The World Ends With You became a cult classic ever since its release on the original DS. Since then, fans have been treated to re-releases with extra content with the hopes of a sequel. For years now, Square Enix (especially Tetsuya Nomura) have teased that fans might get that sequel someday. That time has finally come with NEO: The World Ends With You. The sequel must live up to many expectations have come to know with the franchise. Top notch music, a memorable cast of characters, the stylish atmosphere of the Reapers’ Game and modernized gameplay are just some of the things fans expect, including myself. NEO: The World Ends With You checks all those boxes and then some more, steam rolls over it and makes it an unforgettable experience! The Reaper’s Game has been elevated with greater stakes, rewards and moments.
A New Game is Afoot (light spoilers ahead)
The game starts with high school students Rindo Kanade and Tosai “Fret” Furesawa going about their day in Shibuya. That ordinary day gets derailed by commotion in the Scramble Crossing after gaining some popular pins. A huge truck suddenly swerves and crushes Fret. In a desperate act, Rindo suddenly awakens to a new ability: time travel. After saving Fret from his demise, they’re quickly aware that something’s off. They find themselves in the Reapers’ Game happening right in Shibuya, the Underground. They’re greeted by Susukichi, a player and rival who gives them some advice: erase some noise or face erasure. After fighting some noise, Rindo and Fret form the Wicked Twisters to survive and move up the ranks by completing each day’s task. Stakes grow, alliances form and the Game itself is going to be turned inside out.
There are rumors that Neku has been seen in this new Game after 3 long years. However, Rindo and Fret have to deal with surviving and luckily, Minamimoto comes along to help the duo out. Minamimoto considers them weaklings or zeptograms, but he has some serious curiosity about the two and this new Game in general. Only a day later and word goes around Shibuya that a new Player has joined the fray. A “wild Player” one but somehow, Rindo and Fret have the greatest chance of getting a new ally. To survive, they need a lot more friends to help them out against the rival factions trying to win the game. Rindo also gains visions of the future which may help him steer the Wicked Twisters’ path in the game. This new game is afoot and things are going to heat up.
Redefining the Gameplay
The game is structured around a daily mission as the Game spans a week just like The World Ends With You. Players utilize pins, Psych powers in a tangible form. Players utilize the pins’ abilities to combat Noise and other rival Players. Unlike the previous game where touch controls defined the combat, pins are assigned to each button and party member. For instance, Rindo may use his flaming uppercut ability with the pin assigned to X while Fret shoots ice beams with the pin assigned to Y. Instead of just having one partner in The World Ends With You, players have many combinations of pins and abilities thanks to the revamped control layout. The Beatdrop and Groove system plays into this to extend combos and unleash powerful abilities toward large groups of Noise. Overall, it’s a proper evolution of the original game’s combat system from the DS for home consoles.
Many new features enhance the system further and redefine the combat the series was originally known for. Pins have more variety in abilities and affinity this time around too. There’s an absolutely immense amount of pins so collectors and completionists have a tall order. The new Social Network feature grants enhancements for their abilities such as multi-wielding pins on the same button or allows more Groove to be earned in beatdrop combos. By completing side quests and earning friendship points, players may unlock those enhancements in the Social Network tree. As the game progress, players also gain access to higher percentages of Groove, a Showtime Attack and more party members to spice up the gameplay even further.
Struggling in a Different Game
NEO: The World Ends With You begins with intensity, questions that need to be answered and stakes that put Rindo in a crazy position. As protagonists, Rindo and Neku are similar characters at first but have distinct qualities that help set the tone of their respective games. Rindo’s struggle of seeing the future, time traveling and trying to survive the Reapers’ Game with his friends makes for a familiar but unique, worthwhile story to experience. Many more characters have importance and as a result, there are many impactful moments to play through and see the party grow from. Additionally, fans who played through the added content of Final Remix and read the secret reports will be delightfully rewarded with some insane reveals and plot points.
The game’s cast have their own unique abilities that play a big role in the story. Rindo can travel through time while Fret uses his Remind ability to help people remember important things in their lives. More characters join the Wicked Twisters and add more abilities to their disposal such as Nagi, who deep dives into another character’s mind to get rid of noise correct their thoughts. As a team, they can also implant words into peoples’ thoughts to correct mistakes or misunderstandings and scan the city for Noises. Their abilities play a major role in why they’re a part of the Reapers’ Game to begin with and how they handle the challenges. The game’s music also makes the game’s story feel ablaze with the Reapers’ Game and it can’t be overstated.
The Content Rich Underground
Shibuya’s underground is brimming with content to play through. Alongside the story, players can invest into the aforementioned Social Network by completing side quests. By doing so, players unlock rewards like clothes, new food at restaurants, difficulty options and more. The Scramble Slam is back so players have opportunities to take on lots of Noise to earn points toward rewards. Days with Dive segments also have opportunities to earn medals. Completing Dive battles awards players with friendship points and pins. In fact, there are rewards waiting for those who complete them all with a gold medal. Completionists should have a good time pursuing that while also have a challenge. Pig Noises are back in abundance as they are scattered around Shibuya. Defeating Pig Noises rewards players with more pins and rewards.
Shopping at stores and eating at restaurants grants unlocks by raising the VIP level or purchasing a certain amount of items. Since money is easier to accrue this time around, it’s a good idea to check out shops and spend money on clothes to strengthen the team. By raising the VIP level, more powerful pins and clothing are available to buy or trade. It feels like every yen spent is worth it as it helps unlock even more items and perks to buy in the Social Network. This incentives chaining up Noises to defeat and earn more money to spend toward strengthening the party. Completing achievements in game also rewards graffiti designs to customize in the Records menu. The graffiti posted up there also shows up in the Udagawa Backstreets. After finishing the game, players can unlock Ultimate difficulty, Another Day and find all the secret records.
Concluding the Game
I usually come away from games with at least one thing that could be improved or fixed to make it even better. Even the performance of the Switch version is great with just a few frame dips in packed battles. NEO: The World Ends With You shattered my expectations as a fan with an excellent and engaging story. The story hits home to me as a fan of the original game as it continues to build upon plot points of that game with a new story revolving Rindo’s team and new characters. The stellar, addicting combat keeps me coming back for more to continue earning pins and unlocking more items. The game offers a lot of content to complete while not overstaying its welcome or offering content that doesn’t feel fun or necessary. NEO: The World Ends With You is the perfect sequel and I can’t recommend this game enough!
Disclaimer: NEO: The World Ends With You was purchased by the reviewer and a copy was not provided by Square Enix.