I’d been hopeful for a follow up to The World Ends With You after it got a remastered release on the Nintendo Switch a couple of years back, but I wasn’t TOO optimistic. It’s hardly the most mainstream of Square Enix RPGs, after all, though the inclusion of an additional scenario in the aforementioned release did spark some hope. It turns out that hope was well placed, with NEO: The World Ends With You giving the slick and stylish RPG a fresh lease of life in an all-new adventure. It’s REALLY good too, with it also acting as a good entry point for those who didn’t play the first game.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Taking place a few years on from the original game, NEO: The World Ends With You introduces a new cast of characters into the modern Shibuya setting, with new main protagonist Rindo and his pal Fret ending up as competitors in the Reaper’s Game after what should have been a fairly ordinary day. What’s the Reaper’s Game, I hear you ask? It’s a set of trials that see teams competing against one another in challenging tasks across the city, with the losers erased from reality for good. Calling it high stakes would be an understatement, though the winning team does get a wish of their choosing as a payoff. It’s kinda like Battle Royale meets Aladdin… kinda… (ok, it’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point I’m trying to make).
What follows is an engaging narrative that brings with it plenty of twists and turns as Rindo’s party look to become the top team on the leaderboards. It’s not an easy task, but the different plot points will keep players fully invested in their plight right up until the credits roll. Add to that a fantastic group of characters with unique personalities and it’s clear that the game has a lot going for it. It helps that the narrative itself unfolds in a very stylish fashion, with story sequences playing out in a comic book-style that fits the tone of the game perfectly. NEO: The World Ends With You deserves plenty of praise for its presentation, with these cutscenes in particular standing out across the meaty adventure.
“What’s the Reaper’s Game, I hear you ask? It’s a set of trials that see teams competing against one another in challenging tasks across the city, with the losers erased from reality for good.”
How does it feel to play, though? It’s a LOT of fun. Players will spend their time uncovering the vast city of Shibuya, with different tasks given during each in-game day that will see them exploring, solving puzzles, and beating up enemies in combat. The puzzles themselves aren’t too taxing, but encourage the player to be observant and take in their surroundings carefully. Some are based around simply answering questions too, which is a bit different to the norm but rewarding nonetheless.
Some tasks utilise your party’s more unique skills in a variety of ways, whether that’s by entering the mind of an NPC to vanquish an evil threat, helping them recover their lost memories by literally piecing them together, or even by rewinding time. It might sound a little bizarre in words, but it’s a clever idea that adds a unique mini-game twist to NEO: The World Ends With You’s gameplay formula. There’s a decent amount of variety to be found across the game’s tasks, which is good considering it should take most players close to forty hours to beat.
“Some tasks utilise your party’s more unique skills in a variety of ways, whether that’s by entering the mind of an NPC to vanquish an evil threat, helping them recover their lost memories by literally piecing them together, or even by rewinding time.”
Combat is just as satisfying, with players having to scan the area for enemies known as the Noise. This eliminates random battles, but a good balance of showdowns are required if you want to keep your skills in ship-shape. Battles themselves are simple in design, with standard attacks and jumping manoeuvres easy to perform with simple button presses. However, depth is found with the ‘pin’ system, which sees characters equipping different pins in order to use a variety of special abilities. The pins are assigned to specific buttons on the controller, meaning players don’t have to worry about alternating characters to use them. With new pins found or bought and existing ones increasing in strength, it’s a fun system to tinker with to find out what skills work best for you – the flexibility is there to change them up based upon who you’re facing off against too, meaning you can use specific pin combinations to your advantage in order to exploit a particular foe’s weakness. With pins needing a cooldown between use, some strategic planning is required for players to keep stringing together combos to beat down enemies, but that adds to the depth of the system. It’s just a lot of fun and ensures showdowns in NEO: The World Ends With You never grow tiresome.
“Depth is found with the ‘pin’ system, which sees characters equipping different pins in order to use a variety of special abilities.”
My only real beef with combat came with the difficulty. For the most part, the battles of NEO: The World Ends With You can be pretty easy (maybe a little TOO easy). Every so often though, you’ll hit a boss that really raises the ante, with their ruthless attacks making quick work of your party if you aren’t prepared. They’re all winnable encounters, but the swift change of difficulty and demand for strategic prowess caught me off-guard on more than a few occasions. Maybe I just got a little bit too comfortable beating the game’s standard foes, or maybe it’s a balancing issue… who knows? Either way, expect some harsh surprises when facing off against some of the bosses.
The clothing your party wears will alter their effectiveness in battle, with their stats changing up based upon the gear they’ve got equipped. It doesn’t change your characters’ appearances, but it’s still a neat system to play around with that can see a better sense of style and coordination offer stronger buffs. Players will also be able to permanently increase their stats by eating at one of Shibuya’s restaurants, with different meals offering a different buff. Of course, your team won’t be hungry ALL the time so you can’t constantly eat to make them super powerful, so you’ve got to make sure you take advantage of your team’s hunger. With each character having their favourite tastes and different stats to consider, it offers an unconventional yet intuitive approach to boosting your team’s capabilities.
“I’ve got to give a big shout out to the banging soundtrack too, which fits the frantic vibe of the game perfectly.”
Everything comes together nicely to make for an RPG experience that genuinely feels unique. Best of all, it’s packed to the brim with content, with plenty of side quests to dive into alongside the main story. I’ve seen a lot of RPGs feel a little overwhelming because of this, but the pacing of NEO: The World Ends With You ensures that action remains at the forefront. The side quests don’t drag the game out, but rather complement it.
What tops it all off is the impressive presentation, with NEO: The World Ends With You looking slick and stylish throughout. I’ve already mentioned that the story sequences are oozing with style, but the environmental design and action-packed combat sequences look great too. Admittedly, some locales could feel a bit samey over time, but they never stopped being nice to look at. I’ve got to give a big shout out to the banging soundtrack too, which fits the frantic vibe of the game perfectly. There are some really catchy tunes in the game, with some still stuck in my head now. But hey, that’s what happens when you spend forty hours with an RPG…
I played through NEO: The World Ends With You on the Nintendo Switch and am happy to report it was a mostly smooth experience. I did encounter a few hitches to the frame rate in busier sequences, but it was never anything that deterred from the overall experience. I did encounter a crash that took me back to the Nintendo Switch dashboard though, but thankfully that was a one-off that didn’t see me losing any real progress. These minor blips are hardly game breakers, with the Nintendo Switch version of the game certainly proving to be quite impressive.
NEO: The World Ends With You feels as slick and stylish as the original, with the enjoyable combat and fantastic narrative pulling everything together. There’s plenty to love about the world, its characters, and the challenging situation they find themselves in, whilst the many twists of the story will keep players enthralled until the end. Add to that the intuitive pin system, the variety of tasks to complete, and the gorgeous visuals, and it’s clear that NEO: The World Ends With You is a very impressive RPG.
It took fourteen-years for a sequel to The World Ends With You to release, but you know what? The wait was worth it. Hopefully we won’t have to wait quite as long to play the Reaper’s Game again next time around…
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4