“Adventurer’s Diary is an article inspired by Destructoid’s old ‘Memory Card’ and ‘Experience Points’. These series of articles will detail gaming moments that had stuck in my mind. It goes without saying, this series of articles WILL contain SPOILERS so please read at your own discretion. The opinions presented are my own and as such may conflict with what others say and that’s okay! Voice them, I would love to talk about it! Thanks for reading!”
I’ve always been a fan of Square Enix, especially back in its golden age. It surprises me when there’s a game post golden age that captures my interests immediately. The World Ends With You came to my attention when my cousin brought his Nintendo DS one Summer. He couldn’t stop hyping over it and when I actually took a look I was blown away by the incredibly active battle system and the god like music! This began the love affair with my favourite DS game of all time.
I had finally got my hands on the incredible game a few months after its release on April 24th 2008. The game takes place in a modern, fashion-dominated Shibuya, Japan. Your main character is an angsty teenager named Neku Sakuraba and the game starts with a lot of questions as Neku struggles to remember how he ended up on the ground of the Shibuya scramble crossing with mysterious numbers on his hand and a skull pin. The game is on.
The World Ends With You has Neku partnering up with fellow players of this game, where the winner gets what they most desire, and the loser is erased completely. The game is overseen by the Reapers and Game Masters – members of a higher society of being that preside over the fate of the players and the world they’re in. The game is simple; meet the objectives before the time on their hands run out for 7 days straight and you win, but mind the slew of ‘Noise’ – the primary enemies in the game who will try and hinder your progress.
The big revelation in the first week or ‘game’ is that Neku had died before the game started; the cause not being clear until the second week. Throughout the game Neku’s attitude towards being reserved and a lone wolf amongst a bunch of people who want him to open up eases as his first partner Shiki Misaki teaches him to be open and honest to himself in what he really wants; comradery. This shows at the end of the first week when Shiki gets chosen to resurrect but is ultimately snatched away from that prize when Neku’s entry is her life, being someone that he valued most at the time.
His determination to win the game in the second week in order to bring Shiki back to life and be revived pushes him to meet Joshua. The enigmatic player slowly gets unravelled as Neku’s memories return slowly as he remembers seeing Joshua at the moment of his death. As the week progresses, it becomes clearer that Joshua was the one who pulled the trigger on Neku that ended his life; feeling utterly betrayed again, he seeked vengeance against Joshua on the last day until the story took a swerve and instead found out in his last memories that it was Sho Minamimoto, the game master of that week who had killed Neku and Joshua was trying to save him.
The revelation hit a peak when Joshua, saving Neku’s life, throws him out of the epicentre of the explosion that Sho let out in order to obliterate Josh and Neku. The utter grief Neku had and the feelings of regret he had for being so suspicious of Joshua pushed his mindset about people in the first part of the game completely out of his mind and that became evident when he had to re-enter the game for the third and final time with his entry fee being ‘the players’ where he could not possibly have any allies to help him win the game and so was to be left to die.
Hopeless and defeated he got help from the new Reaper Beat who was a player in week one and joined the Reapers in week two in order to save his little sister and then forsaking his role in order to assist Neku with the final win that would decide the fate of his world. Not without even more twists and turns that you’ll just have to play if you want to find out.
The entire games story from beginning to end is a roller coaster full of plot twists and turns, unexpected discoveries and revelations. That’s what enthralled me and hooked me on the story side of the game. Neku Sakuraba especially is an interesting character; from the very typically bad anime trope of an angsty teenage boy, the game delivers a ‘coming-of-age’ story showing his emotional growth as a person throughout the game, progressively setting aside that side of himself in order to reach in and connect the people and world that surrounds him.
The character depth in this game is what’s stayed in my mind, with each character having their own flaws and darknesses that they’ve held on to: Shiki’s jealousy over the appearance of her friend and Beat’s wretched guilt over the death of his sister Rhyme. The flaws they’ve had drove them to succeed in the game in order to atone for their foolish thinking; only to realise that by opening up to each other, they’re able to make peace with their faults and flaws while in the reaper games.
This wouldn’t be me highlighting the game if I didn’t mention the fantastic battle system that the game has. The battle system has you controlling both characters on the top and bottom screens. Neku is controlled with the touch screen and his partner is controlled on the top screen with the directional buttons. This at first is very overwhelming as it forces you to look in two different places and try to multi task both of them. I adore the choice of not needing to control the top screen and letting it automatically attack at least sufficiently enough.
However; if you want to do even better, you’ll need to learn how to manage the two characters as the battle system rewards you by doing bonus critical damage by alternating character attacks to pass the ‘light puck’, which is a green orb that swaps between the two partners in order to deal lots of damage. Neku is a strange player in that he has the control over various different types of pins that you can collect from noise drops. His partners are based on a specific power such as Shiki and Joshua’s psychokinetics and Beat’s ‘slashing’.
The art style is amazing and fits the stylish, fashion-obsessed world that the game is set in. Its cell shading pops out the characters and really highlights their interesting designs that really does demonstrate that this game is set in the modern world where the ‘stereotypical teens’ in this world are visually distinct. It also adopts a punk-esque sort of style that is trying to stylize itself and the game as a very young game that fuels the teenage coming of age sort of motif that the game has spent time trying to express.
The end game content in this game is incredibly fun as it allows you to return to any day of the 3 weeks or the ‘extra day’ in order to find hidden secrets and fulfilling certain conditions in order to unlock ‘reports’ which give even more context and lore into the Reaper games and the reasons for why the game was set in motion to begin with. It’s revealed so much about the other supporting characters and gives the game even more depth. Furthermore, you also get a chance to play and collect rare pins and complete the beastiary with hidden bosses and Noise that you would miss on your first time playing through.
I also mentioned the ‘extra day’ which is set in an alternate universe of Shibuya where all characters have their personality inversed. Neku isn’t brooding and actively seeks companionship through the power of the in game minigame ‘Tin Pin Slammer’ which is similar to Super Smash Bros 3DS’s mini game where you knock the opposing circles off the board. There is a whole ‘quest’ in this bonus day that is simply a goofy way to change the pace of the game. That’s not to say it’s completely unattached from the main part of the game though.
Finally, the music. It’s not a type of music I thought I would enjoy as much as I did. Japanese rock and pop is something a lot of people will frown upon but I assure you, there are so many amazing songs that will turn your head, from the town traversing ‘Three Minute Clapping’ to the boss battling ‘Transformation’ and even the game over song ‘Game Over’. It’s actually a fantastic soundtrack and I’m still finding myself listening to it sometimes. I’m actively searching for remixed versions and I’m sure I found my favourite version of Transformation; and I generally dislike that kind of music!
If you have a Nintendo DS this is a MUST have game. It’s a shame TWEWY: Solo Remix was poorly optimized and had to be taken off the app store when the latest iPhone firmware broke the game; otherwise I suggest you’d try that as well if you’re desperate enough. I can’t exactly endorse it because it removes the dual screen battling and losing the ‘gimmick’ that interested me to begin with!