The World Ends With You: Final Remix Review

“You know Neku, It’s A Wonderful World, and The World Ends With You.  Just make sure you end it definitively.  For this is the Final Remix!”

The World Ends With You is one of those special “formative” games that I deeply enjoyed and felt a connection to in my adolescence that stuck with me over the years, influencing a lot of minute details about my current likes and preferences visually, artistically, and even with regards to gameplay and game structure.  It is an adoration that was only reaffirmed when I replayed the title back in 2012, 4 years after my initial playthrough, to the point where I still consider the game to be one of my top ten all time favorites. So, with that high bar set, how does Final Remix fare?  Well… it fares pretty excellently all things considered.

The World Ends With You: Final Remix Review
Platform: Switch
Developers: Square Enix and h.a.n.d.
Publisher: Square Enix

The World Ends With You follows Neku, an asocial teenager who finds himself in the apex of youth culture and commercial excess that is Shibuya.  Where he and a group of other estranged individuals are forced into partaking in the Reaper’s Games. A series of weeklong endeavours where players must join together in order to avoid erasure by violent creatures known as Noise and the murder-happy Reapers themselves, while completing a variety of daily missions.  With the ensuing story following Neku and his partners as they grow over the course of these games, developing as a people while the mythology, world, side characters, and overall storyline all gradually grow and escalade. Peppered by a series of twists and minor revelations throughout that keep things interesting.

It is a story filled with eccentric personalities, flavorful dialog rife with approximations of decade-old contemporary Japanese youth lingo culturally adapted for a western audience, and something that I cannot help but find charmingly adolescent and edgy about the whole affair.  From the whole death game premise, the intricate organization puppeteering the whole affair, the personality driven conflicts of the main cast, and the at times hockey script.

In regards to both the story and gameplay, I must admit that things are rather slow starting out, with the world and overall setting being vaguely detailed, and the characters coming off as rather basic.  But as more mechanics are introduced, the characters are given room to develop, and the intricacies of the storyline are expanded upon, things increase exponentially in quality. All of which leads up to a story that had me and my vague memories of the game positively hooked to see where things would go next, and what is probably my favorite implementation of touch controls.

With regards to gameplay, TWEWY is something of an odd duck, a Japanese action RPG that was originally designed around the unique hardware of the Nintendo DS.  What the developers came up with was a system where the player would need to control Neku on the bottom screen using the stylus to move, navigate menus, and to battle enemies using a series of unique inputs corresponding to different attacks.  While on the top screen the player would control their partner character using the D-pad or face buttons, switching between the two to damage foes. But with the move to the mobile years later with Solo Remix, this system was more or less dropped, and the ensuing changes were carried over into Final Remix.  

While many people have expressed frustration over this change, I personally always found controlling the partner to be somewhat cumbersome, and instead made use of the auto-control function, which does away with the need to focus on two screens, with no negative repercussions that I can recall.  Hardware related mechanical changes aside, combat centers around battling a small group of enemies known as Noise, bizarre approximations of animals that appear amidst the streets of Shibuya and are battled using pins. Pins are equippable items that allow the player to perform an ability a set number of times by performing a gesture, such as slashing, tapping, pressing, or dragging things around, whether it be Neku, Noise, or the environment itself.

These allow for a great deal of versatility and customization throughout the game, and work to create a combat system that is fast, kinetic, and very lively, involving a series of rampant assaults as the player sifts through their stockpile of pins, using one, depleting it, switching to another, and repeating the cycle as they each recharge.  As for how the combat system is applied, the game actually has fairly few mandatory story-based encounters, and with no true random encounters, combat is largely there to be pursued at the player’s leisure, taken in whatever approach they want.

It is also worth highlighting that combat itself is exceptionally quick paced in this game, with most encounters only lasting 20 to 60 seconds, which string together rather exceptionally into multi-round encounters.  It might sound rather minor, but the pace of these encounters, only broken up by brief round transitions, the involved, satisfying, and sometimes hectic nature of the gameplay, the exponentially increased rewards received from completing a chain, and the soundtrack that flows from round to round.  It all amounts to a small slice of euphoria for me that is seen in just about every battle in this game, and cements the combat system of TWEWY as one of my all time favorites.  Which is surprising considering how much I dislike touch controls, and while I will say they work well here, the game admittedly does have difficulty discerning the difference between similar pin inputs, causing certain combinations to be detrimental.

Speaking of controls, I should address is the matter of how controlling and playing TWEWY.  While Final Remix does introduce motion controls, having the player use the Joy-Con controllers to slash, tap, drag, and press their way through combat, I found the option to be far less precise and intuitive touch controls.  Due to both a lack of tactile feedback and the fact I have not played a game with extensive motion controls since 2012. Though regarding the touch controls, there is a good question of how to best use them, as playing the game with one’s hand and holding the system with another feels rather cumbersome as well.  

