Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The World Ends With You

So, I got home last night around 8pm, with every intention of doing some work (I have an email backlog that would break most mortals), and instead picked up that bloody Nintendo DS again, and played some TWEWY (which is the acronym for The World Ends With You. I'm still not sure I like that acronym, but I digress. It's easy to type, and now you know what it means, so I'm sorry if it upsets you too, but there we are. Suck it down).

What I did manage to do was write a generic thing for the YT API. See the embedded video below in the sound section - it's using the Chromeless player to do some cool stuff. Well, coolish.

So, I said I'd write a review if I got the chance, and between eating two yoghurts and drinking a powerade, which Obi describes as both scary, and bad for my insides, I've got a little time. Not a lot, but enough.
So, first things first, you own a DS. You also like the internets. Perhaps you saw Yahtzee's post on my last mail. If not, here it is again.
He doesn't really like it, but it's funny nonetheless.
For a more rounded view, check metacritic. The review lives here:

So you've had a look at those, and you're still intrigued. What's it all about, Alfie?

I'm glad you asked.

It's a "JRPG", whatever that means. Since it's also, apparently, 'genre-breaking', I guess that means it's not a JRPG, or that it is, but it's better, or something. Anyway, first I'll cover the basics, then I'll say what I like about it.

You are a kid called Neku, who has been transported to a strange version of Shibuya, which is some famous area in Japan. People who go to Tokyo always tell me how cool it is. Other reviews have claimed how much this game reminds them of the place. I figure now I've played it in this, I don't need to go. Which is nice.
Anyway, you're a kid, in a twilight-zone version of Shibuya. For reasons you will learn, you have a week to solve 7 challenges, one per day. There are some more days to play at the end of the first 7, but I won't say too much more about those for fear of spoiling. Also, once complete, you can replay any day you've already played, so don't worry too much about clearing everything on the first run through.
In fact, you'll find that pretty much impossible.
So, yeah, you're a kid, in a strange place, with an overarching mission broken up into sub-missions. You have a partner, you collect some pins (or badges, as we call them in the UK), and you get to fight monsters (or 'noise').
From time to time, you meet a boss, and the boss kicks your arse for a bit, and then you either get lucky, or work out how to avoid the punishing attacks.

Learning Curve
Let's get this out of the way, then, shall we? Combat is a motherbitch.
It's tough to learn (I'm still trying to work out the best way to do it), and it may prevent you properly enjoying the game.
For more info, check the combat section, but be warned, this is the biggest barrier to entry, and will make or break if you enjoy the game.
Don't forget, though, your partner can be fully controlled by the computer, very effectively, and you'll have a great time.

They're good. Screenshots never do a DS game justice. Ever. Go to youtube, and check some videos.

Awesome. I'm a pussy, and like crap music, but even so, there are some great tracks on here. I'm told it's 'J-Pop'.

You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.

Play | Pause
This is currently my favourite. (you can skip ahead to the good bit, if you like)

Pins are like, and I hate to say this, trading cards. Sort of. I always think I hate trading cards, but then remember that I played Pokemon, and Star Chamber (although I think that was *before* Sony bought 'em). Let's be honest. I love it. I'm just ashamed of myself. Each pin has a different function - slash Neku, slash an enemy, slash empty space, press, tap, repeatedly tap, draw a circle, double-tap, scratch, etc.

Each can to be levelled to max, and may also evolve. Some evolve from combat. Some evolve from shutting down the DS, some evolve from 'mingling', or letting your DS discover other DSs. Don't despair, though. If you're mateless, there are also aliens.

There are literally hundreds of pins, with some of the most awesome names imaginable.

Random Encounters
For the majority of the time, you control when to fight. You activate the scanning pin, and it scans the area, revealing the monsters. You simply press the ones you want to fight, and they'll come to you. If you don't want to fight, you don't scan. Simple!

Two screens. Simultaneous combat. Headfuck.
So, here's the lower screen.

