The World Ends with You is basically an action RPG, but one with a difference. While there’s a certain amount of exploration and dialogue to get through, as in any decent RPG, a lot of gameplay will be spent combating the ‘Noise’: evil entities summoned by the Reapers to give the Players a hard time. This actually takes place across both DS screens simultaneously. On the bottom screen Neku uses psychic powers, assigned to the various collectible pins, to deal out damage to the Noise while healing himself and his partner. To manage this you can click and drag on the touchscreen to move Neku around, and then hit your foes with a number of different strokes. Assign the lightning pin to one of your available slots, for instance, and tapping on an enemy will bring on a blast of elemental fury straight at them, while slashing across them will cause Neku to hack away at his target or cause him to throw objects at them – again, depending on what pins you have currently assigned.
At the same time, Shiki battles the same enemies on the top screen using a simple beat-em-up combo system based on the D-pad (or the face buttons if you’re left-handed). Cleverly, the two work in synch. When Shiki lays out a particularly devastating combo she passes a glowing green globe down to Neku, who can maintain the chain of pain by unleashing equally vicious assaults of his own. A few hours in you’ll also get a new ability where, by chaining together particular combos, you can unleash a special synch attack where both heroes work together to knock the Noise for six.
It sounds complex, but the game is smart enough to take over control of Shiki should you be too busy with Neku on the bottom screen, and it’s not long before you realise that there’s a rhythm to the combat and a number of ways in which you can use your two characters together. All the same, it should be noted that this is a very combat heavy game, and that the combat is a) repetitive and b) lacking in challenge or tactical variation. Don’t be dissuaded – just be warned.
I say this because it’s not the fatal flaw it first appears. For the first few hours of The World Ends With You you’ll find yourself fighting Noise after Noise after Noise while completing almost ridiculously simplistic objectives, wondering whether this is all there is, and if so, why bother? By Day Three, things pick up. The game opens up its drama from Neku and Shiki to take in a sizable cast of supporting characters, then throws in a range of additional systems that steadily build up in complexity. Not only are there all the pins to collect and try on for size, but there’s a whole fashion system to cope with, where different clothes can be purchased and equipped, each having different effects. These in turn tie in to a slightly bizarre trend system, whereby you’re rewarded for wearing the current in brands and penalized for sporting yesterday’s look. On top of that, you’ll be collecting and implanting thoughts in the heads of the local population, intervening in personal disputes, rigging the Japanese equivalent of the coin toss or Magic 8 ball, and getting friendly with the local shop keepers so that they will sell you their best and rarest gear. You’ll even have to work out the varying qualities of different foods. Basically, The World Ends With You is not as simple or as superficial as it first appears.