I wanted something different and found out the world ends with me.

Hmmm….that’s probably bad for the world, but this game is good.  Promise.

When choosing games to buy, I’ll be honest, I don’t stray too far outside my comfort zone.  I’ll play just about any re-hash of a game I grew up on, and I’ll stick close to platformers, RPGs, and 3rd person shooters.   But, every now and again, when my carefully guarded $60 is burning a giant hole in my pocket and there’s a dearth of good gameage, I’ll step into the vast semi-unknown. That’s what happened when I picked up The World Ends With You (TWEWY) for the DS a few years back.

The World Ends with You cover art (© Square Enix, Nintendo, etc. (source)

I say “semi-unknown” because I had heard of the game before.  And it’s a Square Enix game – I had played several of their games (most recently Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories).  TWEWY got a good review on X-Play and seemed like a genuinely interesting game with combat/RPG elements and colorful graphics.  It turned out to be whole lots fun, but was one of the strangest games I had ever played.

X-Play described TWEWY as “a J-Pop remix of the role-playing game.”  That’s the game in a graffiti-stained, electronica-addled nutshell.   It’s like a manga novel come-to-life, complete with love’ s lines, angles and rhymes (thank you 5th Dimension)  in Tokyo, or rather Shibuya, one of its shopping districts.

The actual Shibuya. With your 7/10ths of a U. S. dollar, you can almost buy happiness! (source)

You play as the brooding teenager Neku and he’s dead, but is alive in some sort of limbo/alternative universe (called the Underground) where he can only interact with other dead denizens.  The general population does not acknowledge his existence; however, he can buy things like clothes and food.  (Please don’t ask me to explain it, I really don’t recall the details and this is a J-game after all. Just go with it.)  Why and how did he die?  That’s what you’re trying to figure out.

The bad guys (top), the good guys (bottom), and a stuffed cat. Because of course there’s a stuffed cat. And he’s helpful too. (source)

Along the way, you meet other dead folks who join you in your quest.  Along the way, you fight bad guys (shown through “Noise” symbols) and earn “psych pins,” which in turn earns you XP.  I think purchasing stuff also gave you XP; and you could buy just about everything, from the hippest sunglasses to sushi.  Why would a dead guy need sunglasses and sushi??  See, he’s not really dead in the non-functioning, six-feet-under sorta way…he’s in limbo, and…ummm… arrrgggh!…I don’t know!  Didn’t I tell you to just go with it?  By the end of the game, Neku’s whole story is revealed, and it does make something of a statement about changing one’s outlook on life for the better.  The end.

There’s a reason I don’t write game reviews — I suck at it. [Calvin and Hobbes © Bill Watterson] (source)
Moving on as best as my brain allows…

TWEWY is not the most challenging game, but, like life, a lot of its nuances passed me by.  I didn’t really spend much time “shopping,” though Neku had to eat to stay alive, so to speak.  The combat system, controlled primarily through the touch screen, was fine, but I had bad timing and always missed chances to obtain more XP.  I fared okay with the pysch pins and learned how to trade them in, mostly for better moves or powers, but I was left with a load of them at the end of the game with no idea of how to use them.  TWEWY was a game at which I was thoroughly average.

Looks complicated, right? Well it is. But is really isn’t. And it still sort of is. (source)

Beyond the game play, the game had a great soundtrack.  I’m not the world’s biggest electronica fan, but there were more than a few morning commutes in which I “used” the game as a music player.  The music isn’t strictly electronica — there are rock, pop, and hip hop elements as well — but it’s the predominant theme.  And it’s not like the soundtrack completely dominates the game; in fact, it’s really very subtle as you’re playing through.  The songs, though, certainly stand on their own.

All in all, The World Ends With You was a very comfortable step outside my comfort zone.  Well, maybe I didn’t really step outside of it as much as play hokey pokey with it.  The RPG elements were certainly familiar, though I never really grasped them all.  From its amped-up music and teenage characters to its confusing story and odd real-life elements, it was a very memorable game.

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