After 30 hours with The World Ends With You Final Remix, I can confidently say it’s one of my favourite games of the year. Stylish, confident, and packed with a great story to boot, Square Enix’s DS remaster is excellent from beginning to end. The game’s control options take some getting used to, but beneath the initial clunkiness is a story that is as heartwarming as it is heart wrenching, all packed within an interesting world filled with things to discover.
You take control of Neku, a lad who’s woken up inside the UG — a world seperate from reality, yet intertwined within the sleek streets of Shibuya, Japan. Waking up with no memory of what’s transpired, it doesn’t take long for him to bump into a cast of characters that all play a part in what eventually turns out to be the Reaper’s Game: a deadly seven day event that, if completed, could get the players out of the purgatory they’ve found themselves caught up in. Each player of the game has to abide by the rules, complete missions set out for them, and defeat the enemies in their way. If they don’t, they face erasure — which is, to put it bluntly, death.
The World Ends With You doesn’t shy away from mature themes, nor does it ever really feel like a chore to play. Neku’s story is as fascinating as it is absorbing — initially a disgruntled brat with no real care for anyone around him, his character development is one that I really, really enjoyed seeing play out. Likewise, the stories of the quirky cast of characters that interact with Neku throughout the 25-hour adventure are great — they’re full of charm, wit, and humour, and help push along one of the most unique ARPG’s I’ve ever played.
Initially coming to grips with the game’s controls was the biggest sticking point for me. While the original DS release made use of a combination of buttons and the touch screen, the Switch port of TWEWY instead pushes you into either a full touchscreen experience or a Joy-Con pointer configuration. The latter is only available to use while in tabletop or docked mode, whereas the former is, understandably, only usable while in handheld mode. And handheld mode is where I played most of the game, as the touchscreen setup worked the best for me as well as feeling the most comfortable between the two.
There’s a number of reasons behind that, but here’s a quick word of advice if you are going to pick up The World Ends With You on Switch: when playing it in handheld mode, throw the Joy-Cons aside and play the game in a tablet configuration. Not only does it make the game much easier to control, it also makes long sessions a lot easier on your hands. Had I not known about this (kudos to a mate pointing out that this could potentially be an option), I would have had a much harder time getting through the game. As TWEWY is fairly open (allowing you to grind levels, explore Shibuya, or collect items as you please), controlling Neku is assigned to touch-based gestures. Simple presses of the screen will take him to the specific spot you tapped, whereas holding down an area on the screen will allow Neku to continue running around.
As for the Joy-Con pointer control scheme, I found the gameplay of The World Ends With You to be too tedious for this setup. In battle situations you make use of pins that you can equip and collect throughout the world. Most pins allow Neku to attack enemies in a variety of ways, and, because of this, are initiated in a range of different ways too. Some require swiping an enemy, some are initiated by slashing Neku, while others may ask you to ‘scratch’ open space to initiate its attack. There’s a plethora of options, and because the game consistently changes up move options and different ways of attacking, using the Joy-Con pointer was a bit too problematic for me — initiating specific attacks took more effort in this configuration, and the pointer needed to be re-centred mid-fight at times as it’d drifted too far off centre. It’s just doesn’t feel like a natural way to play the game, which is a shame considering it looks great on the big screen.
While you’ll be traversing Shibuya with touch-based gestures or using the Joy-Con, pins are vital when it comes to getting up in the grills of enemies and doing some damage (or healing, depending on what you have equipped). Choice is important here, as you’re able to freely swap out pins as you please — as long as their command isn’t the same as another that’s already equipped.
Pins are found throughout Shibuya via shops, enemy drops, and through story-based battles. They can be levelled up, evolve into more powerful versions of the original pin, and can also have effects boosted or halved depending on the district you’re battling in at the time. The latter relates directly to the clothing brand a pin might be associated with and what’s popular in the district, and is well worth paying attention to. It’s a neat little system (and you can change what’s popular in each district of Shibuya by battling with a certain pin, as well as equipping items and clothes that are from that brand) that adds a lot of depth to the overall experience.
Not everything’s perfect in the world of stylish Shibuya, however. Grinding and levelling doesn’t feel too mundane (and encounters aren’t random in TWEWY — you have to initiate them), though I got a bit over the fact I had to perform specific tasks for Reapers in order to get through to the next area over and over again. Reapers consistently gate off areas from you and ask you to do something specific for them — whether that’s beating out a certain amount of enemies, also known as ‘noise’, doing a quiz about a specific shop, or popularising a brand in a district — in order to get through. After 15 hours of enduring consistent gating off, I began to get a bit sick of the repetitiveness. I was so invested in the story that these sequences hurt the immersion of it all.
Other than that, though, everything else comes together brilliantly to form an experience that’s unlike anything I’ve ever played. The graphical presentation is top notch (as is the music choice), and combined with a levelling system that you can sink many, many hours into makes for a game that sticks out as one of the real gems on the Switch. And yeah, I know it’s been over ten years since the game launched on DS and it’s been on mobile for a while now, but the Switch version feels like the definitive way to play. It’ll also be an entirely new game for a lot of people, too. Further to this, the Switch-exclusive scenario A New Day is great as well, adding to the wealth of content available in the game for those wanting something new and unique to engage with.
When The World Ends With You Final Remix was announced back in Nintendo’s 2018 Direct Mini, I was intrigued by what looked like a neat DS remaster. A little confused by the notable reception from fans following the announcement, I now understand why they were so damn excited. This game is brilliant — it’s unique, exciting, and wonderful to play, and comes fully recommended for those wanting something a bit different in their Switch library. If you can look past changing up the tried-and-true control scheme we’ve become used to over the last few years, you’ll find an absolute gem of a game in The World Ends With You. Here’s hoping a sequel is on the way.
The World Ends With You Final Remix is fantastic. A unique ARPG packed with a brilliant story, fun gameplay, and a fascinating premise, everything about it screams instant classic. Don’t sit out on this one, especially if you can get around the initially jarring control options.