Review: World End Economica Episode.02

Last year, Sekai Project brought Spicy Tails’ episodic visual novel series World End Economica to Steam. Well, the first episode, anyway. The introductory chapter told the story of a young stock market prodigy by the name of Haru. Despite his vast intelligence, or perhaps because of it, he proved to be a completely abhorrent protagonist with few redeeming qualities. Video games don’t need to always focus on “perfect” people, but the storyline didn’t jive with me at the time. A year later, World End Economica Episode.02 has finally launched. It brings with it a continuation of the storyline, as well as a matured Haru.

It’s important to note that if you did not play Episode.01 then you will be missing out on a massive part of the storyline in Episode.02. They do directly connect — and are working toward the conclusion in Episode.03. Don’t let the concept of this episode occurring “four years later” make it seem as if it’s a completely fresh start. In any case, this review will proceed with the assumption that you know the ending of the first chapter. Spoilers for the current episode will be revealed, of course.

Need to be reminded about the storyline since many of us last played World End Economica a year ago now? Episode.01 ended with tragedy for Haru and all those around him. Not only did he listen to Barton’s insider trading advice, but it resulted in a complete obliteration of his funds in an instant. Now it was impossible for him to realize his dream, save those around him, or even show Hagana that he truly cared for her. Instead, he had completely avoided her advice in the pursuit of childish greed. What happened as the result of this massive mistake? That’s what we discover as Episode.02 kicks into gear.

Haru, as well as his friends Chris, Risa, and Cerrow are all still living on the Lunar surface but they basically had to rebuild their lives due to Haru. But he wasn’t left unscathed either. Right after his monumental failure, the shock caused his body to become completely paralyzed for a good long while.

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During this time, Chris stayed by his side and helped so that finally Haru could walk again with only the assistance of a cane. As you might expect, this left the fellow with a lot of time to reflect and think about the past. Even so, it appears Haru has still failed to come to terms fully with what occurred those years back. What of Hagana? She disappeared mysteriously right after this all transpired.

Life has become quite different for Haru. Now he fears the stock market and has a work scholarship at a dull government job which doesn’t challenge him in the least. Chris has now proved her genius and gotten into to college, and Risa and Cerrow exist in the periphery as guiding characters rather than a big force this time around. For whatever reason, the stock market/business has also grown as a more important story element. Now, instead of simply providing a general stock market backdrop for Haru to play in, there are actually business issues, interests, and conspiracies working through everything. We also see many aspects which will sting both Japan and United States-based players with familiarity. For example, gentrification is running rampant on the Lunar surface. Not only that, but it appears everyone is rushing toward a housing collapse, much akin to the housing crisis in the U.S. or the asset price bubble in Japan.

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Because the world feels more real, it’s far easier to get involved in the storyline that World End Economica Episode.02 tells. Of course, it also helps that Haru and company have matured into characters who you actually want to see succeed. It is near the start of the game that Haru basically receives an invitation back into the world of investing from a wealthy woman named Eleanor. With her assistance, he’ll be able to invest again — but with her goals in mind. This leads them both into a tremendously new dramatic story arc that intertwines well with Lunar businesses. There are still interpersonal problems Haru must deal with as well, such as the longstanding crush that Chris has for him. Haru grows once again in this chapter, but not without facing a great deal of challenges along the way.

The art style seems improved a bit over the original episode, but there wasn’t much wrong with those visuals either. Musically, World End Economica hits a high point as the soundtrack is just plain excellent. Please note that there is absolutely no voice acting, though. The best change from a mechanical standpoint to me is that the translation and localization work has improved immensely. Something about Episode.01 just felt like a weird literal translation while now it flows far better. There are also very few typos to speak of and presumably they’ll be removed with a patch.

It’s worth noting that Episode.02 is a shorter visual novel overall. Most players report it at about a 2 hour difference from the first. For most, you should be able to beat this episode at anywhere from 6 to 9 hours depending on your reading speed. As with the first, there are no choices to be had in this game either. This is a kinetic visual novel with a very specific storyline being told and choices would hinder that authorship. Some may dislike that, but they probably wouldn’t be interested in jumping into World End Economica’s latest release anyhow. Players who felt confused by the economic concept focus before will be pleased to know there is far less of it here, though various stock market principles are still discussed as pivotal points. It’s definitely not a visual novel to everyone’s tastes.

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Closing Comments:

Episode.02 improves on Episode.01 in basically every way possible. It reunites us with characters who have grown over the past four years into truly intriguing protagonists, rather than one dimensional annoyances. Not only that, but the backdrop of this world actually feels believable with its similarities to real world events such as market bubbles and accounting scandals. With that said, some may feel the storyline is all a bit too contrived. When you step back and look at it, it’s kind of hard to disagree — but if you get into the world then you’re in for quite the roller coaster ride. This chapter might be shorter than the first, but it brings us to yet another climactic event by its conclusion. Sekai Project needs to work quick, as it’s going to be a tough wait to discover what happens next in World End Economica.