Nintendo games are known to push the envelope. The World Ends With You came out to strong reviews on the Nintendo DS and has made its way now over to the Nintendo Switch. So how has a game that first released in 2008 withstood the test of time, and how does it fare in both its portable and home console configurations on the Switch?
The World Ends With You: Final Remix is an anime style JRPG, featuring open exploration, battles that combine a mix of turn based and real-time fighting, and a whole lot of cut scenes. A start to finish playthrough can be completed in as little as 25 hours. If you’re up for it though, there’s enough to keep you here for hundreds.
Wake me up
TWEWY follows the story of Neku, a teenage boy who wakes up, amnesiac, in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Neku is found by, and reluctantly teams up with, Shiki Misaki, an upbeat girl who loves fashion, stuffed toys and keeping up with the latest trends. Neku cares about none of those things (or anything at all really), but it’s not long before Neku discovers they are trapped in “The Game” a seven day long battle for survival controlled by Reapers who set challenges to the duo and other teams of players. Survive seven days and you gain back that what you have lost. Fail, and it’s sayonara to your very existence.
First things first; put your Pro controller away for this one. You have two choices of control style; in portable mode you can opt to swipe and poke your finger at the screen, making fast and accurate motions right where you want them. Once you get familiar with the timing, the game feels smooth and precise playing this way. You can also use one of the regular joy-con controller halves and point at the screen ‘Wii style’. When docked, of course, this is the only way you can play.
A word of warning; playing with the Joy-con and pointing it at the Switch screen does make for some rather inaccurate play, particularly for some of the faster attacks that you might end up using. It’s not so forgiving when there were fast battles and you had to dodge an attack, but lost your pointer because of inaccuracy or the controller went out of alignment.
Overall this was my preferred play style, but due to the larger movements to be made by an arm compared to a finger, attacks weren’t always hitting their marks, dodges didn’t get quite far enough away and the Game Over screen may have come up a few more times than I would have expected.
Or that could mean I’m not as skilled as I thought I was.
Speak of the speaking
As with any JRPG, there is a lot of dialogue in the game. It plays out like a manga, with a touch of voice acting to accentuate parts of the game. Navigation through the city is a bunch of free roaming exploration, be it to jump headfirst into battles, waltz over to key locations for a chinwag or even to flit into stores to go shopping for many many things. There are some neat little mechanics, like scanning people and reading thoughts, minor influencing of NPC decisions and preferences, managing the brands of worn clothing, and constantly changing the play style needed to get an edge in areas that prefer different brands.
Some of these things aren’t critical to the overall play through of the game. You can certainly play difficult battles without making sure your tutu has the right label for the neighbourhood, but you may end up crawling away from your most recent battle by the thinnest of margins without it. Neku Sakuraba starts off pretty drab, not particularly likeable and quite gloomy a lot of the time. As a growing teen a lot of people could find a lot in common with this character. By the end of the game, he really grows on you. There is a lot to explore in the game, a lot to read and get immersed within, or you can breeze by it if all you want to do is fight. The game rewards you even if you take a bit of a break. Interestingly, XP is constantly generated even while the Switch is in sleep mode, so you are always getting stronger.
Noise is ever-present in the levels. You see this as floating red symbols when you focus on people’s thoughts. Stressed and upset people add to more noise on a level, and fighting noise brings you into an encounter that pits you up against one or several different creatures. Attacks are varied, but follow a pattern for each type of noise, and are chosen using pins. You can chain a few encounters together for a longer fight, defeat one group of noise, and fight the next straight away. Just like a Pokémon, you only have a small number of attacks or skills you can use at any one time. Your partner is able to expand that move set slightly, and can also be a jump-in co-op player if there’s a spare spot on the couch.
By chaining attacks between Neku and his partner, big attacks can be unleashed, powered up with little mini-games in a short time to make the attacks even more powerful. Some pins can be powered up to make their effects even more pronounced, so there is an incentive to stick with some pins that may have started off a little lacklustre in the beginning.
Pretty as a picture
The game is very unique in its art style, and a definite highlight of the title. The cel shading style feels like a mishmash of Jet Set Radio and Kingdom Hearts. It’s bright, colourful, and the animations are smooth. With 2D sprites in a 3D world, it keeps the Switch running smoothly, while delivering excellent visuals throughout the game.
The soundtrack is also excellent. An original mix from the DS version is here in all its glory, or switch to the remixed version with a refreshing take on the original songs. During later levels, the music really comes into its own, but does get repetitive during early segments. More tracks being available earlier in the game would help make the game a lot more appealing for players new to the franchise.
The game is a journey of self-discovery for Neku and his companion. The World Ends With You: Final Remix touches a lot on the themes of isolation, self-discovery, teen angst, confidence, reaching out to those around you and helping others through difficult challenges. A teenager would find a lot of the themes encountered during the game very relatable.
The World Ends With You was very much in a class of its own when it was first released, and still is now. Fans of the DS version will know the game well, and newcomers on Switch will be struck by its uniqueness. The game has come through with very few changes, with the differences between the systems accounting for most of them. Is it enough to overpower nostalgia-tinted glasses? That is a question that fans will have to find out on their own. For me it was.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix works as a fun game that compliments a growing Switch library that you can sink plenty of hours into. I preferred the docked method, with the aforementioned control issues adding to a more challenging gameplay feel, with frustrations in dexterity happening closer to the learning stages of play and with certain pin attacks. Co-Op gaming is not a strong point in this game, but is a nice feature to have if you want an interactive co-op experience. The battles are fun and customisable to your own level, though perhaps the difficulty ramp is a little sharp towards the end. Given that there has been such a long time between the games original release and this current version, the game doesn’t feel the slightest bit dated, but there could have been a lot of additional content than what came out. More characters, additional storylines, updated dialogue would have enriched the game even further.
But I’m nitpicking. The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a fun, challenging play that will pull you into its story, and either delight or frustrate you with its battle system.