World End Syndrome might have seemed at first glance like a normal visual novel with an overly exhausted story, if it weren’t for the excellent art direction and the way the game chooses to present its story. Some approaches it took managed to leave us with some intimate memories and lots important lessons regarding the nature of life and death.
We can’t run away from death. Inside our hearts we know that being separated from our loved ones is our destiny, and that we must always be ready to face it, no matter the circumstances. It addresses this particular aspect of overcoming the kind of loss that results from the death of our loved ones, and the accompanying feelings of detachment and suffering after being deprived of an important part of our hearts along with them.
World End Syndrome combines romance and mystery to tell its heartfelt story, along with some elements of eastern folklore and rural life in Japan. The lead artist behind the successful Blazblue franchise “Yuki Kato” worked on the character designs, and of course you may find the name of Blazblue as a regular occurrence during the daily interactions. There is even a character who is openly admitting to love fighting games made by the developer Arc System Works.
World End Syndrome is immediately available on PS4, Nintendo Switch (Tested).
World End Syndrome Review (Switch)
World End Syndrome takes place in a small rural town called Mihate, and tells the story of a seventeen-year-old teenager, who is the game’s main character. Our protagonist has moved recently to Mihate and enrolled in High school as a first step in searching for a new beginning, only to find himself hastily involved with the school’s Historical Studies Club, concerned mainly with searching around the origins of the most popular legend across the town, called the Yomibito legend.
According to legend, a Yomibito is a person who comes back from death to life every hundred years, and begins killing the living and destroying people’s lives. And this year seems to be the year when another Yomibito will be revived, coinciding with the protagonist’s time of arrival. Is it just a fantasy to scare off the kids, or is it more than that?
After spending about three hours with the main cast (composed mainly of attractive young women), we find our selves before an an abrupt ending that lays the curtains on the story unexpectedly, and after that we are left with the only choices to start the journey again from the beginning. After observing the same events and interactions we have witnessed a number of times before, we started to notice that there are a bunch of different choices that were not there the first time we played.
This concept is widely used and well integrated into every playthrough, as the game remembers all choices you made no matter how many times you played, and even if you didn’t record a save file it will still be registered as a choice you already made, making it easier for you to know what choices to purse or avoid in reach respective playthrough.
After completing the prologue, Mihate as a whole becomes available for you to explore, and you can visit many areas such as your school, the hotel or the train station. Also sharing some similarity with time management games like the persona series, spending time with friends or participating in different activities will consume a portion of your time.
There are multiple characters influencing story beats and events, and not just the main cast members. Additionally, helpful map icons are present to make it easier to recognize which places have been explored previously and what events are occurring at every specific time and place.
The irresistible atmosphere of World End Syndrome
The real mystery can only be solved by getting closer to one of the main five heroines. You will have to figure out each one’s respective place of interest at every single day so you can spend every bit of time you can muster with them, get more informed about their backstory and how its related to the overall mystery of the Yomibito during the in-game month time limit you are allowed to spend here with each one. Befriending (and possibly getting romantically involved with some of the heroines) will lead you to the one last true ending of the story.
We loved many things about our experience with World End Syndrome, the first of which is the deep lore the game has integrated into each locations, and the history behind it. It seems lot of effort has went into writing the mythology and the background information of this game from scratch, and the dialogue surrounding it always feels organic and natural, like something along these lines really may have happened in reality.
Not only that, but each character’s daily habits and interests are closely related to these unique locations and underlying history of the town. Each character has their own distinctive restaurant and particular taste in food, books or special hobbies that they used to do throughout living in this particular place, at this specific period in time. In short, details like background locations and daily habits greatly enrich the world and enhance the experience with how everything is tied to the characters and the yomibito legend.
And while we are going on about background locations, we shouldn’t forget to mention that the backgrounds in this game are not some static CGs like most other visual novels, but instead they look really alive and you can easily notice the movement of people in the back ground, alongside a bunch of other things like the rushing waterfalls, the flapping of birds in the sky, and the wind carcassing the flowers from side to side. Furthermore, an outstanding use of lighting and shadows in each background helped in transforming every scene into breathtaking landscapes you could only hope to find in modern art museums.
The art is not the only factor in creating the tender atmosphere of World End Syndrome, as the sound direction is by no means less amazing. You can hear the chirping of birds in the morning, the sound of field crickets in the evening, the crowds of people in the streets, and other sounds that strengthens the story telling and have the ability of make each place feel distinct even if u visited the same place at different time intervals.
The true legend of World End Syndrome
As for the heroines, not every girl has her own share of romantic involvement or the same route structure. Once your are finished with the main three heroines, getting to know the fourth and fifth one will change the story direction drastically, and you will start to learn way more things about the inner workings of the story and the semantics of many hints you overlooked before. Even the colors and shapes of the main menu have connotations and a hidden depth that follow the general context and the theme the game wants to convey.
There is a beautiful short animated scene at the beginning that cannot be understood if you watch it during the early playthroughs, but with repeating progress you start to notice that new scenes have been added, and as the game ends, you can see the entire scene, which reveals many secrets that staring at your face in the begging but you couldn’t easily think about them this way as you didn’t have all pieces of the puzzle yet.
The voice acting is great as well, as World End Syndrome has a full voiceover of all the characters in Japanese, which we felt was very integral for making the experience with each girl truly come to life. However, as we enjoyed the separate character focused stories, we felt the overall structure kept putting us as a disadvantage, and prevented us from completing each respective route and enjoying it as it was intended to be.
If you don’t do things in the right way at all times, or miss even one of the flags related to increasing your hidden intimacy level with the heroines. You will fail at reaching the true character route/ending. Moreover, characters may end up saying absolutely nothing or exchanging simple words with no hints about where you have gone wrong or weather you failed this route or not.
There are four for five personal side stories related to each girl during the 30 days you spend with them, but every other interaction with them can be counted as insignificant, just an exchange of simple words of greetings and farewells and nothing more. It may sound exciting at first because of how you are able to see each story from a different perspective, but if you to pursue a certain girl, it might be a slog to actually get there and we felt a lot of the days can just be skipped for the sake of reaching whatever is prepared in each route.
At least to avoid the repetition, as we mentioned before, each character is related to different places and reacts differently around certain circumstances, so each playthrough feels totally unique and not just a rehash of the same experience with slightly different interactions.
A meaningful closure
It is worth noting that the game needs at least five replays to finish the story of each girl, and this takes at least 13-15 hours if you know what to do, but if you are not following a guide, getting correct endings is very difficult and you will need to do a lot of trial and error to grasp the structure of each character’s respective story route.
What attracted us the most about World End Syndrome is the ability to see everything and interact with every situation or location from multiple angles. You may not understand the scenes or gestures at first glance because you are standing a bit distant from the characters who play a major role in these ambiguous events, but as you approach them you start to understand what led them to making the choices they did and begin to realize the answers you sought after for so long.
The way each girl deal with the death of her loved one, the conversations you have with them as your final days with them approach you, and each main ending was worth replaying the game so many times. At the same time, a large portion of the road leading to these treasured moments can be ignored, and we were hoping the story would be structured in a better way for easier access to these routes, or the writing of the daily interactions could be much more meaningful and less time wasting.
- A purposeful story with an attractive mystery
- Unique setting with a lot of folklore elements that is well integrated into all aspects of the experience
- Vibrant scenery and charming character designs
- High Replay Value
- A large portion of the dialogue can be ignored
- Few events are actually important in the larger timeframe
- Replaying the game is very difficult without any external guidance