Our protagonist, Reiji-kun immediately starts the game in an experiment. He’s wearing a goofy looking headset in which a smartphone camera feed replaces his usual line of sight. An AR UI is overlaid and, well, augments the world. Sounds cool.
Judgment 7 is the name of game development team formed by Sekai Owari (dev name), where he works on his AR pet project. Owari is a high-level perv with insane programming skills and his laid-back attitude to work allows his close friends and employees to spend their days either living in or spending their bulk of their time in the J7 office. Reiji’s job as part-time director becomes one of an overbearing necessity to drive comradery within the team, at times becoming the shoulder-to-cry-on, confidant or verbal punching bag.
The sci-fi theme of a virtual world mixing with reality is rife in modern anime and gaming but Our World Is Ended veers far closer in tone to the likes of Steins;Gates and Chaos;Head/Child than say, Sword Art Online. There’s certainly a leaning on this theme for its overall narrative but there’s far more on offer here. Though, rather than the darker moods of the former examples, it’s pulled off with a lighter comedy/slice-of-life slant that prevails for the better.
Our World, Amended
Reiji is working part-time for an office programmer, Owari-san, whose verbal instructions are sent to straight to Reiji’s headset. Accompanied by his friend and co-worker, loveable air-head Yuno, Reiji is having to publicly reel off embarrassing voice commands and place himself in some awkward positions, all in the name of technological advancement.
Within this setting, an accidental phenomenon draws the dev team into an impossibly hyper-realistic virtual version of the real world. With quirks. Accordingly, J7 begins an investigation involving creative on-the-fly programming, hacking and an exploration of the New World, leading to a host of interesting revelations.
Explosive colours and high-quality anime artwork fills the screen immediately, making these opening moments drag you straight in to the world-building efforts.
In terms of visuals, Our World Is Ended presents its characters in high detail anime portraits with a kaleidoscope of colour reminiscent of a Studio Trigger anime (think Kiznaiver or SSS Gridman). Each member of Judgement 7 not only has the best elements of the hand-drawn style, but all help pronounce charisma. The colour explosion and calibre of artistry is present in the locations, too. Tokyo’s Asakusa district has been lovingly realised in a brilliant soft tone used throughout the background artwork, offering a sense of ‘home’ with how well the locations fit, which, given the art is closely based on the real place, is understandable.
Don’t believe this is in some way an escape from all the tropes we love (and sometimes not love), they’re all here; the delusional one, the perverted one, the everyman, the air head, the tsundere and so on. However, each has a distinct personality and it’s refreshing to see the extra effort put in to so many different characters. No one feels neglected or under-developed, with each receiving as much of a spotlight as protag, Reiji.
In fact, character development is where Our World is Ended outclasses its peers. Each backstory is written with care and isn’t thrown together haphazardly. You’ll have great difficulty not falling in love with the wacky, often tragic cast of shut-ins and it’s all down to excellent pacing. For example, the cast’s delusional manchild, Iruka No.2, went from obvious to charming to awesome over the course of over several chapters, all while effortlessly bouncing off the rest of the team. When he turns at just the right angle to ensure a sparkle of light appears in the corner of his shades, purely for levity, it’s hard not laugh. Equally, when understanding the thoughts behind his manga-plot outbursts, curiosity leads to intended gravitas.
What’s equally impressive is the relationships between each set of characters. Everyone has their own personal link to one another, and it’s refreshing to explore. You’ll see the harem-in-the-making signs in the early game, but it really isn’t much of a focus until the main plot has sufficiently progressed and the team dynamics have had breathing room.
Our World, Extended
As Judgment 7’s circumstances force them in and out of the New World, the nuances of its rules are gradually revealed before leading into an effective conclusion. As is often the way of things, the journey to get there is what drives enjoyment.
The interactions and scenarios jump between grounded and obscure effortlessly. When one of Judgment 7’s video game characters come to life as a boss within the New World, such as the ‘cute’ bear with an array of comical weaponry and his peculiar set of mini-games; or the Harem King and his shounen manga love hotel floor-by-floor battle (The Harem Holy War), I found myself yearning to see just how each of the group reacted to the situation. Granted, it could be predictable at time, but when the team berate and off-handedly dismiss pretty much any sordid idea Owari dreams up, you’ll feel like joining in.
It’s worth mentioning Sekai Owari is voiced by one of my favourites, Tomokazu Sugita (among many, many other excellent roles he’s Sakata Gintoki!), so Owari gets a free pass. No bias here, I swear. Seriously, though this character fits Sugita-san perfectly. The cast on the whole is on point and brings every character to life, with Eri Kitamura’s performance as hapless butt-of-all-jokes, Asano Hayase, standing out as a particular highlight, with quality moments like Asano’s purposefully tone-deaf singing.
Your minimal gameplay interactions come only in the form of dialogue options and naturally your choices lead to the game’s different endings. Line options are occasionally in the form of moving text (think Danganronpa’s trials but less hands-on) and, if you’re not quick enough off the mark, you’ll default to the last option. Being able to access the backlog of the script is standard fare but being able to jump back to the scene associated with the line is a big boon, especially when making these dialogue choices.
While the soundtrack could have perhaps benefitted from a few additional tracks, the music is classily effective at relying the mood with additional over-the-top sound effects occasionally thrown in for leverage during the more slapstick moments. Every line is voiced in a professional mix rounding off a sound package (shhh).
Our World, Offended
It starts a little slowly and the sigh-inducing ‘perv’ jokes are too frequent for anyone’s tastes by my reckoning, but little-by-little Our World Is Ended edged into something uniquely entertaining, giving me the exact sort of plot I love in a visual novel, wrapped in a stirring team-building narrative. To top it off the anime style illustrations are up there with the best and every design oozes character. This is punctuated with fantastic world-building and an utterly loveable cast. This world is splendid.
Gameplay (Story & Narrative): 9.5
Overall Score: 9/10
Format: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Developer: Red Entertainment
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 18/04/19 (Switch, PS4) / 28/05/19 (Steam)
Review copy provided by publisher