“Thanks again! See you soon and Goodbye. " With these words the musical track ended Twister-Remix and in certain senses the adventure of Some, Shiki, Beat, Rhyme e Joshua and of all the inhabitants of the Shibuya di The World Ends with You. Let's talk about the concept singular at the base of the game, its aesthetics, but above all its music and gameplay formula, I do not hide how the original has formed a good part of my identity as a gamer, although I looked to it more or less 3/4 years ago . And while I continued to think of it as a self-concluding work in all respects, part of me wanted more. A timid request hidden in the depths of my mind that, November 23, 2020 was fulfilled with the announcement of NEO: The World Ends with You.
I admit that in those short but interminable 2 minutes of video my brain literally took the tangent route. Everything was in its place, only newer. New and old characters interacting with each other, a new combat system to explore and above all Twister, yet another remix. I was back in Shibuya or rather, I was back in the Reaper's Game. And I confess that, despite the initial epiphany being my main dopamine fix for that week, I was very scared of this title. Not so much for those who were working on it, since we are talking about the same developers and authors behind the original, as for those who were publishing it: Square Enix. Because it is useless to deny it, these here do not know how to advertise a game other than the usual Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts or Dragon Quest. And even when it does, scandalous headlines like Marvel's Avengers.
But now that the game is actually out… Does it still make sense to talk about all this? Honestly not and despite the main idea of this article it involved a long and venomous outburst against Square for literally having killed the promotional campaign of this game, also marking their commercial success, for example denying them a place in their conference ofE3 2021 or even in one of the presentations Nintendo o PlayStation, I rather tell you with an open heart and in full all the sensations I felt during my experience with NEO: The World Ends with You.
The nomenclature Zetta near the term review also indicates this, as well as mentioning the good Sho Minamimoto. From my point of view, the only way to tell you about this game without creating a disservice is through an analysis as complete as possible of the entire game, so as not to leave you at the end of the article with information that you would easily find on the back of its packaging.
That said: put on your best pin set and let's find out what this new trip to Shibuya has to offer!
Out of sync performance
I would say starting with a little experiment. Most of the time, a stock's technical section is placed at the bottom of a review, automatically making it the climax of the whole article. This time I would like to try to do the opposite, as (within certain limits) I don't think that the technical sector of Neo: The World Ends with You affects the gaming experience.
I immediately put my hands forward and admit I played the version Nintendo Switch of the title, in the hope that Square Enix had spent enough resources in an optimization level capable of doing justice not only to PS4, but also to the console belonging to the brand that gave birth to the series. Unfortunately, these expectations were not met. Let's be clear, in no possible and imaginable scenario was I expecting a fixed 60 fps on Nintendo Switch, we must put our soul in peace and admit that it is a successful platform but from the components that have already had their time 4 years ago. But at the same time I find unacceptable that the developers have not thought of blocking the fluidity of the game at 30 frames per second, instead of a dynamic frame rate which I didn't particularly appreciate. Nothing to make it unplayable from my point of view, but most likely a boss fight that even drops below 20 due to a blow that goes into it with the particles can make someone turn up their noses.
Ultimately, if you are considering purchasing NEO: The World Ends with You and are undecided which version is right for you, I am forced to suggest the PS4 version or the upcoming PC version coming to the Epic Games Store.
Let it be clear however, in none of the cases the experience on the Switch is to be considered inferior if you cannot choose otherwise. On the contrary, all versions will present a problem that I would define even more serious: camera management. If in the exploratory phases, Shibuya is seen through a hybrid camera between "fixed" and "following" that at most changes its position in favor of the main points of interest closest to Rindo and his companions, during the fighting he finds himself in front of a camera that dictates the fluidity of the latter too much. Leaving aside particular pins that offer bonuses to team members, it is not possible to issue any command if you are not sure that you have marked the enemy to be hit with the "automatic lock on", which allows the camera to follow the movements of this one. last. And if on the one hand this avoids the presence of scenarios linked to one disproportionate spamming of your own brooches thus saving precious charges and avoiding tedious cooldown, on the other it makes battles against enemies moving from one side of the arena to the other frustrating or that even hide their presence, thus making them impossible to attack.
