It’s unusual for popular franchises to suddenly go dormant, but it’s certainly not unheard of. We didn’t hear of a new Baldur’s Gate for years, for instance, and who knows what’s happened to Banjo-Kazooie? One particularly sad loss was The World Ends With You, a shockingly unique and stunningly popular RPG for the Nintendo DS from back in 2007. Despite how well the game did, it never got a sequel…until now, anyway.
Behold: NEO: The World Ends With You, which we’ll refer to as NEO for the most part just to save some sanity. Maybe this isn’t the worst timeline after all.
The city of Shibuya, unbeknownst to most, is split into two halves. Most of us live, work and play in the RG, the Realground, the world of the living. Sometimes, though, people who die don’t immediately proceed to the afterlife. They’re sent to the UG, the Underground, a sort of purgatory where they’re doomed to nonexistence. That is, of course, unless they can survive the Reaper’s Game. Run by sinister forces for their amusement, the Reaper’s Game pits Players against the monstrous Noise and each other as they fight to claim victory and obtain their greatest desire. Protagonist Rindo and his friends find themselves in the UG, though they can’t remember how it happened. That doesn’t matter, though, as the Game is on – and their only way out is to win.
The original The World Ends With You really nailed the stylish feel of Shibuya and NEO doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The characters you meet, the places you go, even the restaurants you eat at all drip with style. There’s tons of fun to be had exploring the world, completing sidequests and just soaking everything in. NEO’s unique art style certainly doesn’t hurt in this regard, either, particularly the ultra-cool fisheye lens used for most scenes. Shibuya’s the real star of the show here.
What about gameplay, though? Unlike the original TWEWY, which focused on a dual-screen gimmick, NEO introduces a whole new battle system based around using multiple characters at once. Each character can equip a psychic pin – later, several – and that pin’s Psych ability is assigned to a controller button. This allows you to switch between characters and use different Psychs quickly and easily, enabling some pretty impressive combos once you know what you’re doing. Launch an enemy into the air with an icicle and then smack them back down with a conjured boulder? Why not!
What’s more, you’re encouraged to do things like this as the game charges up your super attack each time you switch between characters at an opportune moment. This allows you to unleash some serious pain when you’re ready to make it happen.
Characters gain experience and levels like most RPGs here, but unlike most RPGs the real use for levels in TWEWY is to give them up. By artificially reducing your level before battle, you can drastically enhance how often enemies drop items, so there’s a risk/reward factor where you’ll have to drop your stats for a better shot at getting the goodies you want. More permanent stat boosts are available by eating food, then working off the resultant calories in combat. Even your pins become stronger by fighting; some of them even evolve into more powerful forms! You’re encouraged to really plumb the depths of all these systems and put together a team you can be proud of.
Speaking of stuff worth being proud of, NEO TWEWY’s presentation is something else. If you remember the extreme stylings of the original game, you’ll be pleased to find that those are present and accounted for here. From a graphical perspective, the game runs wonderfully…on PS4, anyway. The Switch version is a bit more of a struggle, despite being portable like the original, so it’s probably not the optimal choice if you have the option of choosing the PS4 version.
Naturally, given the musical theme we’re going for here, NEO TWEWY’s soundtrack is absolutely amazing, with several different songs playing from battle to battle. They’re all great. You’ll be listening to this one outside of the game for a while, trust me on that one.
It’s been quite some time between entries, but NEO: The World Ends With You is a great comeback. It takes everything you knew and loved about the original and makes it fresh again…well, unless the specific thing you loved about the previous game was the dual-screen gimmick, but there’s not a lot that can be done about that at this point. Still, the move to modern hardware hasn’t damaged the stylish, mysterious world of the Underground at all. If you’re up for a challenge, it’s a good time to take on the Reaper’s Game.