Video Game Review: Neo – The World Ends With You

Sequels to beloved video games can either be everything you hoped for and more, or it can barely hold a candle to the original game. Neo: The World Ends With You is the long anticipated followup to 2007’s The World Ends With You, which originally came out on the Nintendo DS. While there is plenty to love about the game, with an upgraded battle system, wider areas of Shibuya to explore, and a soundtrack that continues to stay on point, there’s also some weak spots that made playing the game frustrating at times.

[Credit: Square Enix]

As I mentioned in a prior post about my first impressions of Neo, this is a game I have been excited to play when it had come out last July. The original The World Ends With You is one of my favorite video games to play of all time with memorable characters, a really fun battle system, and an original world where players who are dead are given a second chance at life when they play the Reapers’ Game in the Underground version of Shibuya.

The powers the characters use come in the form of pins which look crazy stylish in the game. You actually wish they are real to decorate your jacket or bags with, and each pin offers different abilities you can play around with for the strongest and most specialized attacks to do some serious damage against the Noise and boss fights.

Neo naturally took what made the first game so special and improved upon it for this sequel. There’s still plenty of pins you’ll want to collect, foods that offer stat boosts to your characters, and clothes to help buff up your team during battle.

Despite the comforting familiarity Neo has, basically a leveled up version of TWEWY for the 2020s, there are aspects of the game that I’m not too fond of.

The story of Neo has main character Rindo Kanade and his best friend Fret Furesawa suddenly transported to the Shibuya Underground, or UG, where they are forced to play the Reapers’ Game in order to win a chance to go back to the Shibuya Realground (the land of the living), or RG for short. Unlike the first game, Neo has Rindo and Fret, along with game otaku Nagi Usui who joins them to form the Wicked Twisters, competing against other teams—the Purehearts, Variabeauties, and Deep Rivers Society—to climb up the leader board for an opportunity to battle it out with consistent top spot holder the Ruinbringers to end the game. However, this version of the Reapers’ Game is not what it seems and the real game the Wicked Twisters are playing to win is saving Shibuya from ultimate destruction by the Shinjuku Reapers led by Shiba Miyakaze, the new Game Master of the Reapers’ Game.

One of the big issues I have with Neo is the dizzying twists and turns the story takes, especially at the end. While the first TWEWY has its fair share of plot twists, I don’t find those half as annoying or harder to keep up with than Neo. Without getting too spoilery about Neo, reaching Week 3, Day 7, the Final Day of the Reapers’ Game and the final hours of the actual game itself, has been one long and convoluted maze to navigate.

The puppet master pulling the strings isn’t who you think it is, people you believe are the bad guys actually aren’t, and moments you think would be the actual ending to the game really isn’t. In other words, the hilariously labeled “Final Day” for Neo is more of an ending fake out.

There are one too many boss fights to go up against, and barely easy to get through, and the story’s ending drags out longer than it should have to really feel wholly satisfying when you do get to the ending. At that point I began feeling fatigued by Neo and more than ready to end it already.

I find the writing to be slightly weaker in Neo than TWEWY. The last sections of Neo feels more like the game developers are trying really hard to set themselves apart from the first game while also weaving in fan favorites from TWEWY in its final moments to tie up some loose ends left behind. This brings me to my other issue with the game which is Neo somewhat shortchanges their new characters.

The introduction of Rindo, Fret, Nagi, and a whole slew of other new characters are different enough from the core characters of the first game to give players, new and old, a chance to get to know them and perhaps bond with them in the same way it has been easy to fall in love with Neku, Shiki, Beat, and Rhyme. Unfortunately, these new characters are living in the shadow of its predecessor that they aren’t given room to stand out on their own for players to feel too attached to any of them. As one review I read about the game said, the characters of Neo are really just there to service the story and characters from TWEWY.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed seeing a lot of these old familiar faces make an appearance in Neo. As someone who played the first game, it really raised the nostalgia factor by a lot and is a huge pay off for people who played the first game. But for those who never played TWEWY before and decided to jump into Neo, even if it’s technically not required to have played the original game first, those new to the world of TWEWY will get confused and be utterly lost, as if Neo isn’t already a confusing story on its own, with the amount of callbacks and characters referenced from the first game.

Despite these weaknesses with Neo, overall the game is fun to play with the new battle system and the more open world feel the game has to really let players explore the different areas of Shibuya mostly unhindered. A lot of detail and care has gone into the game’s version of Shibuya and does feel like a love letter to the real life district in Tokyo. Spending time in it is one of my favorite things about Neo, and hopefully someday soon I can revisit Tokyo and walk the same streets Rindo, Fret, and Nagi does in the game.

Reviewer Rating: 9.5/10

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