Of all the video games to come out of the 2021 season Neo: The World Ends With You is by far the highest on my list of games I’ve been looking forward to play. Now that the game is fully released, I have spent a good many hours diving back into Shibuya and the Reapers’ Game.
Ahead of the game’s release I had tried out the demo and finished the first two chapters that were included. By the time my pre-order of the game was available to download and play, I was able to immediately pick up from where I had left off.
I took a liking to the new characters Rindo and his best friend Fret. Rindo, while maybe not as antisocial as Neku, The World Ends With You’s main character from the first game, there is a reserved quality about him that gets offset by the energetic and cheerful Fret. Where Rindo might be more methodical about what actions to take during the Reapers’ Game, Fret is more than willing to go headlong into something and with gusto. Rindo and Fret are not Neku and Shiki, whose dynamic I liked a lot, but I think the new game does a great job at presenting new characters that are much different from the ones we knew and loved from the original game.
Among the new faces introduced in Neo, the character who has yet to grow on me is Nagi. She’s a college student who gets recruited by Rindo and Fret to join their team, the Wicked Twisters, when she becomes a new addition to the Reapers’ Game. She’s an otaku who is obsessed with the video game Elegant Strategy and pines over an occasional helper to the Wicked Twisters Minamimoto, who bears a striking resemblance to her favorite video game character Tomonami.
After Nagi’s first appearance in the game I’ve been having a hard time liking this character much. Her personality is mostly annoying and it’s made worse by the English voice acting that makes her even more intolerable. Considering she’s one of the main playable members of the Wicked Twisters when they enter the Underground version of Shibuya, I keep hoping she will get better. It’s still somewhat early in the game for me, and my feelings toward Nagi could change, but I can’t help but compare her to the female characters of the original game like Shiki and Rhyme. They had much more interesting personalities and backgrounds, whereas Nagi is sorely lacking in. I also feel like she was written to be somewhat of the comic relief of the group with her constantly calling Minamimoto Tomonami whenever he makes an appearance, or her refusal to acknowledge Fret’s attempt at friendship with the light banter they have throughout the game. Nagi is so far my least favorite character in the game.
The expansion of Shibuya, being able to venture to even more areas for food, clothes shopping, and the occasional side quest, has opened up the game more than what the original had. My favorite part of Neo is checking out the new restaurants and clothing items I could buy to boost up my characters’ stats. The way a plate of food or a piece of clothing has been drawn for the game looks so enticing that I almost wish the food or clothing item was real. The attention to detail in this game has been done carefully and with a lot of love that it’s highly likely the food and clothes that inspired the game exist in real life.
The game mechanics on the Switch have come a long way since the dual touch screens of the first game’s Nintendo DS system. The way you control each character and the abilities that come out of the different pins you collect from Noise or in stores requires you to use different buttons that correspond to each character.
For example, the pins assigned to each character could look something like this: X button for Rindo, Y button for Fret, L button for Nagi, and ZR button for Minamimoto. Depending on what pins you equip, the control buttons could change. It’s a lot less complicated than it sounds. While some people did have a few complaints about the original DS control scheme from the first game, finding it clunky to use, I actually wasn’t bothered by it. But with Neo being on a whole new system, I find the new controls easier to pick up and adapt to. Maybe even more so than the DS controls. The only thing you have to keep an eye on are the pin gauges. Once you use up the juice on one pin you’ll have to wait until it fully charges up again. When you use your pins against the Noise or boss battles, it does require a little strategy and good timing to unleash massive damage against them. Or some pin combos might not work well against certain enemies and you’ll have to swap them for ones that do. It takes a little trial and error to decide which pins will work best for particular fights.
Aside from the pins, your characters also have unique psych abilities that are used to complete side quests or move a chapter forward. Rindo has the ability to go back in time and redo moments that didn’t go quite well the first time to change the Wicked Twisters’ fate, Fret uses Remind to help people remember things they forgot, and Nagi can use an ability called Dive to get inside a person’s mind to eliminate Noise that’s corrupting them. As a group they can also Imprint or persuade people to do specific actions using key words they collect around Shibuya.
Of the psych abilities the Wicked Twisters have Fret’s is my least favorite. With Remind, you have to rotate the left and right joysticks to assemble an image that’s broken up into pieces like a puzzle. Maybe I suck at rotating the joysticks just right to get the image to form a clear picture, but it takes a lot longer for me to move the squares around for a really simplistic image puzzle. The other psych abilities are a lot more fun to do and less time consuming compared to Fret’s. Rindo’s time travel ability often offers a different perspective on the scene you had just finished and does involve finding more information to get a better outcome. And as for Nagi, I can never pass up another chance to fight more Noise and get more unique pins from the drops.
For the few hours I’ve already spent with Neo: The World Ends With You it packs a lot in just a couple of chapters. It’s a game I’m eager to play a little of each night, and I’m anxiously awaiting for Neku to make his promised return to the story. How he winds up back in the Reapers’ Game and why is a question I can’t wait to know the answer to.
Have you played Neo: The World Ends With You? What have you liked or disliked about the game? Share them with me in the comments below!