Platform: Nintendo Switch
Rating: T for Teen
While I had always been interested in The World Ends With You (TWEWY for short) after learning about the game in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, I was wary when I saw the remaster come out on the Switch. With an abysmal price tag, and mixed reviews from several groups, I initially didn’t have the nerve to try it. Now that I have finally played it, I can tell you if the slack was worth it or not.
Fantasy Violence: The game involves fighting monsters and other people through means of supernatural powers
Paranormal Game References: At several points throughout the game, there are individuals who practice a “game” called “Reaper Creeper” in which they attempt to communicate with the dead, similar to a Ouija board.
Harsh Language: There are many instances in which harsh language and curse words are used. Da** and He** words are used relatively freely, and Dumba** is redundantly spoken as part of an NPC’s battle cry. Select soundtracks may also involve similar language.
Suggestive Themes: In other words, this means partial nudity. Certain characters have very short skirts and barren midriffs. However, there are no references to suggest any further exposure or action.
Death: Death, the afterlife, and the implication of “erasure” are consistent topics throughout the game, and vital to the plot of the story.
Being a fan of the Kingdom Hearts series, I was excited for the ability to experience another story from the mind of Tetsuya Nomura. He had even mixed the universes of TWEWY and Kingdom Hearts in the 3DS title Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. However, everything in The World Ends With You looks very different from the Disney-Final Fantasy child to newcomers. Little did I know just how different the two were, yet with similar themes at the same time.
When I started the game, I already knew what other reviews were saying about the remastered game, and I was choosing to ignore them. I put my Switch into its dock mode, pulled out a controller, and pointed my way to a start.
Where Am I?!
Upon starting the game, I was thrown into Shibuya with protagonist Neku, and felt his unease of not knowing what was going on. Immediately, I could tell that this game is unique. I wasn’t sure what to make of the soundtrack, the controls seemed easy but difficult at the same time, the art style was unlike anything I’ve played before, and, like Neku, I had no idea what I was doing. I only knew that the plot was directing me.
However, over the course of the beginning several hours, I began to nestle into the world TWEWY had to offer. Your first companion, Shiki, is a lovable contrast to the more-angsty Neku, which allows for rather comical character discourse and progression. And, while it might be slightly text-heavy at first, in-game tutorials teach you the basics of how to fight and perform other in-game actions over time. Although I still don’t know what roads lead where in Shibuya, it only helps promote the feeling of wandering in a vast city, rather than just bee-lining from story location to location.
The Stylin’, The Strange, and the Ugly
Universal staples of RPGs include having a lot of words, story, and varying equipment. That being said, TWEWY‘s equipment system is… a little weird and a little more annoying. Rather than having armor, weapons, and accessories like one may see in Final Fantasy or The Witcher, equipment in TWEWY is based on regular clothes and brands of clothes.
To explain the entire system would take a whole other article and a half, but in summary it essentially works as thus: you will need to buy better clothes if you want better stats, but need to have a high enough “bravery” stat in order to wear them, which is raised by leveling up and eating food. More “stylish” characters in the game have higher bravery stats and can wear more.
I personally felt that it was kind of funny that bravery was equated to wearing clothes, but then I thought about it a little more:
Clothes can and will be mismatched when you wear them. For most of my game, Neku was wearing a blouse with a stocking cap, whilst holding a teddy bear and wearing flip-flops. His partners’ clothes were not much better assortments, either. No wonder you have to be “brave” to wear things. Thankfully, character sprites don’t change with each piece of clothing, else, I’m sure I’d either be having nightmares or would have had died of laughing too hard some time ago.
The annoying factor in the equipment system was its usage of abilities and vast variation of items. Each item in TWEWY has a different ability set to it, but in order to know what that ability is (a crucial factor for anything I buy in a game), you need to keep buying from a store, so that the storekeeper will befriend you and eventually tell you what the ability is. That’s like buying an item store’s entire stock in Final Fantasy just to know what a “Phoenix Down” does, and the abilities often weren’t worth the effort.
