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Game Info:

WORLD END ECONOMiCA 
Developed By: Spicy Tails
Published By: Sekai Project
Release Date: December 21, 2016
Available On: Windows, macOS, Linux (macOS/Linux Ep1 only for now) (PSVita/PS4 coming in 2017)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Kinetic Visual Novel
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $35.07

Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this trilogy to review!

WORLD END ECONOMiCA is rather unique among visual novels as far as I can tell. Rather than being a typical high school drama (though the characters do start out as teens), it grows into a much deeper tale, filled with lots and lots of economics.  For a short time, I worked at a trading firm in Chicago, and I was blown away with the incredible amount of accurate detail that the writers included, not only in depicting the technical aspects of stock trading, but also what kind of personalities succeed in that field.

This is a kinetic visual novel, which means that there are no choices.  This kind of visual novel is most like a book, as there are no branching paths at all, and are simply story beginning to end.  There is high quality artwork that covers up most of the screen, with text overlaid on the bottom third.  Sometimes the characters' expressions can change, but it's mostly static images on each scene.  It's a system that has been common in visual novels for many years, and works well here.  Each episode is between ten and fifteen hours long, and is both a self contained story, and a longer arc that spans episodes. There is no reason to start anywhere but at the beginning.

Episode one starts off with the main character, Yoshiharu Kawaura, having run away from home to pursue his dream of earning the means to be one of the first people to set foot on yet another extraterrestrial body: Mars.  You see, Yoshiharu was born on the moon, in a future where we built a space elevator from the Earth to the moon, and also built a climate controlled dome over the Sea of Tranquility.  The moon has become a paradise for those who desire profit above all else.  As a self governing utopia, the taxes are extremely low, and regulations are nearly non-existent.  In many ways, it's the ultimate expression of capitalism, as even the dome and essential life support systems are corporate owned.

His family are Japanese immigrants who came to the moon with the first wave of settlers, and set up a farm on the lunar surface.  Seeing the wealth and prosperity of those in the trading world, he felt compelled to leave his home on the edge of the lunar dome and head towards the center, where the real money is.  When he compared the amount of money that he could make doing hourly labor with what he could earn with stocks, it was no contest.  Rather than making nine mools an hour and barely making it, he could potentially earn millions with the only possession he had that mattered – his laptop.  Via online trading, he could make money anywhere he had an internet connection.

WORLD END ECONOMiCA
Highlights:

Strong Points: Deep, engaging storyline; fantastic characters; makes something as boring as economics fun; positive view of Christianity; great moral lessons; shows what true love and friendship is
Weak Points: Some name inconsistency between episodes; typos
Moral Warnings: Some sexual situations (but no sex); curse words, including '*ss', 'sh*t', 'b*tch', 'b*st*rd', 'p*ss off', 'f*ck', 'hell'; alcohol consumption, including by a minor; tobacco use (Note: Most moral issues are in episode one. Episodes two and three are comparatively tame.)

It turns out he is very skilled at trading, and it doesn't take him long to prove it.  He has earned over seventy thousand mools on the stock market in a mere three months living out of an internet cafe, with only the two thousand in seed money that he stole from his parents to get him started.  Not too surprisingly, this led to his runaway.  Unlike on Earth, where there are so many people that some can be lost in the cracks, the police on the moon catalog every person, and even if caught for a petty reason, they will be sent home to their parents.  So Yoshiharu was constantly eating, sleeping, trading, and avoiding police.

His life began to change once he was rescued from a police chase by someone who turns out to be a nun from a nearby church.  Being one of the very few Christians on the moon, Yoshiharu is rather shocked to meet one.  She takes in desperate runaways as part of her ministry and helps them get back on their feet again.  She is relatively young and idealistic, but is very wise beyond her years and really helps people out with her wonderful example of unconditional love.

Lisa/Risa (more on that in a bit) gives Yoshiharu the nickname Hal (since using his real name would more likely lead to capture).  She also was taking care of a girl about his age called Hagana, who is a brilliant mathematical genius, who tutors others in order to help keep the church running.  Much of the first episode deals with getting to know each other, building and developing skills as people and in trading, and helping others.

The second episode takes place four years after the first.  Much has happened, both good and tragic, and Hal/Haru (again, more on that in a bit) has learned a lot about himself and growing up.  He has made some wonderful friends, and has the opportunity of a lifetime.  His upstanding moral character, and desire to see justice prevail at almost any cost, grants him the chance, at much personal risk, to expose a massive fraud going on.  This gains him much fame and notoriety throughout both the lunar surface, and even back on Earth.

