Title: World End Syndrome
Developer: Arc System Works/TOYBOX
Publisher: Arc System Works
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: Mature 17+ Blood, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
Release Date: 02/05/2019
Price: £44.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
World End Syndrome is a graphic novel experience that sees you thrust into a world of murder and mystery. You are the new boy in town, running away from your past in the hope of finding a fresh start in the seaside town of Mihate. Lucky enough to have a rich uncle, or at least an uncle who owns a mansion on the edge of town, and who is willing to let you stay there.
A clever storyline is woven around a mixture of supernatural superstitions involving the restless dead and the very real murders of people who you, and your soon to be friends, know. As summer arrives, bringing with it the festival of the Yomibito or the returning spirits of lost loved ones, it is up to you to explore the town and try to solve the mystery of Mihate Town once and for all.
The game is a graphic novel with interactive elements. The style brings with it a combination of mostly static backgrounds overlaid with different characters, who are, again, mostly static, save for a few changes in facial expressions. Any large movement, a new character image is overlaid, in a style reminiscent of the old stop-and-go animations, only with a much more refined and modern art style.
Everything about the game is visually stunning, and that goes from the different backgrounds which are as varied as they are detailed, capturing both bold and subtle details that give them a feeling of being something real, through to the characters whose stencils are equally detailed.
Yes, it is a PQUBE game, and yes, the characters are largely overly sexualized, but unlike some other titles recently, this does not rely on the sexual element to move the story along. In fact, often they mock it. That is not to say there isn’t a smattering of cleavage or crotch shots, but it is, in so far as they can be, a more tasteful, story driving variety.
The games audio is another example of well-produced content. While the voice acting is Japanese only, even the untrained ear can not only separate the different characters quickly but can hear the intonations and understand that everything fits the character being portrayed. The additional sound effects that accompany each scene are nicely finished, relevant and never overpowering. Unlike some other titles, World End Syndrome has paid attention to these details, and it pays off in the finished product.
Despite being a graphic novel game, you have a lot of freedom. It feels at times almost like a true open-world game, and you do run the risk of getting lost in your own thoughts, wandering around the town. This can lead to a sudden ending with you getting the ‘Worst Ending’ and trust me, it is indeed a bad ending. The game itself is split very much into two parts.
Why does the intro get its own section? Well because it lasts about 2 hours and it is only after this that the game really begins to take off. In the introduction, the scene is set, the characters are introduced and you are really just taken on a tour of the town, and told things that you will need to remember for later. Having finished the game, looking back, a pen and paper would have been handy to note down things that seemed interesting when told to you.
The majority of the intro is automated interactions, and with the autoplay feature, you are essentially just watching things unfold. There are a few choices you have to make, and I do wonder what would have changed had I made a different choice there. Surviving the end of the school year settles you into the special afterschool club for the bright students with an interest in the supernatural. It’s quite a club, but for those familiar with this game genre, it is a classic trope.
This is where the game really takes flight. With school out for the summer, you are left to your own devices and free to wander around Mihate and the neighbouring areas. With each day divided into an AM, PM and Night, it gives you three opportunities to explore every day. Each decision you make impacts who you will see and what you will learn and each path you choose to follow will impact the eventual ending you will get.
Each NPC has a character arc that can be followed, but with no direct signals or route to follow you need to pay attention to where you choose to go and at which time of day you go there. This is the same for the main storylines as for the side quests you can decide to go on. The police woman’s sunglasses, in particular, was one where the answer is given earlier in the story in the form of something said during the conversation. That, in turn, comes about only if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.
This freedom is refreshing in a game of this style and shows that there is a lot of room for fun gameplay as well as a good story within this genre. It is a game that rewards those that pay attention and can fish the clues from earlier interactions and moments and use them to follow the correct paths the resolution.
Depending on the choices you make during each playthrough, the level of replayability will vary. If you take the time, even making some notes and really thinking about where to go each day and what answer to give when questioned, you could make it through to the ‘Best Ending’ at your first attempt. If, however, you get lost in the story or spend a few days just lounging around town and base your decisions on what you feel rather than what the story needs, you will always find yourself wanting to go back and try it again. You will ask yourself what would have happened if you had agreed to help Kensuke, or if you had rejected some of the challenges that were presented.
It gives the game a replayability factor quite unlike many other games but promises to remain fresh and interesting each time you load it up, just as long as you actually make different decisions.
World End Syndrome is a really fun title. The graphic novel game is a genre that will either grab you or it won’t. For fans, this will rank up there as one of the more entertaining titles. For newcomers, it is an attention-grabbing game with a strong story, clearly defined characters, both lovable and hateable in the right measures and for the right reasons. Yes, the buxom images that spring up from time to time are not necessary, and the photo index of these moments is also uncalled for, but they are part and parcel of this genre.
Beneath what may look like a sexual overdriven cover, the game beneath is a deep, near open-world experience where you have full control over how you spend your time. Just be careful because the worst ending is always hiding around the corner, and a gruesome end is not how you want your adventure in Mihate Town to end.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase World End Syndrome from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/WORLDEND-SYNDROME-1565439.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.