Not to be confused with visual novel ‘Our World is Ended’, the review for that is over here
I think we can all agree that the majority of visual novel protagonists start out as losers. This is also the case with most harem anime/manga though as the main character is typically a skinny nondescript teenage guy who has a troubling past and no interest in the 8 or so women who for whatever reason find a self-centered narcissist horribly attractive. It’s the old cliches that drive the genre to pictures of boobs and compromising positions. When people pitch a 2D anime visual novel title you can picture a cheesecake meter to the side of every design document to fit into a genre that’s flooded with it, so where does World End Syndrome sit on this scale or does it break the balance?
Let’s get something out of the way first. For all of its achievements and interesting quirks Worlds End Syndrome is still a visual novel with “sexy” moments. You will still walk in on girls getting changed into swimsuits, accidentally fall and grab a boob or fall into a bathroom to see various states of nakedness. These moments really feel unnecessary given how good the rest of the game is but it’s fair warning and a caveat for anyone tempted to give it a go. There are some truly facepalm moments from some of the lines but the writing seems self aware for the most part and focuses more on the interesting storylines.
The visual design of the characters take a little getting used to with extreme proportions that fit an anime trying to stand out but they slowly take on their own charm and the characters are so unique that you can easily identify each of them. The text is easy to read and there are moments of animation that are really beautiful and despite being simplistic add a lot to the atmosphere of certain scenes. The surroundings give the setting of Mihate Town a surreal feeling and all of this helps to make World End Syndrome visually appealing, as long as you ignore the cheesecake moments that is.
World End Syndrome has an impressive amount of voice work as well, the Japanese cast do a fantastic job of taking the really well written lines and delivering them with gusto. The music isn’t too overbearing and does loop occasionally but there’s nothing obnoxious and this is the same with the sound design. You will find a few scenes with just text and no voice acting but these are very rare occurrences and it reminds you of how surprising it is that much of the game is voiced. There’s also this nice little mechanic where it plays a ‘new character revealed’ short each time you find the name of a new character.
Glowing praises all around for World End Syndrome then! It’s really something special until you’re a few hours in and start to look at the gameplay. It’s a visual novel first and a video game last. You can expect one or two questions that influence dialogue and paths to different endings for every 3 to 4 chapters. The chapters tend to be short and have save options after each but this starts to get a little tiresome after the first hour or so. World End Syndrome has the biggest caveat of any video game I’ve played in years though. You can lose the game in the prologue stage of the story and never actually get to the main game without replaying the prologue and getting the few choices right.
I’ll let that sink in. After a few enjoyable hours of World End Syndrome getting to know characters and having a few minor choices you can trigger “worst end” which skips the main game and ends it right there. It feels like someone sucker punched you sideways when it occurs with no real inclination it was going to happen. Imagine if Metal Gear Solid 2 started the Snake mission as dialogue only and if you got a few choices wrong it was back to the title screen? It’s bonkers but it’s at this point I implore you, pick up the controller, load a new game and find the best function World End Syndrome has to offer: Skipping previous dialogue.
As you play through World End Syndrome you’ll find yourself repeating a lot of options and if like me you get the worst end for the prologue twice you’ll find it invaluable. The way it zips through previously seen lines and stops automatically when one new word is spoken is an absolute godsend. The main game consists of an almost Night Trap system where each day of an event packed month is broken into 3 sections each with an AM/PM/Night and multiple locations on the map. You pick a location that you feel the character you most want to see more of will be at and hope for the best. If they aren’t there you may kick yourself but chances are you’ll stumble across another characters event. It may not be your goal but it helps for multiple playthroughs and encourages finding out more about other characters. World End Syndrome is incredibly well balanced and it doesn’t take a lot of meetings to figure out the best places, events and encounters to see your favourite characters ending.
Everything comes together nicely in World End Syndrome to create a visual novel that encourages deeper dives into the lore, collectibles and mystery but as all of these carry over between saves you’ll find yourself making it easier to figure out all of the content the more you play. There are missions you can pick up from specific characters between certain days and when events have occurred but don’t be surprised if some leave you completely bamboozled. There are also some key events that always tend to trigger around the same time and you can actively avoid them but it’s always worth using them as a gauge to see where you are with the character you want to see the ending to.
World End Syndrome is such an odd visual novel, from it’s unique design to its find-and-seek gameplay there’s always something quite good there. The problem is the good parts come laced with a lot of the worst aspects of most of its genre. You’ll find yourself rolling your eyes at the terrible moments of ‘high school drama’, facepalming when the ‘sexy’ moments happen and it’s not without massive caveats for the prologue in general. Yet I still find myself wanting to play through the story again and again to find out more of the backstory to each character and this testament to how great the writing is. It’s hard not to recommend to anyone that enjoys a thriller novel and there’s almost a loving care that has been taken with some of the more quiet moments between the characters. World End Syndrome lifts itself from the genre to remind you of what great writing can accomplish despite still being constrained to fill that boob and naked skin quota.
6/10 – Concurrence Syndrome
*Review code provided by PQube – Check them out here!*
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