I’m Getting Played by You, Déjà Vu
The World Ends With You is one of those games that I’m hopelessly addicted to. I don’t care how many iterations of it Square Enix releases; I’ll make sure to have them all. I’ve got to admit that TWEWY’s collection of releases has been pretty strange, though. It’s not too often that a game starts out on the original DS, hops over to iOS (and eventually Android) as The World Ends With You: Solo Remix, before finally landing on the Switch as The World Ends With You: Final Remix a whopping 10 years after its original release date. And by “not too often” I mean that it’s never happened before.
Then again, TWEWY’s never been one to follow norms. Between its unconventional (mostly) touchscreen-only controls, strange-yet-thrilling story, and a devotion to coming across as “cool” that’s so fanatical that it almost comes across as satire, “normal” is the last word that I’d use to describe a game like this. But that’s all a part of why I love TWEWY. And I’m very happy to see it getting the attention that I feel it deserves. Unfortunately, it also makes it that much harder to say that – while The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a fantastic game that is indeed worthy of your attention – it isn’t actually the best version of the game out there.
That Power is Yet Unknown
Final Remix’s story is mostly the same as it’s always been, following Neku Sakuraba who, after waking up in the middle of the Shibuya crosswalk without any idea of why he was or how he got there, finds himself unwillingly teaming up with a mysterious-yet-trendy girl named Shiki Misaki and participating in an activity known simply as “The Game”. The good news? The Game only lasts for seven days. The bad news? The entirety of it is literally going to be a fight for their lives. Hey, no one said that games had to be fun for everyone involved.
This might be the 10-year-strong fanboy in me talking, but I’ve always really liked how TWEWY’s story presented itself. While my heart has always gone out to Square Enix, I won’t deny that that they’ve become rather iconic over the past few decades for drenching every story in about 10 layers of enigmatic plot, making some game’s storylines nearly impossible to follow without the use of an entire wiki (here’s looking at you, Kingdom Hearts). But, with this game, that’s not so. Sure, you’ve still got enough mysteries to keep you piqued throughout the entirety of the story – some of which the game never even actually gets around to answering – and I won’t deny that you might not get everything right away, but TWEWY does present itself to players in a way that’s not only easier to digest when compared to other SE games, but the steady drip-feed of story content that it presents to players throughout the game makes it impossible (at least for me, anyway) to not want to find out how it all ends. And, even after all of these years, I’ve still never experienced a game with a world with a “cool-yet-dramatized” approach like TWEWY’s Shibuya.
And then, there’s “A New Day” – an all-new, Final Remix-exclusive post-game story. Without getting into it too much due to how short it is, A New Day takes place sometime after the events of the original story, where Neku and Beat find themselves thrust into yet another Game, this one mysteriously titled “Expert Mode” with one objective – to escape Shibuya within 24 hours, or (as usual) face erasure. The catch? Shibuya – both its layout and its denizens – is all mixed up. And, to top it all off, the pair has found themselves a new follower by the name of Coco – an overly cutesy looking Reaper who’s “like, totez confused about how weird AF everything is”.
I’ll be upfront with you right now; I was absolutely psyched (hah!) about getting to this. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that hype. Despite its exciting premise and mysterious setup, it ended up confusing me (and not in a good way) more than satisfying me in the end. The story, overall, was lackluster in comparison to the rest of the game, and the whole “everyone’s acting different” was literally already something that they did with TWEWY’s other post-game content. On top of that – and maybe this is me here – I felt like it had been 10+ years since the game originally came out when it came to the writing – and that was especially obvious when it came to Neku. Given everything that he’s already gone through, Neku, and even Beat to a certain extent, just seemed much too “laissez-faire” about the entire thing happening. There wasn’t any emotional impact to the story – it just kind of came and went (and, yes, I’m saying that having played through the entire thing). I’ll give credit where it’s due, though – I’m definitely hoping that Neku’s new potential partner will actually come to be in the tentative TWEWY 2.
Where am I Now, Trapped in This City of Illusion
Despite its somewhat complicated premise, this game is remarkably straightforward when it comes to actually playing it. TWEWY features chapter-based gameplay, with each chapter essentially breaking the game up into levels which not only continue the story but, also feature varying events, stores, Noise (enemies), and explorable areas of Shibuya. While splitting an RPG into levels isn’t normally something I’d be down for, it actually works very well with a game like this. Given Shibuya’s small size and the game’s heavy focus on narration, a more open-world approach could have made things feel very stale very quickly. By resetting and changing around certain parts of the game with each new chapter, TWEWY’s surprisingly down-to-earth exploration mechanics continue to feel fresh throughout its entire duration (although I’d still like a more detailed map).
