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Depending on whom you ask, there's a sentiment in some circles that the Japanese games industry is struggling to maintain relevance. While traditional Japanese role-playing games don't clinch the Western market quite as tightly as they once did, The World Ends With You stands as a prime example of the genre's staying power. Actually, it's one of the best role-playing games – regardless of region – we've played in years.
At first glance, The World Ends With You: Solo Remix seems like a fairly stereotypical Japanese role-playing game. Many essential archetypes of the genre are present; the spiky-haired loner, the rough skater hood, and the shy girl who finds her inner strength. But beyond those initial impressions, The World Ends With You sets itself apart with absolutely addictive, real-time combat.
When Neku awakens, confused in an alternate-reality version of Tokyo's Shibuya district, he's unwittingly entered into a week-long game to eliminate monsters – or "noise" – from the streets. If he fails to carry out his tasks, he's "erased." Combat requires the collection and assignment of pins, each one offering different attacks through touch-screen gestures. Attacking the game's creatures, with assistance from an A.I. partner, flows wonderfully – assisted by an amazing soundtrack that stays in your head for days.
Of course, The World Ends With You is anything but a cheap, casual iOS title. At $18 for the iPhone version, the game carries on Square Enix's tradition of perhaps overestimating what iOS gamers are accustomed to in regards to price. Honestly, it's a fair price when compared to the still-beloved Nintendo DS original, but a lack of universal support for iPad is a huge bummer. Regardless, the surprisingly dark story and uniquely modern Japanese themes – wearing trendier fashions in a neighborhood awards combat bonuses – will keep you returning to The World Ends With You. And new missions may be enough to justify another purchase for those who played on Nintendo DS.
The bottom line. The World Ends With You: Solo Remix is one of the most enjoyable role-playing experiences of the past few years, and well worth the high cost of admission on iOS.
iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S running iOS 4.3 or later
A perfect role-playing game for the iOS platform. Great soundtrack. Addictive gameplay.
Hefty price tag. Lack of universal download makes price even worse.