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It’s not every day Square Enix produces a game that doesn’t end with “Fantasy” or “Hearts,” but channels the better parts of both series to create a game so bizarre, yet immensely playable. We expected as much, considering Tetsuya Nomura (the head brain behind the Kingdom Hearts series and Final Fantasy Versus XIII) directed and designed all the hipster characters for The World Ends With You - the latest action RPG by Square Enix. Set for release in late April, we had a chance to play the unfinished English version, and came away more than a little impressed.
Combining Japanese youth culture with a unique two-screen battle system, you begin playing as a perpetually moody teen, Neku. After waking up with amnesia on the crowded streets of Shibuya, Tokyo, Neku finds himself as a pawn in a dangerous game concocted by the Reapers - mysterious villains with bad hair and God complexes.
Eventually Neku discovers he needs to complete one mission each day for a week so he doesn’t get “erased.” Missions come from strange phone texts and can range from polishing a statue to defeating a boss. To aid his adventure, Neku is reluctantly paired with the chatty Shiki, who happens to be another player in the Reapers’ demented game.
Apparently getting thrown into bizarro worlds modeled from bustling commerce centers can have a heavy effect on a guy’s brain, as Neku gains the ability to psychically “scan” the area by tapping the Scan icon in the bottom right-corner of the screen. Scanning enables you to read the thoughts of NPCs - of which there are tons - who either have nothing interesting to say, or can inadvertently provide hints on how to proceed with your mission. Early on, we found that these NPCs were pretty uninteresting as they only told us about the personal problems of characters you’ll never meet - i.e. love woes, or what to eat for lunch. Most of the time, you’ll scan to find “Noise,” which are the monsters you’ll regularly engage in combat.