The third episode takes place four years after the second.  Hal has become much more settled into a good life, though not without regrets.  But their world is about to be rocked by a massive systemic financial crisis that is awfully similar to the sub prime mortgage crisis that hit the USA in 2008.  It's not only a great lesson in history if you pick up on the similarities, but a fantastic conclusion to this very engaging tale of friendship, love, and lots and lots of mools.

Despite the many positive things to say about this story, there are a few negatives worth pointing out.  First, and probably most obvious, is that the episodes are not consistent with each other.  The names of several characters change between episodes.  For episode 1/2/3, we have: Hal/Haru/Hal, Lisa/Risa/Risa, and Serrault/Cerrow/Cerrow that don't match.  Thankfully, the rest are consistent, but those three are oddly out of place.  Honestly I prefer their episode one names the most out of them all.  Hopefully, before the PS4/Vita version script is finalized for release in 2017, they will update the text on the PC version as well to make them all consistent, and fix some of the typos I found.  

WORLD END ECONOMiCA
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability/Polish - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 83%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

They are currently also in the process of converting the series to Ren'Py, which is an open source visual novel engine that supports many platforms.  Episode one is currently complete, which is why it's available on Windows, macOS, and Linux.  I do hope that they figure out their music looping issues however, as episode one would occasionally have a song end abruptly and start again, while the others didn't have that issue.  The developers have been posting updates to all three episodes, so hopefully this gets resolved soon enough.  Also, Steam Cloud sure would be nice.

Also, appropriateness in this story is kind of tricky.  In one sense, it never crosses the line in many ways, so there are no sexual encounters depicted here, which is a relief.  In other ways, what goofiness and tension there is, is almost completely frontloaded into episode one; the other two do have romantic moments, but are handled in a more mature fashion.  Despite this, even what there is in episode one is handled tactfully and for full story impact.  For example, one character passes by you in her underwear, and you even get a screenshot to prove it.  And there is a moment described (nothing shown) where she obliviously goes into her room through the hall without anything on.  This stops once Lisa gives her a good scolding.  It does set up her character for later though, as you learn more about her background.  The story touches upon mature topics like child slavery, self worth, tragedy and betrayal, and what real love looks like.  There are moments where Hal shares a bed with a girl, but it is non-sexual; they hold hands.

There are most curse words present, though they are mostly handled in realistic ways.  In episode one, where most of them occur, Hal is a bit of a punk at 16 years old, so his foul mouth is somewhat understandable.  As he matures, those words are very rare, with one exception that is so tormented and understandable even I might curse if I found myself in that situation – and I say this as someone who typically puts years in between slip-ups.  Overall foul language use is very rare.  I noted '*ss', 'sh*t', 'b*tch', 'b*st*rd', 'p*ss off', 'f*ck', and 'hell'.  

Lisa is a good role model most of the time.  She says she is not there to convert others, and the story never quite comes out and says she converted anyone, but Hal and some of the other characters start off as being atheists eventually become those who seem to accept that there may be a God with a plan for them as the story goes on.  Some characters even give sacrificially from their own earnings to help out the church.  I was very pleased with how Christianity is portrayed overall, as looking out for others first, showing real love, and self sacrifice are all well portrayed.  Also shown is grace under pressure, forgiveness, and compassion while keeping clear and healthy boundaries.  Well, except for lap pillows.  For some reason, it's a bit of a running joke that she allows her closest friends to use her lap as a pillow.  That, and for some reason, the writer didn't think a nun would know that the story of Noah's Ark isn't a myth or legend, but that it's in the Bible.

Another area where Lisa slips up in (my opinion, I know this is cultural) is that during a serious and difficult conversation, she offers the underage Hal some liquor to drink.  When they are older, they also celebrate a college entrance for another with alcohol as well.  Hal generally, but not exclusively, avoids alcohol. Other characters smoke tobacco as well.

WORLD END ECONOMiCA -Complete- really blew me away.  I have enjoyed other visual novels before, and I'm not ready to say this is now my favorite or anything, but after looking at the premise, and honestly not expecting much from a VN about economics, I was very pleasantly surprised.  It took the complex and seemingly tedious world of modern finance and not only made it very interesting, but wrapped a very human story around it that shows that finance not only matters, but can have a real and lasting impact on society.  It also gives us the negative impact that loving money over what is truly important can have in a life – but if there is humility and forgiveness, it's never too late for a second chance.  Bravo, Spicy Tails/Sekai Project.  Well done.  Nevertheless, given the content I describe above, it's not for children.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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