To this, I add the absence of a priority lock on in case you are trapped in the grip of a noise or a boss e the camera's inability to adapt to encounters with creatures that have multiple attackable limbs and that (especially in the final stages) create too much confusion inside the arena. The real and only sore point of the whole game therefore is enclosed once again in the inability of Square Enix to design a camera suitable for this kind of titles. Especially considering that next to this black sheep there is a game that still has a lot to tell. Let's do that Final Fantasy XVI will it be the right time?
Looking cool, Rindo!
Don't worry, this will be the first and only time 5 person takes possession of this review… Maybe. In fact, this little quote to the cat Morgana perfectly sums up what I think about the art direction of all of NEO: The World Ends with You. It is simply stunning to see. From the first presentation trailer you could already guess the high level of the entire artistic presentation, but once I started the real game it seemed to me to immerse myself 100% in the atmosphere of the Shibuya underground.
Starting with the interface dedicated to dialogues between the various characters, even outside the game events and during the exploration phases. NEO expands and exasperates the comic style present in the original game, allowing all members of the main cast to express themselves at their best. In addition to the classic sprites, the dialogues rip a page from the Gravity Rush manual and adopting the format of comic strips who, when necessary, using different compositions and directorial choices to tell in a masterly way what is happening on the screen. In this way, it makes up for the absence of hundreds and hundreds of animated cutscenes, also present but in a smaller number and representing in all respects the Square brand”And his fame in churning out high quality movies (as opposed to trailers, which are far too spoilers).
Honorable mention for the graphic interface of the menu dedicated to party management and shops, which scream street art from all their pixels, starting with the section dedicated to the pins up to the compendium of game progress, where you can also customize your own mural using the various unlockable achievements during gameplay as decorations. Opposite speech for the system UI, rather anonymous in my opinion and which comes to be particularly out of tune with the rest of the presentation.
It wouldn't be The World Ends with You without ITS trademark, the element that contributed to making the first chapter a cult and a small time machine: its soundtrack. Right from the start of the software, Wandering Around Shibuya tries to give the player a message: the heart of Takeharu Ishimoto's score is versatility. Several songs that are heard during gameplay or while browsing the menus tend to mix different genres in a matter of minutes. A resounding example of this concept is INCONGRUOUS, which goes from pop to metal and then to rap and techno, in less than 2 minutes.
There is no shortage of monothematic pieces such as Chase or We're losing you, not to mention the NEO Mixes of tracks already known as Transformation, Hybrid, Someday and of course that damned Twister. Speaking of new remixes, I am pleased with the inclusion of tracks from The World Ends with You: Live Remix (unfortunate social based title released on Japanese phones in 2012) and equally disappointed by the absence of Wake Up, passage introduced in The World Ends with You: Final Remix released on Nintendo Switch and that would have been perfect in this sequel.
For a speech similar to that made for the system UI, the only passages a out of tune within all this musical goodness are those dedicated to Invasion missions and that I found a little too anonymous and of little impact. I can understand wanting to totally change the tones to match the emotions represented in this game mode, but in my opinion you could try a different approach. For example, take a cue from the duality between the School Life and the Deadly Life of the series Danganronpa di Spike Chunsoft, adapting it to the style of the TWEWY soundtrack.
Going back to talking about variety, let's talk about the Character Design of the characters, or rather their clothing. As in the original, each story-relevant character that walks the streets of Shibuya has their own recognizable style but with a twist. If from the original chapter we find at the helm of the new characters the National Nomurone e Gen Kobayashi, the Miki Yamashita it is up to the daunting task of redesigning the big returns regarding the original cast. And I can say that all three have hit the target perfectly, obviously taking a cue from the main trends in Japanese youth fashion and translating them into designs that reflect or rework the concept behind the entire franchise: diversity, the conflict of ideals and ideas, a pleasant cacophony of colors that pour into the Scramble Crossing.
