Like many, I was floored by The World Ends with You, a niche RPG from Tetsuya Nomura that appeared on the Nintendo DS. This game took the world by surprise and while it hasn’t reached the same level of adoration as say Kingdom Hearts, the series does have adoring fans who’ve clamoured for a sequel. It took 14 years but one of the biggest surprises of last year was the reveal of Neo: The World Ends with You.
The original The World Ends with You launched way back in 2007 on the Nintendo DS. Since then it has been ported to mobile phones and the Switch, and fan years fans clamoured for a sequel. Now, with the second game not far away, a new group of hipster teens must fight for survival in Shibuya once more.
You’ll control Rindo Kanade, the protagonist and resident of Japan who is swept into the Reapers’ Game alongside his friend Tosai “Fret” Furesawa. Together, they are forced to explore the Underground and take on other teams to win.
Neo: The World Ends With You Was Worth the Wait
Similar to The World Ends with You, the game is set in the Underground, which while resembling the bustling Shibuya area of Tokyo, is a whole other dimension where the Reapers’ Game takes place. Each team that is forced to play must accept and follow the tasks set by the Game Master, ranging from puzzle-solving to taking down enemies known as Noise. An iteration of the Reapers’ Game lasts seven days and whoever has the most points but the end of it, will have their wish granted — whatever that is, with the loser being erased from existence.
Combat is a crucial component of the Reapers’ Game and its fast pace really comes into play once things open up. While I do miss the novelty of the Nintendo DS’s dual screens, the changes the developers included make up for it. Each teammate goes into battle with one Pin, each offering a unique Psychic ability to the user. One may conjure a blade to slice opponents, another might send a blast of energy at them, or another will sends out a pool of fire.
During the early hours of the game, Pins may not be the most exciting aspects of battle at the beginning but the further into the story you go, the better your Pins are and combat goes from good to great. And with more teammates on the field, the combos become even more crucial to defeating your enemies. Pins also come with a cooldown so you can’t spam attacks and call it a day. This makes you want to find solutions to every encounter and you’ll want to make it count because you’re graded in every battle by how fast and stylish each battle plays out.
The health bar is shared between your party but what differentiates each character are the thread they wear and what sort of foods you enjoy together in-between battles. Each character’s stats affect how well they use Pins, giving you variety in battle as no two characters play the same.
Team battles happen in a new mode called Turf Wars: Scramble Slams and you need to control various areas around town. In some cases, you’ll erase orange Turf Noise or stop a rival team from taking over an area, leaving you to claim it as your own instead. Every time you compete in Scramble Wars, you earn points and can exchange them for rewards and more importantly, chaining together battles lets you max-your reward streak.
Threads return in Neo: The World Ends with You and through five categories of fashion items you can equip, can become stronger. Threads are useful in battle and if you equip certain pieces, an innate ability activates.
Rindo can rewind time and replay days that allow you to revisit and replay previous sections of the game. By utilizing the ability to go back in time, you can unlock and upgrade Pins and clothes, complete challenges and finish off any lingering quests. There’s also a Social Network to bolster your connections to the people within the game, serving as a skill tree to unlock modifiers for battle.
Shops are littered around Shibuya and there’s even a wide variety of them. Square Enix says there are over 40 establishments to visit, some have clothes and pins, others have food and drink, and others have collectibles including CDs and books. Every shop has an attendant unique to their store and by you visiting the store often, you learn more about the character and their personality, and if you often enough, you unlock a VIP perk.
I Put a Pin on You
The style of clothes and accessories in fashion shops changes with each brand. And as you progress through the story, the number of products increases — there are over 270 items to choose from. Restaurants make a return too, and Shibuya is home to a wide selection of restaurants. Each one has a variety of options, ranging from fast food to meat dishes, veggie soups, and even parfait. By eating, you increase your basic stats and it is crucial to surviving the Reapers’ Games that you continue to eat the entire time.
If you loved the aesthetic of The World Ends with You, the developers doubled down on it with some fashionable characters throughout the story. The series has a distinct style and that’s seen in the people you talk to, the music carrying you through the campaign and by the outfits available in Shibuya. If you love Tetsuya Nomura’s style, then you’ll find a lot to love here, others not so much. Aside from his weird fetish for zippers and buttons, the designs are great here.
Neo: The World Ends with You is an excellent follow-up, delivering a sequel that otherwise could have gone wrong. The new cast of characters is great and stands toe to toe with the original cast we remember so fondly. Sure, this might be somewhat of a rehash of the original and it isn’t exactly wrong or right, but the structure begins to show weak spots the second time around. Neo: The World Ends with You was designed with fans in mind and may confuse newcomers but it isn’t necessary to have played the first to enjoy the sequel (although it is a great game). The world is packed with things to do and it is such a blast exploring Tokyo, battles are engaging fun and clever when things pick up. Had you told me the sequel to a niche RPG on 3DS would get a commendable sequel over a decade later, I’d have laughed, but we did.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]