Square Enix recently held a preview event for NEO: The World Ends With You, and as someone who’s never played the previous installment: there’s a lot to like about this game. For the uninitiated it’s an action-JRPG that follows the story of Rindo as he’s thrown into a death game in Shibuya, Tokyo where he must fight for survival against monsters called noise, and gain enough points to not be killed off, all for the prize of having a wish granted.
The game is just dripping in style by the belt straps holding together the vibrant, colourful, and minimalistic depiction of Shibuya, very much keeping in tone with the first game. The most notable upgrade in visuals is the use of 3D environments that really helps to capture the clutter and business of Shibuya as you explore it. Albeit almost too well, the fixed camera can lead to some level of disorientation and at times can be confusing when it switches angles when you’re trying to move in a certain direction. But it’s a small gripe in what are largely mainly large spaces for you to navigate and explore, solving puzzles via mini-games and scanning the area for clues.
The combat portion of the game was definitely interesting, whilst the preview was limited to the first two chapters/days, it gave a good understanding of how deep and complex the game could get as you progress further. It’s definitely an acquired taste in that regard, where you attach a badge to a character and that has a respective button assigned to it for attacking. Whilst not the most comfortable thing to do, having to constantly adjust your inputs after changing their badges for different attacks, it’s at least interesting and puts an emphasis on team composition. With each badge having its own elements and quirks, it helps reinforce an awareness of team composition fpr better match up, akin to the Persona series, but more accessible.
Writing-wise, the preview definitely left me wanting way more. Everything about it has a sense of playful seriousness to it that comes across like late 2000s Disney young teen writing shows. The humour/styling is very Gen Z-eque. And for what it's worth, the references to netspeak and making weird math references whilst in combat gave me a chuckle and joyful glee. It’s honestly impressive with how much chemistry the game creates between the characters within the first hour. Everyone is memorable with a unique quirk to stick out which is incredible given how much style the game just screams and exudes. The only real downside to the press event was that it wasn’t in person, and that the preview itself was so short!
Speaking personally, the hype for NTWEWY is finally getting to me and oh wow am I excited to actually play the game when it’s finally out. At first I was wondering how the game’s combat would play given it was first released on the DS wayback in 2007, but having tried a preview of it I’m excited for how deep the game actually gets. This is honestly a great game to jump into without knowing, or having tried, the previous installment. But if you do want to know more, an anime adaptation of the first game is currently streaming and is a great starting point to understand the world. And given that NEO is supposed to be more of a sequel to the anime that’s currently available to watch, now might be the best time to experience NEO: The World Ends With You whilst it's still hot and fresh off the press for its 27th of July 2021.