The World Ends With You: Final Remix Review

Truly Touching
Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix Platforms: Nintendo Switch

A great game ported to a great console that's let down by controls that feel at odds with the system's form factor and a steep asking price compared to other platforms

If there’s something that Square Enix can be counted on for, it’s brooding, spiky-haired protagonists with amnesia and bad attitudes. A close second to that would be porting older, well-received games to a multitude of platforms in lieu of ever attempting to iterate on them.  The World Ends With You, a boldly unique JRPG that began life on the humble Nintendo DS is a quintessential SE joint, then, as the Japanese publishing and development giant has seen fit to since port it not only to mobile devices, but now to the Nintendo Switch in the form of The World Ends With You: Final Remix. Oh, and the main character is this guy:

They call them fingers, but I’ve never seen them fing

That’s Neku Sakuraba, and jokes aside he’s actually a pretty decent character. Neku wakes up in the middle of the packed Shibuya district in Tokyo to find that he’s become a part of something called the Reaper’s Game, a week-long contest where players must complete daily tasks set by a mysterious group called the Reapers, or face being wiped from existence. With no recollection of the events leading up to the game, Neku finds that he needs to team up with other players, however unwilling he is to do so, and work with them to uncover the true meaning behind the Reaper’s Game and make it out alive.

That’s the gist of the setup, but The World Ends With You’s story becomes a lot more hectic pretty quickly, and through its weird and wonderful cast of characters and a penchant for making dedicated players work for hidden tidbits of lore, it’s perfect fodder for fans of Tetsuya Nomura. It can err on the side of being too abstruse at times, as Nomura’s work is wont to do, but it’s hard not to be drawn in to the combination of teenage drama and high-stakes action that makes the likes of Battle Royale so compelling. Final Remix goes a step further too, and adds a brand new post-game called A New Day that delves further yet into the mysteries of the Reapers and the alternate version of Shibuya that the game takes places in. Exclusive to the Switch, the new scenario adds a few more hours onto an already lengthy game and includes some new twists on combat and new boss fights that fans of the original game will get a lot of enjoyment from.

There is so much wrong with the way people are using this crossing

In terms of the game’s overall structure, The World Ends With You: Final Remix is largely the same game that appeared on the DS, and even more so the recent mobile port. It’s still the same outwardly simple, yet captivating and surprisingly deep JRPG with a profoundly huge scope for unique character builds and playstyles. Broken down into weeks, and then days, the main story is easily digestible on short commutes but just as quickly devolves into marathon sessions at home with its steady drip feed of new gear, abilities and engrossing lore. The game’s answer to enemy encounters, where you ‘scan’ for otherwise invisible entities at your leisure before choosing which ones to engage (and how many) is still a refreshing change from the norm, even now. Honestly, the best thing about this port is that the original game is so good that more people deserve the chance to play it. The tough part is that it arrives on Switch priced at $69.95AUD with only a small amount of new content compared to the otherwise-identical mobile version that goes for just over $20AUD, so that’s a fairly hefty ‘Switch tax’.

Of course the biggest changes from the original Nintendo DS release of The World Ends WIth You come from the move from two screens to one, and that’s felt mostly in battle. Combat pits Neku and a partner against handfuls of enemy monsters, using varied abilities in the form of ‘pins’ collected over the course of the game. In the original, enemy encounters would take place across both of the DS screens and require players to control both Neku and his partner at the same time. On the bottom screen, using the DS’ stylus to execute various touch inputs such as tapping, swiping or drawing shapes would activate his pins, while on the top screen his partner’s pins were triggered through button combinations. It’s a system that was daunting at first (and still is) but surprisingly easy to get a handle on and the game encouraged and rewarded synergy between the attacks of both characters.

And I call this monster design, “Edgy Bear”

On the Switch, which has only one screen, things are different. Based pretty much exactly on the recent mobile port, The World Ends With You: Solo Remix, Final Remix asks players to control only Neku, with his partner acting more like a summonable AI assistant that an active participant in battle. This takes some of the tension and strategy out of the battles but also makes things a little more streamlined and accessible. When in handheld mode, the entire game is controlled with the Switch’s touchscreen. Rather than rework the game any further to include physical button inputs as an option, Square Enix have taken the mobile version’s mechanics wholesale and plonked them onto a console that has more to offer. While not a dealbreaker, it’s certainly weird that playing this way renders the Joy-Con controllers completely useless. In fact, it’s best played by taking them off and just holding the console like a tablet so that the touch inputs in battle are easier to reach.

The other control option, when using the Switch in tabletop or docked mode, is to use the Joy-Con like a laser pointer/wand type deal to input the same gestures and commands you would via touch. I actually preferred this method, not least because it meant I could play on my TV, but also because it maps Neku’s movement in fights to a button toggle as opposed to the touch-and-drag used in handheld mode, which is always cumbersome in the heat of battle. The other benefit, and one of the few points of difference to the mobile version of the game, is that a second player can take control of Neku’s partner using another Joy-Con. This brings the rhythm of the fights further in line with the DS original, and confident players can even drive this home further playing solo with both Joy-Cons for that OG-feel. The only real downside to this control method is that the on-screen pointer requires almost constant recentring, which is easily achievable with a single button press but still quite annoying.

Plague of frogs? It really is the end of the world… or Queensland

Further enhancements in Final Remix, again brought over from the mobile version, include updated visuals and audio. The move to a single screen doesn’t impact the game’s presentation too greatly since most of the cutscenes and character interaction in the original stuck to one screen, but the transition to HD has definitely brought out the best in it. Already a striking and dynamic game to behold, everything looks vibrant and sharp on the Switch’s display. Playing on the TV in docked mode does soften things a little too much for my liking, and shows up some of the less-updated elements, but it’s still a huge update over the DS. Likewise the game’s kick-ass soundtrack, full of an eclectic mix of genres and a healthy dose of both instrumental and vocal tracks, has been reworked for Final Remix. Music is one of The World Ends With You’s defining traits, and players on the Switch can choose at any time between the game’s original soundtrack (itself treated to an updated mix) and a newly arranged version that sounds great.

Final Thoughts

All of these changes (odd control grievances aside) make for a compelling new version of an already-excellent game that makes for a great opportunity for Switch owners to either replay an old favourite with a new coat or check out a gem they might have missed. There’s little to offer over and above the existing mobile version however, save for a few hours of post-game content, and the price tag of $69.95 is a significant step up from that. Still, more TWEWY (as the kids like to call it) is always welcome.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code supplied by publisher

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Good

  • Still the same fantastic, addictive JRPG
  • HD visuals look great on the Switch
  • Joy-Con controls offer an interesting way to play
  • New soundtrack arrangement sounds awesome
  • New story chapter offers some cool insight

Bad

  • Pretty much just the mobile game but more expensive
  • Zero Joy-Con input in handheld feels weird
  • Leftover visual elements don't hold up on TV
7.5

Good

Kieron started gaming on the SEGA Master System, with Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy. The 20-odd years of his life since have not seen his love for platformers falter even slightly. A separate love affair, this time with JRPGs, developed soon after being introduced to Final Fantasy VIII (ie, the best in the series). Further romantic subplots soon blossomed with quirky Japanese games, the occasional flashy AAA action adventure, and an unhealthy number of indie gems. To say that Kieron lies at the center of a tangled, labyrinthine web of sexy video game love would be an understatement.
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