+ A fabulous soundtrack
+ A rather unique storyline which hasn’t been touched by an RPG before.
+ A large amount of items to gain, with up to 300 pins and numerous clothes items.
+ By far the best battle system on the DS
+ Tin Pin!
– A relatively steep learning curve.
– The game world is relatively small and would benefit by having more of Shibuya within it.
– Wasted game days, there are only so many times you should expect to be asked to go to Building 104.
– The storyline is rather short, I finished it within 15 hours alternating between difficulty modes.
At any time, there are two characters within a party. At the beginning of each week, players must form pacts with each other to prevent getting erased by the noise which surround them. Throughout the game, Neku, the main character, forms pacts with three of them, Shiki, Joshua and Beat.
Neku is the main character of the game, he is a social outcast who starts the game with no memory of what happened to him previously. Despite this, he still refuses to accept anyones help, going as far as almost killing them to fulfill his own wishes. However, a turning point occurs within the first chapter, where he learns about how valuable they are in this game, and as his memories come back, he becomes more and more understanding and protective of the people he meets.
The rest of the characters are split up into four sections. The first being player characters which include the four characters that you can control within the game. The second are a mystery group called “Reapers” who run the game taking place in Shibuya and are out to make sure no one succeeds in finishing the game and escaping. The third includes other characters such as Mr Hanekoma (aka. Mr. H) and Rhyme, who play important parts in the storyline but are not playable. Finally, there are normal NPC characters which include the characters walking around the populated streets and the shop NPC’s which you buy food, pins and clothing from.
I found each of the characters very interesting whether it is the overly friendly personality of Shiki, the mysterous Joshua or even the quiet outcast Neku. They may sound like stereotype characters, and I thought that at first, but they definately have a quality that set them apart from most RPG games.
You, as Neku, wake up at the famous Scramble Crossing in Shibuya. Confused at how you got there, you look at your hand and find a black pin. Wondering what it is, you suddenly find you can read the minds of other people and you have a text message arrives on your phone telling you to proceed to Building 104 in 60 minutes or you will be erased. So begins, the game of the Reapers.
The storyline is definately not straight forward and can get confusing at times throughout the game. Basically, you have to complete a mission each day which once completed, sends you to the start of the next day and the next mission. Throughout these missions, you see (You cannot interact with normal residents) many people who you must help in order to get to the next day.
Whilst you are completing missions, Neku slowly learns more about himself, especially after almost killing Shiki in the first few chapters, as well as many other events, which eventually leads to him not loathing the company of others. Other characters also have background story, such as the reason why all the characters are currently playing the game for a second chance and their own problems they suffered in real life.
To be honest, when I first heard the title screen I actually groaned thinking about what music could possibly be on this games soundtrack. However, I was quickly amazed at how many songs were on the playlist and the variety. They range from English and Japanese songs but also a variety of genres. To be honest, my favourite tracks of the game are Deja Vu (One of the Shibuya themes, Twister (One of the intro themes) and Hybrid (A battle theme). These however are only narrowly ahead of the great soundtrack supplied within this game. You can also buy most of the songs from stores around the game and then play them at will in the menu screen.
The quality of the graphics varies throughout the game. On the Shibuya map, there are A LOT of NPC’s walking around the place, however I do find at times that, even with the range of NPC designs they have, you can get clusters of identical people which does annoy me a bit. However, having a screen full of NPC’s does not lag the game at all.
Playable characters on the map and in battle are very pixelated which whilst being annoying at times (wishing they had better graphics for them), I cannot picture the game being without them. It is just like suddenly having the Disgaea series having their graphics system changed. I was hoping for a change in clothes when you bought clothes from the store, however that is a minor problem which doesn’t really affect the whole experience much… unless you are really into clothes and find it annoying that the dress you made Neku wear is not appearing on him.
