- Developer: Square Enix
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Release Date: 27/07/2021
- Price: £49.99 / $59.99
- Review code provided by Square Enix
- Version reviewed: 1.01
Introducing: NEO: The World Ends With You Review
NEO: The World Ends With You is the sequel to the Nintendo DS game The World Ends With You from 2007. Having made the jump from the original Gameboy to the 3DS, I never played the action-RPG, so NEO is my first contact with the IP. This, by the way, is totally OK according to producer Tomohiko Hirano who wants to lure in a new generation of players anyway. I just hope that the new generation also includes those geriatric but young at heart, like me.
In the beginning of the game you find yourself in a stylized version of Tokyo’s Shibuya district only a few footsteps away from the famous Hachiko statue. (Unfortunately, you can’t pet it.) You are a high school student called Rindo Kanade and want to meet up with your friend and classmate Tosai Furesawa. Your friend is late, because he had to wait in line to buy two Reaper pins of which one ends up in your possession. After finally meeting up, you decide to grab a bite in one of the many restaurants. Sounds like every afternoon in the city, right? Things take a darker turn rather quickly when a Reaper suddenly informs Rindo and Tosai that they are now playing “The Game” without having any chance to elegantly decline or drop out. Furthermore, they are informed that their team of two is at the end of the league table and will be erased if it doesn’t rise in the rankings over the next seven days.
Collectors are crazy!
The way to rise in the rankings is to collect more points than the other teams during the week, but then, how do you get points? Simply put, you can collect them by defeating monsters, called Noise in NEO, as well as finishing the day’s objective. This will also let you level up your characters resulting in growing your HP stat. Finding Noise in the strange streets of Shibuya is easy. You are able to scan for them, initiate battle and then defeat them in combat with your psychic powers. Each one of your team’s characters can equip one of those, e.g. shooting burning arrows or administering heavy punches, via equipping the corresponding pins. You get the pins as spoils from defeating Noise. In the end, you’ll inevitably end up as a pin collector. There are 300 of them, so getting them all will take some time. You’ll also end up with a lot of unwanted extra pins which you can sell at the many fashion shops in the area. This is your main source of income, by the way.
And believe me, you need money. First, one does not fight on an empty stomach. Ordering food from one of the many restaurants or cafes is necessary to advance your characters’ stats: HP, ATK, DEF, Style. Eat something and your stats grow. Eat or drink a favourite food and the stats grow even further. Additionally, your team’s Fullness meter fills up, limiting the amount of food you can eat. Fight some Noise to get hungry again, then have another meal. As stat changes via food intake are permanent, the Fullness meter makes sure that you don’t turn into a mindless glutton and raise your stats too high too quickly.
The second cause of your constant money problem is clothes, called Threads in NEO. Shibuya is a fashionable neighbourhood and you have to fit in. That results in you cruising the shops and buying different garments to wear. From hats to trousers, five types of clothing can be found and equipped for all of your team’s characters. Wearing clothes influences your stats and can have additional benefits, too, in the form of useful abilities. However, these abilities will only be unlocked if your Style stat is higher than the required minimum by the fashion item. While you start off with a team of two, more people will join and financing a full wardrobe for all of them will have you eliminating Noise with a vengeance to cough up the dosh.
Returning to fighting, remember that your pins determine what attacks your team has in it’s arsenal. Rarer pins give you stronger attacks. Additionally, your pins will level up through fighting, making them stronger as well. Some pins can also evolve when certain conditions are met, giving you access to pins you can’t get from battle spoils.
Let’s turn our attention to the way NEO structures its narrative. The game is divided into weeks and days. Each day has a main task or quest for you as well as some side quests. Once you finish off the main quest, you advance to the next day. Don’t worry about missing out on the side quests, because all members of your team, called Wicked Twisters, learn special abilities during the courses of events. You’ll solve your tasks by looking for clues around Shibuya, fighting Noise, helping people remember details important to you, implanting fresh ideas into their consciousness or even enter their minds to rid them of Noise, but your strongest ability is travelling back and forth in time. This will not only help you during your quests but lets you revisit previous days to tick off side quests you haven’t taken care off already. Pretty elegant solution.
I can see the Noise and smell the beat!
I already mentioned that the game takes place in a stylised version of Shibuya, and wow, it looks cool! It’s delightfully colourful while you walk around solving your tasks and dark and gritty when you scan for Noise. NEO’s version of the infamous shopping district is a feast for the eyes, just like the sight of an oasis for a man dying of thirst. Yes, the 3D environment is that well done. The artstyle used for conversations is beautiful as well. Here we are treated to a panelled fashion not unlike one you find in a comic book or visual novel. It certainly matches the 3D style and underscores the overall narrative.
From what I have been told, the music was one of the best parts of the original DS game. You’re probably delighted to know that the sequel under review here hits the bullseye once again in this regard. Takeharu Ishimoto has once again created an action packed soundtrack sure to pleasure your ears.
NEO: The World Ends With You has voice acting in both English and Japanese. The English one is good, but I prefer the immersion of the Japanese one. Shibuya really comes to life this way. (Just don’t forget to turn on English subtitles if you, like me, don’t understand Japanese.)
Performance is key!
No bugs, no glitches. Just great performance both handheld and docked. There are some slowdowns during battles, but nothing to worry about. An honorable mention goes out to the fact that all the fonts are perfectly readable under all circumstances. Well done!
With a pleasing artstyle, great narration and story, non-stop action, great controls and stunning strategic options, NEO: The World Ends With You has everything a great game needs. Once you’ve started playing it’s hard to put down your Switch, especially because the game is structured around episodes lasting a single day. You find yourself thinking “Just one more day!” and the next you know is that it’s the middle of the night and you have already played through another three days of The Game.
- Great battle controls: control your character with the left stick, select your enemy with the right one and then use B to dodge or A, X, Y, L, R, ZL, ZR to turn Noise into minced meat.
- Well written story full of puns, twists and treason. No details nor spoilers from me, though.
- Difficulty ranging from easy to ultimate. There is also a setting to lower your party’s level during fights and thereby raising the amount of spoils you’ll earn after battles.
- Lots of strategic choices to make: Create the perfect loadout for your playstyle!
- Readable fonts!
- Difficulties other than normal have to be unlocked during gameplay.
- Some tropey characters.
- No control over the camera. In fights the right stick is used to select targets, which is fine, but exploring Shibuya without camera control needs getting used to.