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Solo Remix is an enhanced port of The World Ends With You, an action role playing game that was originally released on the Nintendo DS way back in April 2008. Despite being a huge fan of RPG games I never gave TWEWY a go as I was put off by the title's extensive use of stylus controls. Perhaps I am being overly picky, but I have always found the DS stylus to be ill suited for precise gameplay so I have made it a point to avoid titles that make its use compulsory. Thankfully Square-Enix's decision to release the game on Apple's mobile devices has given me the opportunity to try out one of their finest products in recent years. It's good to see that the legendary Japanese developer can still make creative games, whenever they can tear themselves away from whoring out the Final Fantasy name on endless spin-offs and remakes.
The game sees players take control of Neku, a teenage resident of Tokyo's trendy Shibuya district. Neku is in a bit of a bind as he was recently killed by an unknown assailant. Fortunately for him entities calling themselves Reapers have given him a second lease on life by inviting him to a contest known simply as the Game. If Neku can emerge triumphant in the Game he will be reanimated. Should he fail to succeed though... well let's just say that his deceased status will remain permanent. Gripes, as far as contests go that's way harsher than getting relegated from the Premier League.
The World Ends With You takes place over the period of three weeks and mainly focuses on Neku scrambling around Shibuya trying to complete the tasks set by the Reapers within a strict time limit. For all intents and purposes he is a ghost because although he is roaming around a real life city he cannot interact with living humans, as he is invisible to them. Participating in the Game isn't Neku's only concern however. As the story progresses the antisocial adolescent has to piece together his fragmented memories, to deduce who murdered him, as well as dealing with the power struggle being fought between rival Reaper factions.
One of TWEWY's distinguishing features would have to be it's high-octane combat system. Forget slow paced turn based encounters as battles are fought in real time with players having to use nimble fingers to guide Neku's actions. What moves Neku can execute against the Noise (the incorporeal creatures that roam around the city) are dependent on what pin badges you have equipped. Each pin has a special ability attached to it such as restoring health, permitting Neku to swipe at enemies, fire energy blasts at foes or even use telekinesis to hurl nearby objects at the nasties.
Pins have a limited number of uses before going on cool down, forcing you to switch to another attack whilst the depleted one recharges. To activate an ability you'll have to perform all manner of actions such as tapping the screen, swiping your finger across the display or pressing your thumb down on the area you wish to interact with. The battles feel strangely strategic yet chaotic as you are forced to quickly decide what ability is most effective in a given situation, whilst at the same time trying to weave past the hordes of enemies lunging at you. Given how hectic things can get I was relieved to be playing the game on the iPad's responsive touch screen. I cannot imagine how much harder things would be if I was confined to the weedier display of a DS, not to mention the handheld's clunkier stylus controls.
One of the biggest differences between Solo Remix and the original version of TWEWY would have to be the fact that the iPad iteration is limited to one screen. The Game forces competitors to work in pairs so to reflect this the DS version would have Neku fighting on one screen whilst his partner fought on the other. This has been tweaked in the iOS port so you have full control of Neku, reducing your teammate to a summon that can be called in to assist you whenever things get too hairy. This probably makes the iPad version the easier of the two, but I honestly don't mind. I'm nowhere near coordinated enough to simultaneously control two characters so I welcome the streamlined approach adopted by Solo Remix. Two heads may be better than one, but the same is not necessarily true for two screens.
As mentioned earlier, the use of pin badges is vital in order to survive the skirmishes with the Noise. Winning battles will eventually result in pins leveling up, making them more effective and in some cases pins may also evolve into different forms endowing them with new powers (I wonder if the pins were Pokemons in a previous life.) In addition to donning snazzy brooches, Neku can become stronger in combat by munching on stat boosting snacks and wearing different items of clothing. Just be aware that the effectiveness of attire is linked to the region you are fighting in. The fashion police may not arrest you for sporting a garish outfit, but if the brand of clothes you are using is not popular in the area you are in you won't reap the full benefits of the apparel. Thankfully you can counter this by setting your own fashion trends, as repeatedly using a make of clothes will gradually make it more popular in that particular zone.
The World Ends With You is a gorgeous looking game thanks to its stylish looking cartoony art style. Visually speaking the iPad version trumps the DS original as the tablet's retina display has allowed Square-Enix to substantially beef up the resolution of the sprites. Sound wise the game's music is nothing short of exceptional, treating players to a fabulous mix of electronic techno, J-pop and rock. It's very different to the orchestral scores we have come to expect from other Square games, but the tunes in question fit the flair of the game to a T. I loved the soundtrack so much that I purchased it from iTunes shortly after beating the game and continue to listen to it on my iPod to this very day.
If you are a fan of JRPGs and missed out on TWEWY the first time round I can highly recommend this improved version. The only gripe some prospective buyers may have is the asking price, which is substantially higher than what most apps retail for. If I recall correctly the game cost me fifteen quid, but that's not too bad when you consider that the original DS cartridge sold for much higher when it first came out. Given the quality story, exciting gameplay and amount of content on offer one copy of TWEWY is much better value than spending the same amount on five uninspired Angry Bird clones.