One of the more ambitious cult-classic titles of the NDS era, The World Ends with You was another one of Tetsuya Nomura’s romps in creating a stylish world. It had strange combat, a stranger story, and characters about as memorable as the cast of Kingdom Hearts. NEO: The World Ends with You is another experience of similar design, except with every element toned up to 11. With the amount of extra effort that went into making this game absorb the player into the culture and characters, NEO: The World Ends with You is a masterclass in design and function, even if it is lacking in some places.
The place I have to start is the overall style of the game. It’s absolutely flooded to the brim with characters that dress snazzy and all look unique. Every single character is distinguishable, and their outfits do more than just look cool. The game separates outfits and pins (to be touched on later) into brands, and you can see how these brands play into character appearances and tastes. It’s like they’re saying “style defines you, go buy some cool clothes”; only to the person playing the game. Each brand is like a real life clothing brand, they have their own specialties, color schemes, target audience etc. Some are similar but every single one feels distinct enough to warrant their own store, which they all have. The NPCs that man these stores are also indicative of the brand, and act like the personification of it at times. Now there are different brands because the equipment in this game has passive effects that at times depend on the brand. Some brands have synergy with themselves and give you boosts for wearing a full set, while others are more inclined to give certain bonuses. These all help out in combat in their own unique ways, and the variety is such that a one set fits all combo is really hard to come by. There’s enough variety to flex the type of playstyle you’d like, and this works well because of the pin variety.
Combat in NEO: The World Ends with You is a bit strange. It tries to mimic the multitasking necessary of its precursor to some effect, but it also feels like an enclosed arena fighter a-la Tales series. Each character can equip “pins”, which are badges that have their own skills with each one associated to a certain button. Your first character might have a pin associated with the Triangle button, second character to L2, and so on. This system makes it so you need to think about who is on what button, and build accordingly since you can’t overlap buttons until much later in the game. Each pin has different abilities that can activate differently, but they also all have a metered use. Using a pin too much makes it time out, and each has its own recharge timer. This is a fine way to balance pins, but at the end of the day combat becomes a grindy loop of mashing all pins at the same time to try and maximize DPS, roll around to try and not die, then repeat once cooldowns are up. Difficulty is honestly up to how little you get hit, because the only difference in difficulty levels is how much health you have. Leveling up in NEO: The World Ends with You is a bit strange. There’s a battery meter, and you can go to different food restaurants and order food that raises certain stats. Every character enjoys different types of food, and if they really enjoy it there’s a chance they get a random big stat boost. Afterwards, you need to battle in order to deplete the battery in order to repeat. Going over the limit makes it so you can’t eat until the battery is completely depleted, so there’s a risk/reward depending on how much you want to grind. Overall, the systems tie in well and in a unique way, but the amount of grinding for decent stats is absolutely glacial.
Even without talking about other systems like this game’s baked in social network and how you raise relationships with other people in order to get buffs in the same vein as the Persona series, NEO: The World Ends with You is absolutely brimming with content. The story has some hitches but still stands on its own two feet, and there’s a genuine drive to play through to the best of your ability in order to escape the Reaper’s Game. Antagonists feel daunting, and as newbies in a rigged system you really get a sense of the climb ahead, even if some characters are constantly looking for shortcuts. If you’re the type that enjoys JRPGs, stylish characters and an incredibly memorable soundtrack – NEO: The World Ends with You is just for you.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 5