NEO: The World Ends With You Review
I’m going to be very honest here—I never actually wanted The World Ends with You to get a sequel. Yes, it’s my favorite game of all time, but I felt like Neku’s story was at an end after the original DS game, and no follow-up could possibly pick up where it left off. However, if I had envisioned a sequel, NEO: The World Ends with You is almost exactly what I would’ve envisioned, right down to making Sho Minamimoto playable.
This game puts a new spin on the first game’s themes of death, deception, and trust, brings in a new cast of dead teenagers and updates the setting for the 2020s, all while still keeping that timeless TWEWY style. In fact, NEO: TWEWY may have a little too much style. If there’s one solid complaint I have about this sequel, it’s that it lacks some of the substance of the first game, but it’s still a fun ride nonetheless.
An Almost Ideal Sequel
Let me start by saying that this game was a hell of a nostalgia trip. As soon as I booted it up, I was sucked back into its timeless yet cutting-edge world. Unlike the first game, which plunged you right into the action, NEO: TWEWY takes the time to establish the easy-going friendship between Fret and Rindo immediately and eases the player into things by exploring a gorgeous, cel-shaded version of Shibuya. I was almost lulled into a false sense of security before suddenly noticing a Wall Reaper in his iconic red hoodie standing by the stairs in Dogenzaka.
After being given a Reaper Pin by his friend Fret, Rindo begins picking up the thoughts of people around him. Things get significantly worse for the pair when they end up witnessing two Players being attacked by Noise—stylized monsters that are part animal and part graffiti. After the pair realize the attack is genuine, they try to run, sending Fret right into the path of an oncoming truck. The horrified Rindo appears to go back in time, grabs Fret, and runs in the opposite direction. Soon after, the mysterious Shoko declares them to be Players and registers them for the Reapers’ Game, which is interesting, since as far as the player knows, Fret and Rindo aren’t dead… are they?
This round of the Reapers’ Game demands the Players form into teams and compete against each other for the opportunity to have their wishes granted or even come back to life, and Fret and Rindo start out in dead last. The last place gets erased at the end of the week, which means they’ll need all the help they can get to survive. Fortunately, Sho Minamimoto from the original game shows up to save their bacon when the Noise gets out of control. Unfortunately, Minamimoto is every bit as troublesome and obtuse as ever, making it hard to say whether being involved with him is a good thing. Especially since, once again, something seems to have gone terribly wrong in the Shibuya Under Ground, placing the souls of everyone in city limits–living or dead–in danger.
NEO: TWEWY doesn’t demand you have played TWEWY. Still, it definitely rewards returning players for one main reason—we already know how the Reaper’s Game is supposed to work, so we pick up foreshadowing that new players might miss. The new party starts with a lineup of Rindo, a somewhat morbid boy who’s glued to his cell phone; Fret, an energetic fashionista and fan of returning NPC Eiji Oji; Nagi, a college-age dramatic nerd and dedicated gamer; and Sho Minamimoto, a former Reaper with a math fetish who appeared to have died back in the first game. In true TWEWY fashion, you’ll pick up and lose partners as the game progresses. Overall, the gameplay is very fast-paced and intense; the idea of living teenagers mistaking the Reaper’s Game for an AR game is an interesting one, and when I first heard remixes of “Someday” and “Twister” kick in, I just about cried.
Style Over Substance
I like NEO: TWEWY. I like it a lot. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop me from finding that some aspects of its story and mechanics fall a bit flat. The battle system has been very streamlined for starters, limiting you to one pin per button, with each pin having unique effects. This simplicity caused me some problems, as I played the original DS version of The World Ends With You, which had an incredibly intricate and often downright labyrinthine battle system. Now all you have to worry about are Beatdrops and Mashups. There are many pins out there, and you can mix and match them to find your ideal load-out. Just make sure to stagger your pin use, so you don’t run out of PP for them all at once. All Noise are now actively attracted to you, and more than one can dogpile you at once to force you into a chained battle, which raises the danger level and drop rates. You don’t heal between these battles, so take care.
Most of the cast has excellent voice acting. The only exception is Kubo, who sounds like nails on a chalkboard. The soundtrack is deeply nostalgic, with a more contemporary sound to fit the updated setting. I’ll admit I still prefer the original TWEWY soundtrack, but this fits right in with the previous game’s aesthetic. The 3D game environments are fun to explore and easily as visually interesting as any high fantasy RPG, but in some areas of the game, the camera angle was so low that I couldn’t tell where I was going.
The biggest problem I have with NEO: TWEWY is that the conflict feels a bit less personal this time around. The World Ends with You made troubled teenagers painfully human in their insecurities, trauma, and grief. NEO: The World Ends with You’s teens are noticeably better adjusted and far less self-destructive, which removes some tension. Even though the stakes are technically higher than ever, the first game’s more personal stakes affected me more in practice. Rindo is also a less compelling protagonist than Neku, though he is immediately more likable. If you loved TWEWY because of how messed up the characters and the situation they were in truly was, be warned. NEO: TWEWY still presents its cast with a messed up situation to try and survive, but don’t expect a personal twist like Neku almost killing someone on Day 2. In fact, NEO: TWEWY’s biggest failing is that it made me want to be playing TWEWY instead.
All in all, NEO: The World Ends with You manages to escape the pitfall of being a period piece by taking the Heathers approach to youth culture and focusing more on capturing the feeling of youth than trying to accurately portray the ever-shifting trends. It has a fun cast, an interesting story, and a much more straightforward battle system with room to spend ages gathering collectibles and getting your pin load-out just right. Unfortunately, its cast is generally more well-adjusted than the original game’s traumatized teenagers, meaning that this game doesn’t hit quite as hard as the original The World Ends with You.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***
- Don’t need to play the first game
- Slick battle system
- Fun new and returning cast
- Interesting story
- Spectacular world and soundtrack
- Style over substance
- Stakes feel less personal
- Rindo is a less interesting protagonist
- Made me wish I was playing TWEWY