It’s essentially an unwritten rule that every third-party publisher has at least a single one-off (or short-lived franchise). It’s usually amazing but never quite gets the recognition it deserved for a multitude of factors. Be its poor sales, marketing, or timing- these games slip under the radar and garner a cult following over the years. So SEGA has Ristar, Konami has Rocket Knight and Castlevania spinoff Kid Dracula, Capcom has Maximo…and Square Enix has The World Ends With You.
The original World Ends With You was initially released for the Nintendo DS for Japanese audiences in July 2007, followed by a North American release. It was an action RPG centered around a teenager who finds himself amid a die-or-die situation: the Reaper’s Game. Paired with a crew of allies, he risks his existence being erased should he fail to complete his daily mission. As it was a mid-life Nintendo DS title, The World Ends With You made extensive use of the hardware’s dual-screen setup and touch screen capabilities. The game also wore its Japanese influences on its sleeve, with many of its missions centering around aspects of overseas youth culture. The game was ported to mobile devices in 2012 but never received an official sequel. That is, until now.
NEO: The World Ends With You just arrived on Nintendo Switch as well as all other platforms (PC port slated for a TBA Summer 2021 launch) following a 14-year wait. The team behind the game had wanted to develop a follow-up to their Nintendo DS cult classic for quite some time. However, it felt that they lacked the foundation to do so correctly.
It’s important to remember just how quickly the landscape of the industry changed from the seventh to ninth generation of consoles. We saw a radical shift from “gimmicky” consoles such as the Wii U and add-ons such as Microsoft’s Kinect back to more traditional hardware and a laser-sharp focus when it comes to online connectivity. As such, the crew wanted to do something entirely different for NEO.
Series director Tatsuya Kando has noted that the team wanted to do “something totally new” when they were able to get the sound environment they needed to create a proper sequel. As such, NEO has a host of new additions and mechanics as the title might suggest. As this entry isn’t on a platform based around a touch-screen setup (which Nintendo marketed the hell out of in a fashion that wouldn’t fly in today’s world), combat has been reworked into something far more traditional. It is now fully 3D and takes place a melee-centered subgame. In addition, the original game’s psuedo-16/32 bit aesthetic has been exchanged for a 3D cel-shaded approach.
NEO: The World Ends With You is currently available for PS4, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo Switch for $59.99 MSRP.