If you ever have a day when luck just doesn’t go your way. You’ve missed the bus to work twice, the car doesn’t start or it starts to pour with rain whilst going for your bike ride. Bear a thought for people like Mai Toyama, our lead character in the bold sequel Death End; ReQuest 2.
Not only has she had the most painful upbringing living solely with her abusive alcoholic father and having to endure years of unrest and misery, but her only sister who had the sense to live with her mother elsewhere, has strangely disappeared with the only contact on Mai’s phone being a text message sent a year ago.
Mai is distraught and seeking an answer and a quest to find her missing sibling and in a customary opening rather similar to the first game. Players are thrown into a violent opening first scene immediately after the game loads up.
Dad is angry and violent and backs mai into a corner threatening to kill her. The girl is scared out of her wits and is left with only one choice with her life in sudden danger…kill him first!
After the tragic event and a court case clearing mai of the murder of her father. Mai is homeless and put in the hands of social care and sent to stay in the all-girl academy Wordsworth near the town of Le Choara. A place mai specifically requested to stay as it was the last location her sister was reported to have visited.
You would think her luck had changed, with the court decision and the academy a place of security and sanctuary, but what’s immediately clear from her arrival is that things are not quite exactly what they seem.
As the story progresses, mai learns that the academy’s authoritarian rules are undermined by a series of unexplainable events and mysterious disappearances that call mai to break the academy’s strict midnight curfew and investigate further. A journey that will take her through many challenges on the brink of danger, darkness and madness to seek the truth and ultimately find her missing sister.
Released in February this year on the Nintendo Switch. This sequel landed with roughly a two-year gap from the first game, and during development, it’s apparent that developers were looking to create a stand-alone game with much darker elements, by appointing corpse party writer Makoto Kedouin to pen the story. There’s also the removal of certain elements from the first game with a new approach and interface for the visual novel elements and a few new enhancements and improvements regarding the gameplay to make the role-playing system slicker and faster.
With the basics of the turn-based combat returning for this sequel, I’ve included my review of the first game here, allowing me to focus on all the new additions without retreading on old ground.
Running in similarity to the first story, players are hit with a story intro that’s immediately dark, shocking and disturbing. Mai’s experience at the hands of her father is by no means a work of imaginary fiction. What occurs is unsettling, but also touches on true life and an insight into living with someone with mental issues, addiction, obsession and controlling behaviour. This thread continues with Mai joining the all-girl academy and discovering all the students have had similar issues in their upbringing. Broken homes and fractured childhoods to what suddenly subconsciously materializes is this theme of childhood trauma and vulnerability that eventually serves as a positive. A player’s responsibility to push and drive in certain aspects of the game to complete the challenges and save the girls.
The Academy is the first point of call and Mai tries to adjust and settle by meeting the students and making friends with the priority to find her missing sister.
Players will soon discover that the game works on a well-structured and well-presented calendar system. For each day of the calendar comes a series of events or for a better analysis, dialogue and story segments that are sequenced in various areas of the academy on an academy map screen. These are done to progress the time of day and on completion, end the day and access the night excursions.
By night, the game goes straight into a countdown to midnight and players are then allowed to access the game’s role-playing section in a quest to usually find a missing person or to find information relating to mia’s sister’s disappearance.
Players’ first experience in the opening area map carries the dark unsettling themes to another level. Different from the slightly brighter maps of the first game come visual tones of dark and gothic. The streets of Le Choara are devoid of people and filled with neon tentacle-like roots sprouting through the ground and buildings with abandoned vehicles littered around every corner giving the impression of the apocalyptic.
In one of the first gameplay changes, the save points littered around the maps now contain the campsite and warp points all on one menu and are not separately scattered around the map.
As you explore you’ll find another new addition in the form of PC terminals allowing you to hack into the street cameras and scan the streets for secret routes or treasure locations as you work your way to your objective which is usually a certain area on the map.
Of course, it’s almost immediate to spot the looming bodies roaming around in the form of the game’s grotesque enemy creatures.
Once spotted, they will either run towards you or you can surprise attack from behind before warping into the game’s main combat screen.
