NEO: The World Ends With You
“Calling, You Hear The Calling…”
Released in 2007, The World Ends With You was, for many myself included, an example of Square Enix return. A return to the risk-taking genre-bending form that the company was known for in the 90s. Gone were the days of one-off classics including the shoot-em-up Einhander and the first fighting game to utilize Final Fantasy characters, Ehrgeiz. Upon release, The World Ends With You was a breath of fresh air, and NEO: The World Ends With You picks up where its predecessor left off.
Its underground success, attributed to its hip-hop-inspired music, art style, and culture with its unique gameplay, netted a mobile port in 2012 and an HD remaster in 2018 on the Switch. For years, a sequel was highly requested from its fans and last year would mark the beginning of a series of heavy promotions to revive the TWEWY brand. This would include an anime and the teaser for a sequel, NEO: The World Ends With You finally releasing on the PS4 and Switch on July 27th.
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Unrelated, but, opening the case of the game, it was amusing to see an advert for Final Fantasy 14 bundled with the game itself. I recall the Nier Replicant remake having the same advert included as well. I’ve written a very small retrospect on FF14 itself and how it had affected me not just as a gamer, but as a person as well. That will be on 1UP at a different time and that’s a different discussion for another time. I just found the little advert funny.
Even Outside The Game, NEO Is Classy
The coolest thing about the case itself is the art on the PS4 version’s disc, with graffiti decorating the disc, topping it off with a Reapers logo on the left. Unfortunately, the Switch version only has a mere logo with a black background against it, although this makes sense as the switch cartridge is about a tenth of the size of a PS4 disc, exaggeration be damned.
The game also takes very little time to install and finish setting up, which was a surprise but upon playing it I could see why the game is a bit on the “small side” in terms of its size. Much like the prior game, NEO: The World Ends With You centers around Rindo and his best friend as they take an innocent stroll through Shibuya after school, y’know, simple teenage stuff. Like Neku from the previous game, however, he and his friend get sucked into the “Reapers” game and are “contestants” to the game unwillingly, forced to survive the upcoming days and win the game for their freedom.
NEO Is Fan Service For Long Time Fans
As someone who has passively played TWEWY back in 2007, remembering very little of the plot itself, I was relieved to see how self-contained the plot is overall, so far anyway. Several key elements including the pins, the Reapers themselves, the location in Shibuya, the fashion sense, and ambient music all return from the original title. Other instances relating to the original including the importance of the Hachiko statue being a meeting point for players and returning characters also make cameo appearances. A major one is introduced early in the game as Sho, one of the antagonists from TWEWY returns as a party member in Neo for his ulterior motive.
Aside from returning characters and references to the previous game, the gameplay and story are different enough to the point where it hardly is a big deal if players hadn’t played the first game. Rindo is an entirely new character separate from Neku, alongside his friends and rivals, and the gameplay is different enough that it borrows elements of TWEWY but with a great twist.
NEO: The World Ends WIth You Is Reminiscent Of Other Square RPGs
The best way I can explain it is how the 3D version of Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories differs from the original on the GBA. The core gameplay of TWEWY is relatively the same as it involves teamwork and coordinating your attacks with your partners. As you attack, a prompt will appear signaling that it’s time to switch with your partner and alternate your attack.
This chain keeps going until you’re able to deal increased damage with a coordinated attack, further dealing more damage to the Noise. The game is complete 3D compared to its predecessor’s 2D gameplay, meaning there’s freedom of movement and the ability to dodge out of harm’s way. This also means that there’s more of a reason to be alert to your surroundings.
NEO: The World Ends With You Is An Ode To Urban Culture
The graphics and music pick up where the previous game left off, featuring impressive 3D cel-shaded graphics that fit the tone of TWEWY while also giving Neo its flair. Tokyo is vibrant in the city as bright colors pop out, breathing life into Shibuya. Various record-scratching sound effects and the navigation of menu systems give this game an identity that reminds me of how much personality Persona 5 had. The music is also as addicting as the first game, focusing on a Japanese hip-hop-based soundtrack to complement the aesthetics.
Upon completion of the first day, the first look of Neo met expectations on what a TWEWY sequel should be, but because I hadn’t played the original from cover to cover, I appreciate the game itself as a standalone title. That’s the beauty of it, and it was something that I’m sure the director intended. I would like to play the original game from start to finish first just to get an understanding of the Shibuya world, but the thought that I don’t need to play it to become engaged with the game is a welcome one indeed.
NEO: The World Ends With You is now available on PS4 and Switch. A PC version will release sometime in 2021