You don’t remember it, but you’ve died. And if you want to return to your previous life, you’re going to have to play a game.
That’s the situation that Rindo and his friend Fret find themselves in in Neo: The World Ends With You. What started out as a casual lunch trip in Tokyo’s Shibuya district is quickly turned on its head when the pair inadvertently find themselves playing ‘Reapers’ Game’. They didn’t ask to join, but now they’re in the game there’s seemingly no way out – other than to play and win.
Reapers’ Game is some sort of ARG experience – or so Rindo and Fret think to begin with. In order to rank up the leaderboards, they must fight ‘noise’ (enemies only players of the game can see), battle against other players, and solve various puzzles. Sometimes those puzzles will send you on a wild goose chase, hunting down one clue after another; other times, you’ll merely need to answer questions. One thing is for sure though; Neo: The World Ends With You is one heck of a busy game – there’s barely a moment’s downtime in its 30+ hour running time – and with so much to do, you could easily spend double that completing side quests, levelling up your characters, buying outfits and exploring every nook and cranny of the game.
Everything you do is framed around the game’s story, one that will undoubtedly hook you in thanks to its fantastic presentation and twisting plot. Neo: The World Ends With You is stylish beyond measure; story scenes play out like cells of a comic book, with key cutscenes being excellently voiced. It’s a shame that not all the game is voiced, but there’s more than enough to give a full sense of who each character is. Everything looks fantastic too, thanks to a unique and wonderful art style. Colourful characters pop to life set against a realistic interpretation of Shibuya; helped along by the use of fixed camera angles when you’re exploring, giving everything a cinematic feel, there really isn’t anything else quite as slick as Neo: The World Ends With You.
It feels slick to play, too. Running around Shibuya and its surrounding areas is fast and responsive, and loading times between areas are kept short so you’re never out of the action for very long. Combat, where you’ll spend a good portion of your time with the game, is simple, but well thought-out and fast-paced. Each character in your party can be equipped with a ‘pin’, which dictates what ability they can use in combat. Each pin is assigned to a button on your controller, and pressing that button will give you control of whichever character is wearing that pin. To do the most damage and rack up the best combos, you’ll need to switch characters regularly, chaining together their attacks.
Each pin’s attack can only be activated so many times before it needs to cool down, so you can’t simply button-mash all attacks continuously. It takes careful consideration to ensure you’re not left with any available attacks, and finding the best combination often means trial and error; you’ll likely equip lots of pins until you find what’s best for you. Combat can feel a little messy at times, but it’s entertaining enough – and since most battles are over within a matter of minutes, the game’s pace always remains swift.
A nifty feature that Neo: The World Ends With You packs in is the ability to jump back to a previous chapter at any time while keeping your party’s current stats. One chapter is one day in the game, and many of those days have a variety of side missions to complete. You’ll undoubtedly miss some of them as you make your way through the story, so the ability to jump back to complete them is a welcome one. Those side missions vary in how involved they are. Sometimes simply talking to a character is enough to compete it; at other times, you may have to engage in combat or run an errand. They’re all worth doing though, since you’ll get worthwhile rewards. Maybe you’ll get a new pin, some much-needed cash, or forge a new social connection, which in turn will give you some sort of perk.
Although this is a follow-up to 2007’s Nintendo DS title The World Ends With You, you don’t need to have played it to fully get to grips with everything that happens in Neo: The World Ends With You. Some references are made to previous bouts of Reapers’ Game – and so if you’ve played the DS game, you might get a kick out of having a deeper understanding of those references. But while Neo is concerned with playing the same game, it does so with different characters, telling its own completely new story.
Neo: The World Ends With You exudes style and sophistication, its presentation is modern and its gameplay is gripping with a pace that never lets up. Elements of action, adventure, RPG, visual novel and puzzle genres collide with gusto to create an epic experience that will keep you hooked until the credits roll. If you like games with plenty of variety in their gameplay, or games that tell a compelling story, look no further; this is an outstanding RPG unlike any other.
Neo: The World Ends With You Review: GameSpew’s Score