NEO: The World Ends with You Review
The World Ends with You (Subarashiki Kono Sekai in Japan) was a shining gem from the Nintendo DS era for its story, characters, gameplay, and soundtrack. Boasting innovative mechanics, you can tell that this action RPG was going to be something special, eventually seeing some re-releases on mobile phones, the Nintendo Switch, and even getting an anime adaptation.
As far as the series goes, I consider myself a newbie. I’m familiar with characters like Neku and gameplay mechanics like Pins but haven’t really played the original despite multiple chances to do so. I opted to go into this game blind, all to see how a nearly 14-year-old sequel would look like to a newcomer.
After my time with NEO: The World Ends with You, I’d say that the experience was pretty damn amazing.
Narratively, NEO: The World Ends with You is a direct sequel to the original game. There are many callbacks to the original that you’ll definitely want to brush up on past events to appreciate this latest release.
As a relative newcomer, it was a little disheartening not being able to fully relate. NEO: The World Ends with You takes place in the same fictional Shibuya as the original, so appearances by certain faces will have a bigger impact on longtime fans for nostalgic reasons.
Despite this lack of familiarity, newcomers shouldn’t be afraid of picking up NEO: The World Ends with You as its main story can actually stand on its own. The “Reapers’ Game” may have already happened prior, but Rindo Kanade and his friends are also newcomers to this deadly game and so you, the player, would be experiencing everything alongside them.
At the end of the day, this is still Rindo’s story, and it’s compelling enough to see through to the end despite some questions still feeling unanswered.
Combat in NEO: The World Ends with You is mostly about fighting the monstrous Noise and other players of the Reapers’ Game while using the power of Pins. Equipping these stylish trinkets of varying Psyche Affinity and button prompts to use in battle is a system simple enough to grasp, but knowing when to use them in combination with each other and managing their cooldown periods is a different beast altogether.
As intimidating as it sounds, this battle system is actually fun once you get the hang of it. Pins you pick up along the way will always bring something new to the table, so part of the fun of it all is finding the right combination that works for you and your playstyle.
Combat almost always feels fresh thanks to the need to constantly update pins, and while it may sound like a hassle to keep familiarizing yourself each time you change pins, it does more to elevate the whole combat experience. The Pin system makes combat dynamic and constantly evolving but not enough to get you out of the groove of things, making you anticipate the following battle for what pin you might pick up next.
This sense of experimentation and practice, along with the satisfaction you get from putting together a winning Pin combination to rack up Groove, should appeal to any RPG aficionado who loves putting together builds regardless of whether you played the original before or not.
Seven days to make things count
During each of the seven days of the Reapers’ Game, you’ll have access to nearly the entirety of the bright and vibrant Shibuya. The city feels alive and NEO: The World Ends with You oozes style in all aspects of the game, similar to titles like Persona 5.
You can spend your time fighting Noise to rack up Pins, Shop for clothes, or stop for a bite in one of the many food establishments scattered throughout. If you think things may feel boring in a game that takes place only in one city, then you might just be surprised at how much fun Shibuya in NEO can be.
The game does a good job of mixing up the daily tasks you need to do in each day of the Reapers’ Game. Like Rindo and the rest of the gang, you’ll never know what the Reapers will ask you to do, but rest assured that some of these mini-games were really fun, from simple spot-the-difference to challenging puzzles.
After some time they may start to feel repetitive, but the game tries and does its best to mix things up when possible.
Side-quests are also available, which makes use of your friends’ abilities to influence the thoughts of bystanders by directly entering their minds to fight the Noise within. As mundane and forgettable as they are in a narrative sense, they don’t take very long to complete and are recommended for some great in-game benefits that you can get from the game’s Social Network.
NEO: The World Ends with You also does a good job of implementing backtracking, where you can replay days you’ve finished, letting you fast forward dialogue, and even sometimes highlighting the correct choices in some word mini-games.
Collect them all
NEO: The World Ends with You also has a worthwhile Collectible system that encourages multiple playthroughs, rewarding those who are willing to take up the challenge. Difficulty plays a big factor for completionists, as fighting on a higher Difficulty setting will yield rarer and better Pins. You can also lower your level for higher Pin drop rates, which is a handicap worth implementing for the rewards alone.
Pins aren’t exclusively acquired in fights, and will often need to be bought or evolved, turning them into completely different Pins. Aside from Pins, other collectibles like clothes and food all count towards the massive in-game collectible list, encouraging players to splurge and fight to earn cash and basically get them all.
All of this is happening while jamming to the amazing rock/rap/techno/pop soundtrack, with both new and returning mixes from the first game that made it a joy to listen to. Every track that played never felt out of place and music lovers will surely have more than one favorite by the time the game is done.
Despite a fun time, NEO: The World Ends with You has a glaring loading problem, especially since you’ll be transitioning from area to area often. It is quite disappointing to see that the game does not improve on this even when played on a PlayStation 5 via backward compatibility since there’s no native version. The result is a break in the momentum, especially since part of the combat requires chaining fights.
What we liked:
- Complex but rewarding battle system.
- Memorable and diverse soundtrack.
- Interesting story and characters.
- Engaging collectibles.
What we didn’t like:
- Load times during area and battle transitions
Verdict: Buy It!
NEO: The World Ends with You stands strong among a sea of releases, and is a worthwhile entry whether or not you’ve played the first game from 2007. The story of a game organized by Reapers is interesting enough, but the fun combat system and catchy soundtrack wrap it up in a fantastically presented package that is nothing but a treat to play.
Replay value is a strong suit for NEO: The World Ends with You and there’s enough fun to be had for completionists because of the insane amount of collectibles. Pins are also abundant, and trying out every combination to find the best ones to use is another way to spend time in Shibuya.
It’s been a long time for fans, but this entry into the series will not disappoint. As a newcomer turned fan, NEO: The World Ends With You was a pleasant surprise and is surely a release that shouldn’t be overlooked.
*NEO: The World Ends With You was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 via a review code provided by the publishers.