NEO THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU Review: The End Of The World Is A Pretty Good Time — GameTyrant (2023)

Square Enix is well-known for making some of the weirdest and most genre-bending video games in the industry. From Final Fantasy to Kingdom Hearts their pedigree speaks for itself. But one little chestnut has sat in their back catalog for over a decade, and now, fourteen years later, this long-dormant franchise has finally returned.

I’m talking, of course, about Neo The World Ends With You (NTWEWY), a sequel to the cult classic The World Ends With You (TWEWY). Set three years after the events of the original game, NTWEWY follows a new group of characters as they find themselves trapped in a Reapers’ Game in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. New enemies, familiar allies, and a cataclysmic threat come together in this surprising and enjoyable follow-up.

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NTWEWY tells the story of Rindo Kanade, a high school student who coasts through life with an apathetic personality. Along with his friend, Fret, Rindo finds himself suddenly thrust into the middle of the Reapers’ Game almost by accident. Before long Rindo and Fret are battling ferocious monsters known as the Noise and squaring off with rival teams like the Variabeauties and the Purehearts.

The goal of the game is to beat the other teams to the top of the leaderboards; claim the top spot for the week and you get to leave the game and go home. Rindo, Fret, and the ragtag group of characters they pick up along the way are desperate to dethrone the reigning champs, the Ruinbringers, and get back to the RG and their lives.

Where NTWEWY excels is in the delivery of its characters. Every character brings a unique perspective and personality that carry the story through some of its weaker moments. The vocal performances are top-notch, breathing life into these well-written and delightful characters.

The standouts among the wide cast are Rindo and Shoka, a Reaper who quickly becomes a central part of the story. Their story and the development each of the characters undergoes, offered some of the most exciting moments I’ve had in gaming all year.

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The characterizations are all so great, which makes the lack of development for much of the secondary cast a bit of a disappointment. One villain introduced early on in the game doesn’t do anything until much later on, and her emotional hook feels sloppy and rushed.

True-to-form for an RPG there are a plethora of side quests to embark on, but they’re rarely anything more than a façade for a progression system. Very few of the side missions offer any interesting story beats, instead choosing to focus on tertiary, background characters that have no bearing on the main plot.

Ultimately I found the central storyline to be moving and exciting if a bit predictable at times. There are more than few story moments that had me on the edge of my seat, and while the game treads water a bit in the middle it really turns up the heat for the final act.

And for those fans looking for a continuation of the first game’s story there’s plenty here for you, too. While it definitely charts its own course, NTWEWY does a decent job of tying up those fourteen-year-old loose ends.

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NTWEWY has one of the more divisive gameplay styles of any game I’ve played in recent memory. The basic combat flow has a solid base: each character in your party is assigned to a specific button, and different pins (NTWEWY’s spin on weapons) require different types of input. Some are rapid fire while others require you to charge them up before releasing a massive attack.

There are over 300 different pins to find and I only managed to get about half of those in a complete playthrough, so there’s a staggering amount of variety. Some pins evolve into other, more powerful versions of themselves, while others can only be bought or looted from enemies on the game’s higher difficulties.

While combat has the capacity to be strategic and varied across different enemy types and pin combos, it felt more often than not that battles devolved into a simple scramble to dole out large heaps of damage in a short amount of time. Battles could become so chaotic that it was all I could do just to keep track of which party member I was in control of at any particular moment.

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As hectic as the battles could be, few enemies gave me pause on the Hard difficulty. It wasn’t until the final section of the game that standard battles started to feel challenging, and that difficulty spike was dramatic and more than a little frustrating.

Outside of combat there are several different systems that factor into your characters’ progression. Eating is the only way to natively boost your stats, something you’ll need to pay close attention to if grinding is your thing. There are also threads, NTWEWY’s take on armor that come with stats and hidden abilities you unlock by raising your style points.

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All of this would be overwhelming if the game just threw them at you from the start, but it does a good job of slowly introducing them gradually as the game goes on. It all comes together to give you control over how your characters develop and make grinding feel more deliberate. If you want your party to all have high HP and Attack you can go for exactly those foods and threads to build out the team of your dreams.

Arguably the most important progression system, though, is the Social Network. A web of contacts that includes just about every character in the game, the Social Network is the only way to unlock some pretty basic features like difficulty options or more complex ones like the ability to equip two pins on the same button.

It can be fun to unlock new nodes and try out the new abilities, but something about it feels half-baked. It almost feels like NTWEWY’s answer to Persona 5’s confidant system, albeit one sorely lacking in terms of character development. It would have been nice to see this system expanded to flesh out some of the characters a bit more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the soundtrack for this game. It rules. It absolutely rules. There are so many great songs throughout this game and it is a crime that the soundtrack isn’t available to stream anywhere yet. You can buy discs in the game itself to play your favorites whenever you’d like, but I’d really love to just jam out in the car or while cleaning the house.

There’s no set style to the music either. It flips from pop to punk to hard rock without ever feeling dissonant, and while there are a few songs that tend to get a bit repetitive you can change whatever song is playing in the overworld by simply opening and closing the pause menu.

It’s no surprise the music is as good as it is, as both games in the series use sound as a central theme. Rindo’s best friend goes by the nickname Fret, after all. And the monsters you fight are literally called Noise; the game never really tries to hide its devotion to music.

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Neo The World Ends With You is a surprising game in more than a few ways. Coming out fourteen years to the day since The World Ends With You’s release, NTWEWY offers something for both new and returning fans alike, telling a story that brings new and exciting characters to the fore while also tying up loose ends leftover from the original game.

While not all of its characters are well-served nor are all of its mechanics entirely necessary or well-used, overall NTWEWY delivers a remarkable experience that kept me hooked through the majority of its roughly 30 hour run time.

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