MAKUHARI, Japan--It's a Wonderful World takes place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, which is known as the fashion and hip-hop area for older teens and young adults. If you've ever been to Shibuya, you'll notice right away that many areas in the game are based on actual locations, although the names of the stores have been altered for copyright issues (for example, the Starbucks Cafe near the Shibuya train station is called Outback Cafe in the game).
While Parasite Eve might first come to mind as a Square Enix game based on a real city, It's a Wonderful World takes place during daytime and features a brighter, hipper atmosphere than that horror role-playing game. The in-game art is anime styled, complemented with some designs that look like graffiti and tattoo art.
As the story goes, Nek Sakaraba, a 15-year-old kid who likes listening to music and drawing graffiti on walls, wakes up one day and finds himself in the middle of Shibuya for some reason. Baffled by his bizarre situation, Nek isn't given too much time to think before he starts hearing other people's voices in his head, which seems to be caused by a mysterious badge that he finds himself holding. Perplexed as he is, things take another eerie turn as Nek gets a message on his cell phone, telling him that if he wants to keep living, he needs to clear missions and survive for seven days in Shibuya. During the game, you control Nek around the neighborhood of Shibuya, solving missions given to you by grim reapers that invite you to their "games," where Nek's very existence is at stake.
It's a Wonderful World plays as a side-scrolling 2D RPG. During our test play, we got to move around through the town of Shibuya while taking on missions in different locations. The missions we were given were to annihilate enemies (called the noise) within each of the areas, and at times, we needed to find these enemies before engaging in combat.
One of the key elements in It's a Wonderful World is Nek's "psychic scanning system." Rather than talking to people, Nek can use his newly gained psychic powers to directly read their minds and gather information. In addition, by collecting keywords during the game, Nek can "imprint" them into the thoughts of people, which will affect their actions and cause new events. The psychic scanning system can also be used to uncover hidden enemies around Nek. Once they're uncovered, you can go into battle by touching the enemy with your stylus.
It's a Wonderful World's battle system plays in real time, and you'll be controlling two characters. On the bottom of the screen, you control Nek by using your stylus like in an action game. You can execute various kinds of attacks by doing different motions with your stylus. For example, tapping on your enemy lets you shoot out beams toward it, while stroking toward the enemy lets you do slash attacks and scratching on the bottom of the screen lets you do an earthquake attack. The attacks that you can do will change depending on the badges you have equipped. There are more than 300 different badges that you can collect throughout the game.
Meanwhile on the top of the screen, you'll find Nek's partner battling against enemies. While the partner character is also controlled in real time, the attacks are executed through D pad input (or button input, if you're holding your stylus in your left hand). It might seem a bit confusing at first to control both Nek and his partner, but as a guide, there's a green light that moves between the two characters. The character that's surrounded by the light gets additional attacking power, so it's usually better to control that character at that time.
Nek's partner on the top screen will operate in automatic mode if you leave it uncontrolled for a while. Doing so can be useful, but controlling both characters manually can provide a bonus. For example, when your partner is the game's heroine Shiki, three cards get displayed on the top of the upper screen. Each of the cards has different symbols on them, which you can't see because they're facing down. You're given a choice of three sequential D pad inputs displayed on the screen, each corresponding to the three different card symbols. If you input the commands and guess the order of the symbols correctly starting from the card on the right, an icon will appear on the bottom of the screen, which can be pressed with the stylus to execute a super attack.
It's a Wonderful World is different from what's usually released by Square Enix, not just because of its setting, but also because of its relatively fast gameplay. The game is scheduled for release in Japan on July 27; no word is available on a US release yet.