Ports are nothing new for Nintendo Switch. The console’s first year saw myriad ports arrive in the form of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Bayonetta 2 and more. They all built upon the original vision with improved visuals and content, in many cases justifying the asking price. The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a similar story, yet marks one of the first times we’ve seen a Nintendo DS title receive such a modern treatment.
The port arrives with mixed results. The Worlds Ends With You has never looked better, its vibrant, urban aesthetic shining through years of age on a HD display. Sadly, a control scheme designed with a dual-screen setup back in 2007 isn’t a perfect fit for the Switch. It works, but encounters a few frustrations along the way.
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The World Ends With You takes place in a fictionalised vision of Tokyo’s Shibuya district, complete with a wealth of shops and locations. Having been there myself, it takes some obvious liberties, but recognisable landmarks littered about the place help Final Remix feel grounded in reality despite its absurd JRPG stylings.
It’s beautifully distinct, popping with imaginative designs by none other than industry veteran Tetsuya Nomura, known for his role in the Kingdom Hearts series. The foremost of these characters is Neku Sakuraba, our main protagonist. Having been vanished into an alternate vision of Shibuya known as the Underground, he must participate alongside others in the Reaper’s Game.
This twisted idea provides the dead with an opportunity to return to the realm of the living or achieve something greater, a mystery which is explored to great effect as the fun, melancholic narrative moves forward. You’ll eventually bump into Reapers, Composers and more dangerous opponents as you draw closer to the end of Reaper’s Game. Which, by the way, only lasts a week. However, you’ll see it through multiple times by the time credits roll.
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Most of your time in The World Ends With You will be spent exploring the streets of Shibuya, ignored by the general population as your ghostly spectre goes about completing quests and fighting Noise, the game’s definition for enemies. You interact with the environment by using Pins. Represented by a button on the touch-screen, pressing this grants you access to the inner thoughts of NPCs.
They might be daydreaming about a distant crush or a worry at their workplace, oftentimes providing crucial hints you might require to progress. I found this a fascinatingly humorous way to learn my surroundings, sinking into a world simply oozing with style. The razor-sharp localisation smooths matters along, making sure dramatic moments land with sufficient impact.
You’ll also stumble across a variety of puzzles amidst the confines of Shibuya. The most impressive ones have you imprinting Memes into the minds of unsuspecting citizens. And no, these aren’t the things you see all over social media. Instead, you’ll need to plant ideas into a person’s subconscious to, for example, repair a broken friendship or have them remove obstacles in your way. It’s an innovative idea, and forces you to retrace your steps in search of new discoveries.
Pins are also the cornerstone of combat, each one you collect representing a different skill or passive ability to be executed. This is, unfortunately, where the Switch rendition of The World Ends With You pales in comparison to its older sibling. Upon playing it in docked mode, it’s clear that Square Enix did not design this to work without a touch display.
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You can decide to play in one of two ways, the first of which involves you using the joy-con controller as a pointer, moving Neku and executing skills by holding buttons and swishing a reticule about the screen. It doesn’t work very well, requiring frequent recentering unless you want battles descending into a chaotic mess of inaccuracy. The Pro Controller isn’t an option.
The World Ends With You isn’t unplayable in docked mode, but is hard to recommend over the otherwise impressive touch controls, which are confined to the portable mode. Attacks are performed by stroking, slashing and drawing all sorts of patterns on the screen, resulting in a harmonic dance of fluorescent colours and oodles of damage. It’s an immensely satisfying system, although the complexity has been stripped back since the initial release.
Every encounter is fought with a partner by your side, which ties in with wider narrative themes as well as adding an extra layer of brilliance to each passing moment. Tapping on enemies will unleash attacks from your partner, and doing so in combination with your own repertoire will increase the Sync Gauge. Once this bar hits 100%, it’s time to unleash a special attack.
This amounts to a brief, almost rhythmic minigame as you match together cards to increase the coming strike’s overall damage. It’s a nifty spin to each battle, improving an already wonderful mixture of kinetic movement and sharply decisive strategy. While combat’s watered down from the DS original in some ways, it still provides ample challenge with boss encounters having me scratching my head on many occasions.
One early example had me launching my ally onto platforms in a concert hall, dispatching enemies protecting a boss shrouded in darkness. Once bright lights illuminated our battlefield, it was time to dish out damage like no tomorrow. Simplistic puzzles like this add a little extra depth to combat, keeping you on your toes while juggling a multitude of individual elements.
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Shops scattered across Shibuya allow you to purchase new clothes to boost attributes while food stalls provide our heroes with a temporary series of buffs. Doing this proved valuable in later instances where strategy became a more prominent aspect. Reacting to enemy movements with dynamic attacks and pins which take advantage of their weaknesses was invaluable, although it took me a while to find a real groove.
The World Ends With You’s real star is its bizarre setting and equally compelling cast of characters. Neku is recently deceased, as are his other allies, and this is reflected in his distant personality and omnipresent anxiety regarding the trust of others. It’s a powerful setup, and his growing friendship with Shiki only helps emphasis this further.
A bubbly girl with a spark of optimism in the afterlife, Shiki is slowly mourning the abandonment of a close friend. Her ordeals gel brilliantly with Neku’s own, creating a series of emotional scenes that feel oddly genuine. You’ll come across multiple new faces in a single playthrough who will join you in battle while dishing out their own stories alongside fun new mechanics to engage with.
Hardcore fans will pleased to know that Final Remix is more than a straight port with a fancy graphical upgrade. A new scenario is introduced in the form of ‘A New Day.’ Essentially an endgame epilogue which goes out of its way to set up and tease a potential follow-up. It’s one that long-time lovers of The World Ends With You will draw a lot of joy from.
The World Ends With You Remix is always surprising, always challenging and always willing to ask the player to think outside of JRPG conventions they might have grown accustomed to. Granted, the art direction, once considered groundbreaking in 2007, now feels cliched, but the human voice added to the writing pushed aside any doubts I had about getting stuck in.
Purists will likely still prefer the Nintendo DS original due to its superior controls and increased difficulty, but this provides newcomers a perfect chance to experience a JRPG that, for many, fell well under their radar all those years ago.