|Platforms||Switch (reviewed), PS4, PC|
|Release Date||July 26, 2021|
Returning to Shibuya and fighting Noise wasn’t on my bingo card for 2021. NEO: The World Ends With You, hereafter TWEWY 2, was released last year for multiple consoles instead of staying on the current Nintendo device. With the same conversation happening around it prior to its release, people are left wondering if TWEWY 2 lived up to the hype. Well, let’s activate our galaxy brains and deep dive in. Pardon the intrusion.
Violence: Players battle fantastical enemies, and other teams using psychic weapons, melee attacks and magic spells in comically stylized combat.
Language: The words a**, d**n, and s**t are used in the game.
Sexual Themes: In one panel, an adult woman wears a shirt exposing inner cleavage.
Positive Themes: Positive themes consist of overcoming the past, being empathetic, getting a second chance, and being decisive.
It’s just another day for Rindo and Fret, two buddies just chilling in Shibuya. Suddenly people around them start flying and using psychic attacks on strange monsters. After watching his friend die, and reversing time itself, Rindo quickly realizes… Something weird is going on.
If that last sentence made you go, “You think?”, that’s the first impression I had. But if I continued that, I would be reviewing way too quickly. Allow me to get the other first impressions out of the way.
Third-dimension graphics, full audio voice acting, and butt rock. This is how you start a sequel title for TWEWY that tells the players, “yes, we still remember what you liked about the game.” Along with Nomura-sans classic art style, a feeling of impatience was left to play.
But of course, there was the exposition and talking about the current goal twice before that could happen. Scramble Crossing was back in a well-accepting 3D cel-shading look. Honestly, even the building tops bending back and forth as you run to and fro are great. The new fixed camera angles were to be expected, as I couldn’t imagine TWEWY 2 needing free camera controls. The picturesque view of each division of Shibuya can accentuate the finer parts of the area, like the large Record Tower or the 104 Building. Keeping Shibuya in bite-size parts is integral; it keeps travel simple, and it keeps each district distinct in design.
The voice acting never comes across as phoned-in or clunky. Each character is well represented in their English dub. The localization felt satisfying, and I tip my hat once again to those hard at work who have to convey ideas between languages.
Speaking of better, who told Ishimoto-san to turn it up to 11?
And why haven’t we given him a raise yet!?
Listen, before anything else is said about TWEWY 2, let it be said the music once again reigns supreme. Some returning titles like “Twister” and “Calling” get their spotlight, but some new tracks, “Breaking Free” and “Bird in the Hand”, make their way onto my personal favorites. The blend of hard rock, synth, and pop blend together to accentuate that modern, fantasy Tokyo setting we fell in love with in 2007.
And it’s all still here, after more than ten years: modern clothing gives stats to boost our characters, eating food gains even more permanent stat boosts, scanning minds provides info on individuals and the city, and some favorite Reapers return.
What’s new adds more puzzle variety to the formula. Fret has the ability to Remind people of images he produces, as long as it’s something they encountered recently. Nagi can dive into the conscience of real people and Players to listen to their thoughts, or to root out Noise affecting the soul. Finally, Rindo possesses the power to replay events of the day and change them. Rindo returns to certain moments of the day, and access to other parts of the city are blocked off during this, to keep jumping to different points as simple as possible…because we all know timey-wimey stuff can get tricky. The amount of time-points Rindo jumps to depends on the day. He may jump once, or jump to five points five times each. It doesn’t grow stale, either. One mission even begins from the end, and players have to remind Rindo of different ideas to get him further back as close to the beginning so he can figure out what happened.
The gameplay further evolves the formula into S-tier, with an analog-stick controlling Rindo in the hub world. Through playing the game, the map gets easier to traverse, and opens up little avenues of exploration through tele-warping, jumping, and fast running.
Alright, I’ve held it off long enough. The fighting!
The touch screen experience went away to accommodate for controller use. But with that came character-specific button-mapping. Put Rindo on RZ, Nagi on Y, Fret on X, and Minamimoto on LZ, and hold, or rapid-press for their ability. When not attacking, the characters will normally act on their own, and by “their own” I mean dodge attacks and run around. You may take command of them when you press their corresponding button. When not attacking you can freely run about the battle arena, dodge, and lock on to different enemies. The pins are varied in effect and function, allowing for players to heavily modify to their liking. Battles can be chained together for more reward, as can lowering your level for an increased drop rate multiplier.
TWEWY 2 is not without fault. Among the GUG community, those who were ready for this installment found ourselves losing interest. It was some time before I personally picked it back up. I believe the notorious Week 2 is the culprit for such things. In Week 2, the main characters’ character flaws shine, which creates monumental drag. The flaws led to the story coming to a halt. Rindo doesn’t know what to do, so as leader, his team is aimless. Fret does not have the capacity to take things seriously, thus the Game is just that to him. Nagi remains neutral, thinking herself unable to communicate with people who are different from her.
These issues aren’t apparent at first, and here is where I argue that the story can’t be changed for the better, because it falls into the old adage “show, don’t tell.” Anime is notorious for tropes personified as characters in the thousands of seconds created in just seventy years. It takes an act of God for development to change in the main character, much less for anyone else. Sometimes a protagonist will even go far as to begin a series with something bland like, “I hate all humans…”
TWEWY, while not completely exempt, gave us people in their games. I remember the same frustration with Neku all those years ago. His intent to be alone and keep to himself, even during the harder parts of the Game, truly spoke to his character, and made me despise him. But his change in the end was genuine, just like Rindo’s, and Fret’s, and Nagi’s. The end justifies the dry means.
NEO: The World Ends With You tells a good story, and has exceptional gameplay. Fans of the first game will enjoy it. Newcomers will surely want to hold out over Week 2, but stay for the tunes and the fights. I know I’m certainly glad I did.
The Bottom Line
Decent story, phenomenal music, and great gameplay make up for a slow middle segment.