Death End Re;Quest - PS4 Review

How many of you reading this are big anime/manga nerds? A lot? Probably, considering Death End Re;Quest is a Compile Heart game. In which case, you’ll probably be familiar with the general theme, which is “stuck in a video game”. Now, before most of you run for the hills, let me just say that Death End actually play off the theme really well. It’s not Trash Art Online, and it’s full of clichés that it usually immediately deconstructs, or kicks you in the shins for. HARD. Darker and edgier than what you may be used to from Compile Heart, Death End is certainly one heck of an interesting ride.

As I mentioned, the basic premise of Death End’s story is “trapped in a video game”. You play, more or less, as Arata Mizunashi, a programmer for a small sized, but large name, video game company. A year ago, they were working on a fancy new full dive Virtual Reality game, using the Alice Engine, fancy new software developed by App-*ahem* Aggle. When the engine produced too many bugs, and one of the programmers, Arata’s “kouhai” (junior at work) Shina, disappears. The game gets cancelled, and Shina was never found.

Cue one year later.

Arata gets an email from an admin account for the online game he and Shina were working on, but the servers should have been shut down? He logs in and finds Shina inside the game, and must help her clear the game in order to log her out. Alternatively, you could see it as Shina being the main character, with Arata being a helpful side character that only acts in the real world, while Shina does all the fighting and exploring in the game world. Ultimately I decided they were kinda both main characters in their own sense, as the game really draws from a whack of different genres, creating an interesting mash-up that is usually clearly split between the two characters.

This brings us to the first really confusing part of Death End: what type of game is it? Ultimately, it’s a JRPG. There’s turn based battles, a fancy battle system, and levelling and equipment. But Death End is also a Visual Novel. And a Horror game. And a mystery/detective game. And a…choose your own adventure? Yeah, it’s a weird amalgamation of different genres and themes, but you know what? It actually works really well. While there is some overlap, when you swap between Arata and Shina, you basically switch what genres you’re playing.

As Arata you can go around and investigate clues to Shina’s body’s location in the real world, as well as try to figure out how to remove bugs and code issues in the game in order to help her proceed. This is done in the Visual Novel style, with the detective genre thrown in as well. As Shina, you’re pretty much full blown RPG, as she is the one doing all the fighting. The Horror and choose your own adventure? That’s the overlap. The Horror subject may be a little easier to understand, as the game can get really creepy and disturbing at times. There’s even blood and dying and murder, which you don’t generally see in Compile Heart games.

But the “choose your own adventure” thing. Hoo boy, that’s the first place this game really got me, and let me tell you, I was royally pissed off, and I loved Death End for it. Every so often, or more like five minutes depending on how fast you power through the game, you will be given what is generally a choice between two options. One option, will have you progress through the story. The other? Game over. No, I don’t mean “it’s a poor choice but carry on anyway”, I mean you literally get a Game Over. Guess who failed the first choice? That's right, me.

Here is also where I was even more enamoured: you can save during the cutscenes. Yep, that’s right, mid talking saving. Well, unless it’s before/after a chapter boss. And yes, you can get choices at those times as well. Thankfully, you can usually save at the choice itself, and the game records if you’ve seen a choice, so if you forget, you’ll see a check mark next to the options you’ve chosen before. Get a Bad End? Simply reload at the choice and choose the other option. So why did I like this so much, despite being basically a 50/50 shot at game over? Because most of the choices are actually REAL. Something you might do in the situation, well for the most part, and have consequences that you’d expect in real life, but not in a game.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this overly long praise: the entire game feels like a deconstruction of common game tropes. Sure, the characters are fairly cliché, but in-game they’re programmed to be like that, and even then their characters start slipping at times, if you pay attention. And yeah, the theme of “trapped in a game” is getting overdone in Japan, but generally not as brutally violent as Death End can get with some of its scenes. There are two that particularly stand out.

The first one I got because of my JRPG habits, but the second one is the one you’re most likely going to see. There is a room, full of sketchy glitch like graphics, and a bunch of eyes popping in and out of existence. The game tells you “don’t go in there, you’re gonna die”. So what do you do? Well, you’ve gotta go in there, I mean, there could be treasure! While I won’t spoil what exactly happens, needless to say, you die. I mean, of course you SHOULD die, but a lot of the time you’re rewarded in games for “struggling through a tough area”. Death End basically just says “that was dumb, and so are you. Here’s a kick in the nuts.” Hence why Death End pisses me off, but I love it for finally addressing the topic.

So, what sort of battles can you expect to get up to in Death End? Well, it has the age old tradition of “turn based fight”, with a couple neat aspects worked in. Let’s start with basic combat. When you enter battle from the field map, you and your teammates are stuck in a circular ring with the enemies you’re in combat with. Turn order is based on agility, and you can freely move to wherever you want on your turn, with the only restriction being “not inside another character”. You have a couple of different options on your turn, like an instant run option, examine, default attack, but really you’ll be using the “command list” a lot. So attack/guard/skip turn? Is what you’re probably thinking.

While those are commands, you actually have three “slots” that you can assign any skill or move to, as long as you either meet the requirements to use the skill or have enough SP. You can put them in any order, and can even throw items or guards in your chain as well. You want to pay attention to this, because you learn skills by chaining other skills together, and you have a chance to learn a new skill after completing the chain. Thankfully, the game will give you a handy little lightbulb to indicate if a new skill is learnable with the chain you’ve entered.

