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Visual novels have become more mainstream in recent years with many titles available on platforms like Steam, GOG, PS4, Vita and the Nintendo Switch. Arc System Works is no stranger to the visual novel genre with published games like the BlazBlue and XBlaze series. When it comes to World End Syndrome, it’s a unique visual novel that incorporates high school romance and Japanese folklore together in one package. 

Life is far from ordinary for a young transfer student moving to a quiet Japanese costal town named Mihate Town. This respective town is home to local customs and Japanese folklore legends that involve the legend of the Yomibito. It is rumored the dead return to life every one hundred years causing widespread panic and grave misfortune to the town. The Yomibito appear to be very human but can easily fool many local residents who are friendly and hardly suspect anything to be amiss in their presence. As Mihate Town approaches the hundredth anniversary since the last reported Yomibito incident, the dark legend has lent itself to the town culture in the form of a fictional novel, popular radio show and a motion picture film starring a famous pop idol. Upon receiving an invitation to join a mysterious club researching the origins of these legends, you are placed in the role of the transfer student as he learns everything is not as it seems. In typical visual novel fashion, the protagonist befriends a rowdy perverted classmate much to his dismay as well as other attractive ladies that happen to be members of the same club in question.

 

Though it may come across as a laid back visual novel, the game starts off slow and gradually builds the groundwork for the intricate plot. There are a lot of unknowns as the game inevitably leads you to the bad ending the first time around. Consequently, more choices are unlocked and available as you replay the summer to experience the different character routes and various endings. To be clear, you are required to plan the entire summer calendar: mornings, afternoons and evenings that influence who you meet and how the story unfolds on a daily basis. Rather than trying to memorize it all, the game displays character avatars of locations you’ve previously visited to make subsequent playthroughs a lot more manageable. Certain character routes remain locked until you have successfully raised the affection levels of other respective club members. Frequent game saves as well as trial and error is necessary to achieve many desired outcomes as the total number of possible combinations is quite daunting. 

The game manages to strike a delicate balance as both a slice of life and horror-themed visual novel. There is no shortage of cliché anime tropes in the first half of the game with character antics and silly jokes appearing left and right. Once you progress deeper into the story, one will discover there is a lot more to the club members than what they let on. Behind the façade of positive energy and perfectionism lie many stories of their intense private struggles as you piece together different findings and random discoveries. As a reward for your sleuthing efforts, a list of collectables can be unlocked to provide further insights behind the hidden secrets of Mihate Town.

 

Visually, the visual novel is a pleasure to experience with beautiful background art and gorgeous scenery found throughout the game. As an added bonus, many of them are dynamic with the beach waves, forest fireflies and pinwheels sporting colorful details and animation. The audio department is no slouch with solid voice acting accurately portraying the characters’ thoughts and emotions. With so many places to explore, the repetition of several locations doesn’t feel as pronounced with the club members’ dialogue and character designs capturing most of the attention.    

World End Syndrome is a title that unapologetically targets the visual novel community. Though some may balk at the lengthy dialogue sequences or the necessary subsequent playthroughs, it manages to blend mystery, dark legends and romance neatly together. The developers have succeeded in crafting a visual novel that pokes fun at anime tropes and clichés while surprising viewers with its clever plot twists. The price is definitely on the steeper side but World End Syndrome stands nonetheless as an enjoyable and hauntingly captivating title.

 

PROS (+): Gorgeous Art, Intricate Plot, Solid Voice Acting

CONS (-): Minor Localization Errors, Pacing Issues

 

SCORE – 9.0/10 

This review is based on a purchased copy of World End Syndrome on PlayStation 4.

 

 

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