A modern day setting and unusual combat mechanic belie a surprisingly straight-forward console RPG.
All of the primary characters in The World Ends with You, Neku included, are dead. The game's version of Shibuya, presented as stylish anime-influence world, is actually an alternate reality where everyone is involved is in one fashion of the other is playing what is known as the Reaper Game. You task, ultimately, is to get out.
To give away much more would be spoiling things but upon this somewhat fantastical premise a fairly deep and involved story is woven through out the couple dozen or so hours of gameplay involved in completing and initial play-through. The story, despite its complexity, is about linear as it gets and pretty much all the player gets to make the story his or her own is by player customizations.
You have the usual assortment of gear which in most RPG setting would be armor and weapons but here is represented by clothing and pins. (Pins are of the round and decorative variety that are often called buttons.) Pins give you varying attacks and combat and your clothes function as armor giving you boosts in your stats. Also, similar to elemental alignment in most RPGs, both pins and clothing have a particular branding to them which is either fashionable or unfashionable and affects that items usefulness in various situations.
Fighting is the most unorthodox element of The World Ends with You. You control both your own character and a partnered character, each on his or her separate DS screen. Both characters are controlled individual in real time and at the same time. If it sounds confusing, it's because it is and it definitely takes quite a while to get used to. Even then, some of the various attacks can be quite frustrating to execute via the DS's touchscreen. Overall, while I appreciate the attempt at creating a new control scheme, the battle system here feels a bit demo-like and unrefined.
Ultimatly, what is striking about the World Ends with You is not how different the combat system and setting is from a standard console RPG but just how much the familiar item collection and character customization make it feel familiar. While fighting enemies is at times frustrating, level grinding and item improvement can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time--and the loot cycle is quite addictive--and if even that is too much for you, you can switch the game into easy mode to get past a particular annoying battle. There are also plenty of extra items to collect and additional missions that you can go back to after you complete the game for those 100% completionists out there. This is all optional though and anyone looking for classic console RPG charm in new package is sure to be pleased with this game.