The Switch is a wonderful platform for people to experience games that they may have previously missed out on, and The World Ends With You is a perfect fit for the console, in theory. It’s a somewhat underappreciated DS title from the Kingdom Hearts’ mastermind, Tetsuya Nomura. The World Ends With You: Final Remix is Square Enix’s attempt to bring the action RPG to a broader audience, while simultaneously trying to create the best version of the title yet. I was eager to jump in and see why fans hold the game in such high regard.
The World Ends With You is set within a fictional version of Shibuya that has two distinct planes of realities. The RG, which is similar to our world, where people go about their day to day business as usual. Conversely, there’s the UG, where protagonist Neku Sakuraba is thrust into The Reapers’ Game. It’s a plot shrouded in mystery that slowly unveils itself as you play on, constantly subverting your expectations and never revealing the truth until the credits have rolled after a satisfying conclusion. There wasn’t a single dull moment during my playthrough, and most of this is thanks to the varied cast of characters and their development.
It’s clear from the start that Neku doesn’t get along well with other people. He’s closed off, arrogant, self-kept, and excessively cautious about trusting other people. While it’s an archetype that’s been done to death in games before, there’s a slow-burning development within Neku, and that’s only reinforced as you learn the mysteries of the UG with him. The supporting cast retains much of the same charm, which left the story twists feeling impactful, particularly for a game with next to no voice acting.
Gameplay is something I was worried about due to the touch-screen nature of the title’s DS version. The Switch provides two options for this; you can either play the game with a single Joy-Con or via the touch-screen in handheld mode. I found the first to be far more difficult than the second for a few reasons. Firstly, the battle system requires quick swipes, taps, and other touch-screen inputs that are replicated by pressing the A button or a moving a reticle through pointer controls. I couldn’t help but feel that combat moves too fast for this to be a reliable option, and resorted to touch-screen controls for the rest of my playthrough. While I found it harder to get used to, I eventually got the hang of it and was only ever frustrated by the occasional instance of Neku doing something I didn’t want him to.
Battles unfold uniquely compared to other RPGs. Neku can buy pins which act as abilities that are activated with specific inputs. A blade attack might need you to swipe on an enemy, while a lightning strike might require a simple tap. You can only equip a set number at any given time, but the vast amount you’ll accrue across your playthrough means you’ll have plenty of options for fights when you’re having trouble. Standard enemies are usually easy to deal with on the Normal difficulty, but bosses provide a more complex challenge that requires patient play and adequate use of Neku’s skillset. It’s a combat system that’s rewarding when it works and allows for a high skill ceiling for players who want to invest time into learning its ins and outs.
You’ll come to memorise the small open world, and it’s numerous routes as you play. It’s big enough to warrant exploration that rewards curious minds, but never big enough to become confusing and maze-like. There are numerous shops where Neku can purchase stylish clothes to boost his stats and gain other small bonuses. There’s also side content to be found if you look for it, giving you more reason to spend time in the UG, not including an in-depth post game that allows you to replay previous missions with new objectives and challenges.
There’s a particular style and charm that emanates from The World Ends With You and it’s production values. The UG is home to gorgeously drawn environments, intricate models, and a soundtrack that combines many aspects of music to create a plethora of unique and memorable tracks. It’s a title that revels in the idea of being fashionable, and it’s hard not to appreciate the amount of work that has gone into it.
The World Ends With You is a brilliant JRPG that is worth your time if you own a Switch. Despite the inherant flaws that come with its control scheme, it tells a compelling story with complex and well-developed characters that keep you engaged for hours on end. It’s a unique game that deserves the praise it receives from so many, and it’s made even better through the capabilities of the Switch. If you’re a fan of the genre and can look past its minor shortcomings, I can’t recommend it enough.