Honorable mention for the English adaptation of the title. Breaking a lance in favor of the supporters of translation Cannarsiana, the translation and adaptation team took a lot of liberties as for the lyrics of NEO: The World Ends with You, sometimes going to change the sense of whole sentences or even the sense of some characters, as in the case of Motoi than as a boy who loves terminology cultured become a polyglot. And while I can appreciate some references to the internet meme culture, I can also understand why some people tend to hate this kind of 4Kids adaptation.
The original text: こ の グ ラ フ ィ テ ィ 何? 『104』 か な? ん 〜… 何 か 気 に 入 ら な い! 上書 き し ち ゃ お
Translation: “What's this? "104"? Hmm… I don't like it! I'll tag all over it! "
Oh yes wonderful localization as always pic.twitter.com/XcuJqsSLBc
- Deculture🌐⚖🎪💟 (@magicalgirlnoir) July 5th, 2021
Luck has it that unlike the cartoons that pass through the American channel, the plot and the message of NEO: The World Ends with You still pass in their entirety through this too filter. A real shame for the Italian localization instead, which along the lines of the Final Remix continues to propose the wrong terminologies such as Demons o Noises and which unfortunately made me immediately return to reading English texts.
"A new and improved Shibuya"
Give me some weeb or even superficial, but for a person like me who has not yet managed to go to Japan, I know perfectly well that visiting the Shibuya neighborhood for the first time would move me in no time, precisely because of The World Ends with You. And the same thing happened after seeing the 3D Shibuya present in NEO. Holy shit! Don't run away!
Mind you, we are not talking about the huge island of Eos or Spira obviously, but the effort of the development team in re-proposing the most popular areas of the neighborhood as faithful to reality as possible remains commendable, in some cases going beyond the limits of attention to detail. In addition to the signs depicting the fictitious brands that all fans know (Natural Puppy, Jupiter of the Monkey, Tiger Punks etc.) you can find references or even faithful re-propositions of shops, buildings and high fashion brands such as UNIQLO e Bershka. Too bad (perhaps) for the exclusion of Pork City, considered in the original a real hell for all those players who have reached the endgame phase.
Speaking instead of what can be done in this city, in addition to facing dozens and dozens of Noise that haunt the thoughts of the masses, invade the thoughts of the masses and visit the fashion stores in search of better equipment, it is possible to increase the statistics. of their characters through the restaurants accessible and scattered throughout Shibuya. Fortunately compared to the original the mechanics of satiety have been reworked and stripped of its defects. The latter is still present, but rather than relying on bytes impossible to recharge once consumed, it has been made a bar shared by the whole party.
Once 100% of the calories are consumed by eating, it is impossible to consume further dishes, drinks and confectionery until the bar is completely discharged. This leads to have a more immediate farming loop, which in the endgame stages leads to the abuse of cheaper foods and bonuses related to the tastes of the characters to get the maximum possible amount of the latter in a single visit.
While exploring the city you can also participate in several side quests able to enlarge their own social networks, Or the skill tree able add or improve certain aspects of the game experience, such as the interactions with the Noise during the scan of the environments or the possibility of using special pins o multiple pins belonging to the same input. As far as I'm concerned, these side quests manage to lengthen the longevity of the title by just enough not to make them too annoying and expensive, offering in most cases interesting bonuses and a small background description for the most important characters.
And if for the first 20 hours of the game, my opinion on exploring Shibuya is positive, beyond that ceiling you begin to feel the lack of fast travel options or even mechanics that radically change the player's vision with respect to the map. Of course, there are character skills that allow you to get bonuses in battle or to explore small secret areas, but their implementation is shallow and in the long run they contribute to making Shibuya nothing more and nothing less than what it already is: a huge map that can be explored but little fun to explore outside of combat.
So how is this NEO: The World Ends with You pad in hand? What's BEYOND exploration and what makes it interesting and atypical compared to other JRPG Actions out there? To put it crudely, do you have fun when you strike your hands? The most immediate answer would be yes, but let's start in order.
