In February of 2019, Idea Factory released perhaps their most controversial game to date. Unlike some of their other titles, this was not centered around fan service or Sony censorship. Here’s looking at you Super Neptunia RPG! Instead, Death end re;Quest pushed the envelope with its surprising “graphic depictions of violence grotesque scenes” as described by its opening screen. With developer Compile Heart best known for games like Hyperdimension Neprunia, Fairy Fencer F, and Record of Agarest War, Death end re;Quest felt like a fish out of water. At release, however, it instead proved to be a breath of fresh air. As an isekai unafraid to delve into the graphic concept of death, the game was unlike another. That is, until the release of its direct sequel, Death end re;Quest 2.
Is Death end re;Quest 2 one “death end” too many?
Adventures in Wonderland
Death end re;Quest 2 is about as indirect as direct sequels come. Whereas the original was grotesque isekai gone wrong, the sequel is a horror game through and through. After living her life as a prisoner to her abusive father, Mai Toyama finally takes fate into her own hands. And by fate, we mean a hatchet. In what is officially established as self-defense, Mai kills her father after he goes on yet another bender. Due to her favorable ruling, Mai can pick out her future home. Attempting to find her little sister, Sanae, Mai enrolls in an all-girls dormitory known only as “Wordsworth.”
Despite initial appearances, Wordsworth is not as inviting as its residence may like to believe. Upon meeting the headmaster, Mai learns that not only is Sanae not in the dormitory but that nobody has even heard of her. The plot only thickens as Mai learns about Le Choara, the ghost town in which the dormitory resides. Despite its size, the entire population seems to be made up of religious zealots, their students, and various creeps the walk the streets at night. While claiming to be God-fearing women, the Headmaster and her peers appear to be Sunday school teachers by day and occultist by night. Miraculously, Mai is not without allies of her own. Mai’s partners in crime include her roommate Rottie Dollhart as well as fellow “new girl” Liliana Pinnata. As fate deals the girls another hand, they meet a maid who knows far more then she lets on. This maid is none other than one Shina Ninomiya, the protagonist of the original game.
The first Death end re;Quest told two conjoined narratives. There was that of Shina Ninomiya, a girl trapped inside a video game of her design, and Arata Minonashi, the lead programmer trying to get her out. While they worked for the same goal, the pacing didn’t always mesh. For one, it did not make a lot of sense that Arata was generally always offering verbal support to Shina while she was in-game despite constantly running around town. Death end re;Quest 2 finds its groove by establishing a single main protagonist. The story follows Mai throughout her days and nights within the nightmare of Le Choara. With that said, the narrative’s various motivations for each night time events can dip in their effectiveness. For a town with such a strict curfew, it is amazing how many residents tend to break it. Of course for some, the mistake can be fatal.
In terms of ensemble casts, Death end re;Quest 2 has its predecessor beat. That’s not to say that the original was bad. The inclusion of Lily Hopes and Celica Clayton were easily some of the most compelling character developments in the game. With the sequel, the series steps up its game. Every character serves a significant purpose. Whether they be a protagonist, antagonist, or victim caught in between. With many modern JRPGs attempting to tick off boxes of anime tropes, it’s refreshing to see relatable characters. While many seem quirky at first glance, getting to know each orphan unearths a troubled past. While their backstories are all intriguing, some character skits feel overly optimistic in a game such as this. Considering its inspiration in the horror genre, Death end re;Quest 2 is not kind to all its inhabitants.
In addition to the story, the gameplay of Death end re;Quest became incohesive due to excessive ever-changing perspectives. Death end re;Quest 2 does things a bit differently. It plays akin to the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. As a satanic Sunday school student, Mai must live each day to the fullest. As with both Atelier and the aforementioned Persona series, Death end re;Quest 2 takes place during a set range of time during a calendar year. Her days are generally spent dodging Rottie’s romantic advances. Once the clock strikes twelve, however, nothing remains the same.
In hindsight, there’s probably a reason for Wordsworth’s strict curfew before midnight. As darkness falls, so do any inhabitants unlucky enough to be out. Le Choara serves as the game’s main dungeon. When looking back at the original, the game’s handful of uninspiring level design was the game’s greatest flaw. Probably aware of this, Death end re; Quest 2 instead focuses on a single setting. While this generally doesn’t go well for Role-Playing Games or Adventure titles, Death end re;Quest 2 pulls it off. Each Save Point doubles as a Teleport Stone. This results in an expansive dungeon that never feels too daunting or repetitive to explore. The only issue is that the game does not feature a world map. This can confuse when attempting to trigger specific events. In these cases, the player may need to teleport between save points just to access local maps.