As you can probably imagine, the bottom screen combat is controlled using the stylus. See above for more details on how. Basically, each pin requires a different action, and will trigger a different type of attack. From flames where you press, to gunfire, sword strikes, energy beams, black holes, scatter guns, bazookas, lightning, and so on, the list seems pretty endless. There's definitely something for everyone. Oh, and healing, if you're a pussy. (I'm actually starting to use more healing now, as I hit the endgame).

The upper screen is controlled using the buttons (or, if you're a right-handed freak, the d-pad).
Here's an example of that:

The upper screen is actually pretty straightforward.
Pushing down blocks, and pushing up jumps (generally). Left and right to start a combo, then follow the arrows to complete. You can just push left/left/left/left to attack, but using the more complicated attacks does more damage.
You can set the computer to control your partner, if you don't want to do this, or control them yourself.
As you complete more attacks, you can build stars. Stars work towards the fusion attack, where both players attack both screens at once. The fusion attack has 3 levels, and also heals a bit. Mostly, though it dishes out the hella pain.
One final feature is the multiplier

Note the light puck (big green circle) that passes betwixt your team. This builds the multiplier. Basically, watch the puck, and control the screen it's on, and you'll do ok.

As you can see, combat is actually pretty deep.

Oh, my lord, the items. I have around 200 right now, and there are still many more to get.
Each item has base stats (attack, defense, hp) plus an ability, which is only revealed when you've made friends with the right store owner. Each store has owners which get more friendly as you buy stuff. As they get more friendly, they reveal more information about items, and also sell more items.
As you progress in the game, too, more items become available.
The abilities range from extra stat points to more esoteric things, like puck in play for longer, extra fusion stars, more experience and various resistances.

There are also quest items, which are, effectively, crafting. You need a range of particular items to create others.
At its most simple, you can exchange 'scarletite' for stickers, which increase various character stats. More complicated is trading leather plus silver plus a jacket to make a derivative.
Of course, if you're looking to collect all the items, this'll take a while.

Oh, my lord, food.
You get 24 'bytes' each day to eat food. Each food item takes a number of bytes to digest. Byte == fight. Generally, the better the effect, the more bytes. Food primarily affects your synch rate (the speed at which the puck builds combo), but also has a lasting effect once consumed. For example, the hot dog boosts your synch by 20%, and then, after 8 bytes, adds +1 attack, permanently. How fucking cool is that? Answer: very fucking cool.

There are 4 difficulty levels. Easy, Normal, Hard, and Ultimate. (I'm yet to unlock Ultimate).
Each noise has a chance to drop pins, which is anywhere between 0.5 and 100%. Each noise will likely drop a different pin at each difficulty level.
The max level for your characters is 100.
Here's where it gets interesting. There's a slider (woo). You can drop your level back (which only lowers your HP), and increase the chance of a pin dropping. It's a simple mutiplication, so if you're level 100, and fighting noise with a 10% drop rate, you can push back to level 90, get 10* stars, and increase the drop rate to 100. There's a 'noise report' screen where you can play with all this. It's very clever.

I have OCD, I'm sure. If a game has something collectible, I want to collect it. I also love the carrot of levelling things. That keeps me going.
So, this game has some good stuff for me.
1) over 300 pins. There's, naturally, a scary amount of evolving to do, in order to gain all the pins, at which point, you might want to use the Wikia.
2) When you scan an area, you can also read the thoughts of the other people. Obviously, there's a points system for this, too.
3) collecting all the items.

There are a few things I'd change. Most important is a warning before a big fight. I'm often training pins, and wander into another zone to reset the noise (when all noise is gone from an area, you can leave and come back to respawn), only to find my move has triggered a cut scene, and I now have to fight some insane boss with a load of shitty pins.

Also, the ability to save between fights, or at least skip cut scenes if you've seen them before.
I hate dying, and then having to sit through 5 minutes of chatter before I can have my face dragged all over the park again.

Changing level from the noise report screen, please.

I've just written a bastard odyssey. If you've made it this far, you're clearly interested, so just go and buy the bloody thing.

Finally, I'm going to start leaving my progress at the end of each post, because I'm sad like that. The order is: ESP'er points, Noise Report (number of noise), Pin Mastery (number of pins mastered, not just collected), Item Collection, Final Time Attack

Currently: 1916/69/129/349/--

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