End of a Generation: Top 5 Games of the DS/PSP Era – #1

I’m sorry this has taken so long. Even though, I’m still sick, there is no way I’m delaying this post another day. So here we go: our number 1 entry.

1.) The World Ends With You (DS)

There is no handheld game that is as well done as The World Ends With You (TWEWY). It combines story, characters, and gameplay, with a huge amount of innovation in order to make an exceptional game. It doesn’t come close to matching the graphical capabilities of either of the last two entries, but the graphics are tighter and more charming. Lets put it this way: Call of Duty usually has great graphics, but a stylized game like Borderlands, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution will always have more memorable and interesting graphics. Its not that powerhouse graphics are bad, but stylized graphics are better than realistic graphics. TWEWY is a game that was developed by Square Enix and Jupiter, and released in 2008. It was worked on by the Kingdom Hearts team, which fully explains the art style and all of the zippers. While not an early game for the DS, it is the only engaging game I ever played that made use of all of the DS’ features without being a game that was totally dependant on them (Trauma Centre).

Despite what the cover would lead you to believe, this game isn’t just for teenage dirtbags

The setting of TWEWY is truly unique. You play Neku Sakuraba, an anti-social youth who makes Squall Leonhart  seem like a bursting bubble of joy. The game is set in Shibuya, Tokyo’s shopping district. Neku wakes up one day in the middle of a busy intersection in Shibuya to discover that no one can see him and there are monsters crawling all over the place that seem only interested in him. Neku has been made part of a game in which he has a week to complete assignments given to him by Reapers in order to reclaim his humanity. Part of this game is fighting Noise (The aforementioned monsters), and in order to do that he must team up with another person by making a pact. Doing so brings him closer to several other participants in the game as they all struggle to be the one to win it. This interaction brings about serious changes in Neku as he grows out of his anti-social tendencies little by little.

Considering he was calling her “Flattop” its a definite improvement

The gameplay follows suit, and is equally as engaging and unique as the story. You have to fight enemies on both screens at once. You control the upper screen with the D-pad and the lower screen with touch controls, but you can automate the upper screen if keeping an eye on both is too difficult for you. On the lower screen you control Neku, and the attacks you have depend on the pins you collect and level. These pins can be obtained in various places from shops to enemy drops, and they all have interesting and unique effects. Some may require you to drag a line across the bottom screen to build a wall of fire, others will have you slashing enemies to hit them with a sword, while still others will have you tapping scenery, such as cars or mailboxes, to levitate them and throw them at enemies. If you succeed enough on the upper screen, you can unleash a special attack with your partner. The gameplay is varied and lots of fun. You are rewarded for quickly disposing enemies, and battles flow fast and hard. Eventually, you can chain battles together and increase the difficulty in order to get better drops. The only downside to the battle system is that there is a steep learning curve, especially when dealing with both screens at once; however, once the curve is down, it stands above most RPGs for its uniqueness.

On the bottom, using fire. On the top, using a cat toy. How is that fair?

As with everything else, leveling up in TWEWY is a unique experience. As part of the game, characters are allowed to be seen by shop vendors, so they can purchase clothes, food, and pins. In order to wear clothes you need a requisite number of bravery points. With enough you can dress Neku in full drag, which is always a plus. In order to get more bravery, and any other stat, you need to eat food. Different foods give different boosts. However, in order to get the boosts, you have to digest it, and in order to digest it, you have to fight a requisite number of Noise. It is a surprisingly intuitive and fun system, as you decide what you want more: ramen or a chilidog. On top of leveling your character’s base stats, you also level pins up in various unique ways. You see, pins level up from battle, which is par for the course in RPGs, but most of them can also evolve into a new pin under various conditions. The most basic is just from reaching its max level, other requirements include getting pin points (Pp) from the DS’ mingle feature, or from turning the DS off and waiting awhile. Yes, you actually get experience while you aren’t playing, which adds to the overall portability and pickup and play nature of the game. TWEWY is a very cool game, and, as part of this coolness, your character has to be aware of the trends in different parts of the city. Wearing clothing that matches these trends will give your characters a boost in battle and may be necessary to continue at several junctions. Overall the leveling system integrates the shopping district of Shibuya as an active evolving character in the plot, and that is really something special.

This is the exact location you start the game. Yes, it is a real world place, and that is awesome.

In terms of what you want from a game, The World Ends With You has it all. Excellent characters and development of not just the main character, but many others across the lengthy story. It has a plot that is not just unique, but extremely engaging, so much so, that it is hard to put down once you start getting into it. TWEWY is the game that best utilizes the DS’ touch capabilities, and although they aren’t always as accurate as you’d like (Old tech, what do you expect?), they make the combat varied, fast, and fun. Fighting Noise and leveling up your pins, or characters is never boring and it’s never a chore. The story deals with real philosophical issues, even if they are simply subtext to an already exceptional plot. Everything flows well and works together in such a way that I can easily say that The World Ends With You is the best handheld game ever made.

A question I ask myself every day.

There we go, internet. My top five picks of the last generation. I know some of you are upset that your favourite game didn’t make the cut, but that’s just too bad. Maybe, if I was making a top 10 or 20 list, I could fit Crisis Core in. Did you notice that every single game on this list is Japanese? Well the reason for that, internet, isn’t because I have an obsession with Japanese culture, like so many white High School or University students. There is a much more simple, and less irritating, answer. You see, western developers haven’t really put much effort into developing for handhelds. Hell, it wasn’t until the last generation of consoles that western developers started really picking up steam on consoles. The 3DS/Vita generation is looking to turn things around. Already on the Vita there are some very high profile western franchises such as Uncharted and Resistance, so maybe next time I do this the west will get some nominees.

The PSP and DS generation was a good one. It was the first, in my opinion, which was able to capture enough of a user base in order to make the development of great games feasible. The DS spent its entire lifespan turning out unique games, while the PSP made excellent use of its power to try to mimic the home console experience. This generation is looking to follow the same trend, with the weaker 3DS capturing a more quirky audience, and the Vita picking up those who want a portable PS3. Either way, it looks like handheld gamers are going to be quite busy for the next five years.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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