The original The World Ends with You was a peculiar RPG on the DS where players controlled town characters simultaneously while battling. The plot revolved around the Reaper’s game in another dimension within Shibuya. The cast would have to survive an elaborate plot of mysteries and use psychic powers to combat the Reapers using the power of fashion.
It was a beloved DS game for good reason. The gameplay revolved around deep customization and inputs could be extremely varied and complex thanks to the gestural strokes done with the DS stylus and touch screen. It was unlike anything anyone had ever played before and the story proved to be extremely compelling.
After almost 15 year of dormancy, Square Enix finally decided to revive The World Ends with You with a sequel. Made for current gen consoles, NEO: The World Ends with You wouldn’t have the two-screen gameplay and h.a.n.d. would have to reimagine the systems. A lot has changed in 15 years, but has the wait been worth it? Find out in our Neo: The World Ends with You review!
Neo: The World Ends with You
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Neo: The World Ends with You makes a very strong first impression and it does not let up. It is such a vividly stylish looking game and manages it with a very modest graphics budget. The art direction emulates the visuals from the DS original, but with 3D cel shaded flair.
Deep, contrasting shadows make characters and architecture very defined and graphic. The visual novel style story segments use a wide variety of busts and portraits of different sizes and everyone gets a multitude of poses and expressions to make each scene engrossing.
Cutscenes that bookend each chapter are impressive. Camera work is thoughtfully placed and can move energetically through scenes as characters animate fluidly and expressively. The PlayStation 4 version is especially striking since many of these scenes look good enough to be from high production quality anime.
Fashion is a huge aspect of Neo: The World Ends with You and while none of the stylish equipment has any cosmetic changes to the character models; the designs of each character are effective. Everyone in the cast has a distinctive silhouette and is easily identified.
Their posture in battle and animations say a lot about them and is important to the gameplay since being able to distinguish each fighter in a fight prevents confusion when the chaos heats up. Enemies in Neo: The World Ends with You are an unusual bunch and can be best described as living graffiti demons. They are bizarre abstractions of familiar beasts, which makes them understandable when reading their tells.
When going toe to toe with the noise, the combat mechanics turn out to be a worthy expansion of what The World Ends with You on DS established. Neo uses a similar badge mechanic where each one is an ability, but this time in a much larger party. This offers deep customization options for building a combat style that suits anyone.
Each badge and character is tied to different face or shoulder buttons. Depending on the move, the input will vary and keeps players on their toes and from becoming too complacent. The badges also have different conditions that initiate a “beatdrop”, which stuns enemies but also increases “groove”.
Being very groovy is important in Neo: The World Ends with You. Dropping the beat gradually boosts the groove, and maxing it out allows the party to unleash a super attack from one of the characters’ badge, which is usually charged with an element.
Combat overall has a very satisfying ebb and flow and being able to chain multiple fights together is key to pulling off huge attacks and gaining the most rewards.
The riskier the player chooses to play, the bigger the pay-off and Neo constantly pushes players to test themselves by playing on harder difficulties, which can be adjusted at any time. Playing like this earns more rare badges and cash, so there is never a reason not to.
Risk comes from all party members sharing HP and not being able to restore it between chained battles. There are pins that restore health, but doing so takes up a precious slot for doing big damage on street sharks. It is a spicy way to play an action game and manages to stay stimulating all the way to the end.
When not battling, Neo: The World Ends with You is a little bit like a Yakuza game. It is set in Shibuya and players are free to take in the sights at their own pace: taking on side quests or grinding for cash to buy that corset for Fret. Some NPCs have a variation of a social link mechanic which leads to worthwhile rewards, should players take the time to fulfill their requests.
Each party member comes with their own specialty psychic ability, which has a mini game aspect to it. Rindo is able to rewind time, so he has to alter fate to prevent tragedies. Fret is able to dive into people’s minds and make them remember things they forgot, and Nagi mind-dives into people where there’s a predetermined battle that represents a negative emotion.
The hip hop soundscape is dense with record scratching and funky beats which is appropriate for the style in Neo: The World Ends with You. Some pieces are familiar remixes of fan favorite tracks from from the original The World Ends with You and fans of screamo style music will be impressed by what this has to offer.
The voice cast delivers a very soulful performance as the drama intensifies. While the localization is mostly solid, the excessive use of modern day memes and colloquial slang has dated this game already. Hearing characters talk in this manner will make players wince as they feel their skin crawl.
Sho Minamimoto was a heavy in the prior game but is an early companion in Neo: The World Ends with You and his voice actor breathes so much life and personality into his character. This is a guy who has a compulsive fixation on math and the utterly straight and passionate delivery of his lines makes Sho feel very real. He has just enough ridiculous edginess to make him go past the cringe zone and becomes cool.
Rindo’s voice actor also is exceptional. This is a very complex character who undergoes gradual growth and his performance is very layered. Rindo is often privy to some shocking visions due to him living out bad futures and going back to the past to see friends he saw die alive again. This takes a toll on the boy and his actor is convincing at conveying the weight he carries.
Over the course of a week of playing the reaper’s game, the cast will struggle to survive. The rules have been adjusted from the first game, with the biggest change being that participants must complete missions objectives as decided by the game master to earn points.
There are many abstract concepts in this scenario revolving around the reapers and who they are and what they want. The answers behind what the underground is and the significance of the game master are aspects of the story that do demand a bit of a stretch of suspension of disbelief. If gamers can accept these parameters, then a very engaging and unusual story with surprises and twists awaits.
Neo: The World Ends with You is an epic urban fantasy that grabs you and does not let go. The original game on DS was one of the best uses of its hardware and while its sequel lacks the creative gimmick, it vastly expands the world and cast in a satisfying way.
The combat is highly stimulating and deep with customization options. The design of the system encourages to play risky and to push yourself to your absolute limit with its difficulty options. The scenario rarely has players do the same thing for too long; keeping the gameplay fresh as much as possible.
Coming back to the reaper’s game with this scope and grand vision has proven to be a risk for Square Enix that sadly has not paid off. Sales may not have met expectations for the venerable publisher and this would mean that Neo: The World Ends with You could be the last reaper’s game ever. It is a shame because this bold title has proven to be one of the best action RPGs that Square Enix has ever made and is highly recommended.
Neo: The World Ends with You was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.