Neo: The World Ends With You isn’t simply recreating the unique’s temper – it’s about trendy Shibuya, 14 years later | interview

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Delivering a sequel to a beloved recreation is tough sufficient. Getting down to create a sequel that’s nearly fifteen years late, although? That’s an excellent greater problem.

One may argue that the builders behind NEO: The World Ends With You have an excellent larger problem than that. The unique TWEWY was a cult smash on the Nintendo DS, however a part of what made it particular was how steeped within the tradition of its time it was. Set in a twisted model of real-life Tokyo, it drew closely from the style, music and tendencies of the mid-2000s. It was cool and refreshingly modern.

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That locations a sequel in an fascinating predicament, although. Music, vogue, and even the towering buildings of Shibuya have modified within the ensuing 14 years – however builders should bridge the hole, holding components and stylistic selections that followers now view as collection staples whereas in some way remaining modern.

“Over the past 14, 15 years lots has modified by way of tradition,” The World Ends With You collection director Tatsuya Kando admits by way of an interpreter. We’re talking as a part of the sport’s promotional cycle, a interval that’d ordinarily see its key improvement workers jet across the globe to speak to the world’s media. It’s 2021, although, so we’re on Zoom, bleary-eyed throughout a number of time zones.

“The whole lot is basically primarily based across the earlier recreation – its concepts are nonetheless very central to this recreation as properly,” Kando reassures. However he additionally asserts that wrangling the passage of time itself was extra thrilling than horrifying, offering new alternatives for TWEWY’s distinctive storytelling.

“I imply, for instance, take a look at cellphones,” he enthuses. “Simply the way in which that they appear and performance these days has utterly modified. We’ve now additionally bought a really refined web and so forth. In that sense, how individuals work together with one another, interpersonal communications, has additionally modified fairly a bit.”

For those who’ve by no means performed the unique, these interpersonal relationships are a key a part of what made individuals find it irresistible. It’s totally different to many Japanese RPGs, inserting comparatively grounded ‘slice of life’ characters into excessive conditions, but additionally retaining a grounded real-world setting. In some ways it tonally resembles the Persona collection, which actually took off within the West with the discharge of Persona four proper across the similar time the unique TWEWY grew to become a cult smash.

The one means ahead, Kando says, was to embrace the brand new tradition of the 2020s and convey the collection bang updated.

“We actually wished to try to recreate what’s going on now – sort of like a snapshot, for those who like. Our new protagonist is a highschool boy, so we labored actually laborious and considered how he’d see the world by way of his eyes and the way he’d work together with the world in that sense.”

With a lot time having handed, NEO includes a new core forged of characters and a brand new trendy protagonist. The core narrative driver of the Reapers’ Sport is again from the earlier recreation, although this group is taking part in a completely totally different iteration of the sport than the earlier forged. On this means, as in lots of others, the sport totally embraces the time that has handed. With that mentioned, there’ll nonetheless be loads of small nudges and winks that’ll thrill followers of the unique.

“With these totally different protagonists and a brand new story, I believe that individuals who play the sport simply from this, , those who haven’t performed the earlier recreation and simply began with this, they’ll be capable of get into it very simply,” says Kando.

“After which there are additionally in fact the individuals who’ve performed the earlier recreation – however I believe they may positively be glad as a result of there are returning characters who sort of help and typically get a bit into the fray. I believe that people who find themselves returning to the collection might be very glad with all of that.”

One factor that gained’t be returning to the collection, nevertheless, is one among its most iconic components – touch-based controls. The unique recreation was one steeped within the design quirks of the DS – although a trade-off needs to be made for a lot greater information for this recreation, its arrival on PlayStation and PC in addition to Nintendo Change. That meant the contact display needed to go.

Like coping with altering real-life tendencies in Shibuya, the group’s reply has merely been to focus extra on the texture of the unique recreation fairly than attempting to duplicate it precisely underneath totally different circumstances, as producer Tomohiko Hirano defined.

“There’s a singular means that [the original game] felt, and the sensation you bought from controlling that. Shifting that onto trendy platforms, it’s inconceivable to recreate it in the identical means,” Hirano says.

“So we actually did assume very laborious concerning the sort of play feeling we wished – how we are able to recreate that World Ends With You feeling, that essence, from a management pad. We actually put numerous effort into ensuring it felt like the unique recreation, even when we couldn’t recreate all the pieces utterly.”

The result’s one thing that appears fairly totally different however actually does evoke a lot of the identical feeling. For a begin, it’s a completely 3D title, which actually offers nearly each component of the sport’s presentation a serious overhaul.

“The picture of the unique, how the type of the unique was – it was very well-loved and everybody was very sort and actually took to it. So in that sense we wished to ensure that this recreation had the identical really feel to it in addition to that very same sort of total picture,” Kando says of the angle change.

“So in that sense we’ve tried to sort of ensure that even simply by taking a fast take a look at it that the backgrounds, the cutscenes, the characters etcetera resonate with the unique title with that very same sort of feeling.”

“The backgrounds have been beforehand very stylistic in how they have been drawn, and so we’ve been attempting to ensure that interprets properly to 3D, and that the digicam work and so forth may be very gratifying and enjoyable.”

However as well as NEO additionally focuses down on extra role-playing components, increasing on the unique’s concentrate on interpersonal relationships and the idea of garments and trendy pins your character wears having an affect on fight into full-blown RPG tools and level-up methods. In our chat, the builders name-check Last Fantasy, and clarify that together with methods like this has allowed them to create a considerably bigger recreation – one they declare is as a lot as twice as massive as the unique.

Battles, which at the moment are centered round teamwork to a level which is probably extra becoming with the sport’s themes, look to be as thrilling and dynamic as the unique – simply totally different. That, in reality, appears to be a normal theme. The entire time away engaged on Kingdom Hearts has allowed TWEWY’s core improvement group to rethink what makes this franchise tick – and now this seems to be a really thought-about reimagining and continuation of one among 2007’s finest video games that not almost sufficient individuals performed.

If nothing else, this new 3D recreation of Shibuya may permit followers to undertake a bit little bit of digital tourism, taking within the sights of the town in a yr when journey feels inconceivable. The builders giggle after I say that’s what I’m most trying ahead to within the recreation, but additionally nod excitedly.

“You may positively try this, you may positively use it to go to Japan!”

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