A critical component of the original The World Ends with You involved making sure you cared about the cast. After all, these were people taking part in a death game. You had to like them enough to not want them to die. After spending under two hours with NEO TWEWY, I already feel like I’m ready to do anything to protect Rindo and Fret with my life.
NEO TWEWY’s introduction sets things up simply enough, with Rindo and Fret getting together in Shibuya. The two are hanging out, like one would in the city with friends. Fret even went to the trouble of getting special Reaper pins for the two of them. (They’re the hottest accessory and on everyone’s bags, you know?) The two grab something to eat. Rindo sees a FanGO-playing friend is around. The two go to meet them.
Then the duo encounter the Noise. There’s a harrowing, potentially life changing decision. And the next thing they know, they’re in the Reaper’s Game as a new team. Their goal is to earn enough points to stay at the top of the leaderboards and survive, or else they’ll be erased.
In the first two days, things proceed as normal. Rindo and Fret learn that they have to complete missions each day in NEO TWEWY that send them around the city. The first day, it involves seeing the colors of skulls and fighting a giant scorpion. The next is a graffiti scavenger hunt, with instructions and a boss fight at the end.
And again, part of what makes these early parts work is how Rindo and Fret work together. Part of this is their synergy in battle. Unlike the previous game, which involved touchscreens and swiping, here it’s about timing. Each character equips a pin with a certain sort of psychic ability. You beat up a foe with one character, say Rindo and his short range attacks. When the time comes to drop the beat, you swap to an ally and use their pin attack within a certain amount of time to improve the groove. If the groove hits 100%, you perform a mashup and get a buff and strengthened attacks. Since right away you have a short range and long range specialist, it’s setting you up for certain sorts of combos.
The way the two interact in story segments does an even better job of selling their partnership. Their relationship felt authentic. Especially when spamming stickers between one another to convey moods. It rang true, because I do it too. The two play off each other well. Even when exasperated with one another and while dealing with a heavy situation, there’s this ease between the duo in these early hours.
However, I’d be remiss to bring up characters and partnerships without mentioning the third member of the team. Not long after Rindo and Fret start the game, they meet a potential ally. Minamimoto shows up as the two are finding their footing. As in the original TWEWY, he’s throwing out mathematical terms and quite a mystery. He helps out, but doesn’t completely commit. He’s showing up as they need him. And when he’d speak the first few days, he’d sometimes steal the show.
A game like NEO TWEWY is going to work in part because of the characters, and over the first two in-game days I got to see a lot of Rindo and Fret interactions. The two feel like good friends with a real bond. They behave like innocent kids who didn’t expect or deserve to be in this situation. But they also seem like a duo with a lot of potential. Which means it could be interesting to see what happens next for them (and Minamimoto).
NEO The World Ends with You will come to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 on July 27, 2021. The PC version will appear on the Epic Games Store in Summer 2021.