The World Ends With You: Final Remix (Switch) Review
In 2008, Square Enix released a small, experimental game for the Nintendo DS that was truly unlike anything else on the platform. The World Ends With You was the creative brainchild of Tetsuya Nomura and Shinji Hashimoto, co-creators of the Kingdom Hearts series, and it used absolutely everything the DS has to offer — both screens, the d-pad, the face buttons, the microphone, wireless connectivity, and even the suspend feature. It was built from the ground up for the DS, so naturally, it was a bit concerning to hear it was being ported to mobile devices in 2012. But to everyone’s surprise, Square Enix and h.a.n.d. pulled off the impossible, reinventing the game from the ground up to work flawlessly on a single touch screen. It’s that mobile reconstruction that has made its way to Switch in the Final Remix — though that’s not to say it’s nothing more than a port. With new artwork, dozens of new songs, a new control scheme, and even new story content, The World Ends With You: Final Remix has been marketed as the definitive version of the game. The original remains my favourite game of all time, so I have to ask: does it live up to the hype? Does the game hold up after 10 long years? And are the new tunes absolute bangers? The answer to all of these questions is yes — with a very minor catch.
But let’s start with a little bit of story. The World Ends With You (TWEWY) tells the story of Neku Sakuraba, a socially secluded teen who finds himself waking up in a strange version of the Shibuya district in Tokyo, to find that none of the dozens of people walking past can see or hear him. With no memories and no knowledge of the strange, yet familiar world around him, Neku must forge an uneasy pact with a total stranger to find a way home. Enter Shiki Misaki, a 15-year old girl with a passion for fashion and the social skills Neku so desperately lacks. Together, they’re sent on a journey to discover the secrets of this strange new Shibuya, play the mysterious Reaper’s Game, put their lives on the line, and win back what’s most precious to them.
It’s difficult to overstate just how compelling the story in TWEWY is. It’s presented in a style not dissimilar to visual novel games, with a very new-age comic spin on the presentation, that’s effective in its simplicity. Yes, it’s a story that’s 10 years old at this point, and that comes with some incredibly awkward dialogue that probably didn’t seem too out-of-place amongst teens a decade ago, but it’s full of mystery, intrigue, twists and turns. It grabs you from the very first scene to the very last, with little, if any, drop in interest or quality along the way. A lot of this comes down to the characters — TWEWY is packed full of beautifully written characters, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that every single person who plays will find at least one member of the cast that they relate to. Neku, Shiki, and the weird and wonderful band of misfits that join them along the way are all characters that feel like more than just characters. They feel like friends, like you’re on the journey with them. 10 years ago, I cried when Beat gave his speech about how much his partner in the Reaper’s Game means to him. Yesterday, I cried again watching the very same scene.
The pacing in TWEWY allows you to connect with these characters on a very personal level. When Neku learns something new, you’re learning it for the first time too. When Neku is successful, you’re successful too. And when Neku is betrayed, you’re betrayed too. Because in the very same way the Reapers lied to Neku, TWEWY lied to you, too. It’s these ups and downs, these moments of emotion, that help pace the story in a way that feels both natural and incredibly rewarding. Every moment you play, you’re growing alongside the characters that are growing right before your very eyes. The end result is a game that never feels like it’s moving too fast or too slow. It’s moving exactly at your speed, no matter what that speed is, and that’s an impressive feat.
The extra, Switch-specific content, a chapter titled “A New Day” (which has a ridiculous and convoluted unlock method, by the way), is another strange step into the alternate Shibuya, where familiar faces are given unfamiliar personalities and everything seems just a little bit off. Locations aren’t where they used to be, with the map being totally scrambled, in a move that leaves you just as confused as the characters in the game. This time, you’re accompanied by former companion Beat, as well as an all new character, the adorable Coco Atarashi, a new Reaper who doesn’t really know what’s going on either. I’ll spare you from spoilers — some players have been waiting an entire decade for the next chapter in the TWEWY storyline — but A New Day manages to feel just as consistent and compelling as the main storyline, as well as providing a hefty challenge for those interested. It’s nowhere near as long as the main game, clocking in at about 3-6 hours depending on your skill level, and it’s not particularly mind-blowing stuff, but it’s a nice little addendum to an already packed story, and it’s sure to be satisfying for those who, like me, have waited so long for something new.
But playing TWEWY is about more than just the stories, it’s also about combat. In order to survive the harsh reality of the Reaper’s Game, Neku and friends must fight, and it’s here where things get a bit more complicated. At its base level, combat in TWEWY revolves around pins — wearable badges that allow you to perform an action to awaken their power and attack enemies called Noise. There are over 100 pins, each with their own power and one of many activation methods, but for the most part, you’ll be tapping, swiping, or drawing on the screen to perform attacks. In handheld mode, this is done on the touchscreen, and it’s a pretty good experience. Every part of the game is controlled with the touchscreen in handheld, from menus and battle prompts to moving around Shibuya and progressing through dialogue boxes. When docked, however, the touchscreen is inaccessible, and you know what that means? Motion controls.
