Title: The World Ends With You: Solo Remix
Alternate Title: Subarashiki Kono Sekai: Solo Remix | すばらしきこのせかい: Solo Remix
Developed By: Square Enix, Jupiter, h.a.n.d. (iOS port)
Published By: Square Enix
Console: iOS for iPad 2/3 and iPhone 4/4S
Genre: Action RPG
Classification (AU): This title has been classified as PG for Mild Violence, Mild Themes and Mile Coarse Language (Nintendo DS Release)
Review Conditions: iPad (3rd Gen) Wi-fi. Quality may differ between devices
Special Thanks: A copy of this game was purchased by myself for the purposes of this review.
Welcome to Shibuya, a mishmash of attitudes and styles in the heart of Tokyo. A boy named Neku wakes up in a crowded intersection with no idea how he got there. As he fumbles with a pin he found in his hand, he realizes he can hear other people’s thoughts. Before he can make any sense of it, he receives a baffling text: “Clear this mission or face erasure”. Suddenly, a countdown appears on the palm of his hand and strange monsters “The Noise” attack.
In the confusion, he meets a girl named Shiki who assists on teaming up. So begins their made scramble as they fight off the Noise to try to survive seven days in the reapers game…
Released in mid-2007 in Japan and during the first half of 2008 internationally, The World Ends with You remains one of my most memorable Nintendo DS games… partly because it offered some of the best DS optimized gameplay I had enjoyed up to that point and also because it offered an overall immersive gameplay experience. A little more than a week ago Square Enix opened up a teaser website counting down seven days until a big announcement in the series. While many were hoping for a sequel to the game, it was announced to be a port of the game to the iOS which was released shortly after to the App Store for iPad’s and iPhones.
I won’t deny that I am a little bit bitter about this announcement as being one of those who were hoping for a sequel, however I decided to pick it up for the purposes of this review. Coming in at $20.99 AUD for the iPad version and $18.99 AUD for the iPhone version, The World Ends With You: Solo Remix is at the pricier end of the App Store, so if you are new to the series and are undecided on if you pick this up – I hope this review will help lean you either way.
NOTE: This review and its score is based on the game as a whole and not just the amendments to this game, more or less serving as a rewrite to my review from several years ago with alterations to the latest release. Amendments however will be discussed throughout the text.
The World Ends With You takes place in a fictional reality of the real-life district of Tokyo, Shibuya – a sort of hub of fashion trends and local history. However… while the locals go about their ordinary daily business, there are people in an alternate plane of existence known as the underground (UG) who fight and undertake challenges in order to survive the “Reapers Game” and earn a second chance of life. You assume the role of Neku Sakuraba, an anti-social teenager who lost all his memories as a cost of entering the game. He along with his chosen partner must perform tasks from defeating Noise (The most common enemy in the game distinguished by red floating symbols) affecting a certain area to arriving at a certain destination which pathways sealed and requirements to pass set.
I would not say the character development is everything memorable as given the time limit you are only given so much time with each partner – Shiki Misaki who desires to be a designer but is caught in the shadow of her best friend, Joshua who remains a complete mystery and Beat who loses his sister early on and has shifting alliances. Given time constraints I am sort of glad they didn’t go into too much detail with the storyline where it detracted from everything else, but while storytelling was ample I would have liked more opportunity to learn about the characters backgrounds in this port. In terms of Neku’s storyline, he spends most of his time attempting to restore his memory and we only progressively watch him develop and get fragments of the events which sent him to the UG – cliche but I quite enjoyed it.
The overall storyline is well thought out and the concepts behind them work with the gameplay and design. Unfortunately some of the missions each day are short and lackluster, you get a couple of chapters which are more in-depth and where the game really shines. Upon completion of the game, you receive a bonus storyline taking place in yet another Shibuya which while the main storyline is nothing interesting and focuses on the Tin-pin minigame, but goes off into other sidequests which serve to fill in the gaps and provide some end-game content. If you are looking solely at storyline however, there is nothing to warrant replaying this game for if you already have.
For a Nintendo DS game from 2007, the original release had some solid graphics. As soon as I heard about their intentions to release the game on iOS I was a bit skeptical how it would look on an iPad, thinking they might have just taken the route of upscaling it (A lot) and making it look pretty. When the games official website was opened yesterday my concerns were slightly alleviated when they promoted redrawn artwork and retina display support and completely alleviated once diving into this game. All artwork and animation in this game are respectful to the original release, but had evidently been redone and are of a standard I would expect if I saw this game released on the iOS or any other console release. The quality is top-notch with everything from the backdrops to character designs in and out of battle looking great.
The biggest question for this game was how they were going to merge the two DS screens onto one window. When wandering around the city this is fine as the top window in the DS release just featured artwork for the area, but during battles they merged both areas into one – choosing to have the partner appear when required to by the battle system and giving a bit more room (or at least leaving the impression of) to wander around, showcase the artwork and chase enemies in. The games menu system has also recieved an overhaul and makes use of the larger widescreen to display everything on the one screen.
