Neo: The World Ends with You – Game Review


Neo: The World Ends with You

(Available for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch)
(Nintendo Switch version used for both review’s)
(Works on PlayStation 5 via backwards compatibility)
(PC version is in development and will be released later this year)

Sqaure Enix has finally, after 14 years, released a sequel to The World Ends with You. The original game was a smash hit for the then, recently released Nintendo DS and was probably the game that took the most advantage of the handheld’s dual screens and its contemporary modern setting of then present day Shibuya district of Tokyo. This was seen as ground-breaking at the time, given Square Enix’s usual high concept or futuristic fantasy settings for games. The original was both critically and financially successful, and the Square has talked a lot about wanting to turn it into a franchise in interviews, but the company has really been dragging their heels with it, having put the characters in 1 Kingdom Hearts game and rereleasing the game for mobile phones. However, things looked better when the original was released on Switch as The World Ends With You: Final Remix, which ported the mobile phone version over with a terrible control scheme for playing the game when it’s docked to a tv, as well as adding an epilogue chapter hinting at future content. That would arrive when Neo The World Ends with You was finally announced with a Summer 2021 release date to coincide with a 12 episode Anime adaptation of the game, which was released a few months earlier, but wasn’t well received. If you haven’t played the original you don’t have to worry about jumping into this one, despite it being a cannon sequel to the original, the story takes place quite a bit after and starts with a new cast and conflict, with minimal ties to the original or the conclusion of that game, though The World Ends With You: Final Remix, is there if you want to brush up. Basically, the premise of The World Ends with You, is about groups of young people forced into competing in survival games in a Shibuya where they can’t be seen or heard, but can manipulate people’s thoughts by scanning their psyche. These games have been set up by a group called the Reapers and the competitors must win daily missions set out by the Reapers in order to escape. The missions range from getting a product that an entrepreneur wants to sell to trend in this part of Shibuya via word of mouth alone, to make it to a certain location using a particular route and the obstacles along the way are monsters (known as the Noise). The winner by the end of the week is granted 1 wish. There’s a bit more to dive into but it’s not too complicated and it is a kind of narrative that unfolds slowly. This time instead of Neku and his various partners like the last game, we have Rindo, his friend Tosai (AKA Fret) and a shy gamer they meet named Nagi Usui, who make up a team competing with several other teams to climb up the ranks of a new reapers game with the knowledge that the team in last place will be erased.

Pros

  • Story: The narrative is very strong in this game. Unlike the first game where there was the various partners that would team up with Neku, this time the team mechanic and as a result we have a more consistent cast with a lot more time to engage with one another, and develop their characters. You also don’t really need to be a fan of the original to enjoy this one there’s no call backs to the original game until just before the halfway point, and even then it doesn’t dwell on the original too much in spite of some call backs. For fans of the original though those call backs will be great for them. Even taking the story on its own it was incredibly engaging, and I really was motivated to see how it went. Once again it tells a very character driven story and I really liked all of them. Rindo initially didn’t come off as a great replacement for Neku in the protagonist role, but I really grew to like him as it went on, and the side cast are great in this one. Shoka might be my favourite character in the series after this game (though I will have to refrain saying why to avoid spoilers), and I thought the villains were a real improvement over the first game.
  • Combat: This game has one of the best action RPG combat systems I’ve used in a long time. It works by assigning a different attack to different buttons and triggers using pins to represent the attacks, just like the last time and each one has a length of time you can use them. The genius comes in learning which combinations of pins of pins work together so you can chain them together for more powerful all-out attacks. This is also done on a timer so you’ll want to hit it in time to cause the meter to rise, and if you don’t pull it off consistently it will start lowering itself. This means you won’t necessarily want to just erupt all the most powerful pins and there were several occasions I went back and equipped weaker pins to make better combos with the other pins I had already equipped. It works to match the mood of the game which is to feel like a music remix or a mix tape with a lot of switching back and forth. Combat is also very strategic in terms of finding which attacks work well with each enemy and it feels fun to do. I did quite a bit of grinding for levels in missions because it was some of the best part of playing and the fact you can like the last control enemy encounters outside of story missions, is excellent for tailoring the amount of grinding you want to do.
  • Soundtrack: The music in this game is once again outstanding. The game brings over a lot of the great songs from the first game but adds much of its own original entries and the soundtrack over all really works. The genres of music have also increased. The first game had a lot of Techno, Hip-hop, and Pop, but this game adds quite a bit of Rock and Metal songs which are very welcome and add further into the themes of mixing things up that the game has.
  • Stat increase systems: The game once again offers you clothes from the different in-game fashion brands, but thankfully drops overall, improving which district of Shibuya the brand is big in to gain bonus mechanic. Instead, you use another stat besides HP, Attack and Defence which is Style. If your Style stat is high enough, then you gain certain bonuses from the clothes that you equip to each character adding extra thought into each character’s equipment and I personally think it’s a good addition. The game now also adds version restaurants and takeaways in Shibuya which provide permanent stat boosts with bonuses for giving a character something they like. Though you are limited on how often you can do it, given that each food has a certain calorie count, and you can’t go above the limit, so you have to burn them off in combat. It is a really great way of handling grinding for levels since not only do you gain stat boosts for levelling up characters, but you can also tailor each character’s stats for certain roles in the group during the story. The game also offers boosts through the side quests by giving an ability tree that works like a social network of the characters you meet, adding an extra incentive to the side quests, which when all put together with some excellent character and game customisation, which lead me to do way more side content and grinding than I normally do.
  • Art style: The manga art style is back and is an excellent choice. The World Ends with You has an excellent aesthetic quality that really allows it to stand out, and the character design once again is superb.