The gameplay loop of the game has remained virtually unchanged from the original: by pressing the R key it is possible to scan the area around the search for Noise to be addressed. You can take on a single horde of enemies, or choose to amass as many hordes as possible, increasing the difficulty of the meetings from time to time but at the same time increasing the chance of finding rare drops. And speaking of drop rates and chances, this is where the series shows the player its most transparent mechanics: the ability to modulate the level of the party and the overall HP to magnify the drop rate multiplier. A risk / reward mechanic that rewards the daredevils or the most stat-conscious players and that becomes fundamental if you want to get every pin obtainable from enemies in all selectable difficulties, which are also modular and ranging from Easy until Ultimate.
In reverse, the combat system linked to the pins has been drastically revised, to make the most of the possibilities offered by 3D. If before (depending on the version) the inputs of Neku and his partners lived on two completely different control schemes, in NEO: The World Ends with You the player has almost full control over the actions of the characters, to which a single pin tied to one of the controller buttons is equipped, whether it is the action buttons, the backbones or the triggers. As the player collects victories after victories, the pins will accumulate PP or the experience points necessary for their evolution. And thank goodness, unlike the original for Nintendo DS which featured the co-existence of three types of scores (Battle, Shutdown and Mingle) in NEO some badges will evolve only and exclusively if equipped to a specific character. Although every night I tremble at the possibility of an update that re-introduces the Mingle PP obtainable by launching online games such as Fortnite, the Nintendo eShop or simply the PS4 system settings. And no, I'm not kidding these things really happened and even today I don't know the name of the madman who invented this system. For more information on how delusional the Mingle PPs are, click here.
Returning to talk about the feeling pad in hand, the clunkyness initially perceived by the trailers has been almost removed. The fights are located inside arenas which in style are very reminiscent of the titles of the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series by CyberConnect2, to name at least one anime fighter among the many in circulation, and base their frenetic pacing through the increase of Groove (or Sync), which is a percentage that grows each time the player rhythmically concatenates more consecutive attacks, using a circular bar to drop the beat on the unfortunate. Once you reach 100 or 200%, you can activate a special attack that (depending on the element of the latter) offers the possibility to rant again on the targets, incapacitand them. But it is at 300% that the equivalent of a bomb present in games like Touhou, or the Killer Remix. This All-Out Attack ultra flashy allows you to inflict massive damage, recover all the HP and above all multiply the drop rate once again in case the shot kills (or cancels) the enemy.
All this is opposed by the much loved Noise, creatures halfway between the animal and the 2000s tribal tattoos of the GameBoy Advance SP and that finally they turn out to be real threats. Raise your hand if you had particular problems in the original dealing with a Circle Pit Grizzly, an Alterna Wolf or any kind of Jelly. Nobody? Well, I inform you that the free ride is over! Indeed, some of the traditional fights present in the endgame content of the game are too cruel for my taste, to the point of showing the side of the technical side of the title, as highlighted above. But I have to say that overall, despite some omissions, hardly any of the standard enemies encountered during my game (level 1, hard difficulty) were unfair once we understood their action patterns. Except the Rex, those dinosaurs could easily not exist in the game and no one would say anything.
Completely reverse speech for the Special Noise that can be dealt with during the Invasion Missions, the timed mode that - picking up on the special TWEWY: Final Remix meetings - they put the player in front of enhanced versions of the classic enemies or that impose particular stipulations (increased damage, constant loss of HP etc.). A modality that unfortunately, due to the way it has been implemented, does not find in me one of its greatest admirers. Rather than reflecting Nagi's skill, catapulting the player into spacious and new dream arenas, the game decides to reuse the standard arenas to house enemies that may fail to contain them in some cases. Woe to meet two colossal Noises within areas such as Dogenzaka o Takeshita Street, narrower and longer than the others, because you are destined to fight with hitboxes and take part in fights a little too dirty for my taste.
Honorable mention and dishonor for the boss fight. Because if on the one hand some of these fights offer gameplay variety and a real challenge for the player, on the other hand we return to one of the Achilles heels of the original game. The first hour of the game (present in the demo) had in fact ended with the clash with the Go-Go Beringei, making me hope for a flicker of originality regarding the most dangerous Noise in circulation in Shibuya, a bit like the Dissonance Tapir which concluded the narrative of A New Day. Misfortune has it that the gorillone is the only boss (not belonging to the Reaper) of this type for several hours of play, until the final boss fight. And it's a shame because the possibilities were there and a pinch of inventiveness would have been enough to have a rich cast of bosses with multiple phases, patterns and complex animations, which could go beyond the concept of base enemy of a different color and increased damage power.
