A visual novel that will take us on an incredible journey to Japan … a deadly journey from which only one of the 12 boys will make it out alive.
World’s End Club it has a particular scent. Do you remember those school trips at the end of the year, before the last bell, a few days before the summer finally evicts the spring and its meteorological vagaries? The full bus, the screams, the choirs, the driver who can’t take it anymore, the professors who have given up on it by now and start reading a book in the front row. The landscape that flows outside as if it were the background of a cartoon, a roller painted green, blue, white, village houses that seem to repeat themselves identical every few minutes.
A game with the Game Boy, the Game Link that becomes a brotherly bond, never just virtual, the effective phrases to try to impress that girl or that boy we like while … A roar, a lightning, a trail in the sky that points straight towards the center of Tokyo, an arrow shot at the heart of Japan, post-atomic memory that seemed consigned to the history books. BOOM. The explosion is devastating, the bus is thrown into the air together with the crumbling asphalt, while there is only time for a last look at the old friends, hoping only to see them again once you open your eyes. And then, dark.
On the road in post-apocalyptic Japan
The awakening is of what only Kazutaka Kodaka (Danganronpa) and Kotaro Uchikoshi (Zero Escape) could think of as the script of their umpteenth choral visual novel. An abandoned playground, a screeching-voiced judge and a deadly game to play, from which only one of the 12 kids will make it out alive. The self-quoting illusion of finding oneself in front of another impostor game, however, soon leaves room for an equally surreal but more bittersweet, carefree, warm story, fundamentally far from the concept of psychological thriller of the previous works to focus on mysteries of national significance and, this is not a new, alternative timeline. Because World’s End Club is first and foremost a trip back to Japan, from Kagoshima to Tokyo, 1200 kilometers of chatter, quarrels, adventures, teenage crushes, special powers, conspiracies and a thick and inexplicable post-apocalyptic blanket. The country that shows few catastrophic signs but seeing its population almost entirely disappeared into thin air, leaving no trace, communication, memory.
On the road, a chat after another, the group of Go-Getters Club screams, discusses, separates, takes different paths (just like game mechanics, through crossroads and choices) to then meet again, make peace and collaborate to escape from cults of fanatical AI worshipers, killer robots, ferocious genetically engineered animals and more. And step by step the pieces of the story begin to fall into place, passing through a perturbation of plot twists that make you lose your bearings, even when you think you have understood everything.
It is precisely the trip atmosphere at the end of the world that makes the fortune of the Too Kyo Games title, a young dozen with the most disparate character shades, all adorable, from the tough who has not yet overcome his traumas to the nerd he always has in his hand a portable anti-stress to play with, from the aspiring scientist to the aspiring medium, passing through the die-hard baseball fans a little too excited, up to the good (very good) fork that would eat everything around and always has a kind word for everyone.
And you fall in love, you feel part of a group, as if their company were no longer virtual but tangible (thanks also to a good English dubbing, with Italian subtitles to review, better in English, it is right to warn you). In front of the screen we suffer from discussions, we laugh at the most absurd situations, we are amazed by the umpteenth revelation.
Always together. The writing itself isn’t great but it works great because it focuses on the choir more than on the solo, with continuous exchanges that cancel the monologues, making the predominant visual novel component a pleasure to follow, very smooth also thanks to the clear division into acts, natural bookmarks to better segment the games, enhancing portability by Switch. From stage to stage we discover what the boys are hiding in the depths of their hearts, from that tragedy initially just mentioned up to their dreams and fears, among which the one of reaching a Tokyo that could really turn out to be a heap of memories, no longer stands out. homes, families, friends, life. IS between disturbing UFO sightings, curtains and camping nights around the fire the game also allows itself more cultural moments, with each city, prefecture and region briefly told by the characters, like an interactive Lonely Planet (and “solitary” in this case takes on a whole other meaning) guide, from the streets of street food from Osaka to the famous Gifu castle, up to the remains of the Ainu civilization.
Short but very interesting moments, that note of color and history that must never be missing in a journey, especially when supported by particularly evocative panoramas, with an applause to the technical side of production, always on good levels for the choice of the scenographies and the realization of the same (not always but almost), and accompanied by a complete and catchy soundtrack that massages the eardrums as only a good road trip playlist can do.
Walking on sunshine
And it must be said that if it was a pure visual novel we would be talking about a great game, as you may have guessed so far, but he decides to complicate his life by inserting bland gameplay moments like industrial raw tofu. It is a matter of principle; if you decide to include gameplay, even more if it is of a platform-puzzle style, you must do it with full knowledge of the facts. Danganronpa (here you will find our review of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc) and the Zero Escape trilogy work great because on the one hand the investigation, on the other the environmental puzzles, fit perfectly with the narrative, proposing phases that stimulated thought and ingenuity in an always intelligent and intriguing way (here, instead, you can find the review of Zero Time Dilemma).
World’s End Club, on the other hand, in wanting to be accessible to everyone (something sacrosanct for a narrative title, even more so if born on Apple Arcade), we forget that “accessibility” is not synonymous with “laziness”. And here we are faced with a damn lazy, listless game, imprecise in controls and collisions, flat in a practically non-existent level design, whose only twist is embodied by the powers of our heroes, beautifully presented and then used to move crates, activate switches or beat bosses with patterns already seen and seen.
Like a superhero who uses his skills to assemble IKEA furniture. A disappointment, without mincing words, made bearable by the limited duration of these sequences and obviously by their nature as a link between one reading and another. They could have been beautiful inserts at the service of the story, if better contextualized and above all developed, but this, after all, does not affect too much the general impact of the work, always fresh enough to make these stumbles soon forget.
World’s End ClubNintendo Switch Analyzed VersionWorld’s End Club is lightheartedness in the midst of disaster, the light at the end of the tunnel, a journey in the company of friends that it is impossible not to become attached to. An intriguing visual novel that plays with parallel dimensions, leading to more endings and curious “what if …” that will slowly reveal the mystery hidden under the skies of Japan. And if the playful component is to be forgotten (and luckily it is done quickly), it is instead the human one that pushes you to experience the game from start to finish, setting out on this bizarre 15-20 hour trip suspended between hilarity and melancholy. , jokes and memories, heroic deeds and fears. A good technique and an excellent soundtrack make up a work worth giving a chance to, a fun and exciting reading capable of great emotional moments. Go-Getters Club, on the march!