When firing up The World Ends With You: Final Remix, the Switch release of Square's iconic DS JRPG, you have two control options. If you're playing in handheld mode, however, you have just one: the Switch as a pure tablet, with no input from the JoyCons.
It's like playing TWEWY in tablet mode, basically. And it plays just as well.
In case you missed it back in 2008, Square Enix released a JRPG set in Shibuya for the Nintendo DS. Called The World Ends With You, it starred an obnoxious Japanese teenager Neku who woke up with amnesia, lost in a different dimension of the real world where he and other "Players" have been thrust into a game at the behest of the Reapers and their masters.
There's some decent story beats, particularly towards the end when Neku's character develops a fraction. But what carries most of TWEWY is the battle system, which translated rather well from the dual-screen of the DS to tablets, and just as well to the Switch.
The TWEWY system revolves around a series of pins. As you kill the Noise — the enemies inhabiting the alternate version of Shibuya — they drop a range of pins. Some enable a range of attacks, including projectiles, crowd-control lightning orbs, melee swipes, and the ability to throw objects at the enemy.
Pins level up the more you use them, doing slightly more damage and increasing slightly in value. Each pin is also associated with a particular brand, which is essential in the hyper-conscious fashion scene of Shibuya. Depending on the popularity of the brand in the area you're fighting, pins might increase or decrease in power, so it's essential to have a good mix at all times.
The major difference with the Switch release, beyond the special control system for JoyCon use while docked, is the inclusion of a new chapter. That's only available at the end of the main game and features new Reaper, as well as new Noise to battle.
I haven't had the chance to go that far, mind you. If you're rushing through TWEWY, it'll take you around 25 hours. Going for all the extra content can easily add another 10 or 20 hours to that number, and I've seen absurd figures of 90 hours or more for completionists.
It's really only by the fifth day where TWEWY clicks, once the game has finally stopped drip feeding you the full range of mechanics available. By this stage, you're able to string fights together against the Noise, making gameplay and combat vastly more interesting. Drop rates should be generous as well, since you're able to manually keep your level low to increase the amount of pins you gain (while still having a decent HP through the clothes you equip).
You're able to get some decent combos with your pins before then, however. Attacks typically fall under one of three ranges: tapping or swiping an enemy directly to attack; tapping or swiping empty space to attack an area or zone; or some other form of indirect attack, like throwing cars and bollards around, or summoning orbs around Neku. Your partner also got involved in the fray, usually through a single command (tapping or swiping, much like the pins you equip).
It's a much simplified system from what TWEWY originally shipped with. In 2008, Neku and his partner would fight concurrently across the DS's dual screens. You shared HP across characters, so you couldn't completely ignore both screens. Neku attacked through the stylus on the bottom screen, while attacks on the top screen were controlled with the D-pad, in a style akin to a rhythm game.
It's not a system that works particularly well when you're dealing with a single screen, so it makes sense that Square opted to reuse the simplified system created for TWEWY's mobile port. The more streamlined battle model fits nicely in 2018, and it's a good showcase for the Switch's capabilities as a tablet.
Also: the Switch doesn't have a microphone, so you don't have to worry about rubbing or blowing into your device to make the game think you're shouting.
The only other major change with TWEWY is the inclusion of a co-op system, where two players hold a JoyCon each and use the in-built gyro controls like a mouse pointer on the screen. I'll have a separate article about that later today, because it warrants the greater detail. But for the most part, people will play TWEWY solo.
And it's still a cracking RPG. The battle system flows well once you have a set of pins that you like, and the area-based clothing mechanic is still a cool way to integrate the character of a city (Shibuya) into a video game.
If you haven't played TWEWY before, and you have the requisite patience to put up with Neku's obnoxious bullshit, TWEWY is good fun from start to finish. It's always deserved a sequel, although given that most of Square is busy on Kingdom Hearts 3, the Final Fantasy 7 episodic remake, or the upcoming Left Alive, it's hard to see Square siphoning off resources anytime soon.
But who knows? The Switch has been incredibly good to re-releases and indie titles. And given that TWEWY: Final Remix works incredibly well on the platform - and also highlights the Switch's capacity as a touchscreen-only device - there's a wealth of possibility. It's a cracking game, even if it's not the same format as the original DS version, and well worth checking out if you're after a more accessible JRPG.