One of the most unique and edgy JRPGs was released in 2007 on the Nintendo DS. Developed by Jupiter and published by Square Enix, The World Ends With You put gamers into a modern Japanese culture filled with bustling city streets, pop culture, and fashion. How does this super-cult game hold up today? We put on our best pins and eat plenty of ramen in my The World Ends With You review.
The World Ends With You Plot:
JRPGs are known for their amazing plots and cast of characters. The World Ends With You is no different but the setting, atmosphere, and cast of characters set it apart from others in the genre. The game stars five Japanese youths who have been transported to the “Underground” realm in Shibuya, Japan. In the Underground realm, everyone is dead. They are spirits who are not heard by others in the Realground realm (living realm) although the spirits can see everyone else. People transported to the Underground are entered into a game. Survive for seven days, and you can potentially be revived and live your life again in the Realground.
There are quite a few rules though to this game. First, you must find a partner. If you don’t have one, you’ll become “erased” which means you’ll fade from existence. Once you have a partner, you’ll need to complete a daily mission. These missions are handed out at the start of each day and come with a timer. (the timer doesn’t affect actual gameplay, just the story) Not everyone needs to finish the mission, just one of the teams competing in the game. If someone completes the mission, everyone survives the day. If no one completes the mission, everyone is erased.
Preventing the players from completing the mission are Reapers. These reapers are ex-players in the Underground who have chosen their path. As a reaper, it’s their job to try and erase players from the game or face being erased themselves. Reapers have different ranks and the highest can transcend into angels. Orchestrating the entire game is the Composer who is a God-like figure that watches over Shibuya. They set the rules, the missions, and ultimately shape the game. The highest-ranking reaper is called the Conductor who is in charge of all the other reapers and forces them to battle players. Lastly, there is the “noise” who are angry creature spirits that live in the Underground Realm and are attracted there by negative thoughts and emotions from people in the Realground.
Neku is the main protagonist in The World Ends With You. His memory has been erased and he has no idea how he was killed or why he is there. He quickly forms a partnership with Shiki, a teenage girl that was jealous of her best friend’s beauty. Instead of playing the game in her body, her spirit takes the shape of her best friend. At first, these two butt heads a lot specifically with Neku being very anti-social and a lone wolf figure. They meet two other players named Rhyme and Beat who are brother and sister and form a friendly rivalry. In one of the final days of the first week, Rhyme is killed by a Reaper devastating Beat. Without a partner, Beat seeks helps and becomes Reaper.
Shiki and Neku make it to the final day where the mission is completed. With Shiki having the highest “score” in the game, she is transported back to the Realground, and Neku is left to play the game again. Unfortunately, because Neku formed a bond with Shiki, she is transported back to the Underground as his entry fee. Each participant is required to give up something that means the most to them. With Neku and Shiki bonding, she becomes what Neku values most and is held hostage.
Neku partners with a snobby and know-it-all player named Joshua. During the second week, the missions are different and much more relaxed. Joshua and Neku face off with Beat a few times as he is a newly appointed Reaper but Neku spares Beat several times in an attempt to get him to change his ways. Beat joined the reapers in hopes of erasing enough players to revive his sister Rhyme who was killed in the previous game.
Memories begin to flashback for Neku and he remembers that Joshua is the one that killed him in the Realground, shooting him with a gun. Joshua was always special and could see the Underground realm even while still alive. He decided he wanted to play the game himself and chose Neku to partner with. The two make it to the final day in week two and face off with a head reaper. They defeat him but he launches one last attack and Joshua sacrifices himself to save Neku.
Neku wakes up again in another iteration of the game and his entry fee this time is all the players he’s made a connection with so he can’t form any pacts with anyone. Beat realizes that Neku will be erased so he deflects from the reapers and joins Neku to save him. They venture to a river that Joshua kept discussing in the previous week as there are no missions to complete. At this river, they meet the Conductor of the game. The conductor states that he needs to reshape Shibuya or else he will be erased by the Composer. Joshua reveals himself again and admits that he is indeed the Composer and chose Neku as his partner. The Conductor was trying to kill Joshua in the Realground which led to Neku believing that the Conductor was the one that killed him but as stated it was actually Joshua.
