With a name like Death end re;Quest, it does not sound like the average Idea Factory game. After making a name for themselves with such titles as Hyperdimension Neptunia, the publisher, and developer, is looking to branch out. Cue Death end re;Quest. Rather than taking the tried and true path, Death end re;Quest looks to take a darker turn. As the game begins, it presents a warning to its audience. “This game contains graphic images depictions of violence and grotesque scenes.”
Will Death end re;Quest be a dark fantasy to stand apart from Idea Factory’s more comedic waifu-driven games?
A (Bad) Dream Come True
Right out the gate, Death end re;Quest proves that it is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Fans of .hack// and Sword Art Online should be familiar with the basic premise. The main protagonist, Shina, finds herself trapped inside a VR game. It doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the worst. Within minutes, she finds herself decapitated by what can only be described as a Creepypasta variation of Marvel’s Venom. While this scene is revealed to be something of a dream ( or nightmare) it doesn’t make it any less jarring.
After awakening from her nightmare, Shina finds herself in a homey log cabin. Playing the part of her character, she decides to visit the nearby Kingdom of Heartis. Not to be confused with Kingdom Hearts. Upon arriving she finds that the world within the game has been completely corrupted. Parasites grow inside and out of its inhabitants. Each of which now obsesses over killing. While fleeing the scene, Shina hears what she believes to be the voice of God. After a couple of conversations, however, she learns this is not the case. Arata, a fellow programmer, finds his missing friend within the canceled game. Realizing that Shina is unable to log out, he deduces that her only way out is by completing the game. This may be easier said than done. Everything within the game is looking to kill. In World’s Odyssey, people die when they are killed.
The story of Death end re;Quest into two sections: online and in real life. As with 4 Goddesses Online, Death end re;Quest simulates an online experience within a single player campaign. The “online” portion of the game revolves around Shina and her quest of game completion. At times, the game feels much like other Idea Factory releases. The story is mostly character driven with notes of Yuri throughout. It is the game’s darker moments that are easily the most memorable. From losing loved ones to losing their heads, the tale of Shina and friends is a tragic one.
Arguably, it is the “in real life” events that are the most strong. Arata’s scenarios play out much like a visual novel. Players can explore the town and investigate mysterious happens going on. Eventually, this segment becomes something reminiscent of Steins;Gate. Arata’s normal life slowly falls apart as he finds himself involved with conspiracy. Not only is the game designed killing its players, but he becomes hunted by an occult cult. Having to bounce between guiding Shina and saving his own skin, Arata has one hell of a time.
The Grass is Always Greener
In terms of gameplay, the game plays out quite differently whether players play as Shina or Arata. As described above, Arata’s gameplay more akin to a visual novel than anything else. Players never take actual control of Arata onscreen. Rather, his events unfold as the game progresses. Most of his route is straightforward with no real deviation. At times, he is given a choice when he reaches a fork in the road. While some choices serve a comedic purpose, others can lead to a sticky situation.
Shina’s route, on the other hand, is that of an RPG protagonist. Much like Neptune and Fang before her, she adventures through dungeon after dungeon. One improvement Death end re;Quest has over its predecessors is its overworld. While the desert plane is quite linear, to say the least, goes far to improve the game’s immersion. Though the game does not use a menu based world map, there is still an option to warp to previous locations. This set up helps World’s Odyssey feel like a real game and simplify progression and backtracking for Death end re;Quest.
Death end re;Quest’s greatest strength can be found in its battle system. For an Idea Factory game, that is truly impressive. On paper, the battle system doesn’t look much different that Megadimension Neptunia VIIR or Fairy Fencer F. Characters take turns to take position and attack. The battle system can be best compared to a game of Billiards. After an attack chain, characters can knock opponents back. It doesn’t take long at all for Shina to complete a party of 3 party members to duke it out. When thrusting an enemy into another party member, said party member will get an additional attack. This attack can not only inflict high damage but knock the enemy back once again. Even if there isn’t an ally within reach, there is always the barrier. Knocking any character into this barrier also deals damage and initiates a kickback. Taking full advantage of this, even boss enemies can be quickly taken out through the power of teamwork.
One of Idea Factory’s greatest talents has been in providing memorable character designs. From Record of Agarest War to Hyperdimension Neptunia, it’s hard not to recognize Iffy’s mascot characters. Death end re;Quest follows suit. Each of its characters has been designed by huke. huke’s past works include Black☆Rock Shooter as well as Steins;Gate. With Death end re;Quest, his unique art style fits perfectly with the bug-inspired world of World’s Oddessy.
When rendered, the character models keep true to huke’s style. The cel-shaded stylings of Shina and party would look right at home in an anime appearance. The world around them, however, is a bit of a hit and miss. The dungeons themselves look impressive, especially for an Idea Factory game. Each area has a theme and runs with it. No two areas look alike which is great for cementing the world building. The one common theme is the world’s corruption. Areas of each level look like they are breaking apart one way or another. For the most part, this looks cool and fits well with the subject matter. The one real flaw with the level design is how lifeless it can appear. With no NPCs, rare monsters, and scarce platforming, the level can appear as lifeless as an offline server.
When studying storytelling, a common phrase is often said: show, do not tell. Sadly this is not often the case with Death end re;Quest. The game begins with a warning of graphic content. After the opening scene, however, many of the game’s more grotesque scenes are oddly played out without visuals of any kind. These scenes often either cut to black or show off an out of place particle effect. With forks in the path leading to a dead end, it is disappointing how some play out.
Scream Like You Mean It
When it comes to Idea Factory games, betting on dual audio is generally a safe bet. As with the Hyperdimension Neptunia titles, Death end re;Quest features a memorable cast in either language. With devastating plot twists at every turn, its impressive to hear the range of the main cast. Main party members can laugh one minute and break down into tears the next. Even with big budget games, it’s rare to hear a death scene play out so convincingly. Good luck Shina.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack of Death end re;Quest really isn’t very notable. Even when writing this review, I had to turn the game back on just to remember what it sounded like. While the tracks are not bad, they are certainly on the generic side. With the rest of the game as polished as it is, the music is more of a deterrent than anything. Interesting, the game is most enjoyable to play with the BGM turned off. This creates an eerie silence and a slight echoing effect that complements the idea of playing an uncompleted game.
Overall Death end re;Quest is a truly original JRPG. While it is easily identifiable as an Idea Factory game, its dark overtones and unique gameplay make it truly something else. For JRPG fans looking for something different, Death end re;Quest might be worth taking a looking into. Just be warned, don’t judge this book by its cover.
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Death end re;Quest