Going past the pixelated graphics, during the discussion scenes among characters, as well as the plentiful amount of artwork displayed, it is really well done! Emotions are done very well, comedic aspects are shown when appropriate and overall, for a game of this genre, it is really well done. Also, the NPC shop keeper designs are very well done, alongside graphics for any other character including the reapers.
Finally, we get to the environment of the game. The environment of the game is very well done, with comparing it to areas of the real Shibuya, it is really accurate and I would like to go and see some of the places when I go over to Japan (*Sigh* another area to add to my large “To See” list). Despite it being a small world, no rock has been left unturned, and I can almost understand the small world with the amount of detail put in.
The most rewarding part of this game is their excellent battle system, which is definately one of the most complex systems I have come across. On the top screen, you have your partner and depending on who you have at the time, depends on what you will have to do. In the image above, you play as Shiki/Mr.Mew and you have to scroll across a few buttons to reach a card. If that card matches the hidden card on the right, you get double stars, if not, you can reselect and then get one star.
Now whilst you are diverting your attention to that, down the bottom, you play as Neku who battles using the stylus to battle the very same monsters (sometimes different). Depending on what pins you have equipped, you have to slash, point, circle and scream on the DS just to name a few of the motions that you need to use to battle. You can try to multi-task, or focus on Neku which allows your partner to let the game take control of it, at a much slower and inaccurate rate.
If you do decide to take control of the top screen as well, or get lucky with the auto-battle, you can use a special pin attack which allows your characters to do a special move which heals them and deals great amounts of damage. However, both characters share the same hit points.
To gain items and therefore money, you can lower your characters level to less HP, which then gives you the opportunity to gain more star points, thus increasing drop rate. Definately an interesting system to use.
Other game aspects include the Reaper Creaper game which uses precise movements of the stylus to move a stone to the correct colour on the paper (Some sort of fortune telling). Another interesting gameplay aspect is that at times, you can input thoughts into the NPC’s head which then forces them to do something that you need to do to win the day’s mission. More mini-games will be discussed later on in “Replayability”.
Shopping and food systems are interesting and give another layer of reality to the game. You can give your characters food (Mostly comprising of junk food and ramen), which can give your character stat boosts and bonuses.
These are just a few of the many features incorperated within the game, so if they catch your fancy, check out the game for the many other features!
Overall, I finished the game in about 14-15 hours which is rather short for a normal RPG game. But, this is where the game shines as it takes off your training wheels and lets you repeat the game at High and Ultimate level difficulties. Also, you are given a chapter option in the main menu which allows you to repeat any chapter in the game, with challenging missions that range from defeat all of X, defeat the boss on a certain difficulty, find a hidden item etc. At the end, if you complete all of them, you get a secret report for that chapter, revealing a bit of the storyline which was not discussed in the main storyline.
Another replayability factor is the Another Day chapter which is a bonus for completing the game. There are many different routes that you can take, which involve Tin Pin (A large mini-game within the game which involves you trying to knock someone elses pin off the arena), a special boss battle, or a tower climb. Enough is said about that.
Finally, if you have some friends with Nintendo DS’s (and I presume the game), you can mingle with them using the options in the main menu which allows you to play Tin Pin with them, sell them items that you own etc.
Overall, to complete the challenges, I would say it would take at least double the time plus to finish the game on hard or ultimate mode. Not too shabby.
I have seen this game positively reviewed everywhere, which was one of the reasons why I originally bought the game (This was after I had seen it in the shop and wondered if it was any good). This review, is no exception to that. The game has honestly so far been some of the most challenging and fun gameplay I have had in ages, and despite its short main storyline, it makes up for it in nearly every other area!
Personal Opinion….. 15/15
Total….. 93.75 (A)
Developer: Square Enix/Jupiter
Platform: Nintendo DS
Rating: PG (Mild Violence, Mild Themes, Mild Coarse Language)
Official Sites / Special Thanks
and to all the staff that helped put together this wonderful game!