There's a reason NEO: The World Ends with You isn't called The World Ends with You 2

A brief chat with the creators of the highly anticipated sequel

It was one of the biggest surprise announcements of 2022. After more than a decade of fan pleading and Square Enix teasing, we learned last summer that a sequel to The World Ends with You was in development. . For those like me, it was a moment of rejoicing. We had waited a long time, and even with re-releases of the original title on new hardware with new content, the further we got from the start of the original title, the less confident I became that we would one day return to Shibuya and the Reaper's Game. .

Turns out I wasn't the only one who doubted this could happen. Last Monday, I sat down on Zoom with the creative team of NEO: The World Ends With You to discuss the game, its characters, its story, and how, after 14 years, we were finally getting one of the game's most requested sequels.

"Personally, I felt like I wasn't sure that this game was ever going to be finished," explained Tetsuya Nomura, Belt Enthusiast and Creative Producer of NEO: The World Ends with You. “There had been discussions that had arisen to move forward with this title, but then somewhere down the line it was scrapped. And it was pretty much a continuation of that from there. be discarded. " 

Starting and stopping ideas for the title wasn't the only thing standing in the way of this game. There were also commitments to other titles that predated a sequel to a Nintendo DS game from niche.

“Over the years I've been busy with the Kingdom Hearts franchise,” said Tatsuya Kando, director of the original The World Ends with You, “but it was a title that was always somewhere in my head; something I've always thought about. " 

It's no wonder TWEWY has managed to stay buried in the minds of the development team as they work on the Kingdom Hearts series. Both franchises share common DNA with work on the original The World Ends with You beginning as development on Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories reached its goal and Kingdom Hearts II continued to progress. Jupiter, the developer of Chain of Memories, was brought in to help with the development of the title, thus linking the two series. Oh, and then there was the appearance of Neku and company in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance on the Nintendo 3DS.

While lacking the worldwide sales and recognition of Kingdom Hearts, The World Ends with You clearly had an impact with someone from Square Enix, as the NEO:TWEWY team members were able to revisit the title at the over the years. In 2022, it was ported to mobile devices as The World Ends with You: Solo Remix. In 2022, the game made the jump to Switch with The World Ends with You: Final Remix. Both re-releases were co-directed by Hiroyuki Itou, who is returning to NEO as sole game director. Tomohiko Hirano is also returning from Final Remix, who is once again serving as producer. The four men worked on the original The World Ends with You, and despite their burning desire to return to the show, Hirano said it took more than willpower to make it a reality.

"There was, of course, player voice and demand for it," he explained, "but the content of this game is a little different and a little different. We needed to secure an environment where we could focus on this game, which is why it took us a bit of time to deliver it to you. " 

One of the many advantages of The World Ends with You when it was released on Nintendo DS was its freshness. It was new, hip and vibrant. Nothing about it felt dated. It was almost a forward-thinking foul. With NEO, the team wanted to retain that feeling, to create something that could only be done here, right now. This sequel is not filled with long-lasting ideas. Rather, it reflects where we are in the game today. If it had come seven years ago, it could have been a music game, as Kando jokingly suggested.

Although his ideas are in the present, parts of his story will always be tied to the original. There are a lot of loose narrative threads from The World Ends with You and Final Remix in particular that need to be tied together. If you've played the Switch version, you've no doubt experienced the post-game addition known as "A New Day." While I'm avoiding spoilers here, it introduces new characters and sets up some of the stakes we'll see in the upcoming title. NEO follows three years after "A New Day" ended, but those who missed Final Remix won't be left in the dark.

"We deliberately didn't name this game as 'The World Ends with You 2,'" Kando explained. “We chose NEO: The World Ends with You. So you can basically think of it as a whole different game altogether. We have new protagonists in Rindo, Fret and Nagi. They don't know what's going on, and it's basically going to be the same perspective as new players starting out with this title. So in that sense, it shouldn't be a problem for new players to enjoy the game of reapers. That said, for players who played the original, they will have a better understanding and insight into the game.” 

Returning players may recognize more faces than those joining the series with this sequel, but there are still some elements that will be new to them. Most notably, the changes to the reaper game itself. In the original, Neku and a partner fought together against the noise and whims of the reapers to get out of the game alive. In NEO, players will control a team of four as they battle not only noise, but other teams as well.

“As you saw in the last trailer, you have the Wicked Twisters, which is the protagonist team,” Kando said, “and they're going to be competing with other teams in the Reapers' Game. There will be several teams. who are fighting against each other, and you will be able to see the interactions with other teams, their members and, of course, the Reapers; and all of these different interactions with all of these people are going to be the mainstay of the storyline of the game.” 

Given the complexity of the original title, it's really unclear where the story will go in NEO. Whichever route it takes, it will undoubtedly reach its destination in style. Some of the flamboyant art may be lost in the transition from 2D to 3D, but NEO's interpretation of Shibuya is still dramatic and visually dynamic.

This also extends to the characters, with Nomura back on board to create the heroes and villains for this adventure. As in the last game, they are exceptionally well dressed and accessorized. Not only do their designs make them prime candidates for the next 10 years of fan art, they help convey their individual identities, like Rindo and his mask.

“When we look at the original game, we had Neku with his headphones on,” Nomura said, “and that was sort of his signature element; it was he who closed the world around him. When designing this new character, I wanted to create some kind of iconic element similar to Neku. I was looking around at the younger generation, and even before the pandemic hit, I noticed masks were kind of a trend among young Japanese people. I felt like people were using their masks to hide their faces and it left an impression on me. When we look at Rindo, he's not as reclusive as Neku. He doesn't shut out the world, but he's also not the kind of person who just goes out and talks with others. So his mask also serves as a sign of his personality. " 

I can confirm that, despite what we've seen in the trailers so far, Rindo will wear his mask properly at least once in the game. Don't expect to see him hide his face that much.

Thirty minutes was way too little time to ask everything I wanted to ask about the game, but I think I'll be fine waiting for those unasked questions to be answered until I finally play the game for myself. NEO: The World Ends with You releases July 27, 2022 on Switch and PS4. It will be released on PC via the Epic Games Store at a later date.

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