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Neo: The World Ends with You — what to know before you play

the world ends with you
(Image credit: Square Enix)

Neo: The World Ends with You will be available shortly, and that alone is cause for fans of the series to celebrate. For those who didn't play the original The World Ends with You back in 2007, this inventive action/RPG for the Nintendo DS quickly won a cult following for its quirky story and creative gameplay. 

Because the game was hardly a smash hit, leading fans concluded that TWEWY would be a one-and-done experiment. Fourteen years later, though, we are indeed getting a sequel, entitled Neo: The World Ends with You. 

The setup seems fairly similar, as you'll take control of a high school student in the trendy Tokyo district of Shibuya, fighting for his life in the deadly Reaper Games. 

As it's been more than a decade since the original game came out, we expect that Neo: TWEWY will have either a standalone story, or plenty of exposition to help newcomers catch up. However, Tom's Guide wanted to provide a brief recap of what's happened so far in this short-but-beloved series. This way, newbies can hit the ground running, and veterans can remember what happened in the complex story. 

The World Ends with You: How to play 

the world ends with you

(Image credit: Square Enix)

First and foremost: You don't have to read our recap of the first The ` game. If you'd prefer to play it yourself, it's easily available, and not crushingly long, as Japanese RPGs go about 25 hours for the main story, and another 25 for all the optional postgame content.

If you still have a Nintendo DS (or a backwards-compatible 3DS) hanging around, you can still grab a cartridge for $15 to $30, if you're not too picky about getting it with a case or an instruction manual. Some fans argue that this is still the best version of the game, although combat can be a bit difficult, as you do have to monitor real-time combat on two screens at the same time.

If you have an Android or iOS device with a large screen, you can also pick up The World Ends with You: Solo Remix for $18 on Google Play and Apple App Store. Compatibility can be a bit wonky, depending on your version of Android/iOS, however, so be sure to check the description before you buy.

There's also The World Ends with You: Final Remix on Nintendo Switch for $50, which is arguably the easiest way to play the game on a modern platform. Final Remix comes with a new story chapter; whether this chapter will have much bearing on Neo: The World Ends with You, we'll have to wait and see.

Your final option, if you simply don't have the time or inclination to play through a whole JRPG, is to watch the TWEWY anime, which is currently available on Hulu and Funimation. It's a pretty faithful adaptation of the game, but naturally cuts some important details and subplots for time.

The World Ends with You: Story summary 

the world ends with you

(Image credit: Square Enix)

The World Ends with You begins with Neku Sakuraba, an aloof high schooler who discovers that he's died under mysterious circumstances. He has one shot at coming back to life: participating in the enigmatic Reaper Games. A group of villains called the Reapers and monsters called the Noise attack the participants in the Reaper Games, whittling down their numbers over the course of a week. The entirety of the Reaper Games take place in Shibuya: Tokyo's real-life fashion district. Neku and company explore many real-world landmarks (and eat a lot of authentic Japanese fast food) during their quest to regain their mortality.

Neku participates in the Reaper Games for three grueling weeks, partnering up with a different teammate each time. In the first week, Neku teams up with Shiki Misaki: a haughty girl who forms an unlikely bond with the antisocial Neku. In the second week, Neku befriends Joshua, a blond boy with much more power than he initially lets on. In the final week, Neku joins forces with Beat: a former servant of the Reapers, who will go to any lengths to save his sister, Rhyme.

The plot goes through a number of twists and turns along the way, especially since each week features a different Reaper as the main villain. Along the way, Neku and his allies cross paths with the gruff Yodai Higashizawa and the ambitious Mitsuki Konishi, each of whom oversees one week of the Reaper Games as a "Game Master."

However, the three important villains to keep in mind are Megumi Kitaniji, Sho Minamimoto and the Conductor. Kitaniji is the game's main antagonist, standing in Neku and Beat's way as they complete their final week in the Reaper Games.

However, Minamimoto (and his terrible, terrible math puns) is arguably an even more important character. In addition to harrying the protagonists even after his defeat in the second week, he will also return in Neo: TWEWY as an ally. Whatever business he had in the original TWEWY has clearly not yet concluded.

Finally, there's the Conductor, who coordinates the Reaper Games. In the end, Neku discovers that this mysterious overseer is none other than Joshua: his friend from the second week. Joshua claims that a place like Shibuya reveals how shallow and vapid most people are, and that the brutality of the Reaper Games is simply a reflection of human nature. At the same time, he does seem to have a real soft spot for Neku, Shiki and Beat.

In the end, Neku and his friends defeat Kitaniji and return to life, while Joshua watches from afar, seemingly satisfied with how the Reaper Games ended.

Neo: TWEWY picks up a few years later, and features a similar setup. A high school student named Rindo Kanade finds himself as a participant in the Reaper Games. This time around, however, the Reapers have divided into two separate factions: the Shibuya Reapers and the Shinjuku Reapers. Rindo and his allies will square off against these two antagonistic groups as he tries to win the deadly games.

The World Ends with You: Kingdom Hearts 

the world ends with you

(Image credit: Square Enix)

While it's not a mainline The World Ends with You game, it's worth pointing out that the TWEWY cast has shown up in one other favorite Square Enix series: Kingdom Hearts. In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (which debuted on the 3DS, and has since come out for PS4, Xbox One and PC), series protagonists Sora and Riku encounter Neku, Joshua, Beat and Rhyme in Traverse Town, and learn a thing or two about the importance of having a partner on an adventure. 

The inclusion of The World Ends with You characters in Kingdom Hearts is thematically relevant, since Dream Drop Distance features Sora and Riku on parallel story paths, and highlights how each one feels a little incomplete without the other. Story-wise, however, there's not much here that wasn't already present in TWEWY. Still, it's a fun way to revisit the characters.

How to play Neo: The World Ends with You 

the world ends with you

(Image credit: Square Enix)

If you're all caught up on The World Ends with You, the next step is figuring out how to play Neo: The World Ends with You. Thankfully, this part is extremely easy. The game will be out on July 27 for PS4 and Switch, and later this year on PC. It costs $60 on either platform. Better still: You can play a demo on PS4 or Switch right now, and transfer your progress to the full game once it comes out.

Tom's Guide will have a full review of Neo: TWEWY once it's out. Until then, you can always listen to the first game's incredible soundtrack on repeat. 

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is an editor for Tom's Guide, covering gaming hardware, security and streaming video. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.