Originally released in the West in 2008, The World Ends With You stood out as being a truly unique game thanks to a number of factors that took full advantage of the Nintendo DS’ capabilities including a number of experimental gameplay elements. This led to fans hoping that a sequel would eventually be made but as time ticked by, those hopes seemed dashed. That is until a remaster of the game arrived on the Switch in 2018 and offered brand new story content leading to the eventual announcement of a sequel in the form of NEO: The World Ends With You. Now, with NEO: TWEWY arriving on multiple platforms, has this sequel managed to live up to expectations?
During what seems like a normal day, a teenage boy by the name of Rindo waits for his friend Fret who gives him one of a pair of limited edition pins before hanging out in the streets of Shibuya, playing a Pokemon Go copy and texting friends only to find chaos erupt around them. Strange monsters have appeared and others are battling them openly in the streets with even stranger abilities as the pair find themselves locked in as the newest additions to the Reaper’s Game.
After unknowingly passing away, both Rindo and Fret learn that they must try and compete with other teams in the game by completing missions and defeating monsters known as Noise to earn points with the top team at the end of the week receiving a wish of their choice. The problem is, the team at the bottom of the list is permanently erased. Joined by the seemingly veteran player Minamimoto who shows them the ropes, the group form the Wicked Twisters in an effort to stay alive and learn more about the game that they are now trapped in.
NEO: TWEWY is the type of game where the story quickly begins to enter the realm of spoilers so while we will refrain from going any deeper into the exact details, it can easily be said that the narrative easily lives up to expectations. Thanks to the game being longer in length the story can develop at a steady pace all while giving the colorful cast of characters plenty of time to develop and grow on the player which is great as the dynamic between many of the characters is incredibly strong. The story itself is incredibly captivating to the point that it can be difficult to put down at times and the characters are truly the heart of the story.
It is worth noting that while there are a large number of returning characters from the first game, three of the four initial characters that are part of the Wicked Twisters are brand new to the series, giving newcomers a chance to ease their way in without feeling like they are being overwhelmed and even when returning characters do enter the story they are still given solid introductions. That being said, longtime fans of the franchise will still be getting the most out of the title as numerous plot points continue in this entry, including a pivotal event that only appeared in the remastered release of the first game.
NEO: TWEWY has made the transition from 2D gameplay to 3D almost seemlessly with plenty of style. Players will still find themselves exploring a number of familiar locations in Shibuya with fixed camera angles, completing both main and side-missions, scanning for Noise to battle against, as well as shopping for clothes, pins, and of course food. In what comes as a new feature, each of the three new characters’ special powers give them extra abilities while exploring the town. Fret can help refresh a person’s memory, another character can dive into their minds to clear it of Noise, while perhaps the strongest of the group Rindo can travel through time. This ability serves as not only a major gameplay and story element but also gives players the option to return to previous days to clear side-missions they may have missed or defeat enemies limited to a certain time-frame.
Combat has been almost completely reworked for NEO: TWEWY outside of the fact that it still uses pins as the core component, but even these have also been refined. As players explore Shibuya they will encounter Noise that can be chained together for multiple fights in a row with an increased drop rate as a reward. In combat every party member has their own individual pin equipped and it will corrospond to one of the controller’s face buttons or trigger. These pins range come in a wide-array of types ranging from physical, long-range, charge strikes, continuous damage, and even support. Some of the pins can evolve into stronger versions of themselves through battling and earning experience points though while power isn’t everything.
Thanks to the wide array of attack types and abilities that come from pins and the fact that players will have to balance numerous characters fighting at a time, it is all about finding the proper combination that works for the player. In combat the entire team shares the same HP bar and while many fights may not be too tough initially, the challenge can quickly increase especially during boss battles. This means that players should always try to find a balance of pins that allow them to always stay on the offensive whenever possible, since pins have a recharge time when used enough. It is also worth noting that the team also shares a “groove” gauge that fills as pin combos are chained together between teammates. When filled players can trigger a powerful attack that not only deals massive damage, that varies by type depending on the pins equipped, but also temporarily boosts the power of all attacks at the same time.
This means that combat in NEO: TWEWY can feel like pure chaos at times and that is an absolute delight. Thanks to the fact that there are so many pins available and the fact that combat rewards staying on the offensive, players will find themselves being able to take things to the limit if they so wish. That being said, the camera in a hectic combat arena can be a real problem at times especially since the lock-on system is a bit rough around the edges. Often a character will begin attacking an enemy only to either begin missing entirely or finding the camera swing wildly as a result of actually hitting them. This problem only grows worse when using multiple attacks at the same time as many blows end up missing their target due to poor targeting.
Outside of combat players will find that there are plenty of places to shop still despite being dead. Various locations still offer the ability to purchase clothes as well as some pins to the player and of course food to eat. Every piece of clothing in the game comes with various stat boosts as well as a skill that can be unlocked should the character equipping it have a high enough Style stat. These stats are not raised through leveling up, only health is, instead they are permanently raised every time a character eats. Food a character likes will give extra stats but it is also worth noting that players will need to fight to make their characters hungry again.
Another aspect of NEO: TWEWY comes in the form of the Social Network system. This web-like structure features characters that players have met, ranging from party members, enemies, Reapers, and even shopkeepers and it uses “friendship points” obtained from side-missions and harder battles to unlock various quality of life features, extra items in stores, and even harder or easier difficulty options. Considering some pins only can be obtained by fighting on a higher difficulty, this is a vital element and something that players can freely take advantage of at any time once it is unlocked. These systems blend together to make for a great game that truly rewards exploration and taking advantage of everything the player has at their disposal.
Visuals & Audio
The transition to 3D exploration and combat has been fairly smooth for NEO: TWEWY as most of the signature art style from the first game has managed to transfer well enough. The city is a bit bland in some locations but thankfully the character models and designs are outstanding looking, especially during any of the game’s dialogue scenes where they are portrayed using manga style panels. Enemy designs have also made the transition to 3D successfully enough though it is a bit disappointing that some of the combat pins’ attacks can be a bit bland with many appearing far too similar to one another to stand out outside of stats.
As one would expect the game offers both an outstanding sounding English dub as well as the original Japanese voice track that players can choose between. What really stands out here though is the game’s soundtrack as it features a shockingly high number of vocal numbers that play throughout every aspect of the game, with many being brand new to the series though a few are remixes of classic songs from the first game as well.
The wait for a proper sequel to TWEWY may have been a long one but NEO: The World Ends With You manages to capitalize on every aspect that made the first game so great. Not only is it simpler to control the chaotic combat, players will also find nearly every aspect of the game’s various mechanics melding together to reward them for experimenting and finding out what type of pin combinations work best for them and more. Put this together with a fascinating storyline and a great cast of characters and NEO: The World Ends With You is not only a worthy sequel to the first game but also one that newcomers can still enjoy.
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