When The World Ends With You first launched on the DS it was something that I missed out on thanks to not really being a handheld gamer, so when it was announced that it would be coming to the Nintendo Switch I rejoiced. Finally, a chance to play a game on the big screen made by one of my favourite directors. About that…
My biggest piece of advice for anyone who’s going to play The World Ends With You: Final Remix is to expect to play it in handheld mode. Although technically it can be played with motion control on the big screen, it’s easily the worst way to play and is really not suited to the game at all. You certainly get used to playing handheld, but just know that going in this isn’t a TV experience like you might want it to be. We’ll get into it more later, but it’s important enough to preface this review with.
For that reason, it’s taken me quite some time to get The World Ends With You. I’d always wanted to experience it but after a solid hour of trying to motion controlled mode, I was put off for quite some time. Now that I’ve given it a full and fair shake in the way that it’s meant to be played, let’s figure out why so many people talk about the power being unknown.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix puts you in the oversized but stylish shoes of Neku Sakuraba as he competes in the Reaper’s Game to try and get another chance at life. The whole game is split into three weeks, with new challenges and stories coming up as each day of the game passes. As you’ve probably heard by now, the story of The World Ends With You is easily one of its strongest elements. All of the characters here are loveable, well-written and surprisingly deep. It really does feel like some of the best bits of Kingdom Hearts, but put into a far more understated story.
Neku is by far the highlight here, starting the game as an angsty teen who doesn’t want to connect with others. As you play through the game you slowly see him change his tune and evolve as a person, but you also see more of him that was clearly there from the start, like his love of CAT. Having the angsty character turn more social isn’t a new concept by any stretch of the imagination but it’s really awesome to see here.
There are some genuinely tear-jerking moments across the 12 hour campaign, and I found myself genuinely invested in what happened to these characters. The only downside comes from the new episode included with the Final Remix version, A New Day, which does a lot of sequel teasing and sort of ruins how well the base game ends. If it pays off and we eventually see the long-rumoured sequel then it might be worth it, but for now it feels at odds with itself.
Another inarguably stellar element of The World Ends With You is its presentation. The graphics are crisp with some awesome sprite work that really evokes Nomura’s style across both the characters and Shibuya itself. The music is also really something to behold with some awesome pop tracks that are really catchy. Some of the tracks can get a little bit repetitive, but I’ve also listened to Twister on loop of my own accord so it definitely does some stuff right.
Although all of the above elements will be enjoyable to almost everyone, it’s the gameplay of The World Ends With You that’s really going to be the kicker. I’ve never played any other game like it, let alone any other RPG, and although I really enjoyed it I can understand it not being for everyone.
As Neku you run around Shibuya trying to complete various tasks for the Reaper’s Game, all the while fighting Noise (think Heartless but much more stylish) with abilities granted by pins. You’re also accompanied by a partner who will help you in combat with various abilities that play out almost like mini-games.
The World Ends With You’s gameplay may sound pretty standard but the big kicker here is that all of that is done on the Switch’s touchscreen. Every moment, every attack and every menu option is all done by tapping away, which means the Switch really just acts as a tablet. It’s a pretty innovative way of playing that can be a lot of fun when it’s reading movements properly. When you’re stuck standing still because your swipe attack has randomly decided not to work it can be a downer, but to be fair it works for most of the game and does give the whole thing a very distinct flavour.
If you don’t mind playing the whole game in handheld then it’s really not a problem, but it’s really not ideal for a full-priced Switch release. I played the game with the Joy-Con not even attached to the console and I still ended up with an aching wrist, which coupled with the occasional problem of the game not reading my swipes right made me wish for a different way to play. To be fair, Final Remix does introduce an alternative control scheme that allows players to play the game docked with motion controls but simply put it’s awful. The motion controls are even less reliable, and it takes a really long time to get used to the different commands that the game expects you to do. The World Ends With You is a fantastic experience and one well worth taking on, but it’s hard to recommend if you don’t already know going in that you’re going to be playing it like a tablet game.
Due to it’s weird control issues, The World Ends With You: Final Remix could be hard to recommend to most players if not for everything else it does so well. It’s fantastic story and characters, beautiful designs and unique gameplay more than make up for the occasional wrist strain, but just be warned going in that it’s not like any other title you’ve played.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo