I’ve saved the most unique for last. I have a love-hate relationship with Square Enix’s games. I’m not a huge fan of their bread and butter Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy series, which fall into the category of typical JRPGs. I enjoy when they do something different, such as Chrono Trigger or Kingdom Hearts. In fact, the only reason I tried Final Fantasy 12 was because I read that all the hardcore fans hated it. Turned out it was one of my favorite games that year.
After the jump, Square Enix gets trippy
The World Ends With You is the most un Square Enix game that Square Enix has made. The designers went out of their way to do something different. The story is a fresh take on the genre, set in modern Japan where people who just died take part in a game in which the winner will be resurrected. While the main character starts as a stereotypical amnesiac hero, he doesn’t stay that way for long.
The combat system is easily the most unique I’ve ever seen in the genre, making use o just about every feature on the Nintendo DS. Combat takes place on both screens. One character will fight on the bottom screen and the other on the top. The character on the bottom makes use of the stylus for movement and is commanded to attack with the microphone. No, really. The character on top screen is controlled using either the directional pad or the buttons. Both characters are fighting the same group of enemies. At any one time, one of them will be flashing green to indicate who has the advantage in terms of doing damage. That’s the one you want to control. Kill an enemy from one screen and they disappear from the other. Do this until the group is defeated or you run out of health, which is shared between both screens.
As the story goes on, the top screen character changes as the plot progresses, and so does the control scheme on the top screen. One nice touch is that you can set the top screen character to AI control when you are starting out and switch to manual control at anytime.
You control how easy or hard the game is outside of combat. The game features a difficulty slider that determines how hard the enemies are, along with what items they might drop when you win a fight. Players can alter the chance for items dropping in a battle by fighting more enemy groups in a row and by lowering their max health via a slider on the menu screen. The best items in the game require the player to handicap themselves. It’s a great risk/reward system.
The combat is just one of the many ways The World Ends With You feels fresh compared to other games in the genre. Players can follow fashion trends with what clothing they wear, which gives characters advantages or disadvantages for attacks in certain parts of the town. Even stranger, you can change the fashion trends in the town based on which brands you wear during combat. The DS’s Wi-Fi also fits into the game, as you can leave the game on sleep mode and get extra experience if you pass other people with the game on. Food can give permanent boosts after being digested. There’s an insane post-game quest. I could go on.
Of the five games in this diary, The World Ends With You is my top pick. It’s unique and its design completely meshes with the platform. The World Ends With You stands alone.
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Josh Bycer, who posts as jab2565 on the Quarter to Three forums, is a living, breathing game encyclopedia who’s has been playing games since the age of three. As he tries to get his foot into the industry’s door, you can find his writings at his blog, Mind’s Eye, and at Gamasutra.