever been attempted, that doesn't really alter the fact that it hasn't been attempted particularly well.

The player controls Neku on the bottom screen, and admittedly this mechanic works alright. You move Neku around by dragging the stylus, and activate his god-like powers (given to him by the Pins he wears; More on these later) by tapping, scratching and drawing all over the on-screen enemies. Despite the game often being unable to tell the difference between two different inputs, executing the wrong attack is never really an issue as long as you're still doing damage. Due to the nature of this particular beast, you'll often find yourself just hurriedly tapping the stylus all over the screen, which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't yield virtually the same result as fighting battles strategically.

Things really fall apart when you start worrying about the character on the top screen. Instead of controlling your partner directly, they remain stationary in the middle of the screen and you control the direction of their attacks by pressing Left or Right on the D-Pad (or A and Y for lefties like myself). While Neku gets souped up into somewhat of a demi-god, your partner doesn't get superpowers; They get card games. For example, you first partner - Shiki - holds three face-down cards at the top of her screen. By pressing her attack buttons, you cause a three-way branching button path to appear. Press the direction of the arrows which take you down the path you want, and eventually you'll hit a symbol. If that symbol is on the card to the furthest right of the screen, you've guessed correctly. If it's not, tough luck, you need to start up a new combo chain and navigate to a different symbol this time.

There are two major problems with this (ignoring how stupid it is to begin with). Firstly, enemies are much more vicious on Neku's screen, meaning that if you stop paying attention to him for any length of time you're going to have your ass handed to you. Secondly, the position of the symbols in the branching paths is randomized each time you start a combo, meaning you can (and will) just hammer left or right and end up "guessing" all three symbols eventually. What's more, doing this allows Neku and Shiki to execute a super move that deals large amounts of damage to all on-screen enemies. Being heftily rewarded for mashing buttons is like being told the only equipment you'll need for your exit exams are crayons and safety scissors; You don't really feel like you're doing much but you reap the benefits regardless. Shiki isn't the only partner you have throughout the game, but each of their attacks have some level of spammability and it really just makes me wonder why they bothered. Having two screens holding independent battles was a perfect opportunity to create some really deep combat, so it feels almost as though the developers wussed out the day before release and just made it into a button-slapping contest instead.

The final (and probably most pressing) problem with the game is the whole Pin system, Pins being what you attack with throughout the game. On the surface, Pins are simple enough: They come with a handy status screen that tells you what the Pin does in battle, how to activate it, and other useful information such as how many times you can use the Pin before it needs to recharge and how long recharging takes. What isn't so helpful is the terribly vague "Looks like this Pin could evolve!" line present on most Pins you collect. This isn't Pokemon, where to level up and evolve you simply need to fight a lot. TWEWY utilizes a unique system in which you can collect three different types of experience - Battle PP, Shutdown PP and Mingle PP - with certain Pins only evolving when a particular type of PP is the dominant one used to level them.

Battle PP is simple and the only type that really makes sense: Battle a lot and you'll gain PP. Shutdown PP is "earned" by not playing the game for a significant number of days. Yes, you read that correctly, the game actually rewards you with massive amounts of Shutdown PP whenever you don't play it for a while. Mingle PP is by far the most contrived, requiring you to enter "Mingle Mode" from the game's menu screen. The game will then search for any DS/Wii signals currently broadcasting (any wireless activity will count) and give you points for each signal you pick up.

The most puzzling thing about this whole system is how easy it is to abuse. To quickly gain Shutdown PP, all you have to do is add seven days to the date on your DS and the game will think you haven't played it for that length of time. Even Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were capable of detecting when a player had screwed with the system clock, so why not TWEWY? Either the developers left this loophole open intentionally so players didn't have to wait so long - which brings into question why they'd even bother with Shutdown PP in the first place - or they genuinely didn't think about it, which just supports my opening statement that the game is critically underdeveloped. Mingle PP is by far the worst offender, though. If you don't have your own DS or Wii (in which case you can just keep mingling with them to slowly rack up Mingle PP), then you really do have to rely on picking up the wireless signals from someone else's DS while wandering around your neighborhood. It's a stupid concept that doesn't work in theory or in practice; You either abuse your own wireless systems or you probably never evolve a Pin via Mingle PP, simple as that.