Mixed

  • Graphics and world design: This new entry is in 3D so new graphics and world had to be created and I’m amazed how well they recaptured the look and feel of the first game in this entry. It does feel like a modern transfer, and they’ve used the new look to add to the environments. The graphics however will not really wow anyone, this isn’t really the pinnacle of anything, but the game doesn’t have to be. The most amount of money was put into the CG cutscenes which up until the end are few and far between, though they have better frame rates than the actual Anime. The world design is good offering a wide variety of locations to explore though it still kind of annoys me that you can go for long sections of the game with parts of it cut off to you. There usually is story relevancy but if I wanted to improve something on the social network by ordering from a certain restraint and gain a bonus menu item, I either have to wait another day or time travel to a day with no restrictions to that area (made worse by repeated un-skippable cut scenes). Think the next game should have a more open map.
  • Side content and repetitive gameplay: This is more for other people because I thought that the side content was handled well and enjoyed the gameplay loop. I’m the sort of person that doesn’t hate repetitive gameplay if the loop is good, and I really enjoyed the gameplay loop in this case. The side content is particularly repetitive though and while they are optional, you should still do a few, since part of the social network is cut off if you don’t, and it’s the quickest way to earn friendship points to move through the social network. Though your experience may vary, just be prepared to do a lot of the same thing repeatedly. I personally didn’t have any issues with it and it didn’t get bored of it.

Cons

  • Frame rate issues in combat: Combat normally flows fine at around 30 fps on Switch, even when it was docked there were quite noticeable frame rate drops when there was lots of attacks on screen. I haven’t tried out the PS4 version which targets 60 fps on PS4 pro’s and PS5, but I suspect it won’t be as much of an issue there. I will say though this was only an occasional thing and wasn’t too distracting and never lead to any deaths.
  • Some cheap deaths: Now, I was alright at dodging, but this game still gave me some cheap deaths. The problem was getting all the characters to dodge and sometimes it really wasn’t possible, and as result I just died because a character that I wasn’t in control of, got hit. Again, this only happened on a few occasions but was really annoying especially in one of the boss fights that was particularly tricky.
  • Fret’s puzzles: Fret’s power is that he can implant things into people’s minds to remind them of things and he does this via puzzles where you have to reform a picture by moving the left and right analog stick in the correct locations. This was pure guesswork whenever I got it right and the puzzles were just tedious, I dreaded when one was coming up because it would take at least 2-4 minutes of mindlessly moving them back and forth with little clue until I got it right. They’re not hard since you usually get one half right quickly, but it is tedious getting the second half, and whenever I was successful it felt like a fluke.

