Death end re;Quest Review
Release Date: May 16, 2019
Publisher Idea Factory, International
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Platform: Steam(reviewed), PS4
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve lived in Japan, but have never played an Anime style RPG “JRPG” unless you count English versions of mega-games like the Zelda series. I know enough to catch some cultural references, but I’m not part of the scene. Many cosmetic aspects of the game are a bit interesting in a way that only happens in Japan. The game begins with the usual nekomimi (cat girl) being killed by a demon, decapitated, and later rising from the dead to start running around with jiggling breasts fighting demons and talking to a giant Hamster. (Yes, I just wrote that.) What I wasn’t expecting alongside all of that, was a decent story filled with occult references and a passable, if imperfect, interface.
Our descent into madness begins with the main character being messily decapitated inside a VR game called Worlds Odyssey. The project was closed down about the same time one of the engineers on the project disappeared. In true TRON fashion, she is trapped in the unfinished game where defeat has lethal consequences. Compounding this minor predicament the character has amnesia and doesn’t know they are in a simulation. Because the game is unfinished, it's dangerous and prone to glitches. As the game progresses you discover that the code isn’t as it was left when the project closed down. The game is buggier than it should be, and the advanced AI of the game has taken on an evil life of its own (Muhahha) and his changing the landscape and altering or killing NPCs. Now things get a little unusual as another character gets involved, another engineer on the project realizes the game server is still running. Using the games design documents the pair have to solve the mystery and save the trapped character. It’s an interesting dual storyline.
I’ll avoid spoilers, but will say it’s a decent story. You’re given the pieces to the puzzle as the characters learn them. The majority of your time with Arata (outside) will be spent talking to people in the form of a graphic novel. When you’re with Shina (inside), it is a standard JRPG, and she runs around in a cocktail dress with cat ears, spider legs and the obligatory jiggling breasts. If you get stuck, you can change characters to look for clues in the real, world or have Arata debug some of the code which can get you on your way again.
Monsters are wandering around the world, which has to be dealt with. In general strike first as initiating combat give you an advantage while being hit from behind or missing your attack puts you at a disadvantage. Over time others can join your party, and each character is free to move around the battlefield getting into position depending on their own attacks. Then you need to select up to three things to do, whether it’s an attack, a special attack, using an item or guarding. Using certain combinations of moves has a chance of unlocking new moves for each character. Party members characters can become corrupted and go into Glitch Mode, a transformation that powers them up, and after one round they return to normal. Glitch mode is triggered by damage, stepping on bugs or having Arata enter a cheat. Beware, enemies can also become glitches.
The overall design is interesting character, and monster designs are well done, with everyone easily distinguishable on the battlefield. The environments of Worlds Odyssey are also well done with the occasional graphic error to show that you are indeed in an unfinished and buggy game. (Obligatory Bethesda joke goes - HERE) The cut scenes, music, and voice acting, however, are entirely forgettable with odd sound effects being used at odd times. For example one of the character pants like an Irish setter at inappropriate times; not only is this annoying, it gives you the feeling something unwholesome is about to happen. Speaking of unwholesome there are the usual anime bouncing breasts and just the right amount of skin to excite a thirteen-year-old.
Bottom line, Death end re;Quest is full of interesting ideas, particularly the dual narrative. Having to regularly nip into the real world is a unique touch. JRPG fans will likely enjoy the game, but despite its strengths, I don’t know how well this will appeal to a mainstream audience. Thanks to the publisher for letting us review the game.
Out of place sound-effects