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The World Ends With You for iOS Review: One of the Best RPGs Ever

Square Enix continues to be one of the most productive and interesting of the big console-publishers-turned-iOS-devs. Recently, they launched not just one, but two high profile (and high priced) games into the App Store. The less prominent (and less pricey) of these is The World Ends With You: Solo Remix, a high-energy anime-styled JRPG that is one of the best games in the App Store.

As is typical for JRPGs, the plot of TWEWY is somewhat contrived. You play as Neku, a rebellious loner who wakes up in Tokyo’s Shibuya shopping district with no memory. He’s become part of a game run by the supernatural Reapers, and he’s told he must either win or be “erased”. The next seven days are filled with psychic pins, spiritual baddies called “Noise,” game challenges sent via SMS, and plenty of J-pop.

If that all sounds weird to you, well, it is. But married with a Manga style, infused with a funky Japanese modernism culled from the flavors of the Shibuya District (see Wikipedia — yeah, I had to look it up too), and graced with a deep, nuanced story filled with rounded characters and subtle social commentary … well, the whole thing just works. And hey, at least it’s not another yet high fantasy sword and sorcery tale or a sci-fi space romp!

Gameplay is made up mainly of three elements: navigating the Shibuya District, conversing with characters in Manga-style cutscenes, and fighting the Noise in a gesture-based combat mode. These elements slide in and out as the game requires it, and each one works out to good effect. There’s a lot of variety in what Neku is tasked with doing, and so the game rarely becomes too combat-focused or too cutscene-intensive.

The combat mode will probably get the most attention from anyone who played TWEWY on the DS, as it’s the part that had to change the most for iOS (hence the “Solo Remix” in the title). In this version, the game’s combat engine teeters between chaotic screen-mashing and subtle gesture control, based in part on which psychic “pins” (read: special combat abilities that can rank up and evolve as you play) you choose to equip.You need to find a good balance of different gestures, both to make sure you don’t accidentally trigger a power you don’t want, and to make it easier to “sync up” with your partner via alternating combat moves. Get your sync up to 100% and you can unleash devastating high-powered attacks; and even those attacks can be made more powerful via the use of “fusion cards” (quick-play reflex minigames that pop up when you trigger the sync).

And there’s a lot of complexity built into the combat system. Everything seems to have a subtle effect on combat — what your characters are wearing, which pins they’re using, what brands are trendy in which sections of Shibuya … it’s a bit dizzying. Luckily, it’s not all super-important to keep track of, but for those interested in such granular control, it’s a treasure trove of potential bonuses.

Really, there’s a depth and complexity built into TWEWY that generally eludes iOS games, and even eluded Square Enix’s own iOS exclusive franchise, Chaos Rings. For example, while I’ve seen many an iOS RPG that would have been satisfied with the seven-day sequence of the Reaper’s game, in TWEWY those seven days are just the first arc of a three-act storyline.

That’s not to say that there aren’t flaws here. Anyone who’s ever watched Anime before knows how sometimes characters can get melodramatic, dialogue can get cheesy, and conversations can linger on. TWEWY is guilty of all three from time-to-time, but you can power through such dialogue pretty quickly so it’s not too much of a bother. And some people will almost certainly be turned off by the game’s funky Anime style, chirpy urban pop soundtrack, or complex system of styles, pins, and bonuses. But those who commit to the game will be rewarded with an excellent example of top-notch gameplay on the iPhone or iPad.

Right now, The World Ends With You: Solo Remix is one of the best JRPGs on iOS, and one of the best RPGs, period. Square Enix is asking a crazy high price for the game, especially for a port, and especially for one that doesn’t even offer a Universal version! But in the case of this game, I think it’s worth it. If you’re more than a casual player of iOS games, if you’ve enjoyed games like Superbrothers, Aralon, or Chaos Rings, then you should definitely experience TWEWY.

Our Score: 5 out of 5

The World Ends with You Gameplay Trailer

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