Neku and the Conductor face off in a battle where Neku defeats him. Joshua gives him one last challenge, a one-on-one pistol duel again him. Neku refuses and is shot again by Joshua. He wakes up in the Realground and runs to a statue where all the players vowed to gather if they made it out of the game. Neku is shown to be social and friendly as Rhyme, Beat, and Shiki are at the statue laughing and waiting for him.
The World Ends With You Gameplay:
The World Ends With You is presented incredibly well. When the opening intro comes onto the dual screens you’ll get a sense of a modern “Cowboy Bebop” and the soundtrack is near perfect. It’s so unique and I don’t think it’d fit any other game but it works so well to create an atmosphere of a modern youth-entrenched Japan. I was a bit hesitant to play The World Ends With You since I’m not a huge fan of modern setting JRPGs, but those doubts quickly vanished once I got into the game.
There are two gripes I’ll get out of the way. This is a Nintendo DS game which means you’ll use the stylus pen 90 percent of the time. Battles are intense and you’ll be slapping that stylus non-stop on the screen and moving it every way possible. It’s extremely tiring and my hand cramped many times. That may just be me being a pussy but I wish there was an option to use the stylus instead of being forced. It also had some response issues. There were times where Neku would get smacked around when I was clearly moving the stylus to get him to run away but it failed a few times. It was frustrating and made time-consuming battles a chore to replay.
My second gripe is the very in-depth battle system. On the surface, it’s not so bad. You have the ability to wear pins. Each pin represents a power that you can use and grow. Similar to the Pokemon games where you have four moves to use, the pins represent moves that you can use and the best part is that they are interchangeable. That’s easy to learn but then comes everything else. Chaining combos together is anything but easy. To top it off, what you wear and what you eat change how effective your attacks are. You want to stay up with the latest fashion by visiting stores and buying clothes to match what the new trend is. The World Ends With You is by no means a walk in the park. You will need to master the battle system and that takes a lot of time and effort. There will be gamers who don’t complete this game because of this.
Aside from those two complaints, The World Ends With You offers so much. Every section of Shibuya offers a little glimpse into Japanese culture including ramen shops, fashion trends, and lingo. You have the ability to read the thoughts of others and I loved reading what people were thinking about whether it was a first date, staying up too late to play video games or other everyday thoughts.
Dialogue is a big part of every JRPG and sometimes The World Ends With You takes a bit too long to get to the point. There were times between missions where the characters would be discussing something and I knew what the end of the conversation would bring but it took forever for them to get to the point. Most conversations are entertaining and some are written with a good sense of humor.
While The World Ends With You deals with some deep human issues like being anti-social, jealously, and being ashamed of your appearance. It made the characters seem more real, especially in a modern setting of teenagers. Everyone struggles, but the way you deal with it is the most important aspect. There’s a pretty good message from The World Ends With You and it reverses the title in the end credits by stating The World Starts With You.
One of my favorite small elements to The World Ends With You was a minigame called Tin Pin Slam. You collect pins and battle them against each other in little mini-matches. I’d love this in real life, and I spent my fair share playing it during my The World Ends With You review.
The World Ends With You has a terrific ending and a great plot filled with twists and characters development. At first, I hated Joshua. He was a flamboyant know-it-all who just had a punchable personality. By the end, I respected him and how he played his way through the game despite his secret role. He was a know-it-all, but for good reason.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t complete The World Ends With You on my own. I got stuck on the Week two final boss and this is where the difficulty curve and immense stylus action got to me. There wasn’t a way for me to beat the boss without putting a huge effort into grinding which wouldn’t bother me except for all the stylus fights. I’m curious if others felt the same way with how tiring the stylus was.
I had heard about The World Ends With You numerous times but never looked into it. It wasn’t until one of my Twitter friends was selling the majority of his collection that I decided to purchase it and try it out. I had no idea what I was getting into but I’m very happy that I was able to experience most of the game by myself.
The World Ends With You Review Score:
The World Ends With You is an incredible capsule of angsty teens, Japanese modern pop culture, and hand-numbing stylus action. Paired with an incredible soundtrack and cast of likable characters, The World Ends With You is a must-play for lovers of the JRPG genre. Its unique elements bring together an experience not often explored.
The World Ends With You scores a 9 out of 10.
What would you write in your The World Ends With You review? Did your hands cramp from the battles? What was your favorite pin? What did you think of Joshua and the other characters? Are there other games like The World Ends With You? Let me know your thoughts and comments on The World Ends With You, I’d love to read them.