If you end the chain with a “knockback” attack or skill, you can send the enemy bouncing around, into walls or other enemies, or even into allies. If the enemy hits a wall or enemy, they bounce off and take a rather large chunk of damage, or both enemies if they hit each other. If you knock an enemy into another ally though? Well, prepare to deck the offending creature in the face, bouncing them even more around the field. If you’ve played Mugen Souls, it’s basically a better blastoff system. In battle there will also be little circles of light on the ground, called “field bugs”.

Field bugs have different effects associated to them, and behave differently for allies and enemies. For allies, stepping on a bug generally does a percentage of your health in damage, but restores a percentage of your SP. Yes, this seems dumb when you basically have an entire field of bugs, but you’ll probably want that SP later in the game. For enemies, however, they can walk across the bugs no problem, and will often “hide” in a field of bugs to try and stop you approaching. However, if you use a knock back attack and blast an enemy through the bugs, the bugs will get destroyed, but also increase the enemies’ corruption level. If it gets full, the enemy gets a buff and a full heal, and is now basically a super version of the enemy you were fighting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. While they do get more health and attack/defense, I noticed they generally take A LOT more “bounce” damage from hitting walls/enemies, not to mention the post battle rewards are way better.

While Arata can’t participate in battle directly, he can participate by hacking the field, changing the game genre, or summoning a creature. All these options can only be used if you’ve removed at least 50% of the bugs on the field, and will produce more bugs after using the command you opt for. Hacking is rather basic, allowing you to apply an effect, whether it be lowering your allies or enemies corruption, or giving some sort of status boost. Changing genre is…interesting. As an example, the first option you get is “shooter”, where you can fire your SP as bullets at the enemies. Or “puzzle”, where you hit enemies across green squares to clear as much of the “board” as possible.

Summoning is rather self explanatory, as you call forth a previously beaten boss, who comes with a field effect (like increased knockback) and will get a turn in battle. You may have noticed I mentioned lowering your allies corruption level. That’s right, you too can get corrupted, although it only lasts a turn and allows you to use a super move, but you build corruption by getting hit, and you can’t choose not to enter the “glitched” state, as it were, so if you aren’t keeping on top of your health, that could be a problem.

Compile Heart has a very distinct art style, being very anime during cutscenes, with characters “breathing” in order to make them more animated. Usually with a focus on the female cleavage. That being said, the art is really clean and crisp, and the 3D environments were smooth, and I didn’t have any issue with lagging or choppiness. There is a lot of “bounce” though on the female characters. Even if there probably shouldn’t be. I swear Shina’s boobs are actually just balloons full of water and she’s stuffing them in her battle garb. If you’ve played other Compile Heart games, you’ll definitely recognize some of the enemies, as well as some of the music may sound familiar. While I don’t think the music is duplicated, you definitely get used to similar tunes after so many Neptunia games. That’s not to say the music isn’t suitably creepy or mysterious when it needs to be, or not exciting during a boss battle. It is, and I found the music actually helped make me feel disconcerted during some of the creepier moments.

A couple of things I’d like to mention here, is that I actually really liked the whole “genre mash-up” they were going for, and I felt it was well put together. While the characters are a little cliché, the “in-game” characters are supposed to be, and get a solid deconstruction, whereas the “real world” characters, when acting out a cliché, generally call you out for thinking that the cliché would work “the same way it does in anime/games”. I also like the “bug” theme with the characters, where each character will have a part of them, or their outfit, act as a representation of the “bug” infecting them.

Despite the fact that spiders aren’t technically bugs, I still liked Shina’s spider legs. I thought they looked cool…Speaking of cool, bosses have their own unique flavour text during the game over, or at least the ones I lost to did, which is a nice attention to detail you don’t see often enough. There are some drawbacks, such as the cringey voice acting in the opening cutscene, or how I can never find a camera angle in battle I like, although they do give you about five default options. And I know most people have a standard “battle stance” based on weapon type, but if you know it’s going to cause the weapon to “clip” through a portion of your character, please just alter the stance slightly, or even the direction they hold the weapon.

A couple tips and tricks if you’re starting out and you want them, otherwise you can skip this paragraph: the game gets tough, so don’t feel bad about using items. I’m notoriously bad at saving anything consumable, even SP. While you don’t want to be throwing items and high SP skills around willy nilly, using a few here and there, or even replacing normal attacks with the cheaper skills in battle can go a long way to making you not dead. If you game over on a choice, the game over screen says you carry over items and exp. I have no idea if this is true or not, not because I didn’t fail my “Dead End” checks, but because sometimes I felt like I carried over my exp, and sometimes I lost 3 levels. Maybe it’s only for certain choices or based on save file? Maybe I just loaded the wrong file. Actually, that second one is most likely, since you pretty much need a couple of different save files just in case you save somewhere you really shouldn’t have, and get locked into a scene/battle you don’t want to be in.

Overall, I really enjoyed what Compile Heart had to offer with Death End Re;Quest. The battle system brings a fresh change up to the more traditional style, and the customization of skills, and how you can alter the battlefield with the “hacking” command was really fun. The “Dead End” choices made me feel like a moron, but in a way that had me coming back to say “I’ll get the next one right!”. While the difficulty ramp up and somewhat repetitive fight later in the game may grate on those who are also looking for something new, changing your lineup, or altering the skills you commonly use can help to alleviate that, especially when you decide to see how many walls you can pinball an enemy off of. If you’re any kind of JRPG fan, you definitely want to consider giving Death End Re;Quest a try.

Game Information

Sony PlayStation 4
Compile Heart
Idea Factory International
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

Article by Richard


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