There are a lot of romance visual novels on the market at the moment but World End Syndrome is one that’s definitely a little bit special. This is not just because of its absolutely gorgeous visuals or its intriguing characters. Instead it’s the way that it wonderfully blends together breezy romantic storylines with deliciously dark Japanese folklore. This is one of those visual novels that is very hard to put down once you start.
Summer of Love
The protagonist is a transfer student who has moved to a quiet Japanese coastal town. The town is one of those quaint sort of places with many strange local legends and customs. One of the weirdest is the legend of the Yomibito. Once every hundred years or so, resurrected spirits will return to the town to cause misfortune. Just to be clear, by misfortune, we mean that they will massacre the townsfolk. As I’m sure you can guess, it’s supposedly coming up to the hundredth anniversary since the last Yomibito incident.
A local teacher has written a fictional novel about the town and its undead folklore, which has become a fairly big hit across the country. There’s even a movie, based on the novel, being filmed in town and it’s rumored that a famous idol will be cast in the main role.
There’s lots happening in this sleepy town this summer but the legend of the Yomibito is just a silly story and couldn’t possibly be real. Or could it…?
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Good visual novels need to have great characters and thankfully World End Syndrome doesn’t disappoint. When you first meet everyone it’s easy to assume that they’re going to be a fairly generic bunch. You get all the usual tropes like the stuck-up rich kid and an annoying best friend with a one-track mind but once you get to dig a little deeper you’ll discover that they’re much more endearing and interesting than they first appear.
Yuki Kato, the lead artist from the BlazBlue series, designed the characters and so they’re all wonderfully beautiful but what really steals the show is the dynamic backgrounds. Most visual novels have well-drawn backgrounds but here things are taken one step further. You really do have to take a moment to just watch the waves lap up against the beach or fireflies flitting across a forest clearing. It’s seriously impressive how much more alive the world looks with just the smallest of movements in the background.
The End is Just the Beginning
As with a lot of visual novel games the story is a little slow to begin with. In fact the first four or five hours of the game is just setting you up to experience the bad ending. Just as things start to get really interesting the game will come to a very sudden halt. Once the credits finish rolling you’ll be able to reload an old save to make a different choice which will allow you to experience the last month of summer all over again.
The next time you play you’ll experience a much more open game. Instead of only being able to make the occasional dialogue choice you’ll get to decide where to spend each morning, afternoon, and evening. Different locations will have different characters so you’ll uncover different parts of the story depending on where you hang out.
The game encourages you to replay and make different choices and there are wildly different endings for you to experience. Some routes won’t open up to you until you’ve raised your affection with certain characters during the other story routes. So it can take a little bit of trial-and-error to see every ending.
The game does help you out on subsequent playthroughs. Any location you’ve previously visited will show you an icon of any characters that are in that place at that specific time. This is incredibly handy when you’re trying to get specific character endings. You can also quickly skip through any previously read text.
The first few endings that you’re likely to experience will give you a fair amount of knowledge about specific characters but won’t really touch on the mysteries surrounding the town. This can be a little bit frustrating as the game does such a good job at hooking you in with all it’s talk of local folklores, but you’ll then wait a long time before you get to see any more of it. It really is worth being patient though as the final character route and true ending is definitely worth it.
World End Syndrome Review - Summer Loving (PS4)
World End Syndrome is such a beautiful visual novel and it expertly weaves its romance and mystery elements together to create a truly alluring adventure. It does a very good job at subverting your expectations but it’s lengthy prologue may mean that some will switch off before the game reaches the really good bits.
World End Syndrome review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.