Romanticizing cute classmates in visual novels is never as easy as it seems. What if they ask a really difficult question that you could answer incorrectly? Will you end up flirting with the wrong girl? And who keeps murdering these random people in this quaint little town? Ah, such is the life of a VN protagonist. World End Syndrome is a blend of soppy romance and murder-mystery; the end result is chilling, gripping & bang-on brilliant.
According to urban legends, the illustrious Mihate Town is haunted by the souls of the deceased every century. The spooky thing is that a person’s emotional desire is said to be enough to lure the spirits to this world, bringing with them misfortune and death. As the moody protagonist of the story, you find yourself moving into your wealthy relative’s mansion (so far it sounds like a mix between Dawn Of The Dead and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air).
However, after discovering the corpse of a student in the forest, you find yourself working together with your new friends to find out whether there’s some truth to this mystery, while attempting to flirt with the girls along the way. Expect side-quests, cheesy clichés, and numerous plot twists that will affect the course of the game as you progress. Visual novel fans will be in for a treat.
It won’t take long for you to realize that World End Syndrome has some brilliant artwork, from the mildly-animated backgrounds to the (literally) colourful cast of characters you’ll be interacting with. The latter were even designed by the lead artist from the Blazblue fighting video game series, Yuki Kato. The soundtrack may not be as memorable in comparison, but what you hear is fitting enough. Most of the dialogue is voiced in Japanese (some segments don’t have any voice acting), so you’ll be doing a lot of reading. Hardly a problem for ‘sub-over-dub’ fans.
The writing is, across the board, peppy and humorous. Characters that come across as two-dimensional anime tropes begin to show depth and sympathetic backstories if you spend time with them. In case you missed out on any details, you can always look back on prior dialogue exchanges, character biographies, or images of the scantily-clad waifus that you’ll unlock. There are some really generous features that make it much more pleasurable, as well. The game will highlight dialogue you’ve already seen before in previous playthroughs, and will show where you can find some of the cast members on the map, should you have already interacted with them before in previous save games or playthroughs. The option to automatically skim across the text boxes will save you from mashing away at your controller.
First off, what you’ll be unknowingly walking into is a lengthy prologue, which is a lot more streamlined compared to the rest of the game. You can spend your mornings, afternoons and evenings in whichever part of Mihate Town. During then, you can visit the characters and take on side-quests or answering questions correctly. It’s a good way to get closer with them, which in turn improves your psyche and helps the mostly-faceless protagonist develop as a person. All of these help the title stand apart from other visual novels that predominantly require you to button-mash and cherry-pick response boxes. The game is set across 31 days in August, meaning you’ll feel just enough pressure to make you think carefully on your next action. Careful, though. Your summer holiday might be cut short by some bleak and unexpected endings, depending on how you play…
World End Syndrome delivers a genuinely engaging, dark and well-written story with memorable character development, humorous dialogue exchanges and a plethora of alternating paths to take. Memorizing character interactions and discussions you’ve already experienced makes it even more accessible to replay, even if the prologue is unashamedly streamlined and linear. VN lovers and 100% completionists will no doubt squeeze well over 8 hours out of it. Even newcomers to the genre may see this as their first ever summertime crush.