Over-analyzing NEO: The World Ends With You Gameplay Trailer With a Detailed Breakdown

The World Ends With You is still, to this day, one of my favorite games of all time. So when a sequel gets officially revealed, it would be completely out of character for me to not be all over it. I have watched that announcement trailer a ridiculous amount of times to figure out what on earth is really happening. And do I know? Absolutely not. But I’ve made some observations, and I might have an idea of how the game plays. I’m not even going to try and decipher the story at this point.

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First of all, let’s start with an analysis of the basic UI. As the scenes of our protagonist, Rindo, running around Shibuya’s streets, lack any forms of on-screen menu, we will ignore all of this and dive straight into the combat.

On the top left-hand side of the screen, we have a health bar with the label of ‘team hp,’ four pins down on the bottom middle of the screen with gauges underneath, and the word ‘sync’ is displayed with a % in the top middle. In boss fights, the opponent’s HP gauge is on the top left.

We can ascertain that the pact and sync systems from the previous game are returning, which only makes sense.

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But what we really want to work out is how the game plays. The original title was released on the Nintendo DS with a particular battle system revolving around both DS screens. When Solo Remix was made for smartphones, the system was retooled to function on just one screen. Then with Final Remix, the game’s control scheme was retooled again to support joy-con motion controls to simulate the touch screen. I think it works perfectly fine, and a lot of people are mean, but you can’t do much more to adapt to that kind of battle system. How do you put that on the PlayStation 4, though? Well, let’s go through the battle footage and see exactly what we can get. We’ll link the trailer down here as a reference point because I’m going to timestamp a lot.


In all but the very first piece of battle footage, you can see a whole party of four players. That first piece lasts just over a second, so it’s quite easy for the other members to have simply not been visible, as ‘team HP’ is still present. This implies we will get our party of Rindo, Fret, Nagi, and Sho almost right out the gate. Especially since four players, four pins. It’s not hard then, work out that the pin slots are tied to the characters since they each glow with a yellow outline upon use.

You can see that from just the opening character parts between 20-48 seconds into the trailer:

  • Rindo uses a flame sword strike and an electrical attack, both connected to pins in slot one.
  • Frett uses some sort of downward energy pulse and a telekinesis attack, both slot two.
  • Nagi uses a different kind of electrical attack to Rindo’s and a psychokinesis attack; both of these are in slot three.
  • Sho has a dash attack and a rock drop move, which are both in slot 4

It isn’t terribly important, but I think it’s worth mentioning that when the shark noise knocks back sho at 1:11 and when the boss noise grabs Rindo at 1:37, their respective pin slots are greyed out and have a stop symbol placed over them.

Now initially, I had thought that, since characters could only use one pin in combat at a time, the branding of the pin could influence who uses what. This doesn’t appear to be the case for now, as we can see Nagi using the flame sword pin at 1:18, and Fret at 1:48 can be seen using the same green slash pin that Rindo uses at 1:13. You could use this to argue that Rindo is special and can use anyone’s pins, but I would argue against it because I feel if this were the case, he would have been highlighted with a wider variety of pins than just three. However, there’s no hard proof of that.

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None of this tells you how the player actually controls the game, though. Obviously, we can’t use touch screen controls since the PlayStation4 doesn’t have those, and we have four main characters. I was originally hedging my bets on some sort of real-time system that had you input commands like in Caligula Overdose or Chrono Trigger since the characters didn’t generally seem to move around in battle. But after talking to a friend, we concluded. That would suck. Considering how fast-paced the action was in the original game, for the sequel to drop that, this just wouldn’t feel like ‘The World Ends With You.’

So I carefully went over everything again to see what ‘free movement’ I could find. What I define as ‘free movement’ is a character moving a significant distance from side to side or away from opponents before using an attack or during one. The instances I found were Rindo’s lightning pin at 0:22, both of Nagi’s pins during her character introduction, Rindo dashing to the side at 1:37, right before he is grabbed by the boss, Nagi attacking the boss right afterward with the psychokinesis pin and Nagi trying to dodge the lightning attack at 1:45. These last parts are the most important. The camera always seems to focus on one particular character, so when we combine that with what appears to be Rindo (trying to be) dodging and Nagi running, I’m fairly confident we’ll be using the left analog stick to control one character. The camera would thus be targeting whatever character you are in control of. I feel this also applies to the 1:12 event of Fret using a bomb psych, as the camera tracks his movement just enough for me to think he’s the current player-controlled character.

How do we tie this into the teamwork aspect of the game, though? Well, at some points after attacks are used (Sho’s rock throw at 0:44, Rindo’s green slash at 1:12, Fret’s gravity attack at 1:14, and Sho’s gravity well at 1:16), a circular gauge shows up with the word ‘chance’ within. During this time, Attacking will cause the sync % to increase, as seen by Nagi’s follow up the lightning attack at the 1:14 example.

If each pin attack is tied to a particular button, with another used to switch between the base character, you could have some sort of system where you press a button to have your main character use their attack on a particularly targeted enemy, whilst another will have an AI-controlled teammate cast their attack on the same target. This would explain all the instances of characters just seeming to stand around without doing much.

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I would expect there also to be a dodge button, and whilst the 1:37 instance might not be a dodge (it’s not a whole lot of I-frames to avoid that grab), it’s such a particular animation it might just be Rindo’s player-controlled run. There’s also continuity between that and Nagi’s next clip using the psychokinesis pin, as Rindo is still grabbed and the health bars line up, which implies to me, the player switched over to Nagi and began to use her equipped psych.

This really doesn’t feel like a lot for what is now such a long piece, but you know what, I feel this does help me justify the only-god-knows-how many times I’ve watched this trailer through. I was going to theorize on pin brandings and what not as well, but I don’t think there’s enough hard evidence actually to do that. Let me know if you’ve got any ideas of your own, though, and I’ll see you back here after the next trailer drops to let me know if I was an idiot or a reasonably smart human being.

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter