It's a Wonderful World - hands-on

It's not all about Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. There's a new series in town, being worked on by the creators of the KH games and with a style very much its own. It's a Wonderful World - we'd expect the title to change in the US but we don't know to what, just yet - blends hip-hop street fashion and action RPG gameplay in unexpectedly cool ways.

The game, which is set on the streets of Tokyo and stars an even more stylish young crew than the Kingdom Hearts games, pits you against a plague of monsters known simply as "Noise". We haven't been able to piece together much of the story yet, but given that the main character's hand has a countdown timer tattooed on it and there are constant references to a 7 day limit, we'll assume you're racing against some sort of suitably terrible fate.

Rather than in a mystical world, every event we've seen so far takes place in modern areas: the massive crosswalk outside of Shibuya station in Tokyo, which is one of the busiest in the world, is one of the main settings. "This is Shibuya?" asked the movie presentation, splashing up stylized images of the iconic stores and landmarks in the Tokyo district, which is home to teen fashion and trendy restaurants.

We got our hands on a demo of the battle system. Gripping the stylus in one hand, you put the other on the D-pad or buttons (depending on whether you're left or right-handed). On the bottom screen you drag the stylus around to attack enemies that appear - you can tap them for electrical attacks, swoosh around for fire, or even control your character directly - one time we sent him spinning through a wall of enemies. On the top, your female cohort fires off spells - by tapping out directional combos. You can choose which attack you want to do, and until you mess up the button combos get more complex. What you do affects the other character - we saw energy transferring between them. Eventually you can do a team-up special which hurts the enemies on both screens.

Besides battling on the streets, we fought a giant bat boss in what looked like a nightclub; the boss would hide in the shadows while sending bats to the top screen to fight. Once we'd taken care of enough of the top-screen enemies, the magic power would illuminate the bat on the bottom and we could attack it directly with the stylus.

The movie we saw also showed spirits floating around the intersection and possibly infecting regular people with evil power. But we're not quite sure about the story just yet - it was all quick jump cuts. With super-stylish characters, hip-hop tunes and contemporary locales, this is an unusual game from a company better known for Final Fantasy. But it's a surprisingly cool new direction for the action RPG genre and it's looking like it'll bring its own rhythm, style and action to the DS.