"Read this review of WEWY. You have 30 minutes. Fail, and face erasure.*" - The Reapers
Imagine you've just woken up in the middle of the street of a busy city. You can't remember anything at all, and nobody can see or feel you. It's as if you don't exist. Then, out of nowhere, a girl forcefully asks you to 'form a pact' with her so you won't get 'erased' by the 'noise.' Not knowing what the heck is going on, you just kind of go along with it, because you learn that you are dead… but you have been given the opportunity to earn a second chance at life.
That's the premise of The World Ends With You (WEWY). Neku Sakuraba is thrown into the Reaper's Game, not knowing anything, and he needs to survive the game for seven days to get his life back. Aside from that I really don't want to spoil anything, because WEWY has one of the best stories you will ever find in a video game. It's deep, emotional, suspenseful, shocking, and very intriguing. The characters are surprisingly deep and likable as well, and are each packed with unique personality and become different people as the story progresses. There is a lot of swearing in the dialogue, though, which I really didn't enjoy putting up with. The story is actually the best thing about WEWY, and even if you don't like the rest of the game the story is interesting enough to keep you hooked all the way through.
WEWY takes place in Shibuya, the bustling shopping district of Tokyo, Japan, unless I'm mistaken. Rather than involving swords and armor, WEWY uses power-granting pins and stat-increasing threads, giving it a modern theme uncommon in RPGs, let alone one from the creators of Final Fantasy. Everything from the environments to the way people look to the way people talk is totally as it is today. The theme is worked with very well in every area, making the game feel like a comfortable change of pace for the renowned RPG creators. It's an interesting twist for the genre, and it works quite wonderfully.
Complimenting the game's modern theme are the areas of graphics and sound. The game's visuals look kind of like anime, especially in the sections of dialogue. This helps the modern theme along even more and gives it a fitting visual style. The graphics look very good for the most part, with well-drawn environments and characters, but sometimes the characters look blurry when they are closer to the screen. WEWY's sound effects can get a little annoying and repetitious at times but they are fitting to the occasions. There are actually come clips of voice acting that are surprisingly well-done, something I'm not exactly used to in video games. The game's music is a mix of hip-hop and rock most of the time, and while it's definitely not my kind of music I didn't mind it because it compliments the game's theme so nicely.
WEWY has an interesting system of powers that can be used for battle. Neku (who you play as for the entire game) can equip pins to use in battle, each containing an ability called a psych. These psyches do a variety of different things, like making Neku slash an enemy or shooting lightning bolts. The psyches are activated by various touch screen motions or even by blowing into the microphone, and the controls make just about every use of the DS' unique capabilities. Sometimes pins have the same or very similar activation control, though, which causes a few issues in the game until you unlock the ability to assign pins to subslots. WEWY has a massive amount of pins to use, giving you tons of options as to how you approach battles. Mastering every pin in the game is a near-impossible feat, though, given the factors of pin evolution and the sheer number of existing pins. Many pins also have the exact same psyche as well, making pin mastery a sometimes tedious task. Finding your favorite and most effective pins isn't very hard, though, and it is fun to try out all the different psyches.
The most notable pin in the game, though, is Neku's black Player Pin. With it, Neku can scan the area and use it to read peoples' thoughts, imprint ideas into peoples' minds, and look for Noise (the game's enemies) to fight. Reading peoples' minds is only fun until you keep finding the same thoughts repeatedly (which doesn't take long), but imprinting is of particular interest. There are limitations with imprinting, but you can still make events go in different directions on some occasions, especially when replaying the game.
WEWY's battle system is very unique and mostly great. Battles are fought against the Noise, which take the forms of animals such as wolves, frogs, kangaroos, and several other beasts. In battle, Neku is controlled on the bottom screen and his partner fights on the top screen. Of course Neku uses the pins you equip for him, and you control him with the stylus. Top screen combat involves using the D-pad to navigate through a combo map, and by certain means (depending on your partner) you can unlock a powerful fusion attack. The combat takes some getting used to because you are expected shift your attention between screens periodically, which can be pretty challenging. The top screen goes to automatic controls after a few seconds without your input, though, which is good because sometimes the lower screen combat is very fun and exciting and you might even forget the other part of the battle exists at times. Overall the battle system is unique and fun, but definitely takes some getting used to.
And the battle system isn't the only somewhat complicated thing about WEWY; actually the entire game is pretty complex and confusing at the start. You are quickly introduced to the game's battle system, pins, trends, and other concepts one right after the other, barely allowing you to ease yourself in. Even near the middle of the game you are being introduced to new things or new twists on established concepts. Once you grow accustomed to the game, though, its intricacy becomes something to be appreciated rather than something too complicated, because the depth is eventually part of what makes it so enjoyable.
WEWY only has one save file per game card, which is somewhat disappointing. However, the game is loaded with replay value that more than makes up for this slight hindrance. The main quest takes roughly 15-20 hours to complete, and the story will keep you hooked all the way through. After you beat the game, you can revisit any chapter of the story you want, and each chapter has a few bonus missions to clear. These involve destroying particular types of noise and collecting special items, which is really quite fun and challenging. You also continue the game with all your stats, items, and pins, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Top all that off with a bonus chapter that ends when you want it to and you get a game that's fun and rewarding to replay.
Another very noteworthy feature of WEWY is its difficulty system. There are four basic difficulty levels to unlock (easy, normal, hard, and ultimate) which makes the Noise more or less powerful. However, to add an extra layer to the difficulty customization, you can lower your level at any time. This makes your HP go down considerably, but playing on level 1 also greatly increases the amount of pins enemies drop. So dropping your level and playing as a weaker character is actually very rewarding and adds an extra layer of challenge for those looking for it.
The DS isn't exactly struggling to host great RPGs at this point in its life, seeing as it has plenty for any fan of the genre, but WEWY is something much different than your typical RPG. It incorporates the traditional elements of the genre with new twists, making it a very refreshing experience like none you have played before. The elements all add up wonderfully to make WEWY an intriguing and exciting game for the DS.
+ incredible story and great characters
+ modern theme is worked with very well
+ great use of the DS' capabilities
+ battles are enjoyable and exciting
+ lots of depth
+ tons of replay value on top of the lengthy story
+ impressive difficulty system
- early control issues and sheer complexity make it difficult to start the game
LAST WORD: WEWY is one of the best DS games available, and is a very unique and exciting RPG. Next time you're looking for an RPG for your DS, look no further than WEWY for something fresh, gripping, and fun.