As I mentioned earlier, while Pins tell you whether or not it's possible for them to evolve, they don't tell you which type of PP you need. If you level up a Pin with Battle PP when it needed Shutdown PP, too bad; You've got to buy another Pin and start anew. What's worse is that some Pins have several branching evolution paths, however there is only one "ultimate" form that can only be reached by taking a particular path. So even if you guess the right type of PP a couple of times, you might unknowingly be headed down the wrong line of evolution and never get the Pin to its best form. It's a sad day when you absolutely can't do anything in the game without either hours and hours of trial and error (Pin evolving isn't quick) or a guidebook. A game should allow those playing it some way to gradually learn the mechanics of even the most complicated gameplay elements, however TWEWY offers no such opportunity, meaning most players will be confined to the weak, low-end Pins and powers.

TWEWY's music is perhaps its one saving grace, something which I only admit begrudgingly. Being a metal-head myself, I spend much of my spare time scoffing at every other genre of music, particularly those which I consider to be at the absolute bottom of the food chain. I consider j-pop (and anything by Soulja Boy, for what it's worth) to be pretty much the bottom of the barrel, which is why I'm so conflicted on TWEWY's soundtrack. It isn't anything other than bouncy j-pop tunes (or what I imagine most j-pop sounds like, given I don't actively seek it out) and yet it's so damn catchy I often find myself humming along. The emotional turmoil is so great I end up telling myself I hate it while simultaneously downloading the entire soundtrack. I really can't criticize it, because it fits the mood of the game perfectly (or rather, it adds the mood to an otherwise soulless experience) and allows me to wring some enjoyment out of a game which you can probably tell I don't really like at all.

For all its faults, TWEWY is still pretty amusing, but then so is throwing bricks through seniors' windows (apparently) so I'm not sure that's good enough. TWEWY especially doesn't deserve the unwavering praise of virtually everyone on the planet, because at its core it is, like most other JRPGs, nothing but an exercise in grinding and reading copious amounts of text. The story fails to engage the player, the characters rarely come off convincingly, battles are a bit too hectic/simple for their own good and the number-crunching aspect of the game is ridiculously not user-friendly.

Not being a JRPG connoisseur I can't really say whether I'd recommend this game for those who like the genre, because it just failed to impress me on any level and I assume even JRPG players like to feel engaged. Perhaps TWEWY, with its heavy number-crunching combined with elements not typically found in most RPGs, is supposed to act as some sort of bridge between JRPGs and the rest of the gaming world, making the genre more accessible and thus more appealing outside of gaming's home country of Japan. If that is in fact the case, then I'd say that the bridge is only half built yet the trolls have already started moving in. TWEWY gets a double thumbs-down from me.

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0 thumbs!
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BurnMyDread Jun 16, 08
While I don't agree that The World Ends With You is a bad game, I can agree with the fact that from some points of view the things you brought up have a strong arguement. You're right (for me anyways) that especially early on in the game I did little more than just spam the top screen player. After playing for a longer period though, I found that the battles tends to have a rythem to them. Once I figured out the way the battles flow they became quite fun and entertaining. The other strong point that I feel that you made was with the pin system. I enjoy collecting everything I possible can in the games I play, and collecting all of the pins is a difficult and somewhat tedious task. I also have to agree that the fact that it offers very little indication of how to evolve the pins is strange and quite frustrating to find out through trial and error. Personally I had no major problem with the characters, though I can see where you're coming from with your opinions on Shiki. Like I said before I don't agree with the opinions that you expressed in your review, but from (as much as I possibly can) a more unbias stance the opinions make sense and bring up good points (especially with the shutdown PP thing).
0 thumbs!
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Amethyst Jun 28, 08
    You really remind me of Yahtzee all the time.

    Nice review. Perfect points. Shame I'm a fanboy of it.
-1 thumbs!
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NeOsX Mar 6, 11
I believe previous JRPG experience is needed before even reviewing a game like that, or any other game in that matter...
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