The World Ends with You

This game consumed my life for like three weeks. I’m lucky I didn’t just look up from my DS one day and find Boyfriend had taken the dog and left. BUT IT’S THAT GOOD.


Let’s talk about female characters first, because I think this is where most if not all of my complaints fall.

The game started impressively gender-balanced, with everyone in male-female pairs, which was awesome. But very quickly, the women fall away, and the cast become about important men saving women, and in the case of Kariya and the pink-haired reaper who was such an obnoxious, unimportant character I don’t even remember her name, the strong, reasonable man calming down the hysterical woman.

The fridging of Rhyme was so predictable that I was annoyed the second I saw her, because she just hit every single “female victim” trope out there. The fridging of Shiki was just gross and infuriating. That the writers saw no problem with killing off two pretty strong women to motivate the Men who care about them was disgusting.

In Shiki’s case I was especially disappointed by it because her storyline was a really positive one you don’t get very often– the importance of female friendship and the idea that girls don’t need to be competitors, just themselves. Shiki learning to overcome envy and self-deprecation to love herself as well as her best friend was a really positive thing I wish more media would do instead of pitting women against each other. But the second Shiki grew into a fully-evolved character she was fridged, which is just infuriating and totally not a coincidence. A strong, self-sufficient woman is of no use in modern game culture, so the only way she could be made a valid character once she stopped being fretting and insecure was to die to motivate a man.

I think Rhyme and Beat’s roles should have been switched. Just completely swap their lines and personalities. The strong-willed little sister saving the quiet, patient older brother would be a great trope inversion. And while I really liked Beat– he was probably my favorite character– the fact of the matter is that we just did not need another guy motivated by a little girl’s sacrificial death, no matter how well-done the backstory for it was. It’s just so overdone. Keep the backstory, keep the plot trajectory, and switch the character portraits. Suddenly you have something really original to compliment the good writing.

I do have to say that whoever did Rhyme’s character design deserves a medal.

She looks like a little girl who admires her big brother! She’s adorable! She’s in an oversized t-shirt and shorts and sneakers and she’s still a girl even though there’s no over-the-top secondary sex or gender signifiers. This is what all female children in video games should look like. Yes, all. Literally all. EVER.
The art is the game was awesome in general, which is why it’s so unfortunate that most of the other women were subtly sexualized. It was a more insidious kind of costuming than normal, where the sprites individually may not have been an issue and it’s only visible as a sum of the game as a whole. I actually don’t think it was intentional so much as a demonstration of what internalized misogyny can do.
It was little things, like the v-lines under Shiki’s bellybutton always being visible… which by itself isn’t a big deal, but appeared on a ton of female NPCs as well, and only one male that I can remember (777). Or the ridiculous perma-windtunnel pink-haired reaper was apparently in that blew her shirt open at the bottom (so that, I’m now noticing, we could see her underwear). Or that the “Iron Lady” (not coincidentally, I’m sure, a nickname that mocks her for being female and good at her job) got this ridiculous splash image before her battle, and her noise sprite was positioned in a sultry, T-and-A manner instead of the large, powerful way of the other bosses.
I think this game is a really good demonstration of how, even when the dev team is trying to do things right (or, perhaps, not actively trying to do things wrong), the dominant culture still makes its mark. This is a far cry from Bayonetta, but it’s also far off from old-school Samus Aran.
That said, the actual game here, and the story, and the characters, were exactly what I never knew I always wanted. This game is strikingly original, and it uses its setting to create a tone and atmosphere totally unique to its world.
I’ve had basically all iterations of the DS since it came out, because I am insane. I’ve never done much with the dualscreen, though– it’s an interesting idea, but mostly I like to be using actual buttons and playing a game. At most, I’ve enjoyed it being used for menus.This game so perfectly integrated the full capabilities of the DS into its gameplay and story that I don’t have anything else to say except “this game perfectly integrated the full capabilities of the DS into its gameplay and story.” I loved the battles. I loved the challenge presented by having two characters fighting at the same time. I loved the layers of strategy. I loved how well-thought-out the touchscreen controls were, so that it never got frustrating. This game could not have existed on any other playform, and that’s the first time I’ve ever felt that way about a DS game.

Also, if you’re an obsessive magpie like me, holy crap. Often I would turn the game on when I got home from work and just grind until it was time for bed, because I wanted ALL THE THINGS. All of the items, all of the pins at max, all of the money. And despite the fact that it was technically grinding, I was never bored.

The levelling system was really cool, original, loved it, etc. It was such a perfect way of integrating optional difficultly into a game. You can play however you want.

The story was original, the world was full and unlike anything I’d encountered before, the characters were relatable, everything was properly foreshadowed without the answers being obvious, and the end of the main storyline just broke my heart. FTR I didn’t cry, though it was close.

The art was great, and the visual style of the noise and the characters was just really cool. I often play games with the sound off, but you really can’t do that for this, as the music, which is wonderful, was such an integral part of the world.

I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything because if you haven’t played this game you really, really should. I also don’t have much to say except SQUEEEEEE, obviously. So go play it! It’s a jRPG unlike anything else out there, and you won’t be sorry except that you’ll wake up weeks later not knowing what happened to your life in the interim, kind of like Skyrim.

Also! Do all of the postgame stuff. The “Another Day” missions are a little much, but 100% completion is really worth it.

I loved this game.

