Released in 2008 by the same team behind Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix's The World Ends With You has become a cult classic, praised universally for its challenging and unique gameplay and intriguing story arc.
The game follows an antisocial young man named Neku Sakuraba who finds himself in an alternate version of Tokyo's Shibuya district called the Underground (UG). He is entered into the Reaper's Game, wherein chosen deceased individuals can sacrifice their most treasured possession in order to be entered. The prize is either resurrection or transcendence to a higher form of existence.
Each game lasts a week, and the winner is the one who best completes the tasks set out by the game's Composer and demonstrates the worth of humanity. While completing the tasks, contestants must team up with other players in order to defeat creatures called "Noise" that exist simultaneously in two separate "zones." The World Ends With You follows Neku for three consecutive Reaper's Games as he connects with new individuals and tries to uncover his memories and the circumstances of his death.
Confused? Don't feel too bad; it's a complex game, with an even more confusing (and challenging) battle system. Called the "Stride Cross Battle System," combat utilizes the DS' dual screen capabilities in order to conduct two battles at once, one with Neku and the other with his partner.
The two players are synchronized in battle, with the effectiveness of each player's attacks dependent on whether the player possesses the "light puck" that passes back and forth between Neku and his partner. The character with the "light puck" will be able to perform more powerful attacks, and the speed at which the puck travels between the two characters can be affected by the team's "sync ratio" and equipped clothing. Equipped pins also affect what moves can be used, and whether the character can self-heal.
It's a weird system to be sure, but also one that can be seriously fun and exciting. There's a reason why The World Ends With You was named IGN's DS Game of 2008, and has a critical score of 88 on Metacritic. If you're at all intrigued by the odd plot or complicated gameplay, be sure to check it out!