When The World Ends With You was released I paid attention to the various reviews and thoughts being bandied about over it. This seemed like an intriguing game that presented a new type of challenge in its combat system. When it arrived in a GameFly package, my only worry was that the combat system might prove to be too much, too distracting, and that I would eventually put split screen battle system to auto so as not to distract me from Neku.
I was mistaken.
There’s a lot to enjoy about this DS title. The fashion system is fun, but entirely able to be ignored. If you happen to want to stick to the pins and clothing you have on, just fight a few battles, and the popular fashions of the area will shift toward what you are using. However, I’ll keep the game away from my mother, who complains every time she sees punk clothing on sale, bemoaning the days when she and her friends made their own.
The pins offer the usual culprits in damage types, but provide a great way to battle. The DS doesn’t have many games out that use the stylus in actually intriguing ways that work well. This game does that in droves. Drag Neku across the screen, tap at your enemy, slash to create a line barrier, et cetera. It made playing on the El a little more interesting, but the expressions on peoples’ faces were rather priceless. Yes, this business casual attired chap was gleefully tapping his stylus away, bobbing his head, and enjoying himself.
Then there’s the dual screen combat, with what’s happening on the top screen. I took control of the characters in turns by shifting my focus: mashing away the direction pad when concentrating on Neku, dragging the stylus to have Neku perform dodgey dashes while concentrating on pressing the directional buttons in the proper sequence. Slowly, I began realizing I could shift my focus dependent on where the ‘puck’ that provides extra damage was, and thus make my combat more effective. This was really fun, and I enjoyed battles because of this mechanic.
What I found myself yawning at was the story. Perhaps the game is trying to be too hip, or perhaps I’m just too jaded, but after the second week (in terms of the game, which is set up by days, then weeks), I found myself putting the game away and not caring. This will likely be a purchase in the future, but for right now, the story does not grab me. It seems like a mystery novel written so as to not give any clues, and has all these discrete moments of storytelling that probably sum up to a grand total, but which does not grab me enough to string me along to the end.
In fact, the game feels slightly esoteric to me, and I can only make some educated guesses as to why this may have occurred. Fashion interests me, but I find popular fashion to grate on my nerves. The music was fun and I was pleasantly surprised to hear my DS being able to play it back, but none of it really appealed to me, brought me closer to the game, or made me feel I was part of the environment (it served to remind me why I stay away from shopping centers with music). This game felt like a reminder that I felt alienated from this youth culture. Which may be the problem–I am no longer a young boy or teenager playing these JRPGs with very young protagonists. I grow weary of most coming of age literature as well, which is not to say that such does not have its own place; I’ve already muddled through my teenaged confusion and don’t need to revisit it unless the work at hand is well crafted or picaresque in nature (e.g. Huckleberry Finn).
The game fires a desire in what I want from DS games, though. I want to use my stylus in ways that are not frustratingly inaccurate or pointless (this can also be said of the Wii). When playing Castlevania: Order of the Ecclesia or Final Fantasy Tactis A2, I never have to use it, which makes me wonder why it’s even there. What I’m largely left with is a handheld system from which I crave more. TWEWY had me excited because I enjoyed the battles and the ways to use my pins in conjunction with each other (so much so that I absorbed myself in them versus the plot). It was a promise on which it delivered.
Overall, it’s a game I will have to get back to, through which I cannot push myself when I have other selections to try. While I am happily taking my time with Fallout 3 (close to thirty hours logged) and will start tomorrow with Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssee, this title will require a time when I’m less apt to yawn every time Neku has one of those ‘Man, people are such sheep, they need to be individuals and do what they want’ tropes (which is amusing considering he does what I say for the most part).