Review: The World Ends With You -Final Remix-
Posted 20 Oct 2018 at 15:20 by Ashley Jones
The World Ends With You (TWEWY) was a critical success when it was launched on the Nintendo DS eleven years ago; praised for its unique style - something it has an abundance of - and soundtrack it stood out amongst many other titles at the time. It received a mobile port a few years ago and has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch with some added content and the ability to use the Joy-Cons for TV play. The Nintendo Switch version appears to be based on the mobile port and given that the original DS used the two screens for different battles it makes sense, but it does feel like a step back from the DS version.
For those unfamiliar, The World Ends With You takes place in contemporary Shibuya as a number of characters are trapped in the ‘Reaper’s Game’, a kind of supernatural Battle Royale where participants are trapped in the area and made to fight to make it to the end. Along the way you meet a range of characters bursting with personalities and use abilities to defeat Noise in order to try and complete each challenge to make it through the week-long trial.
The World Ends With You is a narrative-heavy game. Much of the game is spent conversing with others with occasional dialogue choices. There’s some puzzle-lite elements to the overworld as you try and figure out how to get from A to B with blocked paths, but the main focus is of course on the combat. Protagonist Neku, along with other participants, are given pins that activate special abilities. Neku has the special gift of being able to use any, meaning he has a wider moveset and fulfils the required 'chosen one' of any PRG narrative.
These pins can be managed and used in a variety of ways outside of combat but their main purpose is to give you abilities to defeat enemies. You will see the pins on the screen and you must touch to activate them, then perform a touchscreen action such as swiping, tapping or holding down. They have limited uses before they must recharge, meaning you need to juggle them effectively and run away where necessary. Other characters can help out in battle and if you combine your moves effectively they perform greater damage, although this is downgraded from the original DS version where you were split between screens and effectively played a game of magical tennis to build up attacks.
The touchscreen elements, while in vogue during the games original release, felt tiresome on the Switch to me. Often times the gestures didn’t work as expected, in part due to the small input lag, and while it plays into the rhythmic nature of the game I found myself wanting to just use a normal controller. You can also use the Joy-Cons in TV mode but that is even worse as it feels even less responsive. Of course I would never have expected a port to have had its core input mechanic changed, but it just acts as a constant reminder that Final Remix isn't the same as the original.
Of course this being a RPG you gain experience from battle that can be used to improve your pints, health etc and you meet more companions as you go. There’s some interesting twists on the standard trappings of the genre however. Each of Shibuya’s regions has its own popular fashion styles and brands and dressing in those will improve your skills in battle. It is just another way in which the narrative of the game has been worked in to the gameplay, much like the soundtrack that compliments the environment.
Its contemporary setting is just one of the many ways in which The World Ends With You stands out. In a genre filled fantasy worlds TWEWY’s setting adds a depth to the game through its recognisable locations and relatable humans. Its characters are distinctive, not just because of the visual design but also their writing. Neku is a bit of a loner and rallies against others who want to team up, leaving his headphones on to shut out those around him. Sullen protagonist who must learn to work with others is nothing new, but it comes from the character rather than defining them.
Those headphones add more than just character depth, they help unite the narrative with the stellar soundtrack. A mixture of different genres, relating to the characters themselves, brings life to the world around it. Composer Takeharu Ishimoto, whose other work includes entries in the Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy franchises, included an impressive range of tracks within the original limitations of the Nintendo DS game carts. Shibuya is one of the busiest places in the world and an important epicentre in contemporary Japanese life and the soundtrack helps to reflect this idea of different walks of life coming together.
Much like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker before it, The World Ends With You benefits from having a strong visual identity that didn’t rely on cutting-edge graphics at the time, ensuring the remaster still looks visually similar without appearing dated. Persona 5 received praise for its UI when it was released as it acted as a visual extension of the game itself and on reflection you can see how The World Ends With You could have been part of its inspiration (although the less said about the early-00s web design dialogue choice buttons the better). It feels like a manga come to life in your hands and Tetsuya Nomura's characters are some of the most visually distinct in gaming.
Any game that is over a decade old will show its age when ported and that is most clear in The World Ends With You: Final Remix’s control scheme. The use of the touchscreen provided a different and more interactive gameplay mechanism that reflected the growing connection between the characters in the original. All these years later that style of gameplay has waned and it becomes more burdensome when you factor in the larger screen, the requirement to use your finger rather than style and the fact the Switch can’t be used one-handed for an extended period in the same way the DS could have been. The change in touch screen mechanics from the original to the mobile port, and thus the Switch version, has lost any charm or challenge it had.
There’s a new scenario called A New Day that may well entice anyone that played the original and it does feature some interesting challenges, but the weakened controls may well put off a lot of returning players as they make their way to the new content. For anyone that has not played the game before it probably won’t be as problematic, but likewise they probably won’t understand the buzz around the original.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix is still a strong title buoyed by its visual style, writing and soundtrack. It was unlike anything else at the time and it still is in many ways. It’s a shame the Switch got a glorified mobile port without considering the other possible control options. One of the great joys of the Switch is its multi-use form factor, but this is one of those games that in portable mode kills off the Joy-Cons and thus shows it up for what it is - a port of a port. If you've never played the original and can't play it on the DS it is still worth checking out, but if you can get your hands on the original version that still remains the best.
N-Europe Final Verdict
The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a fantastic game in many ways. Its art style and soundtrack are unparalleled, it's just a shame the controls feel dated. If you've never played it before it is well worth checking out.
Excellent visual style
Great writing and characters
Control scheme feels awkward