NEO The World Ends With You is an interesting aberration. While it stays true to the style, music and general feel of the original, the game is just too drawn out for its own good. There’s only so long an audience can stay invested before they start to check out, and unfortunately, NEO The World Ends With You made me want to stop playing on more than one occasion.
But before I bear my grievances with this sequel, let’s first take a closer look.
Retreading Old Ground
Following in the footsteps of Rindo Kanade, the token angsty anime protagonist and Tosai “Fret” Furesawa, the cheerful side-kick AKA best boy, NEO The World Ends With You thrusts players back into the Reaper’s Game; a life or death score-attack tournament where teams face off in a week-long series of missions. Placing first allows a team to escape, but the unlucky few who finish dead-last must face their untimely “erasure”.
The Reaper’s Game concept from the original is still captivating, but it treads on familiar ground a little too often. The story’s not as captivating as the original either, and huge chunks of time are spent catching newcomers up on the rules and whatnots of the competition. This results in the pacing and general intrigue of the narrative suffering heavily as a result. Not to mention how the gameplay’s frustrating formula further fuels these issues, but we’ll jump into that later.
The In-Depth Characters of NEO The World Ends With You
However, even though the story’s frustrating to witness, the characters are where NEO The World Ends With You shines. The amount of smart dialogue and funny banter between the main cast is highly entertaining, especially from the jokester, Fret. The way he comments on everything with a cheeky/meta tone and hardly takes anything seriously is so endearing. Unlike the main protagonist, Rindo whose angsty demeanour will grind your gears at times. That being said, their best friend dynamic is actually quite amusing to watch unfold.
Overall, the main characters blend together particularly well and present some compelling themes such as: deciding who to trust and masking one’s persona. It’s a pity that the story’s presentation is butchered by shoddy pacing, and the real-time choppy cutscenes don’t help out much either. Even as most of the dialogue happens during static portrait stills though, the voice-over does suit each of the cast to a T. The well-drawn art and animation really help bring the characters to life.
A Simple, Yet Deep Combat System
When it comes to the numerous battles you’ll partake in, NEO The World Ends With You is a mixed bag. How combat works is that every playable character’s assigned to one button, and each fighter can be equipped with a unique skill or ‘psych’ as they’re called in-game. Psychs are on a cool-down and can be charged up for more power, which adds an oddly satisfying layer of strategy to the mix. You’ll be constantly switching between party members, juggling enemies and planning out when to strike/defend during the game’s more intense battles.
It’s great how coordinating as a team actively rewards the player as well. When certain conditions are met, such as chaining an individual fighter’s psychs in a row, a ‘Drop The Beat!’ prompt will appear for another teammate to follow up and subsequently increase the party’s ‘Groove’ gauge. Raising it to 100% (or higher) will multiply each psych’s attack power and unleash various overdrive AOE attacks for maximum chaos.
The battle system works well for the most part and the boss encounters are definitely worth some praise. However, the experience quickly devolves into a button-mashing ruckus for the more menial encounters. I’m not the biggest fan of the dodge roll either, nor how the lock-on system is incredibly finicky at times. But all in all, it’s still a fun combat system to mess around in and tinker with. The customisable loot-to-difficulty sliders are a neat touch too, although the gameplay did struggle to hold my attention from battle-to-battle throughout the 50+ hour adventure.
Running Around Shibuya in NEO The World Ends With You
Outside of combat, there’s a multitude of missions that involve solving puzzles and mysteries around Shibuya. A few of them require the use of Rindo’s time-travel abilities to jump around chronologically and discover new pieces of information, which is an interesting yet oftentimes pace-destroying gimmick. Or those that utilise Fret’s ‘Remind’ psych, which has the player awkwardly jumbling together a picture that can trigger a person of interest’s memory.
There’s also the classic spot-the-difference puzzles and solve-the-riddle sequences which are generally pretty fun. Good thing is that everything’s conveyed well and ticked off with checklists in the pause menu, which does make the puzzle-solving a breeze to manage. However, the constant dialogue, forced battles, backtracking and abundance of puzzles unashamedly feel like padding to the nth degree. I’d easily enjoy this game more if the developers shaved off 10-15 hours of content – it’s that egregious.
I’d be remiss to not mention the art and fashion of NEO The World Ends With You though. Just like the original, the youthful urban style of clothing the characters wear/equip looks awesome and really glows up with that stylised, fashion-focused aesthetic. The art design by Tetsuya Nomura and co. as a collective effortlessly brings out the city of Shibuya, its denizens and its landmarks to life with such class. And when you combine said style with some modern remixes of the original’s OST, plus a few new dance and heavy metal tracks that’ll have you bopping along in no time, it all results in an abundance of masterful audio-visual feats that are just waiting to be discovered.
NEO The World Ends With You has a lot to offer with its unique combat, fun puzzles and great characters. But at the same time, it can’t help but pad out its features to a ridiculous extent. As much as I loved The World Ends With You on Nintendo DS back in 2008, going through the motions again with a comparatively inferior story and stretched out gameplay can be a tough pill to swallow at times. If you’re still interested in NEO however, I’d recommend checking out the original first to catch up on the story and character motivations.
Even though NEO The World Ends With You is a 50+ hour JRPG, a good 20-30% of the experience should’ve been trimmed out. Looking beyond that there’s a surprisingly deep combat system (mainly for bosses), wonderful characters and awesome music/art that newcomers and TWEWY veterans will no doubt enjoy.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Square Enix. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.