Available now on PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch, NEO: The World Ends With You is the follow-up to a critically acclaimed Nintendo DS game. We tried it out on a PlayStation 5 thanks to backward compatibility.
It’s perhaps not the most well-known game outside of people who actually played it on the DS, but The World Ends With You was a very novel take on the RPG genre back in 2008. It made great use of the system’s dual screens and there was a Persona-like quality and vibe to it, to the point where its well-developed characters have even shown up in other franchises in the last decade or so. After an earlier re-release on the Switch, this is the first time the series is available on another console, and it’s a strong introduction.
Set several years after the conclusion of the first game, NEO has a new protagonist in Rindo, who is just hanging out with friends when he is suddenly sucked into another dimension as part of the “Reaper’s Game”. Rindo and his friend Fret have to then survive multiple trials to avoid being “erased”, but this high stakes game is much more character and narrative-driven than that setup suggests.
The core plot unfolds like a mystery, with a lot of character development for a growing cast that keeps you engrossed throughout. But while this is a standalone story, it does help to be familiar with the first game in terms of subtle references and an understanding of the game world. That’s easier said than done when playing on the Switch than on PlayStation though, so it’s a shame the original didn’t get a PS4 release when it was ported to the Switch.
As you complete a variety of objectives as part of the Reaper’s Game, you find yourself fighting, solving conundrums and other tasks. It’s very diverse, but because you’re essentially in a game show within a game it sort of makes sense to have that diverse mix in there. Character-specific skills help you complete your objectives, with time manipulation (one of Rindo’s skills) being one of the most interesting ones, jumping back and forth through periods in time.
Side quests are only very loosely connected to the main story, but they let you connect with more and more characters in the game world, which enriches the experiences and gives you (mostly cosmetic) perks in battle as well. These cosmetic perks also feature in the rest of the game, and decorative pins that you can acquire which grant special attacks. Other clothing items can also boost your stats, just like how eating certain meals can.
Lacking the dual screen setup of the DS, combat feels a touch less stylish than it did in 2008. You’re switching around between characters quite a lot though, mostly because your special abilities are on cooldown timers and because switching at the right time can also yield more powerful attacks. Combat is fast-paced, and because you keep unlocking more characters and attacks it doesn’t grow repetitive too quickly despite mostly holding on to the same mechanics throughout the campaign. Setting the game to a higher difficulty makes pins more rare though, which in turn makes the combat more repetitive – I wish that had been implemented differently.
NEO: The World Ends With You is a great follow-up to a classic Nintendo DS title that is a strong additional to the PlayStation library. It’s a shame that the original game isn’t available on the platform (yet) as it’s been ported to the Switch already, but even though NEO isn’t quite as groundbreaking it does provide a narrative and gameplay that stays true to the original and reignites a classic game for a wider audience.
Score: 8.6 / 10