REVIEW: NEO: The World Ends With You Brings the Beat Back to Shibuya

NEO: The World Ends With You

When the original The World Ends With You hit Nintendo DS back in 2007, it offered up a unique mix of catchy music, outstanding street art inspired designs, and a battle system that really took advantage of the portable & # 039; s dual-screen setup. How you fared with it likely depended on how adept you were at managing two screens of action at once. Personally, I was an utter failure at most battles in the first game, so I was more than happy to try out a new take on it all—still quirky yet infinitely more manageable—in NEO: The World Ends With You.

The followup just launched on PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC, and with its multiplatform ambition comes a more streamlined system by necessity. In NEOSome attacks are simple one-time button presses, while others require you to, you control every member of your party at once, and their attacks and the buttons assigned to each depend on which of the many collectable pins you have equipped on each character. hold and release or tap repeatedly. Toss in a basic dodge mechanic and you have simple but effective battles that can be stacked atop one another on the field for an increased challenge and a boost in rewards.

This entry has mostly new characters at the forefront, but will be familiar to anyone who played The World Ends With You. Try as it might to be its own thing, NEO leans on its predecessor in many ways, just not to the extent that it ever completely alienates newcomers. The pair in the lead from the beginning are Rindo and Fret, who find themselves thrust into an after-death game that has them running around Shibuya to solve puzzles, battle enemies called Noise, and ultimately win against competing teams over the course of the seven-day event.

There & # 039; sa ton to do and collect as you progress through the story and add new members to your bottom-tier team, which always seems to be doing its best just to scrape by and live to compete another day. You can shop, of course—this is Shibuya after all! —And everything from fashion to food is meticulously illustrated in a way that manages to reflect both the real world and the game & # 039; s graffiti-tinged aesthetic. That style carries over to the event scenes The visuals overall are light and flashy, with bold design choices bringing characters to life against a substrates that always seems alive and bustling even if most of the people within it are faceless drones going about their day while you fight to survive in a game of death.

The story peppers in plenty of references to the original game, especially in the latter half, but it & # 039; s not the real draw. NEO: The World Ends With You hinges on its lightning fast battles and the fun it manages to wring out of constantly running players ragged around Shibuya. Each of your main party members also has a fun gimmick to exploit for the sake of progression. Rindo can mess with time and leap back and forth to key moments to shake up the timeline and change the team & # 039; s fate. Fret can jog memories and remind people of something important to make it easier for the gang to make their next move, and Nagi can use a special psych that lets her Dive into people & # 039; s minds and exterminate the Noise within.

It all melds together in a cityscape viewed through fixed camera angles that allow it to twist and turn to the developer & # 039; s delight. This skewed view of a dream-like post-death Shibuya works well whether it & # 039; s 2007 or 2021, even if a lot of the vibe of NEO: The World Ends With You feels firmly rooted in the former. That goes doubly so for some of the tired character archetypes—like Kanon Tachibana & # 039; s fashion-obsessed Variabeauties team—which feel like they were written back when the first game was still fresh. There may not be flip-phones in hand this time around, but when you & # 039; re in the world of TWEWYIt & # 039; s impossible to recreate the groove of the first entry and present it like it & # 039; s something brand new, but NEO does its damndest and ends up leaving its own memorable mark along the way.

NEO: The World Ends With You is available now. Review code provided by Square Enix.


Joseph Luster is the Games and Web editor at Otaku USA Magazine. You can read his comics at subhumanzoids. Follow him on Twitter @Moldilox..

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