Hits the streets of Shibuya once more as you have to survive the Reaper’s Game for a second time in NEO: The World Ends With You.
We had to wait no less than 14 years, but finally it’s here. The Nintendo 3DS cult classic The World Ends With You has received a sequel. The success of the Kingdom Hearts series is the main reason we had to wait so long. After all, both titles were made by largely the same team. With the conclusion of this series behind us, it was high time for the team to re-enter the world of The World Ends With You. Meanwhile, the title has been kept alive with a mobile port, a Nintendo Switch remaster, and an anime released earlier this year.
What made the original The World Ends With You so great was a striking combination of a refreshing setting, a captivating story, fascinating characters, a great soundtrack and creative gameplay. Without giving too much away, The World Ends With You is set in modern-day Shibuya, Tokyo, where you play as Neku who finds himself in a deadly game that he is forced to play called the Reaper's Game. In this second installment, you take part in this deadly game again, but this time we follow two teenagers, Rindo Kanade and Tosai "Fret" Furesawa, who end up in the same game. Fans of the game will be pleased to see many of the ingredients that made the original so successful have been reintroduced, although of course a lot of new elements are introduced, including a full 3D world and a control scheme without touch controls.
Play to survive
In NEO: The World Ends With You (TWEWY), you take on the role of Rindo, who must participate in the Reaper's Game with his best friend Fret after they both acquire a pin and strange events suddenly occurs in Shibuya. They soon learn the rules of the game and find out that it is important to forge alliances, yet at the same time, you can't trust just anyone. The only way to escape is to finish first in the game after seven days. For this you have to complete an assignment every day and collect points. But nothing is as simple as it seems of course, and just like in the original game, the story twists and turns and goes much deeper than just two friends trying to survive the game.
NEO: TWEWY is divided into several chapters, with each chapter forming a new day, spanning a period of three weeks in the game. In the Reaper's Game, they are presented with a new challenge every day, which usually consists of solving a puzzle to reveal the target you need to eliminate. But not every day plays out the same way of course, because our group has its own agenda to bring the game to a successful conclusion. Each chapter will take approximately one to two hours to complete, with you spending much of that time reading. NEO: TWEWY contains a lot of story, and this is mainly expressed through visual novel-like scenes. These are cleverly depicted with 2D drawings and speech bubbles, as if you are reading a comic book, or more more suited here, a manga. Furthermore, the story is also revealed through more conventional animated scenes, as well as through conversations as you explore the city.
The area that you get to explore is again the Shibuya district in Tokyo. This shopping district is best known for its iconic intersection and towering buildings with huge billboards. In addition, the map has also expanded compared to the previous part and so Harajuku, known for its fashion culture, is now also part of the game world. The game gives you a pretty good representation of this lively part of Tokyo, although a lot has been simplified of course and the building could have used a bit more detail. But those who have already been to Shibuya and Harajuku will immediately recognize the setting with iconic places such as the intersection, the statue of Hachiko, Tokyu Hands department store and Tower Records in Shibuya, or Takeshita Street in Harajuku. And even if all this doesn't sound familiar to you, you can still count on something a little different as far as the setting is concerned for a role-playing game. Of course, this isn't the only series to use Tokyo as a backdrop, with each other franchise having its own preference for a Tokyo neighborhood, such as Akihabara in Akiba's Trip or Kabukicho, which inspired Kamurouchi in the Yakuza series.
What is striking while playing, is that the setting in the game has of course evolved with the times. Smartphone in hand and mouth masks on, NEO: TWEWY is completely up to date. You will also be presented with a lot of text by means of chatting among the characters through apps. You will also quickly notice the fixed camera angles, where the makers try to get creative and add lens effects. This ensures that the environment and especially the buildings can be distorted. I can imagine that this can be disturbing for some people. With the fixed camera, I was mainly bothered by the fact that you sometimes walk out of the picture and that navigating can be difficult. In addition, the map is divided into smaller areas and you are treated to long loading times every time you switch areas. Combine this with the fixed camera and it happened more than once that I accidentally walked back, which meant even more loading screens.
In addition to fulfilling your goals, you will mainly visit shops and restaurants in the city. You’ll shop for new clothing that forms your equipment, but also pins, CDs or books for example, the latter being in-game hints. In the restaurants you can eat meals as expected, which improves your stats. Although NEO: TWEWY is a JRPG, the leveling system is a bit special. When you level up, you only get a boost of your life points, with your characters having a shared life bar during battle. You can only boost your other stats by eating or buying better equipment. The combat system is also special in this title, but that was already the case with the first part. This time however, you won't be using touch controls to perform your attacks. You don't have weapons in this game. Instead, you have pins that you can use that give your characters special powers. The attacks of these pins can be classified into four types with their own type of use, such as pressing or holding a button quickly, and an individual cooldown. The tactical aspect of the combat revolves around optimally alternating these attacks, while also trying to fill your Beat Drop meter. Because once this is filled, you can activate it to quadruple your attack power!
However, you will notice that, especially in the easier fights, you will soon be button bashing without much thought. While there are tons of pins to collect and experimentation with different combinations is encouraged, you'll quickly find your favorites you’ll grown accustomed to. This makes the fights a bit repetitive and monotonous after a while. Fortunately, the combat isn't the main focus of the game, and there are plenty of other mechanics that make the gameplay interesting. You will be presented with many puzzles, for example, where you try to manipulate the subconscious of people or even manipulate the timeline via time travel. Plus, collectors will have a blast with this game, because there's a lot to collect in NEO:TWEWY. To give you an idea: there are no fewer than 333 pins, 277 pieces of clothing, 51 CDs and 107 books to collect! Finally, I also want to emphasize how great the music is. The soundtrack, which partly consists of remixes of songs from the original game, gives you an infectious mix of jazzy tunes, J-pop, hip electro beats and heavy rock tunes. The music alone was enough reason for me to keep diving into the world of NEO: The World Ends With You.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Download code provided by the publisher.