In 2007, Square Enix and Jupiter teamed up to release The World Ends With You on the Nintendo DS. Designed to take full advantage of the unique features of the Nintendo DS, this action RPG features an innovative combat system that requires players to keep their attention on both the top and bottom screens. Its intense combat combined with a compelling story and a blockbuster soundtrack has made The World End With You one of the most critically acclaimed games on the Nintendo DS system. Now, 14 years after TWEWY launched in Japan, Square Enix has finally released a sequel, NEO: The World Ends With You.
NEO: The World Ends With You may have been released 14 years after the original game, but the story takes place just three years later. Or, more precisely, three years after the events of “A New Day”, this is additional story content added in The World Ends With You: Final Remix on Nintendo Switch. It’s safe to say that some people who played the original but probably didn’t pick up the re-release, so they might get a little lost on certain plot points in the later hours.
NEO initially focused on new characters, so even those who never played the original DS games will have no trouble picking up the plot. The main character is Rindo Kanade, who finds himself in a game of grim reaper with his friend Fret and others who live in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Reaper’s gameplay is a bit different this time around, as players can form larger teams and work together instead of two-person squads. Going into too much detail about what Reaper’s game actually is would risk entering spoiler territory, especially for those who haven’t played the first TWEWY, but anyone confused will find the answer in the game itself.
While The World Is With You has a rather engaging plot that is fantastical but still accessible, NEO: The World Is With You has some serious narrative issues. At first, the problem was that the story was boring and mostly told through comic book-like panels that might work on a Nintendo DS but felt cheap to play on a home console like the PlayStation 4. There are some impressive animations, and almostSpider-Man: goes into Spider-Man-style cutscenes that look great, but they’re rare. Meanwhile, those who are well versed in the original TWEWY plot may find it particularly difficult to progress through the game’s opening chapters, as NEO takes forever to introduce basic concepts returning players are already familiar with.
At least 10 hours of playing NEO: The World Ends With You is required to get the story going. After that, there are plenty of surprising twists and turns to keep players on their toes, and it manages to capture what made the original so special. The first 10 hours completely lack the emotional stakes and sense of urgency that existed in the original game, but the sequel finally delivers on that–it just takes a long time to do so.
The 10 hour mark is also when NEO: The World Ends With You gets better from a gameplay standpoint. Since a dual-screen battle system is practically impossible on TV, NEO: The World Is With You changes things up by having more parties of characters, each with their own “pin,” which basically translates to attacking or Magic Power. Each of these pins has its own specific input and is controlled by a cooldown timer. So, a pin could be assigned to Fret and activated using the triangle button, while Rindo could have a pin activated using R2. Pins can also be active at the same time, which adds another layer of strategy to combat.
Players can do most of the game with keystrokes if they want to, but if they approach things more strategically, they will find the combat more satisfying. Players have the occasional opportunity to build up their special attack meter by hitting enemies with follow-up attacks, but if they keep pressing the keys, they may find themselves without pins available. Figuring out which pins work well together and how attacks should be timed will ensure players are more successful when fighting the game’s “noise” enemies.
“Noise” is the main enemy in NEO: The World Ends With You, usually in the form of animal-like monsters. There is some noise that players are forced to fight, but the vast majority of combat can be completely ignored. NEO: The world dies with you Instead of using a random encounter system for its combat, it gives players the option to fight random noise in the field when they want. Getting new pins and upgrades is definitely worth it, but those who want to focus on completing the story can do so.
The problem with the first 10 hours of combat in NEO: The World Ends With You is that players have limited parties. For most of the chapters in the initial stages of the game, players are limited to two or three playable characters. This severely limits NEO: The World Ends With You’s code system, making combat tedious; players often find themselves running around waiting for their pins to recharge. As the game progresses, more and more people join the party, and each new party member means another pin that can be used in battle, making everything even more exciting.
About a third of the way through the game, NEO: The World Ends With You becomes a lot of fun as players master their favorite pins and destroy wave after wave of noise. Players can take the time to upgrade their overall level as well as each individual pin, which encourages players to try new pins after they have fully upgraded the pins they have been using. Combat maintains this high level of quality once it does, and while it may not be as innovative as the original game’s dual-screen gimmick, it’s still pretty unique in the action RPG realm. NEO: There is a glitch with some pins where The World Ends With You character gets stuck in a floating T-pose, but this is easily avoidable, otherwise the fight is highly polished.
Much of the NEO: revolves around its combat system, which is a good thing because the rest of the gameplay is a mixed bag. The way the game is set up to repeatedly guide the player through the same areas in each chapter, it sometimes feels like the developers are trying to artificially lengthen the experience. Some areas are blocked off arbitrarily, forcing players to take different routes, which makes them travel farther to reach the next objective.
This problem is exacerbated by the time travel mechanic of NEO: The World Ends With You. Each character in the game has their own psychic powers that help advance the story. These abilities are interesting from a narrative standpoint, but their use in the game is always predetermined and scripted. Rindo’s powers allow him to travel back in time, which means that in those chapters, players will not only travel through areas they’ve already traveled through, but also travel through the same areas multiple times in the same chapter. Sometimes even reading the exact same dialogue with only minor differences.
Time Travel With You in the NEO: world is a puzzle where the player has to figure out how to change the future, which doesn’t actually happen. All the player really has to do is tap each area and hit dialogue. So all the time travel is done makes the game more repetitive than it already is and forces the player to do more backtracking.
A quality of life improvement was introduced – again, at around the 10 hour mark – which made all game rewinds more tolerable, as it allowed players to traverse cities much more quickly. This is a useful addition, as there isn’t much in Shibuya itself worth engaging with NEO: The World Ends With You aside from the main story and side quests. Side quests are definitely worth doing, as they earn players “friend points” that can be used to level up the social networking tree for various rewards.
Players can also earn rewards by purchasing food and buying new clothes. Buying new clothes is worth it for boosting stats, though it’s a bit disappointing that characters’ appearance doesn’t change based on the clothing items they’ve equipped. After all, certain areas of Shibuya favor certain clothing brands, and there’s an entire game mechanic about promoting brands’ reputations, so one would think those brands would have actual representation on characters.
Some people will be disappointed that the clothes they buy for their characters in NEO: The World Ends With You don’t actually appear on the clothes, but many will be content to collect many clothes. NEO: The World Ends With You is content-rich, allowing players to unlock tons of clothes, music tracks, pins, and more. It’s a story mode that takes about 25-30 hours to complete, with lots of side quests, special fights to find, and some endgame content. Players can easily return to old chapters at any time, making 100% completion an even more attractive prospect.
As players of NEO: The World Ends With You are filling out their wardrobes, exploring the streets of Shibuya, and battling the constant noise, they’re in for an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. First-time TWEWY composer Takeharu Ishimoto returns for NEO with another catchy score filled with upbeat techno and pop songs. Even the music for the pause menu is memorable, so it’s no surprise to see the audio design of the NEO: The World Ends With You scooping up some awards at the end of the year.
NEO: The World Ends With You offers players a great soundtrack and tons of content, and once the battle rings out, it’s a real good time. However, that comes with the caveat that players have to put in about 10 hours before the game really starts to be fun, and then they still have to deal with its repetitiveness. So as long as fans can live with the issues, they’ll get a lot of playtime out of NEO: The World Ends With You.
NEO: The World Ends With You will launch on July 27th for PS4 and Switch, with a PC version also in development. Game Rant provided the PS4 code for this review.