Bugs and glitches. Easily two of the most common things found in a game and Death end re;Quest is filled with it… literally! Developed by Compile Heart’s Galapagos RPG label which made the likes of Fairy Fencer and Omega Quintet and with the mind of Corpse Party series writer Makoto Kedoin, Death end follows you into a spiral of despair in a broken world when lead programmer Arata Mizunashi received a mysterious e-mail from the long lost director of the unfinished game World’s Odyssey. This led him into finding Shina Ninomiya inside the virtual world of the said VRMMORPG with her memories lost over the past year following her disappearance.
With the game being as buggy as it is, the logout button cannot be accessed and their only hope is to defeat the game and initiate the Ending Engage to forcefully logout the player and wake her up. (Akihiko Kayaba effect all over again) In their journey, they’ll eventually meet characters or so-called NPCs that will help them along the way but soon enough they’ll question their grasp between the virtual and real worlds. Can they reach the end or will luck find a way to end it short?
In Fairy Fencer fashion, the game puts you into a third person perspective as you explore the virtual world on foot or by a floating chair (seriously!) as you jump, web-swing, glide, float or destroy certain obstacles in your way aside from obtaining the insanely tiny floating keys that blends in too well with the environment to open new paths towards your objectives. But since the game follows both the virtual and real worlds, Arata and the gang of cute pre-teen girls will also be required to find so called “reality objects” in the game to which Arata must search for the related item in the real world. These mysteriously placed objects hold the code to debug the game in order to remove certain obstacles that cannot be destroyed by normal means from inside the game. Who’s doing this and why?
But all is not well when the game constantly challenges your decision making as most options offer deadly consequences ending their journey in a less favorable outcome. However setting the game on Easy will let you press R3 on the DS4 controller to show a death icon to which you can avoid or should you like playing on Normal or Hard, there’s also the option of saving during the cutscenes to get back to it right away.
Unlike the more recent games nowadays, Death end doesn’t offer auto-saves to which I found out the hard way when I tried to be the goody-two-shoes to save a bug-infected guard which killed my entire party and had no choice to restart from scratch. So it’s never a bad idea to save every start of a cutscene or when save points or camps are nearby which you can also abuse to restart and get each individual endings at the final chapter. While I find the entire story very engaging at certain times it goes into a predictable state that most JRPGs are guilty of. But despite all that unavoidable sequences, it still had my attention as it turns for the worst when all the cards get laid out and only made me want to do a second run towards a brighter end.
But while my entire experience with the Japanese audio was a very pleasant one. The English voices on the second try weren’t when there’s an obvious lack of voice acting on most parts of the story going from a voiced scene then the next is followed by a silent stare on the screen of text with only the background music to fill in the gaps in between.
A Buggy Game in its Buggy Combat System
A Compile Heart game is not complete without a look at its battle system. Mixing the ingenuity of the game’s story, the game still follows traditional Compile Heart combat system as you move around the entire circular map to strike at your foes with unique skills and abilities or change from your main to the sub character. You can unlock new skills by combining already known skills and also be able to set the default skills to be used on the action bar for ease of use. But this is where it breaks off the norm. With the entire map is filled with bugged spaces in the form of color-coded circles, you are left with the decision to either activate the bug and get its positive and negative effects like replenishing your SP or gaining invincibility in exchange for health reduction and higher corruption level or use your skills to destroy the bugs or knockback an enemy towards it in order to break them.
It’s a balancing act of pros and cons with its many risks and rewards but what makes the feature interesting in a tactical manner is the option to be able to edit the game’s code from Arata’s laptop in order to summon previously defeated bosses or what’s commonly known to the game as an Entoma Queen that acts as the fourth member that can attack your enemies. There’s also the option to change the game’s genre making it a fighting game, a slot machine, billiards, shooter, and the like for a single turn. Lastly, you can change, remove or add bugs of your choosing which can be helpful should you want to go into glitch mode by increasing corruption levels to 80%. This mode which I find it better called as “hentai mode” is similar to the transformations with the Neptunia series, as their clothes get changed into a more revealing fan-servicey appeal while their personalities and stats also change drastically. It’s definitely interesting to get into glitch mode however it does have its highs and lows as well. As going above 99% corruption by getting attacked or stepping on bugs instantly kills you and getting revived afterward will bring down your corruption level to zero.
HD Pant-su? YES PLEASE~~
On a graphical level, it isn’t the most gorgeous one to look at nor does it sound next-gen. It does, however, run smoothly which is always a good thing. What I do find catching my attention most of the time similar to Neptunia and Fairy Fencer games are the unique and lovable characters. While you only have six characters to traverse the virtual world such as Shina, Lily, Al, Clea, Lucil, and Celica, the real world also offers lovable characters in the likes of Arata’s co-workers such Sumika Tokiwa, Lydia Nolan and Rin Asukaza that obviously looks younger than their age suggests. Sadly there’s not a lot of areas to explore if not for the massive size of each map compared to Neptunia’s dungeons.
All jokes aside, it does offer tons of winding roads, quirk-based traversal mechanics that only certain characters can perform and with some traditional ways of map progression. At times I find myself moving back and forth in specific areas as I try to find the way out or in for that matter to advance and continue the progression.
THE OVERALL and THE END-it-ALL
There are tons of things I like about Compile Heart games, and this game sums it up. With an excellent story that really hooks you in from the start to the millionth playthrough or the Japanese anime cliché scenes that I can never get tired off, it really gives in a lot to think about or at its best, cry about. This isn’t the average Neptunia comedy and plays with extreme violence that you’d be heartless not to shed a tear. This will leave a mark for weeks to come and I’m okay with that. Being the first to obtain the platinum trophy for the English version #braggingrights before the game even comes out is one thing I’m proud to attach to my account.
However, if there is one thing that I would’ve wanted, it’s not the uninteresting post-game dungeon that forces you to endure countless battles until you reach the final boss. It’s a grind that feels unrewarding other than leveling your party and the few weapons you can obtain from it. The lack of “environment variation” keeps it monotonous and boring. But other than that… the gameplay is solid aside from the poor visual cues to know whether enemies are in the AoE of your attacks and its story that gets really engaging from start to finish. So should this be your next pick-up for February 2019? It’s definitely not Valentines-themed but it might as well be the one game I’d recommend for people who enjoy JRPGs and of Compile Heart nature.