I did not expect to like Neo: The World Ends With You as much as I did. This is a really cool game, even for filthy casual like me.
Neo: The World Ends With You is a sequel to an old DS game titled The World Ends With You which I never played and frankly never even heard of before. But that doesn’t really matter as Neo does an excellent job at I guess reintroducing the world and premise once again for newcomers like me.
In this game’s universe teens can take part, willingly or not, in the Reaper’s game, a deadly game where to win it or better say exit it, you have to be the best. How do you become the best? Well, by solving riddles, completing missions, battling out other groups of players, and killing a lot of creatures called Noise. You take control of one said group, the “Wicked Twisters”, where Rindo the leader of the group, Fret the lovable goofball, Nagi the awkward edgelord, and the cool math-pun spewing Sho must compete into the Reaper’s game to save their souls and well, the world.
While life in Tokyo’s Shibuya district continues normally for most of the people, the ones in the Reaper’s game experience an alternate dimension where they can see things no one else can. This dimension is filled with riddles for you to find and solve, missions to complete and tons of monsters to defeat.
You roam around Shibuya completing missions you get on your phone via the Reapers app. Of course, something bigger is in play than what seems at first but the more you progress through the story, the more you understand the stakes and what’s going on.
Much like any other JRPGs, or RPGs for that matter, there’s a lot of dialogue, like a lot lot. But it didn’t bother me at much here cause it is well written and well voice acted and at most times it’s funny. The banter between your party members as well as with the other characters is good even though it's filled "Dude!", "Bro!" "Cool!" etc. I love anime and this game has a lot of anime reaction faces amidst the many dialogues that feature a manga style of presentation where you have static and beautiful drawings of the characters and chat bubbles combined with excellent voice acting. Of course for some of the most important sequences there are also fully CG rendered animation sequences, but most of the time you will just sit there listening to the characters talking while watching beautiful drawings.
Once the dialogue is over, you are free to roam and explore Shibuya in a 3rd person perspective where the camera is locked into specific places and battle it out against the Noise or other Reaper players. The battle system starts really simple as you just mash the face and shoulder buttons and you win, but the more you play, the more pins you unlock which opens up a ton of possibilities. Think of pins like abilities or types of attacks you can attach to each one of the characters in your party. Each of them can execute only one attack or perform just one ability throughout the duration of the battle. That might sound kinda limiting, but there are more than 300 unique pins in the game so the number of experimentation as you mix and match pins is quite ridiculous. Still, most of the time you’ll be fine by just button mashing, but you have the ability to experiment and find what works best for you.
Sometimes just battling it out might not be enough to complete your missions though. You might need to go back in time and alter one or many things so things work out the best for you and that’s exactly Rindo’s special power. Or you need to dive into someone’s mind to clear up their mind, quite literally, of any demons that are stopping them from doing something and that’s Nagi’s special power. Or sometimes you’ll need to help people remember stuff and you guessed it, that’s Fret’s special power.
Other than pins and special powers, you visit the many stores spread out in Shibuya and buy different stat-altering clothes you can equip to the characters, buy new pins and eat. Yes, you can visit the fast-food joints, restaurants, or coffee shops and treat your party members to delicious food and beverages that levels up their different stats which will make your life easy during the battles. Shibuya is well worth exploring not just for the battles and the shops, but also for expanding your Social Network. By creating connections to the many characters that you will get to interact with in this world, you can unlock new gameplay altering stuff like new difficulty settings or the ability to see the enemy’s health bar during battles. Again, there are incentives to make exploring the world worth your while and I loved that.
Neo: The World Ends With You really surprised me in the best way possible. With its intriguing world and lovable cast of characters, the beautiful and vibrant anime/manga aesthetic, and a soundtrack that truly slaps, Neo is a fantastic experience that even a casual player like myself can enjoy without being inundated by a ton of walls of text stats screens and crazy inventories filled with stuff that you’ll never use as many other JRPGs do. I highly recommend this game. Thanks for reading!
A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher. Neo: The World Ends With You is available on PC, PS4 and Switch.