Seeing that there had to be a better way, I did some brief experimenting and grew extremely fond of a setup involving  the use of a basic capacitive touch stylus pen and a stand of some sort to keep the Switch in place at about a 45 degree angle (I used the 3DS stand that came with Kid Icarus Uprising).  This allowed me to play the game without straining my hands hands or neck, while also giving me a great degree of precision and control over the gameplay that I felt was lacking when using my fingers or the Joy-Con controls.  I am sure that other people will find their own set ups, but for me, this was about as optimal of an experience I could have asked for.

Going back to the gameplay itself, and features unique to Final Remix in comparison to the DS entry, Neku’s companions now function as pins, each of which follows their own unique input that is meant to be used in conjunction with Neku’s existing movepool in order to facilitate devastating combo moves that lock enemies in place, and charge a card-based super move.  For instance, Shiki is controlled by tapping enemies, which overlaps with the command for force round pins, basically a bullet-based ranged attack. While Joshua is complemented well by shockwave pins, and Beat is a bit of an odd one, who initially tripped me up before realizing that he worked rather exceptionally with pyrokinesis pins.

Speaking of pins, in addition to being a variety of unique abilities that can be earned by defeating Noise and bought at shops, they can also be evolved into different pins through a process so complicated and not very well explained in game that it almost necessitates the use of an image-based guide.  Basically, if the game states that a pin can evolve, that means that if it accumulates enough PP from battles or PP from shutting down (not playing the game or turning the system clock forward).  Honestly, the whole presentation of this system feels overly vague and I see no reason why the game does not directly tell the player the finer details of pin evolution. It lists the scaled percentage based chance of enemy drops, but apparently they wanted the keep a vernier of mystery surrounding this one significant aspect of the game.

Though, I would be misleading if I said the entire game were free from minute and glandular issues like that.  Such as sifting through hundreds of equippable items to find ones that are actually worthwhile, jumping around the city in order to check and compare available items across a plethora of shops, and battling enemies on high difficulties with incredibly low drop rates for no real reason.  Then again, there is also no real reason to pursue anything beyond the bonus missions and scenarios, as the only thing gained from getting a 100% completion rate is one’s own sense of accomplishment, and the new scenario introduced in Final Remix makes the necessary grinding for these elusive items far easier.

Speaking of which, the core selling point of this new entry, and move that signifies it as something more than just a remaster, is the new scenario, A New Day.  Due to how it is technically post-game content and for the sake of brevity (I say in a 2,000 word review), I will not go into detail about what it does narratively and with regards to gameplay.  But I will say that while part of me cannot help but look at it as a low budget bit of side content, it is also possibly my favorite part of the entire game. Due to how much the narrative plays around with the player’s expectations from the base game and how it managed to make the already invorgating combat system even more hectic and enjoyable, to the point where I was actively looking for reasons and opportunities to string together 8 round battles.  Which was actually quite difficult after a while due to how much battles reward the player with.

Remember how I said that TWEWY was one of those formative games for me?  Well, it’s presentation certainly left a massive impression on me, as I love just about everything about this game’s aesthetics.  From the stylish and memorable backdrops of Shibuya, the graffiti-esque design of the Noise symbols, the sharp angles and thick outlines applied to every character design, the use of a lot of vibrant colors, and the unique design ascribed to each pin.  As for the character designs themselves, while people have bashed Tetsuya Nomura for some of his designs in the past, and the ones here are certainly prime examples of his often overzealous outfit designs, it all manages to work with its setting, which is supposed to be filled with high fashioned youths eagerly chasing trends and experimenting to uncover their own look.

Moving onto the soundtrack, it is a unique mix of Japanese hip hop, electronica, and pop, all mixed together and crossed over to create a distinctive and energetic score that I absolutely adore.  If you can understand the feeling of returning to a soundtrack from your adolescence and then loving it even more than you loved it as a child, then you can probably understand my love for Final Remix’s soundtrack.  It takes the already great base of the original, redistributes some tracks for better variety, and adds in a series of excellent remixes as seen in A New Day.   

As I have gone on about throughout this review, The World Ends With You is easily among my all-time favorite games.  With its engaging story and characters, the fast and frantic gameplay, and the stylish presentation, there is very little more I could ask from a title such as this.  And while some of the mechanical changes seen in Final Remix have caused ire within a niche of dedicated fans, I personally found it to be a better version of the game with its more focused gameplay, additional content, HD visuals, and expanded soundtrack.  

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