Open your mind
The Nintendo Switch library, that increasingly comprehensive repository of the gaming hits of yesteryear repackaged in shiny new forms, added another classic to its arsenal this week with the re-release of The World Ends With You. This latest version of one of Square Enix's best RPGs comes with motion controls, a two-player co-op mode, and a brand new story scenario, but unfortunately, nearly everything that makes this experience unique to the Switch is either unnecessary at best or poor at worst.
You can read more about our thoughts on the game when it was released in our original review, but as this Switch port is essentially the souped-up version of the game's mobile release, it doesn't include any of the original's innovative dual-screen combat mechanics. While the original had you controlling two characters simultaneously across the DS' screens (a real mindf***, but amazing when it finally clicked), the Switch version reduces that to one character, with the second essentially becoming another weapon in your arsenal.
In theory, because of the way attacks are performed using the Switch's touchscreen, that brain breaking capability the DS version had is still present as you juggle multiple weapons (including your partner) to string attacks. Weapons and abilities--called pins in the game--require different movements such as quick slashes, taps, directional swipes, and more, to activate. And in practice, frenetic slashing and tapping on the Switch's screen seems to work just as well.
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What doesn't work well, however, is the Switch's Joy-Con motion controls (there is no option for a standard control scheme). Those same slashes, swipes, and swirls that you could easily pull off using the touchscreen can be executed by hand movements with the Joy-Con in your grip. As you'd expect, controlling The World Ends With You in this way is imprecise, with commands you feel like you're inputting not being recognized and others you sure you're not performing getting executed. For a game where battles can involve the use of multiple weapons against half a dozen foes or more, this inconsistency is frustrating, making The World Ends With You really only appealing to play while you have your Switch undocked. If you do decide to play with Joy-Cons, the game also allows a friend to take over control of your in-game partner during battles. But again, those same loose controls hinder the combat experience, meaning it's not a mode you're likely to come back to very often.
That's not to say, however, that The World Ends With You on the Switch is a misfire. On the contrary; for a game that was released more than 10 years ago on the DS that has teenagers using cutting-edge tech like flip phones, the game still feels remarkably relevant and exciting, featuring one of the best narratives in games. For those who have never experienced it before, The World Ends With You is set in an alternate version of Tokyo's hip shopping district of Shibuya, where recently deceased teenagers work as teams to complete a series of challenges in order to get a chance at coming back to life. At times dark but always hopeful, The World Ends With You has a gripping narrative whose themes of identity, independence, and our value to each other still resonate strongly today. It also helps that the game's art style and presentation generally hold up, and it doesn't hurt that The World Ends With You still has one of the best game soundtracks ever (no arguments please).
So ignore those Joy-Con controls. Ignore the two-player mode if you wish. The World Ends With You may not be showing its best form with this Switch version, but it's still the same core experience at heart. And that makes it worthwhile playing for the first time, again.