A Classic on Two Screens: The World Ends With You

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The Nintendo DS was home to a ton of great games. It’s no surprise that Nintendo considered it a pillar of their success, alongside the Wii, which had similarly significant sales (if not quite so many A+ titles). Two screens and touch controls coupled with traditional button gameplay meant it was a system that anyone could use, whether they considered themselves hardcore or not. Many games took full advantage of the system’s touchscreen capabilities. Likewise, a lot of games relied mostly, or solely, on the system’s buttons, which were laid out identically to the classic Super Nintendo controller. Frequently, role-playing games on the system relied on a more traditional, button-based input system. One RPG in particular, however, combined buttons and touch in a way that hasn’t really been duplicated since. I’m talking about The World Ends With You, an RPG with the style of a Persona game and the gaudy character designs of modern-day Square Enix. The remastered version, The World Ends With You Final Remix, hits the Nintendo Switch this week, so it’s a great time to reflect a little on the classic game that spawned the remake (which you should definitely pick up ASAP, by the way).

I want to avoid spoilers, because the plot is one of the main draws for The World Ends With You. It’s super tricky to say much without spoiling, so here’s a very basic rundown. You play as Neku, a young man in the Shibuya shopping district of Tokyo. Neku is antisocial to a fault, always wearing giant earphones to block out the world around him. He suddenly finds himself trapped in some sort of sadistic game that takes place over the course of a week. Getting over his interpersonal issues, Neku is forced to team up with other similarly trapped teens to figure out just what is going on in his city.

Yes, the storyline is weird. But it’s weird in that super fun Japanese anime sort of way. If you’re able to suspend your disbelief and let yourself get lost in the world, it’s a blast. Supplementing the bizarre story are visuals that are a bit reminiscent of last year’s Persona 5, at least in terms of style. Solid outlines and sharp angles abound, giving almost everything an edge (literally and figuratively). Also, much like in Persona 5, the music in TWEWY is phenomenal, a mix of hip hop, rock, and electronic styles that get stuck in your head immediately, and you won’t want them to leave.

All that is just window dressing for what you’re really here to see, though: the gameplay. This is where TWEWY really shines, and where its creators get to show off their knack for developing wild gameplay systems. At most times, you’ll be in control of Neku and one of his companions. The original game utilizes the Nintendo DS’s dual screens by having each character appear in their own screen during combat. The bottom screen is home to Neku, and, being the touchscreen, Neku is controlled entirely by touch, whether with the DS stylus or a finger. (Probably want to go with the stylus, unless you’ve got dainty digits.) The top screen doesn’t have touch input capabilities, so your partner is controlled via button presses. By coordinating your attacks with your partner, you can increase the damage you do to enemies.

It’s complex, and it might even seem too intimidating. Fortunately, the game does offer some computer assistance if you need help wrapping your brain around it. Besides mastering the controls, characters can equip different fashionable pins that give them various boosts in battle. The pins also come into play in other ways, too. Shibuya, being a fashion hotspot, is susceptible to trends. By wearing different pins in different areas, you can influence the fashionistas and suddenly find that your pins are more popular and, therefore, more effective at what they do.

Fans begged for a sequel, but it wasn’t to be. At least, it hasn’t yet. Instead, Square Enix released The World Ends With You Solo Remix for iOS and Android devices. Its graphics were HD-ified, and the combat system was overhauled to account for mobile devices’ single screens. Now, instead of controlling your partner directly, you have to build your sync with them and be successful in various mid-combat mini games in order to launch powerful attacks.

Thorough players of Solo Remix were treated to a small amount of new content that hinted there was more to the TWEWY story, and this week, we’ll finally get to learn what that is. The World Ends With You Final Remix hits Switch on October 12, 2018. In addition to yet another reworking of the combat system (this time to allow for control with the Switch’s Joy-Cons), there will be an entirely new playable story scenario.

Whether this is the end for The World Ends With You, or just the beginning, probably depends on sales. Given that Square Enix saw such wild success with the recent release of retro throwback RPG Octopath Traveler on the Switch, hopes are high that Final Remix will deliver on the sales end.

If you want yet another reason to love owning a Switch, I highly recommend you check out The World Ends With You Final Remix, particularly if you missed out on the game the first or second times around; but even if you’ve already played the original to death, the new content alone should have you excited to dive back into Shibuya.