Death end re;Quest‘s battle system was very likely its most defining feature. Luckily, it too returns. At first glance, the now-iconic system looks like something out of Fairy Fencer F or the modern Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Player Characters and enemies alike take turns to change position and attack. Once attacked, it’s all about the knockback. This allows characters to knock enemies into walls, each other, or even their allies to rack up additional damage. The Knockback feature is new and improved with lighter enemy weight and the inclusion of Super Knockbacks. This makes it easier to Overkill an enemy which in return increases experience gained in battle. Not only is it fun, but it is productive too!
Another unique aspect of the series is its Glitch Mode. Glitch Mode is a violent bug-themed transformation for the “last girls.” This mode enhances a girl’s abilities and grants access to her signature Ultimate attack. While Corruption Levels can be risen by attacking or being attacked, Field Bugs can be a girl’s best friend. These areas of terrain can both hurt and help a girl out. While their other effects may very, their filling of the Corruption gauge is a constant. Stomping on these bugs is always a step in the right direction.
If there is one thing that Idea Factory and Compile Heart have perfected, it is the art of finding the perfect illustrator for each job. Series such as Hyperdimension Neptunia and Record of Agarest War have become defined by their art direction. There’s probably a reason why those body pillows sell so well. Death end re;Quest 2 features character designs compliments of Kei Nanameda. In recent years, his dark fantasy designs have been seen in not only the original Death end re;Quest, but also the Mary Skelter trilogy.
At first glance, Nanameda’s designs might not look too different from those of other Compile Heart illustrators. The clothing of Mai and friends look like something out of Fairy Fencer F. Their appearances during Glitch Mode could be best compared to Hyperdimension Neptunia‘s CPU Transformation. Upon closer inspection, the contrasting colors and bug themes can be somewhat offsetting. Ultimately it is the initial subtly of the dark overtones that prove most effective. Much like the town of Le Choara itself.
Death end re;Quest 2 is a master class of adapting anime art styles to video game format. Nanameda’s character designs are faithfully recreated in both Live2D and cel-shaded models. During the day, the game reads like a visual novel. Mai communicates with the other Wordsworth residence as both the plot and fog thickens. Live2D allows Mai to blink, breathe, and bounce whenever appropriate. This trend continues from many of Compile Hearts’ Most recent games. During the more cinematic moments, the game also makes use of some beautifully disturbing CGs. Much like the original game, Death end re;Quest 2 has a nasty habit of telling instead of showing. While the graphical “death ends” are unforgettable, the text-only scares can be easily written off.
Whether Mai is in fight or flight, the Le Choara nightlife is created with cute cel-shaded graphics. Of course, by cute, we also mean creepy. Party members new and old all look like they were stripped from an art book. While initially cute, they can become a bit scary once their Glitch Forms proc. The town in which they reside, however, is creepy throughout. Despite being an allegedly peaceful mountain town, Le Choara is a chronic nightmare incarnate. While the setting alone probably isn’t enough to scare a player, the eldritch abomination undertones amplify the game’s unsettling tone.
It cannot be overstated how unique the original Death end re;Quest was for the Role-Playing genre upon its release. Unfortunately the same could not be said about its soundtrack. While the tense tracks played during plot twists were great, many of the game’s other tracks felt oddly generic. Death end re;Quest 2 reuses several tracks from the original game. However, this is ultimately in its favor.
The gut-wrenching instrumentals that played during Arata’s adventure return to plague Mai in turn. Meanwhile, many of the original’s less memorable battle themes have been replaced. In their place, Mai and friends are treated to some heart-pounding beats. While there may not be as much variety as a more mainstream RPG, Death end re;Quest 2’s is certainly catchy enough to listen to the whole way through.
In this day and age, seeing the Idea Factory logo on the box art is essentially synonymous with “dual audio included.” For the less internet-savvy like Rottie, the game features both English and Japanese audio. While we are not here to start another “sub vs. dub” debate, players can be satisfied to know that their personal preference will not be the wrong one. When the girls have a good day, they sound happy. When they have a bad night, boy do they sound bad.
Considering the “graphic depictions of violence grotesque scenes,” it’s impressive how believable the characters sound. As a native-English speak who may or may not have been listening to a horror movie while writing this review, this reviewer might recommend the dub. Things are just a tad more unsettling when you understand what this horror story is reading out loud. Rest in peace girls, we hardly knew you.
Overall Death end re;Quest 2 takes what made the original unique and build upon it. The battle system is better, the dungeons are darker, and the story is disturbing, to say the least. While the game is “horror” to its bones, it probably won’t frighten many players. This madhouse instead operates kindred to the Danganronpa trilogy. Death end re;Quest 2 should certainly be checked out by fans of the original or other dark fantasy RPGs.
Hey! Hey!! Listen!!! gives Death end re;Quest 2 8.6 tsundere out of 10.