15 Comments

  1. illhousen says:
    Agree on the gender front. It was annoying to watch how the characters were introduced in man-woman pair only to discover that women fall into support roles while men are the true decision-makers.

    Also note that when a character is introduced without a pair, more often than not it’s a man: bosses, that ramen guy, that blog guy, 777 band, etc.

    Swapping Rhyme and Beat would be cool. Same applies for other female characters, now that I think about it. Imagine a pair of Reapers with a woman as an experienced and confident worker while a man is the one to throw tantrums. Or Iron Lady as the Conductor with Shades as her subordinate.

    Speaking of which, yeah, her form is… egh. I think she really needed to look more sinister. There is this whole monochrome theme and vague warnings of the white darkness, and… she.

    I think a murder of crows forming a vaguely humanoid figure would serve better as her boss form.

    Also, you should probably make a spoiler post. There is a lot of stuff that would be fun to discuss about the story, gameplay and such.

    I also see you still have a life. I’ll post another suggestion in the recommendation thread.

    1. actonthat says:
      [I also see you still have a life. I’ll post another suggestion in the recommendation thread.]

      I hate/love you.

      A spoiler post could be fun. When I have a bit more time and energy to answer comments maybe I’ll throw one up.

  2. Roarke says:
    “I think Rhyme and Beat’s roles should have been switched. Just completely swap their lines and personalities. The strong-willed little sister saving the quiet, patient older brother would be a great trope inversion.”

    Cucumber Quest.

    1. Katrika says:
      Oh man, yes. Almond and Cucumber all the way.
    2. actonthat says:
      This is weird and nonsensical, but as much as I like video games and VNs, I hate reading comics and books on screens. I can’t get into webcomics. It just annoys me that I can’t have them in an actual book.
      1. Roarke says:
        I mean they tend to get compiled in volumes eventually, but those cost money. If you’re fine with that, you can just wait for it to be printed. I totally understand where you’re coming from though; I would rather buy a book than buy a .pdf
  3. SoxyOutfoxing says:
    I completely agree about TWEWY being the best use of the DS as a system. Some of those gimmicks we had to put up with when the DS was first out and game developers were trying desperately to think of touchscreen functions were painful. Does anyone remember the magic seal system in Castlevania? I think it was in Dawn of Sorrow, and it might not have been as annoying as I remember, but it was definitely unnecessary.

    Like you say, it’s hard to say much about TWEWY that isn’t spoilers or squee. I do think the setting was very effective, and more games should make use of a place where what you can do and where you can go changes, rather than constantly moving from shallow new setting to shallow new setting.

    1. illhousen says:
      “I do think the setting was very effective, and more games should make use of a place where what you can do and where you can go changes”

      Yeah, I like games that take place in one big but constant area, so you have time to become familiar with everything in it.

      And then it starts changing, some areas becoming blocked for you, other expanding, new elements become open while the old disappears.

      It creates a sense of dynamic world and make you more invested in the setting.

      TWEWY does it pretty well. There are other games that do it, though I could always use another.

      1. actonthat says:
        Yeah, that was pretty cool, and it also really pulled off a not-contrived in-universe reason for it with the reapers pulling the strings.
  4. Sazuka57 says:
    This game is in my top 10. It’s fantastic. I’ve played and replayed it so much that I’m over the 300 hour mark, hahaha. I love the plot, and I love how it guarantees a replay just so you could understand it better. And I love Another Day! It’s ridiculous. It’s funny. It never gets old.

    The whole game in general doesn’t get old. The characters are fantastic, and the plot neat, and the DS usage is brilliant! I’m hoping that if this game ever gets a sequel, it will be as brilliant as this game.

    1. actonthat says:
      It’s really one of those games that you could pick up whenever and just play for an hour or so if you need to kill time. Even now that I’m done, I’ve been going in every few days to adjust my pins so they keep levelling. The whole game is just brilliant.
  5. Y says:
    I remember hearing about this game at the same time I heard of Chrono Trigger, which I love, so I’ll play this. I’m pretty sure the characters were in Kingdom Hearts 3D as well.
  6. Negrek says:
    I’m so glad you enjoyed this! TWEWY is one of my all-time faves; aside from Ghost Trick it’s the game I’ve replayed the most (…and it’s way, way longer than Ghost Trick).

    I absolutely do agree with you that it botches the female characters a lot, though. The whole “Iron Maiden” thing is especially infuriating, and although I ended up being pleasantly surprised by Shiki’s arc, she and Rhyme were basically the only female characters that mattered even a little bit. At least

    the fridged girls got to be alive again at the end and be awesome friends yay! (Putting aside the fact that Rhyme, having lost the game, should technically never have regained her entry fee… an idea many a fanfic has run with to generally tragic results.)

    You’re right, though, there’s not a lot you can talk about for the benefit of people who haven’t yet played the game. Aside from “omg go play this game,” of course. ;)

    1. illhousen says:
      Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoile

      On spoilers in your post: I figured she can make new dreams in time. She is young, it’s not unusual for kids to abandon what seemed like their goal in life in favor of something completely different. It’s a loss, but not one she can’t recover from.

      That’s my headcanon, anyway.

      Her memories of Beat should be fine as he did win the game, if I am not misremembering things.

      1. actonthat says:
        Yeah, I agree. If her entry fee was what it was implied to be, I think she’ll be fine. If you think about it, your ambitions stem from who you are, not vice versa, so she should still be able to be whole, in time.

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