Without exaggeration, The World Ends With You is probably one of my favorite games of all time. I have a long history with the game, starting with a contest a million years ago on Deviant Art. The prize was some money and a copy of the game for the DS. I didn’t win, I didn’t even place, but I was still curious to play the game I had previously only heard about from the site.
This was back in the middle of college, and without embellishment, I was poor as fuck. I couldn’t afford new glasses, I was holding onto the same clothes from High School, and almost every bill was paid for with grant money that I worked my ass off to get. My mom’s business collapsed along with her health, and in short, there really wasn’t any spare money for luxuries like games. Even still I had hoped to find a copy of The World Ends With You for cheap. Looking into used game stores, 25 dollars for just a cartridge was outside of my price range, but with a little luck and saving I finally was able to find one on Amazon for 14 bucks. If I recall correctly, it was the only game I got all year.
Luckily, it was a game that not only filled my time for months, but was largely a wonderful experience, and even over a decade later I seldomly find games that have the uniqueness, quality and ambitiousness of The World Ends With You, so when it was being rereleased for the Switch, I couldn’t pass by a chance to play it again in an upgraded version.
For those unfamiliar with TWEWY, it’s an action RPG from Square Enix and is about Neku, a surly, self-involved and cynical kid who wakes up in the middle of the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan with no memory of anything but his name. When he’s attacked by strange monsters, he teams up with a girl called Shiki and become Partners in the Game, a seven day event where Players must survive by completing various missions across Shibuya. The game opens up more as the secrets behind the purpose of the Game and Neku’s role in it are revealed, and he later partners up with a boy named Joshua and another boy called Beat.
What struck me as completely unique about the game is that unlike the vast majority of JRPGs that take place is some sort of fantasy/science fantasy world, The World Ends With You takes place in modern day (at least for the time) Japan. Armor is in the form of branded clothing whose trends in various neighborhoods affect usefulness. Stats are raised with foods like ramen, soda and hamburgers. And combat is done with psychic abilities activated with pins. Unlike the 3D modeled RPGs of the era, this game is entirely 2D with cel shaded drawings for all the art. The designs are done by Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura, and while largely criticized for his angular style and seeming obsession with zippers and buckles, for the style of the game it works perfectly.
In addition to being one of the most visually unique JRPGs to come out of a AAA studio, the story still remains one of my favorite in a video game, with one of the most interesting villains, and one of the most subversive twists in regards to that villain. What also cinches this game as amongst my favorites is the amazing soundtrack made up of hip-hop, j-rock, j-pop and techno that I still listen to in my repertoire of music. There was very little the game did poorly and so much that was done so well I rarely find equals in terms of visuals, music, combat system and upgrades, let alone all in one game.
Suffice to say, it’s a hell of a bar to set for a remixed HD upgrade.
The good news is most of the good stuff is still there and most of the additions do improve upon the original experience. Aside from a few graphical edits (CAT’s graffiti mural is censored to remove the upsidedown crucifix that made up one of the cat’s eyes, and some minor edits in the ending to cover a character’s face) the game looks freaking amazing in HD. The DS had quite a few graphical limitations, so while the game always looked good, the higher resolution really makes the backgrounds and characters pop, and the art style looks even better. There are even more musical tracks including new songs and remixes of older titles including a really cool rock cover of ‘Twister’, and the option of tracking down even the Kingdom Hearts versions of ‘Calling’ and ‘Long Dream’. The combat system is also revamped, which is a holdover from the iOS/Android version of the game for a tablet. Instead of simultaneously controlling two characters on both screens of the DS, the partner characters are now summoned like the pin psyches by doing certain actions on the screen. While I personally took no issue with the original system, I have to admit the removal of multitasking makes combat less taxing, makes certain enemies easier to beat and makes it much easier to rack up the Synch level to unleash particularly powerful combos. In fact, about the only downside to the combat is it makes the final boss of the game the only one more difficult than the original, as unlocking certain powers aren’t as clear cut as the DS version.
There are some things the Final Mix lacks that keep it from being a perfect experience. First off, Ze Motion Controls, Zey Do Nossin’! If I could give one piece of advice, don’t use the motion controls with the Joy Cons, they don’t work very well. It’s incredibly hard to move Neku around the screen or unlock certain psyches, and you constantly have to recalibrate in battle, or mess up your wrist like I did. The touch screen works a million times better, but using it means you can’t see the graphics big on a TV, which is a real shame given the art is one of the best parts of the game. The other thing was a lack of full voice acting. The DS’ limitations prevented the game from being fully voiced the entire way through, but the Switch has no such limitations. The text only dialog on an HD TV felt like a lacking experience, considering that some of the beginning and ending scenes of the game are fully voiced, and the actors have repeated their roles in other titles including Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance. The game should have been fully voiced, and that’s all there is to it.
Then there is the issue of A New Day. What separates the Switch version from the iOS/Android and DS versions is the edition of new content taking place after the game proper. People for years have been clamoring for a sequel to The World Ends With You, and I’ve always been hesitant for another game in the franchise. When a game does so much so well, and has such a powerful ending, seeing a sequel can endanger the original’s quality. You run into the danger of either completely nullifying the characters’ development, undoing major plot points, or simply causing the original story to be irrelevant. When the tablet version was released, and then a mobile game spin off of TWEWY (which isn’t considered totally canon because it’s made clear these are alternate versions of the original game’s characters), the ending teased a new character who was dubbed by fans as ‘Hype-chan’, it seemed a new game was planned in the works. Instead, the Switch version has A New Day, a bonus chapter that plays somewhere between a complete sequel and an extended mission.
Taking place after the original game, Neku finds himself back in the UG version of Shibuya, in a new version of the Game, with Beat back as his partner. Much to his surprise it seems Shiki and Rhyme are also back in the Game, and everything has gone cattywumpus. Districts of Shibuya are entirely mixed up, characters personalities have completely changed, Beat and Neku are followed by a cutesy-poo Reaper named Coco who claims to have met them in the previous game, and Neku keeps having visions of a girl carrying Shiki’s Mr. Mew doll, and the destruction of nearby district Shinjuku. The object is to find out why Neku is back in the game, and what this mystery girl has to do with the upheaval in Shibuya.
Combat has changed as well, as new handicaps and obstacles have modified combat including Curse, Synch Rave and Ravenball, as well as new noise called Dissonance Noise. Combat is definitely a lot more challenging as these modifiers can throw quite the curveball into battle, but while I like Beat as a character, he’s my least favorite combat partner and it’s boring to get stuck with him through this entire chapter. Aside from that the new combat and some new pins and armor, the game simply continues as an extended part of the original game, and once again, teases a sequel.
Based off of A New Day I have to say I’m still on the fence for a sequel for this game, especially since the new chapter hints we’ll be back with Neku for the next time around. You gotta feel bad that this kid keeps getting dragged back into these things, but Hype-chan and the premise given for A New Day is pretty intriguing, not enough maybe to say a sequel is vital, but enough to at least give Squeenix a chance to not fall flat on their face.
If you’ve never played The World Ends With You and already have a Switch, the game is a good investment, as it takes the best core of the game and puts it in a visually superior format. The Joy Con controls kind of ruin an otherwise great experience, and if you don’t already have a Switch, as hard as this is to say, this isn’t the game to bring you over to the system since the tablet version is better suited to the system and is much cheaper. A New Day adds some interesting combat changes and sets up a sequel, but isn’t a ‘must have’ experience. But if you want to support the franchise in hopes a sequel, then any new World Ends With You games or merchandise is always a good buy.