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Desktop Maestro

 PLATFORM: DS
STYLE AND STYLUS

his is a weird one. The World Ends With You is kind of about shopping, kind of about being fashionable, and mostly about using psychic abilities to fight extra-dimensional monsters so you don’t get erased from existence. It’s a game heavy on style – in several senses of the word – which might have been a bad thing without the substance to back it up. However, The World Ends With You also has some astounding depth, making it an intriguing fusion of action and role-playing that is both successful and unique.

An inventive combat system is the most prominent feature of this title, and is the point into which the numerous other mechanics flow. You command two characters simultaneously: Neku is on the bottom screen (controlled via touch screen), and his partner is on the top (controlled via the d-pad or face buttons). It takes a couple of hours of practice to learn how to divide your attention efficiently between your characters, but once you do it provides a rare breed of satisfaction. The touch screen mechanics finally nail stylus-based spellcasting, with cool psychic powers that you can pull off quickly and effortlessly in the heat of battle. The strategy will occasionally get overwhelmed by the frenetic nature of the encounters, but victory feels consistently rewarding.

The really interesting thing about The World Ends With You is the numerous layers of complexity it incorporates, and how those ultimately feed into your performance. Your attack power is affected by the kinds of clothes you are wearing, but their popularity changes depending on what area of the city you’re in. To perform at your peak, you need to constantly visit shops, buy the right brands, and keep an eye on trends – especially before major battles. There are also a few clever and addictive diversions, like a food system that boosts your stats, and the ability to make your preferred equipment more powerful by raising its brand popularity.

The World Ends With You just has a bizarre and magnetic kind of charm. Its captivating combat, stylish aesthetic, and strange story (it reminds me of the anime series Gantz [Nerd! – Ed.]) set it apart as one of the most distinctive RPG experiences on any platform. This is the stuff cult hits are made of.

  

MATTHEW KATO   8
This game is as busy as Shibuya is crowded, and if you look closely, you’ll see it’s a war between style and substance. As much as I loved managing both the top and bottom screen for combat, the items for sale, and the game’s thoughtful intricacies (such as how players eat food), the stylus gameplay during combat falls just short. It’s great that you have a number of actions to perform during battles with your stylus, but the overall effect is like button mashing. You’re doing a lot of work, but the payoff isn’t equal to the task. But even with its flaws, the game holds up on many fronts and has plenty of cool features to have fun with.
8.25
CONCEPT:
Fight bad guys, and look good doing it. Also, discover the true meaning of friendship
GRAPHICS:
The stylized backgrounds and characters are cool, and the decision to go with a 16-bit look was a wise one
SOUND:
I wouldn’t buy the CD or anything, but the soundtrack does a good job contributing to the overall atmosphere
PLAYABILITY:
Touch-screen controls are generally responsive, though the interface is often clunky and muddled
ENTERTAINMENT:
It takes a while to get accustomed to the controls, but it’s a blast when it all falls into place
REPLAY:
Moderate
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