The real punchline to the entire system is this: it doesn’t really matter. As I said, I had Neku wearing flip-flops throughout much of the game on normal mode, and they were one of the cheapest items I could buy. The game just generally wasn’t that difficult with the right balance of leveling, attacks, and movements. Additionally, one can change the difficulty at any time once they reach a certain point, which enables the game to be even easier.
Move Aside, Motion Controls
To my surprise, TWEWY only allowed me to use one joy-con at a time. I would come to find out that, throughout the entire game, you only use one hand to play, which saddened me and made gameplay much more complicated than it had to be.
The combat system of the original port of TWEWY took full advantage of the DS touchscreen hardware it originally released on. To activate your attacks, which can be equipped via “pins” that grant you certain abilities, you can either slash, drag, scratch, tap, or hold a pin-specific required object. I can easily imagine how that would be a revolutionary idea, as they all require the touchscreen in some form, with minimal button input. However, many of these commands did not carry over to the Switch port very well.
The biggest gripe I have with TWEWY is its control scheme, especially the motion controls. A simple flick of the wrist caused the cursor to move from where I was pointing, and while there is always capability for quick re-calibration, needing to re-calibrate after every attack in battle is ridiculous.
To make matters worse, the lag between the motion controls’ input often proved my undoing. For example, to tap an object with motion controls, you have to aim at the object and press the “A” button. However, a sizable delay often happens after hitting the button, so even if you tapped the object, the game registers it too late and doesn’t perform the command, which is especially problematic with fast-moving enemies (stupid wolves!).
TWEWY is better with a touch-screen than it is with motion controls. If you read any other review on TWEWY: Final Remix, you’ll also see others saying the same thing for good reason.
Handheld Mode is the Way to Go
After progressing through roughly half of the game, I was ready to give up and call it quits. The motion controls were making battles impossible with increasingly difficult enemies, and the clothing system was so vast I didn’t even want to try any further. Then, I tried the game in handheld mode, and I am glad I gave the game another chance.
Until that point, I had only used the handheld mode sparingly. I love TWEWY‘s style and didn’t want to take it off of my TV screen. However, the sacrifice of a smaller screen for playability was worth it. I had then started to make an actual effort in the equipment system by making myself filthy rich (easy to do when you can actually fight enemies), and the game had instantly gotten much more fun.
I was able to perform many new and awesome attacks (without restraints) that I had never seen before. In the end, I found I had the order reversed: I should have used the docked mode for story cutscenes and dialogue, and handheld mode for anything and everything else, including Tin Pin Slammer, a minigame that essentially requires quick controls and accuracy.
No matter which mode I used, however, moving Neku was always a problem. Since attacks were often the same button and action as moving Neku, he often would just sit and take damage while the game misunderstood that you were trying to make him move. Certain attacks, especially ones in which you had to draw circles in order to activate the pin, often killed me due to this, and other similar movement confusion.
Putting “Character” in “Characteristic”
If TWEWY could be described in one word, I would say “character.”
The characters of TWEWY are probably my single favorite focus within the game. The antagonists in the story—called Reapers—all have unique attitudes and quirks. The first boss you encounter, for example, has a palatable amount of food puns he uses in his dialogue.
Naturally, the protagonists—called “players”—also have an amazing amount of personality, which through the extended use of dialogue demonstrates an incredible amount of character progression. For example, a certain “tough guy” character starts off in the game not trusting anyone but his partner. However, over time, he not only learns to open up to his companions, but explains his reason to live and (familial) love of certain other characters. In typical Nomura fashion, friendship is a key part of TWEWY, and is a theme that becomes more apparent only as the game progresses and mysteries unravel.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a work of art. Its soundtrack is incredible with my personal favorite track being “A Lullaby For You,” and a graphic art style that looks like a comic book come to life. Heavy, but meaningful themes of freedom and individuality are beautifully portrayed through a likable cast of characters, and are especially effective to a presumably teenage audience.
That being said, this piece of art has its mistakes, and doesn’t come cheap. The game is fifty dollars, its motion controls are buggy, and its equipment and combat systems are a convoluted rut to overcome. However, mining through those ruts yields the golden (chicken) nuggets of accomplishment, worth your time and your money.
No matter if you complete the story or perfect the game, I think this world does something to you—it certainly did for me.