Death end re;Quest is a brutal game. An MMORPG was shut down, but hacked somewhere along the way. One of the debuggers went missing in the real world, but in actuality has been trapped inside of the game for a full year. Death is everywhere in a virtual wasteland where corruption runs rampant and everything shouldn’t still exist. But it does, leaving a sense of hope. Shina, the heroine, believes that she can survive, even though some of it could be the programming that initially caused her to lose her memory and believe she was a normal denizen of this world. Arata, her fellow programmer in the real world, suspects he can cheat the system, literally, to save the day. While things seem critical, the way the game plays with expectations and genres helps elevate an overbearing atmosphere and lighten the load each character must bear. It also helps us deal with situations in what may be optimal ways.
The meat of Death end re;Quest is the RPG. While World’s Odyssey, the game within the game, was supposed to be a VR MMO, Shina went missing and it was closed. The servers were supposed to be offline. But, when the game begins, we are in this forgotten place. It is very obviously broken. Areas’ textures warp, characters are corrupted and glitching and it is completely barren. It looks like an MMO at the end of its lifespan. The dungeons aren’t elaborate, but you could see staples that would have fit in more rudimentary versions of games like Final Fantasy XI. It helps set the atmosphere, as it hammers home how abandoned these lands are. Even though dungeons are the only time we get to explore, the rudimentary environments there help set the tone.
The turn-based battles call to mind the Neptunia series of RPGs, with the three party members able to move around the field, select attacks or abilities and go after enemies. There are differences, such as the Triact that lets you choose which three actions you use when taking action on a turn, but it feels familiar. Especially with the Glitch Mode that allows corrupted characters to transform into temporarily overpowered heroes who could suffer from negative effects (and definitely suffer from egregious fanservice outfits). But overall, it is familiar. It relies on the battles we have known for years, allowing people to take comfort in the familiarity and know that if enough effort is put in, things could work out.
Investigation segments bring in visual novel elements. When Shina is discussing her situation with Arata in the real world or her new virtual allies, we get to see a lot of exposition where characters work things out, expound on the nature of the world and generally take the time to fight back against the odds. Given the nature of Death end re;Quest, this can go wrong. But more often than not, we see characters hoping and fighting back. With Arata, all of his real world examinations are visual novel segments where he’s attempting to discern the truth behind the situation. In each case, the two heroes are dealing with a lot of information, and going with the visual novel approach is the most efficient way to handle things.
As for the Battle Jack Install Genre ability, it is about showing the opportunities a world like Death end re;Quest would allow. Anything is possible for Arata, as someone who helped make the game and is not bound by its rules. When he uses Battle Jack in a fight, one of the options is Install Genre. This completely changes gameplay in one of six different ways. Billiards plays with the knockback idea present in the typical battle system, except with an overhead view and pockets that can damage them. Going with the puzzle option lets you try and match green blocks to deal damage to enemies and avoiding chaining yellow so your strength isn’t lowered. In general, some of these are hit or miss. The fighting game option works really well, since it changes things to a 2D fight against enemies. Others feel more chance-based, such as bringing a slot machine into the field. Even when it doesn’t work, having the possibility is what helps Death end re;Quest‘s message of doing whatever it takes to succeed come through.
Death end re;Quest is about survival. Shina and Arata are willing to do anything to help the programmer escape from the corrupted game. The game’s design helps emphasize different elements. The RPG portions show an abandoned world on the brink of deletion. The turn-based battle system gives us something familiar to work with. Visual novel segments make it easier to handle an influx of information. Even switching the game genres in a fight helps, showing how hope and creativity can appear even when things seem depressing. While the situation is critical, there is still hope.