The most “TWEWY” experience I’ve ever had was probably eating at the Taco Bell in Shibuya. (Did you know they have fries? A Taco Bell with fries!) So, naturally, I feel well-qualified to report on the authenticity found within The World Ends with You and it’s brand-new sequel NEO The Worlds Ends with You.
They’re games featuring trendy teens trapped in a supernatural “Reapers’ Game” where they must play by the rules or face oblivion. While there’s much at stake for our heroes, including the steak ramen in found in Dogenzaka, it’s a game that invites you to gorge on the consumerist aspect of Shibuya’s culture – to collect all the pins, to purchase all the stylish clothes, to devour endless amounts of hamburgers to permanently increase your HP all while you’re one step away from certain doom. In fact, nearly everything about the game is treated as an item to collect – even tutorial information. The first game is much about growing up in an age of endless influence, but defining yourself on your own terms, rather than by the content you consume or the peer pressure exerted on you.
It’s also a game that released in 2007 and features flip phones prominently, right before the world domination of smartphones. In an endearing and alarming sense, it’s a relic of the mid-2000’s.
The first TWEWY was also one of those rare third-party games that took full advantage of its platform, which in this case was the Nintendo DS. “Psychs,” or special abilities you can equip using Pins, could be activated in myriad ways during combat by blowing our shouting at the handheld. You could also amass experience points for your Pins in a “Sleep Mode” of sorts, and use the built-in internet capability to interact with other players. A lot of that functionality never made it to the subsequent ports, which was unfortunate. With NEO releasing on multiple platforms, I’m curious if there’s any way to capture the same flair.
The NEO demo is out yesterday on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It set at the beginning of the game and features the first two days of the Reapers’ Game. Rindo and Fret are whisked way to the Shibuya “UG” or “Underground,” an alternate-dimension where the game takes place. This time, the game is fully-rendered in 3D with fixed camera perspectives, presumably so that the stylized skyline and buildings remain in view to be congruent with the style of the first game.
Check out our footage from the PlayStation 4 version below:
The Reapers’ Game, at least for the first two days, functions as it did in the original game. Each day, a mission is dispatched to all of the “Players” who must complete them to earn points. Come in at the bottom of the leaderboard and face erasure. This cut-throat competition is overseen by the Reapers, who function as referees and dungeon masters. Players use their psychs, like Fret’s “Remind” ability for example, to solve puzzles.
You also be able to assign a pin to each character in the “Wicked Twisters” team to use in combat sequences. Each pin is assigned to a button, and pressing that button will make its respective character attack. Control isn’t limited to one character at a time, but you control all simultaneously. Simply pressing the button assigned to them switches your perspective and control to theirs. Dodging is universal between the team, and assigned to one button.
Using one character’s psychs will activate a “Drop The Beat” timer on an enemy where following up with another character’s psych will fill a “Groove” meter whereupon activation will fill the field with a team-up attack. Managing the cooldown’s of each character’s psych (displayed at the bottom center of the battle UI) to build this meter is a key part of your battle strategy. It’s an interesting evolution of the “light puck” in the original game, which would travel between the top and bottom screens and collect meter based on your performance playing each character.
Popping open the menu reveals all sorts of collectibles from food to clothing to pins, as well as a “Noisepedia” bestiary where you can check where specific pins drop from what, as much of that collectionist aspect returns in NEO.
So far, NEO is an interesting evolution of the first game, and it seems like this is Square Enix’s attempt to put it in front of a larger audience. Starring teens who have been saturated in semi-recent internet culture, it’ll be interesting how the themes of the original, or perhaps new ones, are explored over a decade later.
The demo will let you level up your characters to 15, and progress will be carried over to the final game, provided you play on the same platform. You can pick up the story right where you left off. You can also collect up to 10 of each pin, with additional duplicates being discarded.