Checking the Score: The World Ends With You

While many point to how lifelike the next blockbuster action title is or how gorgeous an artistic indie darling is when it comes to evaluating a game, these visuals would lose their impact without a stirring soundtrack to score them. From the chip-tunes of Super Mario Bros to the Gregorian chants of Halo, video game music brings players closer to immersion and fantasy. Much like how a movie’s soundtrack sets the tone for dramatic scenes, game music also helps players connect emotionally with the story.

Checking the Score is a monthly feature devoted to these crucial compositions which are literally the soundtrack to our gaming lives. Delving into what makes them impactful, the process of composing them and the intricacies of each score, our aim is to put a spotlight on the aural backbone of gaming.

Upon initial release, The World Ends With You was one of the most underappreciated games on the Nintendo DS. Over the years the fandom has grown and recognized this as both a wildly unique and engaging title. Compelling gameplay, an awesome world and graphics were brought together with a simply stunning soundtrack. Many vocal tracks were voiced in English but difficult to hear due to garbled effects. It made the game world feel both recognizable and unknown — clearly the intention of this highly-stylized Shibuya locale. Unfortunately, it seemed that Square Enix were fully content to let this original game remain dead and not do much else with it. Sure, there was a mobile port in 2012, but Square Enix was hot on the track of doing many mobile ports at the time.

Things started to get exciting again when The World Ends With You: Final Remix launched on Switch in 2018. Bringing an overlooked gem to the Switch may have been Square Enix testing the waters of modern interest in the game. Not only did it include the extras from the Apple/Android port, it also upgraded the controls so they worked on the Switch. Gamers jumped at the chance to play The World Ends With You on a modern platform – and experience the newly added features. Likely realizing interest was still high for the game, Square Enix continued to push forward to expand this game into a franchise.

The first surprise came when The World Ends With You graced the cover of the Anime Expo 2020 convention pamphlet. Many wondered if this was the precursor to a new game, but what it actually revealed was the announcement of an anime series. The World Ends With You: The Animation’s twelve episodes have since aired and are available for streaming. Unfortunately for many, the show did not live up to the greatness of the original game. Still, it was great to see this world being acknowledged again. Reprises of classic songs like “Twister” for the opening credits maintained the spirit of the original game. With that said, there was something especially charming about the original song’s more mumbly aesthetic versus the new version. The anime simply lacked the energy and authenticity of the original work.

Then the news that many expected would never occur dropped. Developer h.a.n.d. and Square Enix would be creating a sequel titled NEO: The World Ends With You. Unlike the original, this will be a fully 3D game and brings with it a new cast of characters. Will it be just as good or even better than the original game? Or will it fall somewhere along the same lines as The World Ends With You: The Animation? We’ll all find out soon — but one thing is almost certain: it should include music just as awesome as the original game. If it couldn’t achieve that point, that will be perhaps the greatest disappointment of all.

As should be clear from the choice of tracks provided above, The World Ends With You featured an incredible soundtrack (and left fans wanting even more). Years after the original release, the soundtrack remains as fresh as it did upon launch. Composer Takeharu Ishimoto has scored many Square Enix projects in the past, many of which are classics in and of themselves. Given he’s also composing NEO: The World Ends With You fans should expect that, if nothing else, the new soundtrack will be excellent.