While it may have been considered “underwhelming” in terms of sales by Square Enix, pretty much everyone who played NEO The World Ends With You loved the stylish RPG. The game followed the cult classic Nintendo DS title that had been ported to multiple systems over the years to help its legend grow. In addition, the game featured a unique story about life and death in the Shibuya underground and the teens that were caught up in this game. The sequel did that story too, but with bigger stakes, new 3D graphics, and an all-new battle system.
NEO The World Ends With You was recently incorporated into another Square Enix title via DLC, so they dropped an internal interview on their website featuring the game’s staff. In it, the team mainly focused on the game’s combat and its predecessor and noted how they wanted to use pins from the get-go so that players could “build a collection” and then decide what powers they wanted to use within combat. That flexibility allowed for many possible styles and combinations of abilities, which fans adored.
The control style was the biggest challenge going from the first game to the second. In the original game, you had two characters on two “screens” and had to control them simultaneously at points to deliver massive damage and unleash a combo move. In the sequel, they had all the characters on one screen and had each character attached to one pin to give a “party” aesthetic. They struggled to make the “party” feel work until they went simple with the controls and realized they had something special.
That’s not to say they didn’t have to tone certain things down or remove ideas entirely because they did have to do that:
“We considered implementing pins that would allow the player to psychically pull out and throw objects in the city, such as building signs and utility poles. However, since the combat was so fast-paced, we realized players wouldn’t have the leeway to focus on the city scenery. So, unfortunately, we decided to forgo this idea.”
They also had to work hard to keep the balance of the pins at the right levels so that one wouldn’t be overtly more powerful than the rest and thus through off the feel of combat due to one character being more powerful than the others.
In the end, the team felt they achieved what they needed to and more:
“I believe there is no other game in which the player can simultaneously control the whole party – full of incredibly appealing characters – at this speed.”