Viz Media, primarily known for its prominent work in the
anime and manga spaces, recently announced its foray into the gaming world. Its
partnership with Rose City Games begins with a supernatural narrative action-puzzler called The World Next Door.
You play as Jun, a teen girl in a parallel world that houses
magical creatures. After visiting the realm, she becomes trapped when a plan
backfires. The group of characters from that realm reveal to her that humans
cannot survive longer than a few days in that realm, and the quest to find a
way out begins.
The segment I played had me interacting with a colorful cast
of demons and other creatures who live in this parallel world. As I ready
for battle, I interact with them through choice-driven, often humorous dialogue. From choosing
how to react to bad news or a new challenge, to deciding whether I should
accept a beer from one of these creatures, how I react affects my relationships
with these characters.
These bonds can have effects within the combat gameplay,
which mashes up real-time action with a match-three puzzle game. The arena is
littered with different colored tiles. As you move Jun around, you press a
button to bind with the tile. Once bound, you can swap that tile with any other
tile on the board with a press of a button. Once three or more of the same tile
are connected, you can press a button to activate their power. Each color tile
delivers different attacks; the yellow tiles send a stunning shock that hits
every nearby character, green set up a healing effect, purple casts a void
area-of-effect spell, and red blasts fireballs.
The more tiles are matched up upon activation, the stronger
the spell. In addition, since the characters are running around on the board,
you have to be strategic with when you activate these spells; the attacks are
easily dodged by a skilled player or A.I. If you have a strong
relationship with a character in your party, that character may assist you in
some way during battle. I didn’t see that mechanic in action, but I like how
your narrative choices can influence the combat mechanics.
I enjoyed my time with The World Next Door. It seems to
capture the anime spirit that Viz is so synonymous with, while combining
distinct genres in unique ways. I’m excited to learn more
about The World Next Door, as my short hands-on demo was hardly enough to fully
understand the scope of what this game is trying to accomplish. The
title is currently set to launch on PC with an unspecified release window.