Most non-combat-related gameplay literally consists of nothing more than the player walking around and shopping for food and clothing, but TWEWY does throw the player for a loop every once in a while. Throughout certain parts of the story, players will be able to interact with other characters via activities known as “imprinting” – which allows them to implant words into people’s heads – and the Reaper Creeper – which allows players to make a decision for someone by moving a coin around a board. These generally don’t have much bearing on anything outside of a few changes in dialogue (although there are a few exceptions), and offer no real challenge, but they still make fun additions to what could otherwise be called the “anime walking simulator” portion of the game (I say that with a lot of love, though).
Walking and moving a coin around on a piece of paper isn’t all that players can do when they aren’t fighting for their lives, though. TWEWY also has a mini-game known as “Tin Pin Slammer”. TPS’s premise is an easy one (I’m starting to see a theme, here), with players simply needing to use the touchscreen to flick their pins at their opponents’ pins – and make use of special moves if they have any – with the last pin standing declared the victor. There’s a little more to it than that, though. Each of the game’s hundreds of pins (which are normally used for fighting) comes with their own unique stats, and special skill sets. Honestly, I’m not really sure how much these stats matter in the long run – as long as you know what you’re doing it’s pretty easy to win – but trying to come up with the most “tinpincible” team you can think of is still pretty fun.
Sometimes You Just Gotta Fight
Fighting – which you’ll be doing a lot of if you plan on experiencing everything this game has to offer – is also fairly easy. Or at least it would be, if it weren’t for one tiny detail that I have yet to mention about this game – the entire thing is touch-controlled. And, because of that, things become much trickier. Players fight using what are known in-game as “psyches” — special attacks whose effects differ based upon what pins players have equipped. Rather than sticking to more conventional forms of combat (because when has TWEWY ever been about being conventional?) psyches require players to perform specific actions on the touch screen – such as tapping an enemy, rubbing the screen, or swiping over Neku to activate.
Additionally, the player’s partner also acts as a psyche (they worked way differently in the original TWEWY, but I won’t be getting into that), with each partner’s attacks being activated in a different way. Partners aren’t just used for the sake of dealing out additional damage, however. Their primary usefulness comes in the form of cross combos. By trading off hits between characters, Neku and his partner begin to initiate cross combos (indicated by a specific noise and the enemy glowing), which allow both characters to deal increased damage and fill up their Sync – a special meter used to pull off powerful Fusion moves that deal massive damage, increase enemy drop rate, and heal Neku (yes, they’re that useful).
Unfortunately, Square Enix still can’t seem to get TWEWY‘s controls right, even after 10 years. Despite its simple premise, TWEWY ends up sporting a difficult learning curve which I don’t even think was entirely intentional. It’s impossible for players to choose which psyches they want to use if they have pins with similar touchscreen controls (as one always seems to take priority over the other), certain psyches are still difficult to activate, and moving Neku (which requires the player to drag him around) is more “touch-and-go” than “touch, and go”. With the game having been out as long as it has, I get that the developers aren’t going to completely overhaul things. But, while the game’s finicky controls were fairly acceptable on the DS, and even to some degree on mobile, a general lack of polish shows at this point.
There’s also the matter of Final Remix‘s attempt at Joy-Con controls. Now, I know that I’ve already that this game was touch-screen exclusive, but that’s only because it ends up being the only viable way to play. Final Remix is the only version of TWEWY to ever attempt a non-touch screen control style (minus one small portion on the original DS version), and if this is the best that they can do, then maybe they shouldn’t try anymore. Rather than actually re-shaping the controls to allow for a more streamlined combat experience, Final Remix has players using a single Joy-Con as a glorified stylus, essentially turning the game into a clunky version of its DS predecessor. While it’s possible to play this way in the beginning, combat gets way too fast and precise later on for you to be able to keep up. I’m not sure if including this was a last-minute decision on Square Enix’s part, but if it is then it certainly shows. Thank goodness for handheld mode, huh?
Owari wa Hajimari, Hajimari wa Owari
The World Ends With You: Final Remix isn’t quite the “definitive TWEWY” that I was hoping for, but that doesn’t stop it from being great. If you’re able to look past its questionably implemented new content and willing to forgive the fact that it hasn’t polished any of its old mistakes (which really isn’t as hard as I might have made it out to be), then Final Remix will still make your time in Shibuya more than worth it.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Nintendo ; Developer: Square Enix, h.a.n.d. ; Players: 1 – 2 ; Released: October 12, 2018; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of The World Ends With You: Final Remix purchased by the reviewer.