Music / Voice Acting
Perhaps one of the most memorable elements of this game is its soundtrack, full of J-Pop tracks dubbed in both Japanese and English and go so well with the environment of Shibuya and the emotions of the game. Despite the original track list, some songs in the original Nintendo DS release well overused a bit too much, which in turn seems to have prompted them to include a number of additional tracks and remixes of original songs. This new set offered both Japanese and English dubbed tracks and were used well where the situation required them. These songs were mostly limited to events and city-wandering, and I would have loved more to be included for the battles.
As with the original release, the voice acting is lacking, only limited to a few lines within animated cutscenes – and the game would have benefited from more of it, if not a dub of the entire game.
The core mechanics of the game remain intact from its predecessor. You wander around different areas of Shibuya fulfilling objectives and completing your required tasks and defeating Noise symbols through the use of a special Players Pin. The battle system has been perfectly adopted to the iOS and as with the Nintendo DS takes full advantage of the touchscreen capabilities. During the game you acquire “Psych Pins”, which you can attach to Neku to give him special abilities to use in battle – from the standard “Pyrokinesis” pin which allows you to spread fire for a limited time by moving your finger across the screen to “Ice Blow” which forms a pillar of ice when smashing your finger upwards on the screen. Given you are able to only hold six and each have limited uses (Per battle or time-restricted), choosing what ones work to your strengths in battle and against your opponents is key.
Where the battle system has changed is through the implementation of partners due to the removal of a second screen. In the original both Neku and his partner would be in different “Zones” each attacking the enemies in different ways – Neku through the touch screen and the partner by undertaking some sort of trivial challenge with the directional keys on the system. While for all purposes the partner remains in a different zone, through specific movements you can summon them into your zone to help attack the enemies, for example with Shiki she can use Mr. Mew to attack enemies while Joshua drops stuff on them. While there are a few exceptions where you must control a partner directly, this is how they chose to merge the two together which actually proved a lot of fun. Synchronization and coordination of partner attacks still allows the use of Fusion attacks – but instead of automatically performing a fusion attack you can boost them up with card games: Shiki’s involving card memorization, Beat’s by matching card suits and Joshua’s through numerical ordering.
The World Ends With You has a heavy emphasis on collecting and making use of items. For the Psych Pins mentioned above there are over 300 of them included in the game, some of which can be obtained through storyline events, others through battle and some through shops/trading. As the game is set in Shibuya, there are also a wealth of stores to visit, providing a lot of equipment to use (Providing some relief for harder difficulties and end-game bosses as well as “trend-setting” for added perks), music to collect and listen to and other goodies to increase your characters, gameplay capacities and warrant additional playthroughs post-game to learn about the world. There is a lot of content to collect and challenging battles to face if you are willing to stick around for the 10-15 hour main game. Oh… and some annoying Tin Pin Slammer minigame to make additional use of pins and provides some multiplayer potential.
While the game more or less remains faithful to the original Nintendo DS release, a few added features have been promoted for the game. Namely the integration of Twitter support and Friend Cards. During the game you are able to read the minds of the NPC’s wandering around the world through a pre-set list of topics. Twitter support allows you to select keywords and have characters state the latest Twitter posts for them. So if you were to input “Otakustudy” you would see my latest news articles while if you were to put in “anime” you would see a random set of Tweets regarding the topic. As Big Brother Australia Monday nominations were on yesterday evening, I perched myself infront of the TV and tuned into the topic “BBAU”… it was an interesting intergration but certainly a novelty over gameplay changing.
Where the Twitter integration disappoints is there is no way of locking the comments onto just the people you follow on Twitter which is something I would love to see added to an update and allows you to get perhaps a wider variety of tweets than just the one topic you supply. Instead of this, they offer you the ability to produce a Friend Card which you can trade with friends and have your custom character appear in game – offering you a selection of almost every non-storyline NPC in-game to represent you. As I don’t actually have any friends who own the game yet I could not test it out, however sharing seems to be quite restrictive and its effectiveness seems to depend on how many friends you have that own the game.
When it comes to The World Ends With You, while there are many Nintendo DS games I like… it would be near or at the top of my “Like” pile. It offers in my opinion a well thought out storyline, solid action RPG gameplay, strong visuals and music and great replay value. While I would have loved to see the announcement be for a sequel and not an iOS port, and the high asking price may deter more casual game purchasers for the device (To put it in perspective however, I paid about double that for the game on the DS)… if you are after a good action RPG that is quite complex in design and offers lots of potential game time then this may be the game for you.
And who knows…. good sales and solid reception of the iOS might just add further reason for a sequel to be produced in the future.
Storyline/Character Development: B+
Music/Voice Acting: A-
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A
While not to be everyones cup of tea, at least over here in Australia… The World Ends With You on the Nintendo DS is difficult to find in stores – often limited to pre-owned copies in a small number of stores. While altering the gameplay which made the first game great – it adapts well to the iOS limitations and opens the door to new fans!