Set again in a round arena setting, your party is once again called to take three actions after you free-roam into position.
“Knockback” and “Knockblow” return to propel enemies around the ring where careful positions and the right action choices can bring about a brutal chain of combos to defeat multiple enemies.
From the first battle, there are a good deal of improvements made that are instantly noticeable if you’ve played the first game.
The default camera is slightly set further back with attacks and enemies bouncing around at a slicker and faster speed than the first game.
The glitch bugs on the floor no longer pose a danger if your character hits 100℅ glitched by walking into them but in a turn of events for this title, players are encouraged to use them to activate each character’s “glitch mode” so that rather as an extra in the first game to cause maximum damage to enemies and bosses, the semi-naked frenzied state for each character becomes a necessity.
The biggest change though comes within the character themselves and the improvements made to give each character’s abilities and skills more depth. Instead of character level determining the unlocking of further abilities, some significant changes have been implemented to action moves in battle and abilities unlocked by making the right moves in the right sequence.
It’s a great system to use. This new addition pushes you to use abilities and combinations you probably wouldn’t use before as you experiment with an attack, guard, and special moves in a bid to unlock further abilities.
What’s especially important to note is that although the bosses in this game are far smaller than the giants in the first game, they exhibit huge health-draining attacks and self-healing abilities requiring players to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their party and use and experiment with strategies to take them down.
So for each night, your tasks become longer and trickier as you explore areas of the map you couldn’t reach before that become unlocked with progress through the story. The combat side and map exploration is a complete joy with new areas available containing keys to open previously inaccessible gateways and new weapons and gear to find.
Your progress is temporarily hindered though from early on with a sudden encounter with the mysterious shimmer man. This hugely powerful entity can kill you with one touch and often appears without warning. You have no option left but to run away each time in a Mary Skelter type mini exercise and its inclusion does ramp up sudden tension and instils each night run with a good degree of apprehension.
From the night comes the day, and from a gameplay experience that got better with each excursion, my only bugbear was with a few issues within the Academy.
For most parts, the dialogue particularly surrounding the story events is very engaging and carries enough deliciously dark entertainment akin to a tense psychological and supernatural thriller. Which is a credit to writer Makoto Kedouin for constantly ramping up tension and suspense by the bucket loads!
Aside from that though, there’s a lot of seemingly uninteresting and unnecessary dialogue that seems like filler conversation just to keep the novel aspect in line with the gameplay.
It happens quite early on. A major storyline event followed the next day by a complete day just saying “hi” to every student. A third of the way through the story and some “events” include “a girl with an insect on her shoulder” and “a girl who writes questions on a piece of paper” which is the event and nothing else!
This probably wouldn’t have been so noticeable if the game made some time to present the student characters in full screen and not every character appearing in a small box in the bottom left-hand corner.
Apart from the main characters, with some fine voice acting, there’s very little to get the reader involved and invested in the personality of the other student characters. So much so that when students disappear it’s very difficult to work out who they are and with little but a few lines of conversation and a box picture, it’s very difficult to even care.
An opportunity missed when a greater investment and depth into each character would have given the major storyline events a lot more impact.
As regards the first game, this sequel has addressed most of the little gripes I had with it. The save system is fine, and the difficulty rises with each new area you discover.
The multiple-choice question is here but no more Russian roulette with choices affecting the storyline and not finishing your game.
On the visuals side, everything has been improved and the performance has never been flagged at any point.
Developers have presented the game with its usual style and slick presentation and with the persona style take on the visual novel side, this game feels more like a full game rather than a hybrid of two genres.
With 17-20 hours to complete the story, there’s a good reason to come back again with an extra difficulty mode and easter eggs and extra story threads to increase replayability.
The only issue outstanding is the price. Whilst the first game comes in at almost half the price at $30, Death End; ReQuest 2 is at $50.
Playing both I don’t see a big difference in content for this game’s high price tag and although you can play it as a separate stand-alone story without the first. I’d highly recommend that if it’s gifted or on sale that by all means, play the sequel. As a first-time buyer, get the cheaper game first!
Thanks to Idea Factory / Compile Heart.