Long before the living labyrinth that was Persona 5’s Shibuya, another version of the famed Tokyo ward existed in cult-classic The World Ends With You. This Shibuya was alive in a different way with each street baring a unique personality, each shuffling NPC an individual with thoughts and feelings. Unanimously adored by all who wondered its distinct, parallaxing street corners, TWEWY was a game with so much depth and flavour that die-hard fans a decade after its release are still baying for more- myself included. We may finally get a wisp of our wish through The World Ends With You -Final Remix– launching on the Switch sometime this year alongside the promise of an additional scenario, to finally ease a decade of want.
Set in an alternative version of Shibuya where the dead become Players of the Game, they’re tasked with fighting through seven arduous days for another chance at life. Failing a mission leads to erasure, permanent death, whilst Reapers facilitate the Game and hunt down players, conjuring animalistic static-beasts know as Noise to erase them. You play as Neku, an amnesiac edgelord and the poster boy for teenage angst, thrust into the Game with a single Player Pin, able to read the thoughts of the living that surround him. It sounds convoluted, but descending from the same pedigree as Kingdom Hearts, it’s to be expected. Instead of oversized keys, the power of the heart and the questionable combat prowess of Donald Duck, Neku is armed with pins, badges that house “psychs” which manifest as various telekinetic powers. Combat is highly customisable, able to arm oneself with skills that range from conjuring barbed wire and lightening bolts to swift slashes, teleportation and pyrokinesis. Pins themselves can evolve, offering new, more powerful skills as you build and refine your ESP repertoire.
To survive the Game a Player needs to forge a pact with another Player to combat the noise- difficult for lone wolf Neku. He meets the bright and bubbly Shiki, a seamstress with a lot to hide. During battles she appears on the top screen away from Neku, the DS buttons her combat inputs, the touch screen Neku’s. Initially fiddly for many, it demanded attention on both screens, with merciful options that allowed a CPU to take over the top screen if left idle. TWEWY offered a lot of freedom to players in how they wanted to play the game with difficulty modes and handicaps able to be shifted on the fly, offering a bespoke experience for all players. Combat had to be manually engaged with by touching Noise symbols that appeared as you scanned crowds, no random encounters here. The experience was one of great freedom and leisure, anyone able to play through the story how they wanted, battling how they wanted, as much or as little as they wanted. Cleverly, the game’s hedonistic mottos and messages integrated perfectly into the gameplay itself.
TWEWY was a game about union, freedom and enjoying the moment, the game itself wanting you to go out into the real world and meet people, to interact and connect with them, much like the rules the Game enforced. Different kinds of EXP could be gained by meeting other players with the game through Mingle mode, or by putting the game down and living your life rewarding Shutdown EXP, both types had to be earned for certain pins to evolve into unique forms. As a fairly unknown game, Mingle mode didn’t see much use but had vast potential, meeting somebody else with the game opened up a shop where you could buy their pins and items, that player receiving yen next you pass them. Additionally a totally separate mini-game, Tin Pin Slammer, underpinned the main narrative as a parody of Beyblade that could also be played wirelessly with friends. As a simple aside, it too was fully fleshed out and realised as a rock-paper-scissors based minigame that was fiendishly addictive.
From characters having individual tastes in food items to brand awareness existing as a central mechanic, every inch of TWEWY was calculated to seamlessly mesh as an incredibly stylised action RPG that reflected a youthful street-art aesthetic. Laced together by an equally vibrant narrative with a heap of end-game rewards and missions, players could delve back in to earn a fresh perspective on the story, earning Secret Reports that tie up loose ends and deepen the game’s already rich lore. An additional scenario was also made available, housing a hidden boss and boss-rush mode alongside a wealth of other secrets, allowing players to explore Shibuya free of the restrictions of the Game whilst following a woundingly self-aware plot that parodied the original. The World Ends With You is packed with content, containing a world that could easily be expanded into a fully-fledged series, far beyond its current legacy of revamped ports. Its soundtrack is an eclectic Japanese jumble of genres that’s highly celebrated amongst the fandom, multiple CDs and remixes of the OST published over the last decade.
Despite the IOS and Android releases over the years, The World Ends With You -Final Remix– stands as the best chance of a sequel fans can hope for with its enigmatic, additional epilogue. As the definitive version of the title, this is either the last we’ll ever hear of the exorbitantly overlooked odyssey, or the gauge that finally warrants a real sequel. Either way, players become Players sometime this year on the rightful home of Square Enix’s eastern epic, the Switch an incarnate vessel for TWEWY’s inherent, resounding hedonism.