Neo: The World Ends With You game review: Fear the Reapers
- A sequel to the 2007 Nintendo DS JRPG The World Ends With You
- Vanquish enemies with teamwork and timing to beat the Reaper’s Game
- Play along to one of the best soundtracks of recent years
It’s a fairly widely-held consensus that death, as a concept, sucks. We don’t know all that much about what happens afterward, vis-a-vis the immortal soul, and by and large, the idea of not being here anymore is pretty maudlin. Well, in Neo: The World Ends With You, death is very much a new beginning.
In Neo’s world, the chosen dead are drafted into a celestial contest known as the Reaper’s Game. This team-based competition is intended to judge the overall worth of humanity and requires teams to compete for 7 days across their city in a series of games that require puzzle-solving, combat, teamwork, and perception.
As the story begins, we are introduced to protagonist Rindo and his motor-mouth best friend Fret. Dragged into the Reaper’s Game without little explanation, they soon find themselves competing against teams of both chosen dead and seasoned reapers. The winners are granted whatever they choose, even a return to life, and so the stakes are immediately high.
The game is set in a fictionalized version of Tokyo’s Shibuya commercial district and sees Rindo and company zipping between the various areas solving puzzles, chasing down leads that may or may not violate the rules of the Game, and fighting. They exist now in a realm called the UG, or Underground, and cannot be seen by the living, who still exist in the RG or Realground.
Rindo’s entourage grows steadily throughout the story, and each of his new companions has a specific power that helps the team progress. Rindo himself, for example, can hop back in time and alter his own fate, while Fret can invade people’s memories to learn valuable information. Bookworm Nagi can do battle with a person’s inner demons and free them from their negative funks.
Each of these abilities comes with its own mini-game or mechanic, which will often require you to scan the surrounding area to read the thoughts of the living. Sometimes, though, these abilities are not enough and the only option is to fight.
Bring on the Noise
Enemies known as Noise can be detected when you scan the environment. These creatures, conjured from the negative emotions of the living, will follow you around and attach themselves to you. Hitting A will then begin the fight. If you’re brave, you can attach two or three sets of Noise at once and fight the groups one after the other. Each round is called a Reduction, and you’ll need to survive all Reductions with no rest or regen in between.
Combat abilities in Neo: The World Ends With You come from Pins. These are decorated badges that impart skills and buffs onto the carrier. Each of your characters can have one Pin equipped at a time. They offer some fairly outlandish combat abilities such as conjuring bicycles and cars to drop on enemies or giving the carrier power over the elements.
There are several types of attacks. Tap attacks offer quick-fire damage-per-second, while some attacks must be charged or held. Each Pin type is attached to a certain button, so switching between characters is as simple as pressing a different command. If you do it at the right time, signified by a symbol telling you to Drop the Beat, you’ll do increased damage and build your groove meter. Once that is filled, hitting the B button unleashes a devastating special attack.
Dress to kill
The writing and delivery in Neo: The World Ends With You are superb throughout. Some of the smaller characters fall into the classic JRPG trap of sounding like someone forcing a voice, but the main cast is great. There’s genuine chemistry between the main team, the primary villains are cool, and the narrative is compelling and interesting. You’ll want to keep playing through each because you’re looking for the same answers Rindo and Fret are.
If you played the original game back in 2007 then you’ll probably know what to expect and maybe even see some of the story beats coming, but if you’re fresh to the series, Neo: The World Ends With You has the ability to surprise you at every turn.
Earning Pins (of which there are over 300) becomes part of the addiction, as each offers new combat abilities like heals and elemental attacks. But you can also go shopping for food that offers temporary stat buffs, or clothes that come with skills and abilities attached. You will need to increase your Style rating in order to utilize the skills on certain clothing articles, and sadly it doesn’t alter your appearance.
Another major element is your social network. You’re able to connect with other players (in-game, not in real life), Reapers, and even some citizens of Shibuya. Forming connections unlocks new innate abilities such as instantly converting collected Yen Pins into currency instead of forcing you to physically go to a store and sell it. You can also buy CDs to increase your music options as you run around Shibuya.
Music is perhaps the most impressive aspect of Neo. The soundtrack is nothing short of spectacular, jammed to the brim with toe-tappers, head-boppers, and floor-fillers. The original tracks are great, and each one works effortlessly in any area of the game. I’m not usually one to get too excited about a video game OST, but this one had my attention right from the outset.
It’s worth noting for those who have played the game on Nintendo Switch that this is a very no-frills port. There’s nothing new added to the story, no DLC or extra tracks – it doesn’t even include mouse support. People who exclusively play PC titles and prefer M&K may be just as disappointed by this. It’s a great game, but little real effort has gone into the port.
Achievements and completion
Neo: The World Ends With You is a pretty sizeable challenge. The main story is easily 40 hours long while aiming for completion will take almost double that. There are hundreds of Pins and music tracks to round up, as well as some conversations and interactions you’ll miss if you’re rushing through.
This being a port of a game already featured on console, there is a full suite of achievements to unlock. As the Epic store has added achievements to its titles as well, there are milestones to aim for no matter where you pick it up from. You can unlock all the achievements offline, but you will have to up the difficulty for a better chance of certain Pin rewards to unlock the True Pinthusiast achievement.
Final thoughts on Neo: The World Ends With You
- Amazing, head-bopping soundtrack
- A funny and likable cast of characters
- A solid narrative and addictive combat
- Can feel a little easy
- The fixed cameras take some getting used to
- Lots and lots of talking
Final Score: 4/5
Neo is charming, funny, colorful, and packed with things to do. The characters are likable, the story is intriguing, and the combat is addictive and accessible. This is the sort of game you put on for an hour and turn off four hours later.
The soundtrack is easily one of the year’s very best, while there’s enough going on to keep any JRPG fan invested. My only real complaint is that the port is so basic and more could have been done to make the PC version feel like a PC version. It’s nice to have a sharper resolution and that snappier frame rate, but that’s really all you get.
That said, anyone looking for an effortlessly playable adventure with a cool cast and heaps of style could do much worse than checking out Neo: The World Ends With You.
Neo: The World Ends With You is available on the Epic Store for $59.99. It is also available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by the developer.