If ever there was a game inspired by Jet Set Radio, this is it. The World Ends with You. Only its not made by SEGA, but by an RPG legend, Square Enix. They are famously know for the Final Fantasy series but they have made other RPG’s including the infamous Chrono Trigger on the Super Famicom (although they were known as Square back then).
From the very few seconds of this game starting, I was impressed. The anime inspired graphics, innovative cut scenes and unbelievably catchy music set this appart from every other RPG instantly. Japanese pop culture at its finest.
You are Neku. A teenager with a few issues, one of them being a hate of all people. Neku also likes to wear headphones and graffiti. Within a few minutes you find out Neku has the ability to read peoples mind and you get to try this out on a crowd of people. It appears you are part of a game, and if you don’t battle with some frogs you will disappear. You have a cell phone which tells you to “Reach 104. You have 60 Minutes”. Shortly after this message, you start to learn about the “Stride Cross Battle System” and pins. Neko is in the bottom touchscreen while some information about how to control him are on the top screen. I find the control system quite user friendly, but compared to other Square games, the battles are far too simplistic. Maybe thats a good thing, especially for the audience the game is clearly targeted at. Pins work a little bit like Materia in Final Fantasy and you can mix and match these to give you the offensive or defensive edge. I can see Pins being quite popular amongst the Japanese collectible enthusiast.
I now how a friend called Shiki Misaki. Neku clearly doesn’t want to be her friend and is infuriated by her continuous following, but I am sure they will be best buddies in the end. As long as the world doesn’t end first that is. I get to fight more frogs with Shiki tagging along this time. Shiki also adds a little extra to the combat system. Neku fights at the bottom, while Shiki fighter at the top. You control Neku with the stylus and Skihi with the directional pad. This sure is confusing, but once you learn that the other person is on Auto Pilot depending which character you fight with, it makes things much easier.
So far I feel like I am talking to other characters, fighting frogs and trying to battle the noise. I am starting to understand why Neku has so much teenage angst. Final Fantasy was the same for the first 30 mins. I wasn’t interested and then, POW, I was hooked. I got involved emotionally. I empathise with the characters and it turned out to be one of the greatest RPG’s to grace this planet.
I am a fan most of Square’s RPG’s, including the infamous Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation and I also love the style of Jet Set Radio. Creating a game blending the two together should be a match made in heaven, but so far I am not that impressed with The World Ends with You. I should be, I really want to be, but I just don’t feel the passion about it like I did with Final Fantasy. The characters, especially Neku, doesn’t have the heart of Cloud and Shiki doesn’t make me feel the emotion I felt with Tifa or Aeris. Its early day’s yet, so I hope things get better. According to the number of reviews out there it does get better and I for one will be there till the end if it does.