The most stylish video game of 2021

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The most visually striking video games are often not the ones with the biggest budgets.

Every new generation of gaming hardware has come enticingly closer to photographic realism with expansive landscapes, remarkably expressive faces, and breathtaking set pieces. AAA games are often big and bold. But at some point they start to come together in some kind of Marvel movie. They’re pretty, but they’re also kind of boring. NEO: The world ends with you strives for something cozier, with a more handmade feel that is very different.

At the core, NEO: TWEWY is a style game that revolves around the kaleidoscopic heart of Tokyo’s street fashion scene. While elements of Square Enix’s latest comparison are inviting to Persona, The Hunger Games or Kingdom Hearts, there is no comparable game. At every turn its immersive story and the unexpectedly profound struggle eagerly invite you to fly your freak flag.

Weave an act

The sequel to a 2007 cult hit game for Nintendo DS. NEO: TWEWY captivates as an independent story, but offers many shout-outs and connections to satisfy long-time series fans. Like its predecessor, the game takes on the role of an ignorant adolescent participant in the Reaper’s Game – a week-long, challenging battle that involves defeating hordes of enemies known as Noise and solving a variety of puzzles that orchestrated by the Reapers, a group of cooler-than-you-twenties who, for mysterious reasons, are tasked with overseeing the game.

There’s just one big problem – it’s not entirely clear whether the players are dead or alive, and in order not to be “wiped out” you must win the game. It’s a team competition, so as the protagonist, Rindo, you’ll have to find a few allies. Accompanied by his chipper beast Fret, a strange otaku girl named Nagi, and the former reaper Minamimoto, Rindo has the task of leading the Wicked Twisters to victory over the long-dominant Ruinbringers.

The relationships between the Twisters are as “realistic” as the fantastic scenario allows, and it’s always fascinating to watch them take turns approaching and bumping into each other. While there are a few supporting characters too many to keep an eye out for, the story consistently retains its hooks thanks to the intimacy of the core group and the tight focus on Reaper’s Game. You will be excited to see what happens next, but you won’t be completely lost if you go away for a few days.

Rindo watches in disbelief as he finds himself in the Reaper’s Game. Square Enix

A deadly game

NEO: TWEWY offers a satisfying variety of mission types for each day of the Reaper’s Game. One day you have to find a series of clues scattered across neighborhoods in order to solve a puzzle. On the other hand, you are playing a high stakes game where you must take the flag with the other teams or defeat hordes of noise to meet the demands of the villains behind the game. The game does an admirable job of switching between short and long missions, keeping things varied while also offering more challenging iterations of familiar challenges to create a satisfying sense of progress.

The streamlined combat prioritizes rapid-fire action while still leaving room to develop your own unique strategies and play style. Your group members acquire new skills by wearing pins, each of which is assigned a specific button. Since any character can equip any pin, you can change their role on the team at any time. While you can only use four types of skills at a time in combat, it also means that no one is locked in the role of a healer or long-range attacker, as is common in the RPG genre. It’s an enjoyable level of freedom and one that encourages the player to experiment with crazy setups.

Shop for new topics at Tigre PUNKS, one of more than a dozen in-game brands, each with its own distinctive identity. Square Enix

If you’re stuck in a particularly challenging boss fight, revising your pin setup is usually enough, but the game’s difficulty level can also be adjusted at any time – it’s a nice option if you’re frustrated or just want to close a chapter before going to bed.

This unexpected freedom carries over to your group’s threads or defensive gear as well. All of your “armor” is based on bespoke streetwear designs, inspired by the trendy boutiques of Harajuku and Shibuya, from feminine lace dresses to spiky lederhosen. When your level of silence is high enough, you will unlock special skills such as damage boosts or resistance to certain types of attack. Any character can equip any item, regardless of gender – if you want to dress Rindo in the cute designs from Top O Topo, nothing stands in your way. It’s a shame that this outfit selection doesn’t translate to the character models and portraits, but it’s a welcome change from the usual approach in games like this.

Square Enix

Oozing personality

I’ve played the PlayStation version of NEO: TWEWY on PlayStation 5, but I was consistently impressed with how this feels like a handheld game in the best possible way. This is in part due to the intimacy of its scope; It is approximately a 30-minute walk from one end of the map to the other. This is also because the game feels like playing a manga – cinematic cutscenes take a back seat to a rapid succession of panels and portraits as the characters react to the twists and turns of the story. It is easy to get lost in the rhythm of the versatile and top-notch soundtrack, which ranges from popping rock hits to synthetic city pop catchy tunes to funky pop bops.

More completeers will enjoy this sequel as there are literally hundreds of items of clothing, soundtrack entries, and pins to collect. While initially browsing your thread collection for more information on perks and stat boosts, you’ll get lost in admiring the level of detail and the sheer cool factor of each entry. The clothing in this game includes everything from t-shirts to hats to plateaus and petticoats, each of which belongs to one of more than a dozen remarkably crafted fictional brands.

The Pins submenu, in which you assign a fighting ability or psyche to each player.Square Enix

The 3D environments of NEO: TWEWY are a major visual upgrade over the side-scrolling pixel art of the first game. The environments and map designs match the real locations almost alarmingly. Persona 5 and the Yakuza series were recognized for their virtual tourism factor, and NEO: The world ends with you belongs in the same category of titles that arouse wanderlust. If you can get through a 40 hour game without getting lost in a rabbit hole shopping online trying to find websites for some of the real shops on Cat Street or Spain Hill, you have more willpower than me.

If you like Japanese role-playing games but shudder at the thought of labyrinthine stories and over 100 hours of gameplay, NEO: TWEWY offers a fast-paced narrative with an impressive variety of missions and unsurpassed vigor – in half the time.

8/10

NEO: The world ends with you will be released on July 27th for PC, Nintendo Switch and PS4. Inverse played the PS4 version on PS5.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games Inverse emphasizes some qualities that other websites may not have. For example, hours are more important to us than money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of gaming more than price comparisons. We put less emphasis on grinding and fetching quests than games that get the most out of each level. We also care more about in-game narration than most. When the world of a video game is rich enough to promote sociological theories about its government and the backstories of its characters, we won’t be able to stop thinking about this game, regardless of its price or popularity. We will not knock down. We’re not going to rate an indie game in the same way as an AAA game produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what is available on our consoles at the time. Finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always fine.)


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