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World End Economica Complete Lives on the Moon but Tells a Grounded Story

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World End Economica Complete

World End Economica is a science-fiction visual novel set in the far future, taking place in a thriving colony on the moon. There, far away from Mother Earth’s slowly collapsing society, the pioneers of off-world settlement live life at the bleeding edge of human progress and profitability. That’s not an obvious setting for a coming-of-age story to play out, but then again, Spice and Wolf author Isuna Hasekura was never one to reach for low-hanging fruit. And now the whole three-chapter saga is available, bundled onto a single release for the Nintendo Switch: World End Economica Complete.

If the title sounds familiar to you, you’d be right: World End Economica Complete has been around in some form for the better part of a decade at this point (sans the “Complete” in the title). An early crowdfunding success story, the game first launched in English in 2014 as part of the early wave of visual novels on Steam. Though its third and final episode was localized in 2018, this Switch-based remaster and compilation marks the first time the entire story is available in English outside the PC.

Sekai Project

That story follows one Yoshiharu “Hal” Kawaura, a young man and one of the first generation of people to be born and raised on the moon. Hal is a vagrant, having run away from a provincial existence with his farmer parents. He did so to chase a dream of making it big and going to Mars, armed with nothing more than a laptop and the arrogant ambition only a teenager can manifest.

Of course, big dreams aren’t easily realized, and Hal opens the first episode of World End Economica Complete living out of a net café, dodging the cops, and making money by day trading on the market. Hal has a keen sense for stocks that belies his lack of formal education, parlaying that instinct into a mini-career as a guerilla stockbroker. In the dank confines of alleyways, flophouses, and convenient restaurants, he builds up seed money to fund his big score and take the prize in a virtual stock-trading contest.

World End Economica Complete

Of course, life isn’t exactly kind to pint-sized, would-be Gordon Gekkos, and Hal quickly lands in a crisis only the helping hand of a stranger can help solve. That stranger is Lisa, a local missionary with a soft spot for those in need. Put up at the neighborhood church (itself an oddity in the secular-capitalist jungle of the moon), Hal meets his first new friend, the surly, acid-tongued mathematical genius Hagana.

It’s an interesting beginning to start the story on and helps introduce the hypercapitalist setting of the lunar colony to readers. I say “readers” here rather than “players” because even by the standards of a visual novel, World End Economica Complete is somewhat thin in the visual department. Thanks to Hasekura’s expository style, much ink is spilled elaborating on the nuances of financial markets and the factors that influence Hal’s decisions. Unfortunately, comparatively little is spent on making these explanations more interesting to the eye. More than a few times one will get pages worth of text on a single image of a landscape, elaborating on one aspect or another of stock trading.

Spicy Tails

Thankfully, Hasekura’s writing and the localization are strong enough to keep these technical explanations comprehensible. As an investment and finance layman I at least felt like I learned a few things coming out the other side of the game. And yet, the lack of illustrations or attempts to creatively represent some of these concepts left me feeling that I’d have finished all three episodes considerably faster had this been sold to me as an actual novel rather than a visual novel.

Speaking of episodes, the very structure of World End Economica Complete dates the production somewhat. Split into episodes released over a period of several years, each ranging from seven to ten hours in length, it calls back to the days when developers were experimenting with episodic releases. And that structure actually works against the game, somewhat, because its first episode is by far the roughest and hardest to stick with.

Hagana

That’s because, bluntly speaking, Hal is a huge jerk. Arrogant and callous, yet almost infuriatingly naïve, he’s just difficult to root for as the permanent viewpoint character. Early on he even considers committing what amounts to sexual assault as a way of getting one over on the first girl he meets. He regards people with contempt and seems to think of nothing other than his ambition and what he needs to do to realize it. In other words, he’s practically an avatar of childish selfishness masquerading as savvy greed.

Naturally, this first episode is a “pride before the fall” sort of situation. Characters don’t need to be perfectly nice, nor should they be. But it’s not surprising that some early impressions of World End Economica – including on this very website – skewed negative. When all that’s available is the first episode, without a clear timeline that there will be a payoff at the end, it’s easy to take the constant bickering between two kids with crappy attitudes and check out.

Thankfully, this isn’t a problem for World End Economica Complete. All three chapters are there, and you can even play them out of order if you wish (I don’t recommend this). It’s thus easier to get invested in the story, and stick with it. It also helps that the second and third episodes, taking place years after the first’s cliffhanger ending are considerably improved in all respects.

It took quite a few years to get to this point, but it feels like World End Economica Complete has finally arrived in a form that does its story justice, and visual novel fans with a mind for novel sci-fi and a willingness to tolerate the rougher edges of indie production have a new, meaty story to sink their teeth into.

Josh Tolentino
Josh Tolentino helped run Japanator as Managing Editor since 2012, before it and Siliconera teamed up. That said, it's been years since he watched enough anime to keep his otaku license valid. Maybe one day he'll see enough of a given season to pretend to know what's hot. Until then, it's Star Trek reruns, gacha games, and bylines at Destructoid and GameCritics.