World End Syndrome
Studio: TOYBOX Inc
Genre: Visual Novel, Mystery
As someone who plays a lot of visual novels, World End Syndrome is a game that’s been on my radar for some time now. Mystery and horror are some of my favourite genres so hearing that this game incorporated elements of these was enough to pique my interest. In the game, you take the role of a new boy to the small town of Mihate, staying in a mansion with your cousin. The town is full of colourful characters, a mysterious radio show, and an urban legend regarding haunting by creatures known as yomibito. It’s up to the protagonist to slowly uncover the truths behind these mysteries and find romance along the way (this is still a visual novel after all, and dating is often an element of these games!)
The game is split into five routes, with each route centreing around one of the girls the protagonist meets at the Mystery club in school. However, initially, only two of these characters are initially available, with the other three gradually unlocking over replays. The unusual thing about this game is that any interactions with the characters, gathers aura’ points – these are automatically saved in the player’s handbook over the course of every playthrough and helps with gradually increasing the affection rating with the character. This concept means that even when not on the route of a particular girl, you can still be slowly building the affection of the others to aid you when completing their route. It’s a strange concept and one I’ve not seen before in a visual novel – each route is usually distinct but in this game, it actually invites you to replay and overlap the routes to uncover more of the truth. This does inevitably lead to a little confusion sometimes as replaying the game over and over can grow a little tiring after a while when coming across the same events. However, thankfully there’s a skip option to speed through the text you’ve seen before meaning that the more you replay, the faster you can get through the route.
From the beginning, World End Syndrome succeeds incredibly well with the spooky atmosphere. The prologue is surprisingly unsettling thanks to some welcome additions – rather than static backgrounds certain elements such as water and trees in the environment will move and the impression is eerie and invites you to keep an eye on the background in case something appears. The music too really lends a creepy factor to certain parts of the game, and in key scenes really puts you on edge, wondering what is around the corner. While the further into a route you get, it does lean more towards a standard romance and the spooky atmosphere lessens somewhat, there is always just enough of this scattered throughout to keep you guessing and uneasy.
The art style is gorgeous and very colourful and the character designs too are very attractive – even the non-romanceable characters are interesting and memorable to look at. There’s also a good amount of voicing throughout the game – mostly during the prologue and in events but it’s all of a good standard. For those interested, this is only in Japanese however and there is currently no English dub in the game. The girls were all pretty interesting and likable in their own ways – Maimi’s route was possibly my favourites with Rei and Yukino’s being a close second. Events from each of the routes feed into the others as well, so sometimes an event that happens in one route may happen differently in another which keeps the story a little more fresh. Unfortunately, the main romantic events of the routes do get a little bit samey and follow a similar kind of order particularly within Rei and Saya’s storylines – it’s a bit of a shame as you end up expecting something will happen at a certain time. Still, in general, there’s enough to differentiate between the routes even if it sometimes feels like you’re recycling events but just with different characters.
After the fairly lengthy three hours or so prologue, the game begins proper, and here is where the choices begin and there are a lot of them. Each day is generally split into three-time slots and you have a host of locations your protagonist can visit within the month’s time frame – it plays very much like how Persona 5 does in that going to certain locations on certain days and times will trigger events. On the flip-side there’s a very little guide to this, although a certain amount of deduction can help with ascertaining the most likely places which will progress the plot, it’s very easy to miss key events. This can be a little frustrating as you’re forced to reload saves to try out the different locations. This does, however, make the pacing of the main game quite quick and breezy and there aren’t huge chunks of text except in specific story events so replaying isn’t as bad as it sounds. In addition, it’s worth noting that there appears to only be one bad end that is encountered early on and is pivotal as a motivator to uncover the mysteries plaguing the town.
Each of the girls does tend to fall into a particular kind of archetypes – there’s the rich girl, the sporty girl, and the mysterious girl, for example. Yukino is one of the more fun additions however as she’s not actually a fellow school student but a visiting journalist who has come to investigate the mysterious phenomena related to Mihate town. Her route inevitably involves a lot of detective work which is a lot of fun and makes her communications with the protagonist feel more vital to the plot. Each of the other girls has their own subplots which often deal with their own conflicts and issues but it’s only really in the unlockable routes that the mystery plot comes more to the forefront. The protagonist too is mysterious in his own way, though his generally maudlin attitude can get rather grating after a while – clearly, the point is that becoming involved with the various mysteries and characters of Mihate is how he achieves his own development but this does make him hard to like.
World End Syndrome ultimately is a very satisfying and genuinely creepy visual novel with just enough romance to add elements of fun. The studio has recently announced a sequel is in the works and there’s certainly enough mileage here to investigate the weird happenings of Mihate Town some more…
World End Syndrome
A surprisingly creepy visual novel which rewards replays to uncover the true mysteries - oh, and there's some cute romance in there too!