I have been playing a bunch of visual novels lately. Reading a VN is relaxing and almost feels like watching an anime, if you set the text to scroll automatically. With that feature enabled one can simply sit back and watch the cute cartoon girls rattle off their lines in Japanese. The latest visual novel that I recently completed is World End Syndrome on the PS4. Buyers can also purchase this game on Switch, but sadly the Vita version never made it across to the west.
World End Syndrome sees players take control of a transfer student who has relocated to a small rural town situated next to the sea. He hopes the new setting will help him get over the death of his sister, who sadly passed away in a traffic accident. When the story begins the protagonist moves into a mansion, owned by his uncle, which he shares with his distant cousin Maimi Kusimose. Cohabitating with an athletic teenager, who excels at tennis, sounds sweet – until you realise that Maimi is a messy slob who expects the main character to do all of the house-work.
On his first day at school the main character is befriended by class pervert Kensuke Asagi, who convinces the lead to join the after school Mystery Club. Given Kensuke’s personality it should come as no surprise that said club is filled with hotties, including club advisor Kaori Yamashiro. The aforementioned teacher is also a famous novelist who penned a book that revolves around the town’s Yomibito folklore. Said legend states that every one-hundred years a deceased resident will arise from the grave, with no knowledge of their past demise. When summer concludes the revived party loses their mind and goes on a murderous killing spree.
Although the game’s trailer pitches World End Syndrome as being a horror tale, it plays mostly like a dating sim. Over the course of August the player attempts to unlock the game’s various endings by boosting their relationship with the Mystery Club’s assortment of members. For example players could set their sights on ice queen Miu Amana, who works part-time at her brother’s cafe (where she serves patrons dressed as a maid). Alternatively, it is possible to swoon bashful pop-idol Rei Nikaidou who is in town filming scenes for a movie. Loli-cons may prefer instead to date wealthy heiress Saya Kamishiro. Those looking to court someone more mature can set their sights on reporter Yukino Otonashi, who is on a quest to uncover the town’s dark secrets.
Unlike some other visual novels, which follow a linear storytelling structure, World End Syndrome is broken up into days. Every morning, afternoon and night the player selects a place in town to visit. Once they arrive at their destination the protagonist will bump into one of his acquaintances, triggering a short cut scene. These segments advance the story or increase your affection with a particular character, which ultimately determines which ending you’ll get. Thankfully a playthrough doesn’t take long to finish, by visual novel standards, and it’s possible to fast forward past scenes you have previously witnessed – so replaying the game to 100% doesn’t feel like a chore.
My rating for World End Syndrome is a four out of five. In terms of narrative there are stronger examples of the visual novel genre out there, but I still had fun with the game. The cast are a likable bunch making each of the available routes, where you grow closer to a particular girl, an enjoyable experience. Players who are more interested in the horror themes hinted at in the trailer will get more satisfaction out of the later chapters. The true ending ditches the mushy stuff in favour of exploring Mihate Town’s supernatural mystery and the prologue caps things off with an emotional twist. Apart from the writing I was also impressed by World End’s character designs, which come courtesy of BLAZBLUE artist Yuki Kato. Once all the stories have been cleared their is still extra content to be enjoyed, in the form of optional missions and collectible items to find.