The collaboration between the brilliant minds of Kotaro Uchikoshi and Kazutaka Kodaka
creates another mysterious narrative in World’s End Club. Known for the Zero Escape and Danganronpa series respectively, it’s no surprise that this game echoes with similar elements from both those franchises.
The opening shows young classmates, who coin themselves as members of the Go-Getters Club, on a bus trip before an accident renders them unconscious. The player awakens as Reycho, the silent but optimistic defacto leader of the group, as he emerges from a pod and realises he’s in an underwater theme park. He checks up on his classmates, but they are just as disorientated and anxious as he is. Before any of them can find answers to their growing list of questions, they are greeted by the chirpy mascot Pielope.
Pielope forces them to participate in a ‘Game of Fate’. With an hour time limit, there can only be one winner. If no-one succeeds, they all die. Determined to be the sole victor and win the key to escape their underwater prison, the Go-Getters scheme and sabotage one another. Deceit, alliances, strategies, elimination, robotic game host … these are a nod to Danganronpa and Zero Escape.
However, recall that this is a bunch of 12-year-old students. Even Pielope coyly taunts that the best way to win is to ‘hurt’ each other. So the repercussions are G-rated. After all, I imagine it’d be quite uncomfortable to witness children murder one another.
After finishing the ‘Game of Fate’, the story and gameplay completely deviates. After thwarting Pielope, the students find themselves on Kagoshima - a southwestern region of Japan. The area is deserted and there is no-one in sight. Determined, the Go-Getters embark on a 1,200km quest back to their hometown of Toyko to unravel the mystery of their circumstances, uncover whether a mastermind developed Pielope, and search for any other survivors.
And so the adventure of World’s End Club begins, where they can truly be the world’s last club.
The Go-Getters Club consists of 12 members with distinctive characteristics. Brought to life by intricate designs, fully voiced dialogues, and different interests, each character is easily distinguished. But as they are all friends and already know each other, you don’t get a proper introduction or backstory upon first encounter.
Thankfully, in your Collection tab, you can read a summary of a character if you get lost in the colourful cast. However, beyond this, the Go-Getters lack depth as besides each individual’s spurt in character growth, we don’t glean much more from them.
The game is divided into three modes: Story, Camp, Act. Delivered mainly as a visual novel, the Story and Camp sections allow the player to watch scenes unfold or to speak with other members for further insights into their feelings.
The Story segments are occasionally drawn out and lack the survival instinct like the ‘Game of Fate’. Although there are spectacular Japanese references as the characters traverse across Japan, some of their conversations can feel jarring. As pre-adolescents, there are frequent bickering which can be endearing but appears disjointed when in the next scene, they collectively exclaim encouraging praises. Intermixed with the other modes, the storytelling isn’t always a smooth transition as characters share their thoughts in Camp, which adds little to their personality or the general story. However, the overall plot brims with intrigue as there are many unexpected twists and turns.
The Act mode is simple side-scrolling with a dash of puzzle solving. Besides the usual running or actioning an item, the Go-Getters frequently stumble across creatures or environmental hazards. A particular difficult obstacle usually awakens a character’s unique superpower called ‘Buddy Skill’. These skills – ranging from inventing gadgets with super speed to transforming into an Electro Ranger (my personal favourite, think Power Rangers) – gives the player the chance to test out the diverse abilities when facing the many challenges. Along the way, you can also collect Stickers which sometimes involves careful manoeuvring in order to obtain it.
Don’t fret if you find yourself with a ‘Game Over’ from misjudging the jumping distance, sinking into a sandpit, or getting trampled by a monster. I experienced these numerous times, but the reload scenes are just mere moments before your unforeseen demise.
A Visual Galore
I was captivated by the vibrant colours and its presentation. The backdrop itself feels like a living entity. When I wasn’t busy running across the landscape, I would pause and immerse in the scenery which are beautifully detailed and often contain moving objects.
The delivery contains many visual novel components. There are panel strips and emphasis on startlement with the emboldened texts and the entire group’s simultaneous reaction. The character icons also change expressions depending on their mood, which not only reiterate their emotions but are often comical.
World’s End Club is further enriched by exploring its creative freedom. Architectural designs are ingrained with post-apocalyptic aesthetics and vicious creatures allude to mutations or AI vibes.
In the Gallery section, you can relisten to the soundtracks which is a welcome feature. The accompanying music matches the theme for explorations; edgy and somewhat sinister when the Go-Getters sleuth across forbidden premises, as well as upbeat and amused when a character claims he lives at Nagoya Castle.
Is it a Game of Fate?
The advertisement for World’s End Club may be misleading as the Go-Getters’ need for survival isn’t from outwitting a mascot that traps them in a killing game. It’s from enduring an expedition that lasts longer than your typical class excursion.
It’s a game about friendship. The Go-Getters have to work together, discover their strengths, overcome the setbacks, and offer support when the outlook is bleak. They believe that even if they are momentarily separated, they will meet again.
After everything they have faced together, the Go-Getters are undoubtedly friends til the end.
So, why should you play it?
Gorgeous visuals and thematic soundtracks
Impressionable characters will full voiceovers
Many Japanese cultural references
Endearing, kiddish charm
But why shouldn’t you play it?
Story pace is a tad tedious
Focus is on the friendship of Sixth Graders
NOT another life-or-death survival game
A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Tiffany is an aspiring writer with particular interest in dystopias and angsty romances. She often finds herself immersed in games that are brought to life by their rich narratives and lavish landscapes. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys long walks in the wilderness and relaxes with a book under the glow of a scented candle.