Overall thoughts

Neo The World Ends with You is a late follow up, but it was well worth the wait. This is one of the best action RPG’s I’ve played all year. The combat is great and well thought out, the story is gripping, the art style is fantastic, and the gameplay overall made you want to explore Shibuya more and more. It has frame rate issues, and I really didn’t care for Fret’s puzzles but those are minor squabbles. I really enjoyed mixing and matching pins to create combos and following the story to see where it went. The soundtrack is also one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. If Square-Enix are seriously looking to turn this into a franchise I am completely on board because this game really shows, there’s passionate developers that really want to take the series in interesting directions

Score: 9.4/10

Really, get this one if you were a fan of the original. I think if you’re a newcomer now is time to get into the franchise. If you own a Switch, both games are available and affordable, and although PlayStation 4 owners can only get the new game, the first is available on mobile phones. The game is available physically and digitally and is a full price release at £50, though if you’re curious the Switch has a free demo which covers the first couple hours of the game and transfers your save data to the full game after purchase, so feel free to try it out.

Calvin
Nerd Consultant

And now Elliot’s review

If you look up a list of the best Nintendo DS games, you are guaranteed to see The World Ends With You in its higher echelons. While still not the most well-known game, over the years it has gained a massive cult following and is hailed by many as one of the best JRPGs of all time. So, no doubt fans were excited when on 23th November 2020 Square Enix announced Neo: The World Ends With You, a sequel no one knew they wanted, and was released on 27th July 2021 for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, with a Windows release scheduled for later this year. 

We return to the city of Shibuya, where another round of the Reapers Game is underway, a game where the recently deceased must complete tasks throughout a week and defeat monsters called the Noise to reach the top or face erasure, overseen by game master Shiba Miyazaki and his fellow reapers. Forcefully dragged into this deadly game are Rindo Kanade and Tosai “Fret” Furesawa, two high school students, despite the two of them having no memory of dying. They learn of the absurd nature of this game, and that a team called the Ruinbringers have been winning week after week, only to go another round, ensuring that no other group can win. After recruiting Sho Minamimoto and Nagi Usai, they form the team known as the Wicked Twisters, who must now face off in this game against other rival teams in the hopes of reaching the top, finally dethroning the Ruinbringers, and getting back to the real world. I cannot stress enough just how good this story is. The twists and turns that take place and how likeable the characters are, with some familiar faces, this is easily one of, if not, the best story to come out of this year. 

Presentation wise, the game looks, for the most part, okay, the city of Shibuya itself looks fine enough, though the character models are a little pixelated; not to the point where you can’t tell what they’re meant to be, but just enough to be noticeable, luckily all character interactions are told via pictures of said characters, which are all drawn very well in the style that’s iconic to this series. The frame rate on the other hand can do with some improvement. The performance is quite choppy, and it can lag when there’s a lot happening on screen, which considering the game is quite often – mind you, I did play this game on the Nintendo Switch and I have heard that the PS4 version is a lot better. Another thing that I absolutely love about this game is the soundtrack, it covers a variety of genres, brings in a number of songs from the first game that have been remixed, and even has a songs that remind me of actual bands, like how Kill the Itch reminds me of Alter Bridge or Hustle and Bustle giving me major Daft Punk vibes, while not all songs are hits for me, this is without a doubt a solid soundtrack and easily one of this year’s best, only really being beaten by Persona 5 Strikers. That being said though, most of the time the songs that are playing are completely random and there are very few more sombre songs that match the mood the game’s going for, so at times the song currently playing really doesn’t fit the vibe that the game’s going for.

 Neo: The World Ends with You plays a lot like the first game, except this one plays on a 3D plane, while the first one plays in 2D. You begin encounters by scanning your environment and running into Noise icons. You can run into many of them before you have to fight them, creating a chain of encounters that you can fight, one immediately after finishing another. While it is much more risky, you’re more likely to get more rewards from doing it. At first you can only create a chain of five, but in the later game you’ll be able to chain fifteen encounters together. 

Combat takes place in real time and relies on items you equip called Pins. The attack that your character is able to perform will entirely depend of what Pins you equip, there are ones where you have to rapidly attack the button, ones where you have to charge up the attack and ones where you just have to hold down the button, and most will have a certain element type that will either add a certain status element to your enemies or the attack itself will have extra properties, like light healing your party when used, or sound bouncing from one enemy to another when hit. There are over three-hundred Pins in the game, that are either dropped by enemies, can be bought, or given as a reward for completing a main or side quest. I found myself experimenting constantly with these Pins, as each Noise had different weaknesses and a ton of the early game Pins are seriously weak in comparison to the later ones, you no doubt you’ll find yourself experimenting a lot as well. 

