Games that are about economics, particularly the stock market, don’t exactly sound like bestsellers. The material an economics-themed game is based on is heavy, and a game runs the risk of either going too deep or not deep enough, alienating players in both scenarios.
World End Economica Episode 1 takes the premise of modern-day economics – the stock market – and packages it in the story of a young teenager and his dream versus life.
This is not your standard visual novel. Don’t think of Danganronpa or Zero Escape; there are no choices, no branching narratives. The scenario is written by Isuna Hasekura, author of the Spice and Wolf series of novels: the player is here to read a story. Hal’s story.
World End Economica is told entirely from the perspective of one Yoshiharu Kawaura, nicknamed “Hal” (probably a poor localization choice for “Haru”). Hal is a 16-year-old runaway with 70,000 mools (future currency) to his name and a knack for playing the stock market.
Set in the future when the moon has been colonized, Hal’s only goal in life is to make billions to “be on the forefront of humanity.” His dream is everything, and he figures investing in the stock market as a day trader on the moon is his best bet.
World End Economica makes no assumptions about the reader. The stock market plays a huge role in the narrative, and what the player needs to know is explained in an accessible way without being condescending. Discussing economics of the moon and future world, Hal’s viewpoint of the world is mature for his age, though he is still a child through and through.
Hal as a character and protagonist is perfect. At the front of World End Economica are Hal’s thoughts and feelings on everything, so it is critical for the game that he be interesting. And he is; though mature for his age, he continuously acts in ways a child would and often berates himself for doing so – sometimes in the middle of it, as though helpless in his immaturity.
This never goes too far. Hal’s personality are not all products of his teenage rebellious years, and his temper, kind nature, and worldview all complement his humanity. He’s flawed and he knows it. His most likeable point isn’t that he’s a great guy; he’s not. Instead, he’s a human. He has his dream, his goals, and he pursues them at all costs. He often reacts poorly or hastily to things, and makes mistakes freely.
His counterparts in the story are also quite well-developed (no pun intended). The main heroines Lisa and Hagana have problems of their own, and their interactions with Hal create wonderful drama. Minor characters like Chris the delivery boy/girl and Serrault seem small at first, but even their roles grow as the story develops.
The narrative is one of World End Economica Episode 1’s strongest points. Driven primarily by Hal and the pursuit of his dream, he slowly but surely is drawn into the complications in his acquaintances’ lives. It’s masterfully done, keeping the reader firmly behind Hal’s perspective and experiencing the twists and breaking points on those terms.
And here is where World End Economica truly surprises: it is one hell of an emotional game. It certainly doesn’t start out that way. And it takes its time to tell its story. But it builds its moments slowly, carefully, manipulating the reader’s feelings until they’re right in the bull’s eye before firing.
Art-wise the game is solid, though somewhat lacking in variety. Background images are incredibly beautiful, though they don’t vary often. Special “event” images are very well done; character sprites as well fit perfectly, though again the variety in their expressions is limited.
As for sound, the game is a silent one – neither Japanese nor English voices. Music is the only audio, but it too fits the moods and moments of the game well. Compounding on every emotion, it makes sure the reader remembers every rush of success and crushing defeat along with Hal.
World End Economica Episode 1 is incredible. It might not be the most interactive of visual novels, but it’s one of the best-written out there. With intricate detail, fascinating characters, and a heart-pounding eye-watering story, it’ll make you beg for more.
[+Extremely well-written] [+Great characters] [+Pretty art] [+Stock market as a plot device used perfectly] [-Backgrounds and sprite expressions lack variety]