In less than 5 minutes, The World Ends With You: Final Remix had my attention. Within the hour, I was working out how to convince friends to play. By the end, a new game had wormed its way onto my favorites list.
Arriving on the DS over 10 years ago, The World Ends With You (TWEWY) is a bit of a cult title for JRPG fans. Taking a lot from the mobile version, this Switch port lacks the original’s brain-twisting combat, but is arguably much easier to enjoy. It’s worth mentioning that I never got around to playing the original, myself. So instead of a full-on comparison, I’ll be focusing on my fresh-eyed experience.
I was instantly swept up by TWEWY: Final Remix’s style. The world and its inhabitants’ are submerged in funky character that really pops in HD. There’s a kind of Persona vibe going on, with bright colors clashing against thick black outlines in a cartoon aesthetic. It’s instantly recognizable. The music then wraps everything up in an energetic soundtrack. With the number of tracks you hear growing throughout the campaign, there’s always something new going on in the background.
The story also grabbed me right off the bat. Headphones-wearing, socially awkward teen Neku wakes up in Shibuya, Tokyo, with no memory of how he got there. Not only can no one see him, but strange creatures called Noise are out for his life. He’s trapped inside the Reapers’ Game, where failure means permanent erasure. With the only way to fight back being to form a pact with another player, Neku must cooperate with other people if he wants to survive.
Despite sounding complicated, the story is very easy to follow. Much of this is thanks to a pure focus on character. Everyone is filled with so much personality that you end up enjoying spending time with them despite obvious stereotypes. I love how these characters’ dialogue bounce off one another to create funny and emotional moments. There’s also a clever dynamic in which what people say out loud, and what they think inside their heads, can be two very different things. How fitting, then, for the whole of TWEWY: Final Remix‘s story to be told through thought and speech bubbles.
The pacing never stops to hold its breath either, constantly pushing forwards with intriguing plot points and absurd situations. The story takes place over 21 days, with each day attributed to a specific Reapers’ mission. These involve reaching a certain location, working out some light puzzles, or challenging a boss. TWEWY: Final Remix is simple in concept, but made interesting through its world and combat.
Even something as standard as equipping clothes and accessories for stat boost is turned into a new experience. Browsing through items and making purchases actually builds a rapport with each individual shopkeeper. Bettering your relationship gives access to more of the shop, or unlocks hidden abilities. NPCs even turned their nose up at me, muttering about kids wasting their time if I left without buying anything.
Take note of what you buy, though, because each area of Shibuya comes with its own set of popular brands. Wearing the good stuff gives a boost in combat, while unpopular clothing can cut your power in half. It’s a little bit of a faff when each area comes with its own brand ranking, yet simply winning battles can have others seeing the merits of your style, and have your threads top the leaderboard.
All that shopping makes me hungry for battle. There are no random encounters, and other than scripted battles, you can do as much fighting as you want. Just scan the area and choose your level of difficulty from different sizes of enemies floating nearby. TWEWY: Final Remix is super customizable, allowing you to reduce your current level, or chain fights together for harder combat and a boost in rewards. There are even hidden extras that can change things up even further, like when I discovered a book in one of the shops that allowed me to add more boss monsters into the fray.
Fights play out through either motion or touchscreen controls –I bet that was a bit of a dreaded sentence for some people. The touchscreen is arguably the more polished way to go. It’s more accurate than relying on a Joy-Con, which occasionally decides not to register movement. Yet whichever you choose, the basics are exactly the same.
With only one screen to play with, TWEWY: Final Remix takes after the mobile version of the game. Movement and attacks are dealt out with an assortment of taps and swipes — kind of like Okami, but more chaotic. Required movements are dependent on which pins you currently have equipped. Needless to say, there’s a lot of variation. Drag across the screen for a wave of fire, or perhaps shake the Joy-Con to stun enemies with a wall of sound. Not counting the ability to level up each pin, many of which are able to evolve into something stronger.
You can’t just scribble all over the screen and expect results though. Each pin has a cooldown after a certain number of uses, so you do have to think about how all the abilities and features combine. Finding favorite pins and making them work successfully with others is super satisfying. Sure, some are a little fiddly – I wasn’t a big fan of anything that required me to press and hold, or draw a circle — but there are so many different pins that it’s easy to ignore any you don’t like.
As in real life, you mustn’t forget about your partner. In TWEWY: Final Remix they basically act like another pin, flying to your aid after performing the required tap or swipe. Partners have their own playstyles, from punching to flinging cars around, which keeps combat fresh. Additionally, timing attacks together allow you to sync up with your partner and damage everything on screen. These actually take you to a rapid-fire memory game for a chance to boost the attacks power, which adds a fun, intense layer to fights.
What’s even better is that you can hand over your spare Joy-Con to a friend. They can take full control of the partner character during battle. With 3 pins at their disposal and no cooldown to worry about, co-op makes things considerably easier. I constantly looked forward to when my husband got back from work so that he could play with me. Combat really shines through co-op, and we had a blast working through battles together.
If you’re looking for a break after all that, it may be time for some Tin Pin Slammer. Grab some pins and flick them into your opponent’s, with the aim of being the last one standing. Having abilities like a meteor and hammer can make this mini-game a real time sink. Rewards for honing your skills include unique pins, as well as just being one of the best ways to rack up some quick experience points. As with most other parts of the game though, you can completely ignore it if it’s not your thing.
Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. I can see how lovers of the DS version may consider TWEWY: Final Remix to be too dumbed down. The original combat put Neku and his partner on two different screens, tasking players to juggle both simultaneously. As a result, everything revolving around a few finger flicks is bound to feel dull in comparison. That being said, if you really wanted that brain-aching challenge back, you could always just play co-op by yourself. But joking aside, there is little here for returning players. Even the extra chapter/epilogue is too tacked on to deserve a full replay.
It’s hard to recommend Final Remix to veterans of the original, considering this is a port of a mobile version with a few mild upgrades. However, as a new player, I was completely captivated. The story — with its focus on survival and death — was consistently intriguing, over the top characters made me laugh, there was more variety than I knew what to do with, and I could experience it all with a friend. What can I say? The World Ends With You: Final Remix has style.
This review is based off a Nintendo Switch copy of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Nintendo.
Sure, an enhanced version of a mobile port is bound to disappoint some, but The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a more accessible version of the original that's still an extremely memorable and one-of-a-kind experience.