When you attack with a character, you’ll notice that a meter just below that character’s Pin decreases, when that meter is completely depleted, you’ll have to wait for it to fully recharge before you can use that attack again. Of course, you can stop using the attack before the meter empties, if you do it will slowly recharge on its own, meaning that you won’t have to wait till it’s been fully replenished before using it again. Though, if you are using multiple Pins at a time (which let’s be honest, you will be), be very careful on which character you are using and that their Pin hasn’t been emptied. You see when you are holding down the button to use an attack, you are then technically controlling the character who’s using that attack, though you’ll only be able to move the character who’s Pin you used last, at which point they will be vulnerable to attacks from the Noise, so it’s definitely recommended that you only press the button for the characters who are actually able to use their abilities.

As you fight, you’ll notice that something called a Groove Meter is filling up. Sometimes when you’re attacking a Noise, a timer telling you to “Drop the Beat” will appear, at that moment, if able, attack the enemy with a different character than you’re currently using, and the groove meter will raise in percentage slightly. When the meter reaches 100%, you’ll be able to perform a special attack, the attack you do will depend entirely on the element of the attack you did on the last “Drop the Beat”. As you go throughout the game, the max percentage your Groove Meter can reach will increase as well, till eventually you’ll be able to reach 300%, which will let you do one giant special attack which will deal a ton of damage and will fully heal your party. 

Admittedly, combat can get monotonous and tiring somewhat easily, luckily encounters are incredibly easy to avoid and grinding is barely a hassle. There were numerous sessions where I barely grinded and just focused on the story and never found myself under-levelled at any point. Though that’s probably also because levelling up only really increases health, all other stats remain the same. To increase those, you have to do one of two things, one is to wear particular articles of clothing, which the game labels as threads, which can be bought from shops spread throughout Shibuya, the other is by eating food at certain restaurants, each character will have their favourites and least favourites, and will gain a bonus to their stats if they eat food that they particularly like. 

When not in combat, you’ll be exploring the streets of Shibuya, completing tasks to move on to the next story section and reach the next day. While in Shibuya, you’ll find yourself in multiple situations where you’ll have to use the powers of one of your characters, called Psyches, during certain story sections or side quests. The most notable one is Rindo’s, which is the ability to travel back through time when called for in the story, at which point you’ll have to go through the previous events during the day to ensure that whatever bad event occurred doesn’t happen and “Change your Fate”. The second is Fret’s, who has the power remind people of certain things, be that people or events, during which you’ll have to play a minigame where you have to line up your analog sticks to form a picture, it’s actually more difficult than you think, as you have to be very precise with where your analog sticks point, making it much more satisfying when you succeed at doing it. The final one (well not really, but the last one I’ll mention because spoilers) is Nagi, who is able to dive into the minds of people who have been infected by Noise, which will lead to you having to face a small number of encounters, where the Noise will have certain buffs attached to them, defeat them and the person will go back to normal. 

As mentioned, numerous times in this review, you’ll also be able to complete several side quests. Each side quest is linked to a certain day and can be found in a certain part of Shibuya, you can easily find out where just by checking your task menu. While most of the time, you do have to go out of the way to find this person, the quests are very short and are very much worth it as it adds to your social network page. As you play through the game, complete side quests for people, or even just buy threads and food, you’ll have more slots added to your social network page, which essentially acts as your upgrade tree. You obtain new upgrades by spending friends points which you also gain by doing any of the above. While these upgrades don’t do anything too substantial, they can very much help as you play the game and make things at least a little easier for you, especially since they’re so easy to unlock, they’re worth getting. 

If there is anything I can complain about, it’s that navigating your environment isn’t exactly the easiest. The layout of the areas of Shibuya is quite often at a completely different angle than what the mini map depicts, which led to me getting a little confused from just trying to get from one area to another. Granted I did get used to it after a short while, but it was still an annoyance that I could have done without at the beginning. 

I will admit that I still haven’t played the first The World Ends With You, despite it being on my list of games to play for a good few years now, but this game has fully convinced me to get it as soon as possible. I had an absolute blast with this game and have been praising it to high heaven. While you probably would have a better time with this game if you played the first, as characters and plot points from it come up in this game, I still highly recommend this game to anyone interested. This is easily a contender for best game of the year for me, I absolutely love it. 

9.3/10

Elliot Chapman
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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