Are we there huh? The time has come to talk about the elephant in the room, the element that more than any other, even above the gameplay and presentation I have been looking forward to. I'm obviously talking about the story of NEO: The World Ends with You. My expectations were high, but at the same time full of doubts and fears. Certainly the presence of the original director Tatsuya Kando was a guarantee, but I immediately had the fear that an untouchable ending would be ruined and that the events of the A New Day chapter were leading the series towards an all-too-anime drift, where Neku and the others would have met a stronger enemy than before, sending to the winds the path taken by the characters during their adventure. Take it as a PTSD from Final Fantasy X-2.
Fortunately, the plot of NEO tries to play it from the beginning with a choice that for a sequel I would define interesting: a complete clean slate of everything the players knew. Via the Reaper of Shibuya, the city is now under the control of the tyrannical game master Shiba and the Shinjuku gang, escaped from an event of reversal who obliterated the city and all its inhabitants. Reaper's Game completely changes face, turning into a real group torture based more on the clash between human beings than on the growth of a relationship of trust between partners.
In all this, the only element that remains unchanged is the protagonist, or rather the introspection work done on the latter. Rindo Kanade it's exactly another facet of what Neku was at the time. Self Phones he based his introverisone on the categorical rejection of others, Rindo relies on the latter to create the world he lives in. During most of the game events, the boy seems to take refuge on the most comfortable option, without being decisive towards the events of the plot, as if they were the companions themselves at cart it, making him a much more current and credible character than one might think, and which in my opinion serves as a commentary on a cross-section of the generation z Japanese.
In contrast to it we find Tosai Furesawa in art "Freight“, A lively guy with an always ready joke and who in some instances reminded me of some aspects of Zidane, one of my favorite characters in the Final Fantasy series. And just like Goku's half-brother, Fret's apparent sunshine overwhelms the players before swooping them back to the ground once this one mask exits the scenario. And maybe I'll be the one to be a little too sensitive, but his development in the final part of the title has made him my favorite character, no self and no but.
Different speech for Nagi, the parody of otaku fixed with gatcha and unbridled collecting. If at first glance this character may seem like an outsider, a person who has nothing to do with Rindo and Fret, digging deeper the balance is found between the characters of the two peers. His predisposition to empathy and his explosive and changing character highlight the defects of his companions, going to complete a trio dell'ave maria that all in all managed to entertain me.
To these three is added a cast of secondary characters that for better or for worse is enjoyable, even if not everyone manages to get the screen time necessary to be relevant or at least interesting, first of all Tsugumi Matsunae. The girl formerly known as Hype-Chan she suffers too much from years and years of speculation about her character, culminating in the classic stereotype of damsel in distress, a narrative choice that I did not really like. Not so much for the high expectations, how much because I have the feeling that it was a character with an all too important role e spoilers towards the player, which ended up making it only a point of connection between game events and the universe around it.
Yet, all these elements manage to blend in a fluid, enjoyable narrative that finally winks at the secrets contained in the lore. and linked to what lies behind the scenes of the various events, in what I could define the perfect ending to the series… Or maybe not?
It's (still) a Wonderful World
Playing NEO: The World Ends with You was in some ways a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for those who have been waiting for this sequel since 2007. On the one hand, we have an improvement on the main aspects that made the original game's fortune, which explode, exceeding the confines of the touch screen and which at the end of it all left me with tears in my eyes. At the same time, this sequel also brings with it old and new critical issues that with all the good will I can not digest, mainly linked to some design and narrative choices that are not exactly farsighted.
However ... I wish I had even more, I would like to explore the universe of The World Ends with You even more deeply, until I reach the narrative limits imposed by the author and which for the moment they have been vaguely scratched. May a third and final chapter be able to reach and why not exceed these expectations? We don't know, what is certain is that NEO: The World Ends with You represented a bet for Square Enix. Bet that in my opinion, for better or for worse, has reached a happy ending.