After briefly talking about It's A Wonderful World (Subarashiki Kono Sekai) a few weeks back and taking a brief hiatus due to outer conflicts, I've taken that liberty of free time to dive a lot further into the game and really get a feel for how its mechanics works. Of course, if you're wondering whether or not Square-Enix and Jupiter (developers of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories) really delivered with this new IP, you can rest easy knowing that It's A Wonderful World delivers. Square-Enix CAN make a new IP when they want to and make it worthwhile. Though the game is colorful and vibrant with a somewhat melodramatic tone to it, It's A Wonderful World's cake truly is its battle system and how you and your patience are immediately tested.
The game opens up with Neku, the protagonist, making use of his newly possessed psychic powers. He listens to the thoughts of his fellow citizens and wishes they'd stop being so annoying. One of the thoughts he hears tells him he is now part of a deadly game and must listen to the Shinigami Organization, tell him to do or else he'll die. In an effort to save his own life, Neku realizes he's only been given seven days to carry out this evil organization's demands. Neku must fight Noises, monsters that manifest when Neku enters his psychic trance, in order to prevent his own life from being taken away. Though it may seem a bit similar, don't take the game's story at face value. It's A Wonderful World is rich. Full of deep material that kind of reminds you a lot of how Kingdom Hearts has that same feeling of something more that what you see along with clever plot twists you never really saw coming. The game does feature some key voice acting segments and cinematics while the rest of the game is full of character grunts, exclamations, and taunts.
As noted before, the highlight of It's A Wonderful World is simply its battle system because of how it takes total advantage of the DS' touch screen capabilities and how heavy the stylus influence is. Though you can move around town with the d-pad, most of the game's mechanics are stylus based like navigating through the menu, purchasing clothing, and attacking and running in battle. When Neku and his partner, of whom can be either Shiki, Beat, Rhyme, and Joshua have engage a Noise in battle, the noises that appear on Neku's screen at the bottom also appear on your partner's screen on the top. All of Neku's attacks are stylus based, and the manner in which you attack involve different movements with the stylus. For example, when you move the stylus in a ) (curved line) way, Neku attacks with a slash of wind. Double tapping somewhere on the battlefield will cause Neku to instantly dash to the designated point. Slashing a signpost or any item on the field in a certain direction will throw that signpost in that direction to possibly hit an enemy. All of Neku's available attacks are dependent on the badges he has equipped (a total of six can be equipped), each with their own elemental properties. Some badges also offer you stat boosting increases as well as basic medicinal purposes like healing and using an antidote to treat poison. Most badges are found by either defeating Noises or purchasing them. There are absolutely no weapons in It's a Wonderful World. Instead, both Neku and his partner's stats are determined by the clothes you purchase for them at a shop. The styles available in the shops leave customization to your whim yet they don't show once you've equipped, for example, a Gothic outfit for Neku.
Your partner's attacks aren't stylus based. Instead, all command inputs for your partner to attack are all inputted by the d-pad itself. What happens is a flow chart appears, showing you directions to perform one of three combos. Each combo ends with a powerful attack or a spell or a powerful team attack. Since this is the only kind of control you have over your partner, who can also attack on his/her own, you would think that your attention should solely be based on what you're doing with Neku. It's true that when you defeat a Noise on Neku's screen, that same Noise will disappear on your partner's screen (and vice versa). But when your partner remains idle and attacks every so often without your input, he/she is basically left open to be attacked and potentially killed. If you focus too heavily on your partner's inputs, you may lose track of what you're doing with Neku who may also end up getting killed. Both Neku and his partners share the same life bar; so when one is defeated, the life bar goes down by a half that indicates how much life Neku, or whoever is alive, has left. Thus, it should be said that being able to pay attention on what's going on in both screens is as important as how fast you are at inputting commands for your partner and attacking with Neku's stylus based attacks.
The intensity of the game's battles rests completely in your ability to attack with both of your characters with ease. Some battles are fair game and can easily be completed. But other battles become tough and fast. These really make you put a lot of effort into quick inputs and effective strategies. The game's complexities of fighting with Neku and his companions gets deeper and deeper. This also means the battles that lie ahead, including the fated final battle, become deeper and complex than they once were. It's a Wonderful World really is a challenge. This is a change of pace from what a traditional Square-Enix game plays like. The generally average recognized difficulty is gone and this is a feast for those who've yearned for a challenging handheld game that tests their reflexes. Also, this same depth and complexity can also turn away a lot of people who really can't manage to deal with the combat system's depth. The game's learning curve really isn't that steep. You're given tutorials at the beginning to become familiar with Neku's stylus attacks and your partner's d-pad attacks, but the rate at which the curve continues to extend really does go too far.
Given this notion of the game's depth, it'd be a shame if it didn't come Stateside as its very enjoyable and challenging. Even if you have no understanding of the Japanese language, you should look into this game and experience its charming challenge.