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    jp's The World Ends With You (DS)

    [May 9, 2011 02:28:20 PM]
    I finished this over the weekend and I have to say I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it even if it has little things that (in other games) I've found extremely annoying or bothersome. Although my initial reaction to the main character (Neku) and the setting was sort of negative...over time I really began to warm to it... The game's designers also made a few interesting design choices that really helped:

    1. The game has (at least) 3 different difficulty levels that you can switch between at will. The higher difficulty means harder monsters but also better payouts/rewards. You can actually examine what the payouts are at each difficulty level and move between them based on what you're looking for. When I wanted to (happily) grind for a while, I'd crank up the difficulty (to hard)...and when I was having trouble with a boss (lost 3-4 times in a row) I'd replay on easy. As a player, it felt nice to know that I could customize my experience on the fly and I greatly appreciated it!

    2. In the game you collect "pins" (powers) that level up when you use them. Most pins however level up pretty fast, and you're always finding new ones. Once a pin is maxed out, it's considered mastered and continuing to use it feels like a waste of experience points. Given the wide variety of pins, I always felt comfortable swapping out those I had mastered and replacing them with new ones. This kept the game experience fresh since I'd have to adapt and learn the new pins way of operating (as well as how they combined with others). Towards the end I found myself using pins I never expected I'd even consider...and trying out new types of attacks as well.

    3. Splitting the game into discrete days (that weren't too long to playthrough either) helped me feel like things were moving along well. Knowing that it all ended in 7 days also helped, since I knew what the end goal was (even though I was confused by the restart with a new character).

    Well worth looking at!
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    [April 27, 2011 11:03:19 PM]
    I've been paying closer attention now to how the experience points work for the pins you collect and whether the bonus for not playing is worth all that much. In a nutshell, it really isn't. The points I get for not playing 8 hours I can make up in less than 10 minutes of playtime. I was a bit disappointed when I noticed this, but...I'm not really complaining. The joy of having a pin level up (it happens occasionally!) when you boot up is still worth it. What I did find interesting (after a weekend of non-play) is that the rewards DECREASE over successive days. So the first 24 hours net you the most points!

    So far the story is still interesting and intriguing. It's not really clear what's going on (who are the reapers? why do the do what they do?) and you get a sense that there's a lot more going on behind the scenes,which is neat. Another thing I've enjoyed is the limited space. There aren't that many locations and although navigation can be tricky (there is a map, but it doesn't have the names of the areas on it), you can start to learn them as you "back track" quite a bit. The game feels like an RPG-lite, but with an interesting story, locations, and characters. The art-style is growing on me....which is strange because I was initially quite put off by it.

    On the down side, I've given up on playing both characters at once. I just cross my fingers and how the top character is competent...
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    [April 22, 2011 04:52:59 PM]
    As of yesterday afternoon I was both concerned and elated at the possibility that this would be a short game. The back of the box describes how the player is caught in a 7-day trial/game and I had just finished day 6 and was on the verge of ending (presumably) day 7. The final boss was just around the corner. I was concerned because for a Square-Enix RPG this seemed remarkably short, but elated because...well, it's been quite engaging so far and I wouldn't mind ending the game on a high note. I also imagined that, if I was so inclined, I could continue playing in some sort of sandbox mode...(pure conjecture on my part, really). I had to make an effort last night to not visit Gamefaqs just to see if it was the end of the game or not!

    So, I finished the 7th day...and it started over. Sort of. This time I have a new partner and, through a cut-scene, it is clear that this new cycle follows chronologically from the last and that I need to win in order to save Shiki my partner from the last 7 day game. The locations are the same, which is nice, and I have the feeling that I'll start to gain a deeper understanding of the different elements that have been introduced so far (the importance of fashion accesories, pins, etc.) Cool stuff.

    Curiously, I'm also looking forward the the weekend (in real life). Not because I'll get to play more (I won't) but because of another game feature. In this game you can still accumulate experience while not playing (up to 7 calendar days). It's an interesting mechanic because I guess it helps players pace themselves with the game (it's ok to take a break! you don't need to finish it all in one sitting!) while also setting up an incentive to get back to the game. While the idea of having stuff happen while you're not playing isn't novel, I think that most games use it a NEGATIVE way. If you don't come back your pets die, your crops shrivel up, your house becomes infested with bugs, or your village is riddled with weeds. The only other positive example I can think of is World of Warcraft...where (if I recall, I haven't played it...but I remember reading about this) you are either awarded more experience or need less experience to advance if you've been gone a while (or haven't been playing as much). In the case of WoW, I think the idea was to help players with less time catch up to their friends that may be playing more, thus avoiding them being able to not play together due to too high a differential in power/level.

    If anyone knows of other "get a benefit while away" games, please let me know!
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    [April 20, 2011 11:46:11 AM]
    I had heard very good things about this game, but this was coming from people who seem to love anything that Square-Enix puts out. I was skeptical to say the least, but decided to give it a try solely on the basis that it's NOT a fantasy RPG. Rather it seems like a japanese hipster RPG which sounds really strange even though it's pretty accurate.

    Having played a couple of hours I must admit that I am slowly getting into the game. The setting and story are weird in the same way that some Japanese manga is weird (e.g Deathnote, Gantz, 20th Century Boys). For me that means having a crazy concept in current-day setting that is somehow as compelling as it is outlandish. I wonder if there is a manga spin off for this game? (ok, just checked Wikipedia and it doesn't seem like there is one, hmmm.. missed opportunity?) Anyways, as far as I've gathered the game takes place in Shibuya (an area of Tokyo), but actually in an alternate Shibuya where you fight demons and monsters while shopping at trendy stores for fashion items that give you power-ups and character improvements (you also need to know which brands are cool in certain areas for more bonuses or penalties!). Your character (Neku) is an angsty nihilistic teenager who seems to hate everything and he's partnered up with a peppy girl whose name I can't recall. They're both "players" in a game organized by "Reapers" who set you goals (1 per day) and at the end of day 7 you win. I've only played a few hours and I'm already at day 5 (or 6?) so there must be something after that...but we'll see.

    I've really enjoyed how all the gameplay elements (combat system, abilities, and so on) have been introduced slowly... Most of them are described in the game's manual (I had to check because there was something I didn't understand) and I feel that I'm making sense of everything as I go (and also getting better at it). The combat system is interesting because you can control two characters (one per scree) with the stylus (bottom) and keypad (top). It's really confusing, to be honest, but as I said, I'm slowly getting the hand of it. It also helps that you can set the top character to act autonomously... All of the abilities (attacks,etc) are trigger via actions (rather than selecting from menus) and play out in real time. For me this has been the most refreshing aspect (I was expecting a turn-based game).
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    jp's The World Ends With You (DS)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 18 April, 2011

    GameLog closed on: Monday 9 May, 2011

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    Well worth it. The reviews were spot on, this is quite an interesting and intriguing non-fantasy RPG.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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