The World Ends With You is coming to the Switch. At first glance, the 2007 game for the Nintendo DS can seem like a mess. It’s a game about being a dead teenage fashionista where you fight a demon who shouts math at you, and that’s only the beginning. Despite its convoluted nature, its sincere storytelling makes it my favorite game of all time.
All these disparate pieces come together into a heartfelt story about adolescence. You play as Neku, a misanthropic teen who doesn’t know he’s dead until someone tells him. He spent his life with his headphones on, avoiding connections with other people. Now that he’s dead, he’s forced to connect with someone in order to play a tournament that could bring them both back to life. On the 3DS these fights include controlling characters on both the top and bottom of the screen. You’ll also switch partners three times over the course of the game, with each partner having a different fighting style. Magic pins you can find in clothing stores to give the characters special powers and stat bonuses. By fighting using certain brands, you can also change the culture around the characters, making an unpopular brand suddenly popular in parts of the map by winning a lot of battles. Over the course of the game you’ll end up almost memorizing a very accurate recreation of Shibuya in Tokyo as you zoom from area to area. It’s a dizzying mess, all set to a Japanese hip hop soundtrack.
The story is a ride. The characters in The World Ends With You are all very charming, from the dumb but kind hearted Beat, to the nine-to-five villains Uzuki and Koki, to the enigmatic coffee shop owner Mr. Hanekoma. It’s hard not to get invested in their individual dramas, even the villains. Making connections with people is the point. In order to earn his life back, Neku has to do something he’s never done before: make a real friend.
There are cool ways that the game makes that point outside of the story. In order to level up your pins into more powerful variants, you need a specific kind of experience. You can earn experience from battles, of course, but on the Nintendo DS and iOS you could also earn experience by setting the game in “Mingle Mode” when you were around other people playing The World Ends With You. Some very powerful pins will only evolve if you turn off the game and don’t play it for a certain amount of time. “Please,” the game practically begs you, “go outside! Take a break! Meet someone and make a friend!”
The first time I played The World Ends With You was in the summer before college. At a certain point, Mr. Hanekoma takes Neku to task for his solipsistic attitude. “The world ends with you,” he says. “If you want to enjoy life, expand your world. You gotta push your horizons out as far as they’ll go.” I had a bad time in high school, and I still walk through the world wearing headphones. At age 18, I was a lot like Neku. But once I got to college, I decided I couldn’t just sit around feeling sorry for myself. If I wanted to make a connection with someone, I needed to try.
Although I still break The World Ends With You out on my Nintendo DS from time to time, I can’t wait to buy it on the Switch. I am excited for the new content that it’ll come with, like a new epilogue chapter, and I’m interested how to see how they’ll handle features like Mingle Mode. I also can’t wait to bring this game to parties. The World Ends With You doesn’t want you to play alone. It’s a game you’re supposed to share with other people.