When the original The World Ends With You came out for the Nintendo DS in 2008, it quickly earned its place as one of the best role-playing games on the platform. The game was made by Square Enix, but it’s a far cry from their traditional fare of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The setting, story, and combat system make the game more modern and streamlined. And now it’s on iOS.
Naturally, the iOS port removes one of the screens from the equation, but they’ve done such a great job of putting the game on a single touchscreen that you’d never know anything was missing. The setting is a modern-day Japanese city, so the characters have cell phones and walk through streets crowded with modern people with modern problems. Cars and construction equipment populate the fighting areas, and store fronts and urban art play roles in the story.
This is no time for stretching.
You control Neku, an angsty teen who, like the characters in the Chaos Rings series, is unwittingly brought into a life-or-death game run by mysterious powerful forces. You learn that if you don’t achieve the goals given to you, you’ll be erased– not a happy prospect. But you have allies to help you out, so it’s not a lonely adventure.
This is very much a JRPG, and for better or worse it displays many hallmarks of the genre. There’s lots of excessive banter between characters, and the hero, Neku, has a chip on his shoulder the size of Mt. Fuji. He thinks he’s better than everyone else, always has to be dragged to do anything, and is generally insufferable. Thankfully, the other characters pick up the slack and make the story not only endurable, but enjoyable.
The original DS version of the game had a fighting system designed for two screens. You managed two characters at once, using swipes to control one, and buttons to control the other. Since there’s only one screen on iOS, you only control Neku here, but there’s plenty of strategy going on to keep the combat interesting. You can equip him with ‘pins,’ which give you various attacks, like sword swinging, projectile shooting, and elemental magic. Each attack has a limited use before it needs to recharge, so the game rewards you for cycling through the attacks and pulling off combos. Pins can be traded and leveled up, and even fashion trends can affect their potency. It’s a great fighting system, and as you progress it becomes deeper and more satisfying.
Seven days is one week, yes.
It’s not perfect, however. Often, because of all of the swipes and taps you’ll be doing to fend off groups of enemies, the game mis-reads your inputs. It depends on what pins you have equipped, but if two of them require similar taps or swipes, it’s tough to control which one will happen. Add in that you have to swipe on Neku to move him around during battles, and the controls become even more imprecise. Even still, they’re workable.
In addition to the deep fighting system, it’s clear they’ve put a lot of work into the look and sound of the game. The music is catchy, and it usually fits right in with the setting. However, some songs have lyrics (in English), which can be distracting when you’re trying to read dozens of word bubbles as the characters chat their way through the story. Graphically, everything is stylized and cartoonish. The art has been rescaled to fit the pixel-dense iOS displays, but on the new iPad things start to look less than sharp. The game isn’t an eyesore, but it’s clear that it was originally made for the much tinier, much lower-resolution DS screen.
There’s a whole lot to The World Ends With You, and we’ve barely scratched the surface here. This is a deep, meaty RPG that can easily eat up dozens of hours of your time. As Square Enix has been known to do, they’re is charging a lot for the game, but it’s well worth the cost. If it’s still too much for you to swallow, you can always wait for a sale. But for serious RPG fans, The World Ends With You is a definite Must Have.