Category Archives: 2019

Our World is Ended: First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

A common theme explored throughout the visual novel medium in general is the idea of people not being quite what they appear at first glance.

The reason for this is mostly a practical one: the very nature of the visual novel medium makes deep dives into multifaceted, layered characters a viable thing for creators to explore. Enthusiasts of visual novels are already accustomed to the medium’s slow pace and relatively limited interactivity compared to games with a stronger emphasis on their mechanical components, so writers and developers are more than happy to allow us the opportunity to get to know the main cast extremely intimately.

That doesn’t mean those first impressions the characters set don’t matter, mind you. On the contrary, they are extremely important for setting expectations and giving you an idea of what to expect — and then, in some cases, subverting rather than confirming those expectations. Let’s take a look at how Our World is Ended’s cast presents itself in the early hours of the game as the narrative is getting underway.

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Our World is Ended: Introduction

Even among the already niche-interest community of Japanese video games, visual novels tend not to get a ton of hype about them… at least here in the West.

That’s why when a new one comes along and its localisers are confident enough to refer to it as “a new masterpiece of narrative visual novel storytelling”, it’s probably worth taking notice. Of course, it’s pure marketing-speak, but it also demonstrates a certain amount of faith in the product — and perhaps a track record of the game being well-received back in its native territory.

Is Red Entertainment’s Our World is Ended, also known as 俺達の世界わ終っている (Ore-tachi no Sekai wa Owatteiru) worthy of the descriptor “masterpiece”? Only one way to find out!

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Death end re;Quest: Down the Rabbit Hole

Death end re;Quest, in keeping with the rest of Compile Heart’s Galapagos RPG project, is an ambitious and rather unusual affair from a narrative perspective.

The setup for the game is pure isekai, but almost immediately after actually starting the game for the first time, you’ll come to realise that there’s much more going on here — a really interesting blend of genres and styles that makes good use of its medium to tell a story and raise some intriguing questions.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Death end re;Quest: The Art of Fighting

One of the things Compile Heart’s Galapagos RPG project has been keen to do ever since its inception is experiment with mechanics, particularly when it comes to combat.

Death end re;Quest is an excellent example of this, featuring several layers of mechanics that keep things consistently interesting as you play through the main story and the optional side content. It’s also one of Compile Heart’s better balanced games to date, featuring a smooth incline in challenge factor rather than sudden, unexpected spikes.

Let’s take a closer look at how it all works.

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Death end re;Quest: Where Does the Game End and the World Begin?

One of the most interesting things about Death end re;Quest is the fact that it gradually evolves over the course of its duration, with new mechanics and structural elements being continually introduced throughout the first distinct “part” of the game.

Today we’re going to take a look at part of the game’s overall mechanics and structure: specifically, the part of the experience that allows you to explore and advance the overall story. We won’t be discussing the narrative itself today — just how it’s presented and how the game hangs together.

It’s one of Compile Heart’s most interesting games, even before you’ve unlocked everything — so let’s take a closer look at one of its coolest aspects.

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Death end re;Quest: Introduction

Although Idea Factory and Compile Heart will likely always be known as “the Neptunia people” thanks to the success of their flagship franchise, this cult favourite collective has been becoming more and more adventurous and creative as the years have advanced.

A big part of this experimentation comes in the form of Compile Heart’s “Galapagos RPG” project. Originally set up in 2013 with the mission to “develop RPGs specifically for Japanese customers”, the intention behind the studio was to eschew the growing trend for Japanese developers to change their style in a specific attempt to court a wider Western audience, and instead to focus primarily on that core audience. This wouldn’t rule Galapagos games out of being localised, mind you — it just meant they’d be unapologetically Japanese.

Sounds good to me. And going by the strength of past games put out by the project — including Fairy Fencer F and Omega Quintet — it seems to be a winning formula for the studio. Let’s take a first look at their latest, and where it came from.

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428: Shibuya Scramble – In Search of the Truth

Many games these days make a point of providing some sort of “added value” over and above their base experience. Be it a postgame chapter with stiff challenges, post-launch DLC or a New Game Plus mode, these features are typically there to keep you playing even after you see the credits roll.

Visual novels, as an offshoot of video games, aren’t typically known for having substantial postgame content other than the “metagame” that multi-route titles have: seeing all the possible narrative routes and collecting all the CG illustrations. But, as we’ve already established fairly comprehensively in this feature already, Spike Chunsoft’s 428: Shibuya Scramble isn’t a game to do things… “conventionally”.

Oh, sure, the base game has 85 “bad ends” to collect (with a series of trophies and achievements attached to these, encouraging you to seek them out rather than avoid them — and it’s worth doing so because several are very odd indeed!) as well as a “normal” and a “true” ending, but once you’ve seen the main narrative through to a satisfactory conclusion, you’re not done. Not by a surprisingly long shot.

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