I know, I know, motion controls suck in most games. And they’re not too great here, either. Like many other touchscreen-to-motion conversions on the Switch, TWEWY uses a Wii-style pointer, controlled by tilting the Joy-Con towards the part of the screen you want to interact with. Then you mimic the actions you would be performing if you were playing on the touchscreen. It’s a bit clunky — tapping on Noise is usually fine, but prolonged gestures, like swipes and drawing, are a bit of a nightmare to actually pull off. On top of this, you’re trying to pull off all these actions while also using the analogue stick to move, and since you’re limited to only one Joy-Con when you play, the whole thing takes a lot of concentration (and far too much frustration) to pull off even the simplest of actions. Co-operative play uses this same control system for both players, with the second player given a preset group of pins based on Neku’s partner at the time. For what it’s worth, I’m sure that with enough time and patience, I could have adapted to the motion controls and eventually mastered them, but I did not have a lot of time, and I am not a patient person. So instead, I tried motion controls for the first couple hours, and then gave up and switched to touchscreen in handheld.
One of the most underrated aspects of TWEWY’s combat is its curious system of progression. All pins can level up using experience called Pin Points (PP), getting stronger with each level, but depending on how you earn that PP, some pins might evolve, granting new abilities or becoming stronger than they ever could be through levelling up alone. There are three types of PP: Battle PP, Shutdown PP, and Mingle PP. Battle PP is simple, you earn it through battles and playing Tin Pin Slammer, a cute little minigame that involves flicking your pins at other pins. Shutdown PP is a little more interesting; you earn Shutdown PP by putting your Switch into sleep mode, or from exiting the game altogether. It’s absolutely fascinating to see a game promote the idea that the time spent not playing it is just as valuable to your experience as the time spent playing it, and it provides a really fantastic reason for taking a step back when things get frustrating. Lost the same boss battle 4 times in a row? Take a step back, put the Switch down, and come back to it tomorrow, and you’ll be stronger for having taken a break. Mingle PP is earned by… well, I don’t really know, to be honest. In the original DS release, Mingle PP was earned by connecting with other players, and in the mobile release, it was earned by playing Tin Pin Slammer, but neither of those yield any results in Final Remix. My best guess is that it’s earned through defeating enemies in co-op mode, but I didn’t see any evidence of that in the admittedly brief time I spent on that. I’m sure folks with more time than me will figure it out, though.
Before we draw to a close, it’s incredibly important that I talk about the presentation of The World Ends With You. It features an absolutely gorgeous, bold, colourful set of character designs, contrasted against understated but equally gorgeous backdrop. Shibuya is brought to life with small touches, like graffiti, cute little signposts, and faded paint. It’s these small touches that really show just how much care was put into the presentation of this game. Cutscenes are only partly animated, like flipping through pages of a comic book, but its art style allows for some really touching and striking imagery, especially in more stylised scenes.
On the same note (no pun intended), TWEWY features what might just be the best video game soundtrack in history. Featuring a wide variety of artists performing a wide variety of genres, TWEWY’s soundtrack has a song for every emotion, every moment and then some. It’s this melting pot of music that really punctuates the whole experience. I’ve listened to this soundtrack for a significant portion of my life, and after all this time, it still makes me happy. The peppy, upbeat Twister is a wonderful song for when things get heated, the warm and heartfelt acoustic hit Hybrid ~New Born has a lot of emotional weight, and the series’ signature song, Calling, is just hella fun to wander around to. All these songs are presented in the highest quality they’ve ever been on Switch, with many songs getting a new mix just for the Final Remix, and they all sound incredible. The new Switch-exclusive chapter also features an absolute truckload of songs not featured in any other version of the game, including some all new remixes and original songs made just for the Switch, as a sort of last hurrah for the soundtrack. These new tracks are the best of the lot, with old, familiar songs given a fresh new makeover. Not all of them are bangers, but there’s so much there that you’d be hard-pressed to not find something you like.
The World Ends With You has always been a fantastic game, and it’s at its best in the Final Remix on Switch, even if the optional motion controls don’t quite do it justice. Its story, presentation, battle systems, and music are all incredible, and there’s nothing out there quite like it. Whether you’re a newcomer to the game or a veteran from the DS days, there’s no better time than now to play TWEWY.
+ Stunning presentation
+ Compelling story
+ Killer soundtrack
- Motion controls are clunky
- Some mission requirements are convoluted