Release Date: June 14th 2019
Price as of Article: $39.99, £44.99
Game code provided by PQube
Welcome to Mihate Town, a small country side village where the dead, known in local folklore as ”Yomibito” are said to rise every 100th year, due to a tragedy that happened many years ago, to wreak havoc on mankind. Having just transfered to Mihate Town’s academy, you quickly get caught up in a bizarre string of events, as you encounter mysterious and colourful characters, who all have their story to tell.
Truth be told though, I didn’t like any of them, maybe aside from your quirky but very loud mouthed classmate Kensuke. Most other characters I felt like slapping in the face half the time and wished I could retort for being rude wastes of air. In fact I often found myself talking to the screen what I would have said if I had been there myself. This heavily detracted from an otherwise well-written script for me, as I could only focus on my distain for the characters, but this may just be a me problem.
That aside, something fishy is going on in this little sleepy town, and much like in Kotodama you quickly find yourself enrolled in the school’s only “mystery research club”, and the story evolves from there.
Upon booting up the game, you are presented with the main menu consisting of ”New Game”, ”Continue”, and… ”Menu”? Accompanied by a lovely little tune that invites you into the game’s melancholic world, a thing I thought was sorely missing in Kotodama, whose title screen was completely silent. If you choose ”Menu” you are taken to a sort of sub-menu where you have access to things like character bios, items, artwork etc., all things that will be filled out as you progress through the game, as well as the ”Options” menu.
Why ”Options” is tucked away here instead of being presented on the main menu baffles me enough as is, but the existence of this sub-menu also means that unlocked character bios and artwork is shared between save files, kinda like how in Kotodama, once you had unlocked a CG cutscene, it was freely available to look at in the ”Collection” section of the main menu. Why visual novels apparently do this, instead of keeping unlocked stuff exclusive to the individual save file, is beyond me. I mean, what if I start a new game because I want to unlock everything again?
Credit where credit is due though, the menu feels very intuitive and responsive, unlike the one in Kotodama that, although sporting some nice colours, felt very heavy and clunky. I do also really like how the menu in Worldend Syndrome sticks close to the whole highschool theme (because of course it does) and is visually interesting, by having each section of it be represented by an item a young student would use, like a cellphone for ”Characters”, a notebook for ”Missions”, a pouch for ”Collection”, a camera for ”Album, and a pencil case for ”Options”.
Whereas Kotodama, the visual novel I previously reviewed, was part visual novel and part puzzle game to spice things up, Worldend Syndrome is purely a traditional visual novel. You watch the plot unfold and occassionally get mundane choices that may or may not have a huge impact on the plot. Contrary to Kotodama though, your main character in Worldend Syndrome actually talks. In Kotodama, he/she didn’t, aside from the occassional inner thoughts, so to make up for that you were sometimes presented with ”single answers”, just to have you somewhat participate in the events. In Worldend Syndrome though, your character actually feels like an active part of the world, as he not only thinks to himself a lot, but also talks a lot, albeit unvoiced, which I found refreshing. Kotodama did its own thing, but I appreciate a main character who feels more alive, more involved.
What I don’t like though, and what I feel Kotodama did better, was display your options on the right site of the screen during gameplay. It would tell you which button to press for your log, your auto text etc. but Worldend Syndrome doesn’t. I found out by complete happenstance that Y brings up your log, L puts the conversations on autopilot, R fast forwards the game, and X pulls up the menu you also have access to via the main menu, where a set of house keys now offer to return you to said menu. Sure, the controls are laid out in the options menu, but Kotodama made it so much more convenient.
Also, the game’s save system is super intrucing, asking you after practically every single scenario/conversation if you want to save, which got very annoying really fast. I don’t mind games that ask you if you want to save between chapters, but this game does it so much it becomes aggrovating. Also, unlike Kotodama, Worldend Syndrome doesn’t even have a quick save/load feature.
You know the more I think about it, the more I notice quite similar themes between Kotodama and Worldend Syndrome. You move to another town as a transfer student, get seated next to the only loud mouth in class, and this person then gets you enrolled in the school’s mystery club. The more I think about it, the more I miss the little bits of gameplay Kotodama had in the form of its Bejeweled style puzzles.
The audio is nice and fits the game and its various scenarios well. It is fully voiced in Japanese, with the actors being as loud and over the top as ever when the mood calls for it. In the opening scene even your character seemed to be voiced as well, but as I kept playing I quickly noticed that was apparently a short lived luxury, and I hate inconsistencies like that. I don’t play many visual novels admittedly, so I don’t know if this game is the exception to the rule, or if it is a seldom occurrence.
The audible cues fit nicely as well and plays at just the right times to add to the atmosphere, I can’t however help laughing when the cozy and chipper theme of your classroom is interrupted when you meet a new character and they are introduced with a short keyboard hammering taken right out of Phantom of the Opera. The game is dealing with themes of death, spirits, and mystery, but to have this comically serious tone interrupt a completely unrelated tone is just knee slapping.
Visuals & Performance
With great artwork by Yuki Kato of BLAZBLUE fame the game looks beautiful, and right from the start it is clear that Arc System Works didn’t sleep on the presentation. You wake up in a train, lit up by the evening sun, with trees outside the window actively moving by, instead of the background just being a nice post card. Having animated backgrounds like this instantly makes the world feel alive and believeable, which is a level of detail I really appreciate. Not all backgrounds have movement, but that is fine, as there is where it makes sense.
The characters are again cardboard cut outs, but they do at least emote a fair bit, and you tend to even see them from different angles at times.
Contrary to Kotodama, this game never crashed on me, it actually seems to run quite consistently smooth from what I can gather. Heads up by the way to those curious, that the gamebreaking quick save bugs I encountered during my playthrough of that game, quickly got fixed within a week after the game’s release. In fact, even the save files that I couldn’t load because they were hit by the infinite loop glitch, loaded just fine after the fix.
Maybe visual novels just aren’t for me, but I will never understand how you can charge £44.99 for a game where you just read. On the other hand it is not unheard of for regular books to reach those prices, so maybe it is I who am just missing something, but for a videogame I just expect more for that kind of money. Regardless of what I personally think is a rather steep price tag, the quality and production value, for a visual novel, is definitely here, but I would still charge £30 at most for this.
Awkward menu setup
Annoying save system