The love, dedication, and patience that a game can inspire in its fanbase is truly something to behold. Such is the case for Nintendo DS hit The World Ends with You (TWEWY), an instant classic with a devoted fanbase… which Square Enix spent more than ten years vaguely teasing a sequel for. Fans waited patiently year after year, but more years than not, all they’d have to show for it was one or two new quotes from people involved saying something to the effect of, “It’s on our to-do list.” A good year would also give fans a port, but even that only happened three times. Yet despite how scarce official TWEWY news seemed to be, there was still just enough to let the fans maintain hope that a sequel would be released soon. Ultimately, fourteen years, four presidential elections, and the release of seven Kingdom Hearts games and six main series Final Fantasy games would go by before TWEWY’s sequel would be scheduled for release—finally ending an extended emotional rollercoaster defined by unwavering love for the innovative game.
Whether or not TWEWY sold well depends on who you ask. On one hand, it was among the top selling games in Japan and North America during its release weeks (and again two weeks later in North America). On the other, many felt that its sales numbers were underwhelming for a game that Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura (alongside many other Kingdom Hearts alumni) was so involved in. But regardless of the mixed opinions on its sales, TWEWY developed a dedicated fanbase (especially in North America, where it’s estimated to have sold at least twice as many copies as in Japan) who commonly referred to it as one of the best games the DS had to offer. One IGN reviewer even declared, “Games like this come once in a system’s lifetime, and shouldn’t be ignored.” The hope for a sequel was more or less immediate.
It wouldn’t be until 2010, three years after the game’s initial release, that TWEWY fans would hear any substantial news about the potential of a sequel. More specifically, Nomura would tell Nintendo Power that, “I’m really happy that the game was so well received in North America. I definitely want to make a sequel. I’m very busy working on other titles right now, but when the time is right, I would love to make another installment of The World Ends with You.”
Naturally, many fans felt like this was confirmation that although a sequel wasn’t currently in the works, it could be—would be—some time soon; that Nomura still had plans for TWEWY. About a year later, in September 2011, this mindset would be further affirmed by the news that TWEWY’s protagonists would cameo in another Nomura game, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance. While Kingdom Hearts is, obviously, no stranger to crossovers, the inclusion of TWEWY characters was still notable because it was the first time that characters from a Square Enix property other than Final Fantasy would appear in the series. Furthermore, Nomura himself seemed to hint that their presence was meant to signal something. Surely, many fans thought, this had to be a sign that there’d be new TWEWY content soon.
In an April 2012 interview with Nintendo Dream magazine Nomura said about TWEWY’s future that, “Right now it’s not possible for me to say anything… (laughs). There could be something.” By August that year—just after TWEWY’s five-year-anniversary—fans felt as though any day could be the day that Square Enix finally announced that they were working on the highly anticipated TWEWY sequel. Knowing that, you can probably imagine everyone’s reactions when a TWEWY countdown clock appeared on Square Enix’s website. Despite the page’s lack of details, people felt sure that this had to be the long awaited sequel announcement—after all, what else could it be? This (misplaced) confidence was even reflected in a few overzealous headlines.
For the TWEWY fan keeping an extra close eye on Square Enix, it quickly became easy to guess that the clock would end not on a sequel but on an announcement for a port: an iOS version of the game that would be titled TWEWY Solo Remix. Square Enix’s PR department made a tweet reading, “[TIMELIMIT WITHIN 7DAYS] PC & Smartphone”, and the release’s accompanying CD was mistakenly put on the Square Enix store temporarily (the listing of which mentioned an iOS release). Enough people noticed this that it attracted a fair level of media attention and even prompted the game’s lead translator to tweet about it.
If the number of shocked (and disappointed) reactions to the news are indicative of anything, it’s that the aforementioned clues (if you’d call the equivalent of a carrier pigeon flying out of Square Enix’s headquarters and dropping a brick with the words, “it’s an iOS port” scrawled into it a “clue” that is) flew under the radars of several TWEWY fans. The only silver lining was a new teaser screenshot that could be seen in a new secret ending (below), and a statement by TWEWY director Tatsuya Kando that, “Various other things are being prepared, so please enjoy Solo Remix until then.”
Solo Remix wasn’t the sequel fans were hoping for, but it was nonetheless received well: it featured polished graphics, a few new songs, and a slightly updated combat system to accommodate the new platform. As an entry point for potential new TWEWY fans, Solo Remix quickly became an ideal choice. But this new batch of TWEWY fans, like the old ones, would soon be starving for official TWEWY content and news.
With nothing new except for an unpopular, short-lived mobile game (that never got translated into English for unknown reasons) and an Android version of Solo Remix in 2014, TWEWY news would be at its most sparse during the mid-to-late 2010s. It wasn’t until January 2018—about ten years since TWEWY’s initial release—that fans would get any significant TWEWY updates. Instead of a sequel, however, it was yet another port.
The announcement of TWEWY Final Remix—a Switch port of the game—was met with a lot more positivity than the Solo Remix announcement. As well as expanding on features from Solo Remix, Final Remix featured a new two-player mode, new pins, new noise, and a brief new epilogue called A New Day. Most importantly, however, Nomura stated that he intended for Final Remix to be his “last time working with the original game, I think this is the final chance for creating a path to the next step, which I’ve had ideas about since the first launch eleven years ago. Many thanks to everyone for supporting ongoing efforts.”
Reviews for Final Remix were… fine. On one hand, many of the elements that made TWEWY so beloved in the first place were still present and accounted for: the story, the characters, the art, the music, all still wonderful. But on the other, TWEWY’s controls were definitely tailor-made for the DS, and while Final Remix wasn’t necessarily unplayable, many players still agreed that the controls didn’t translate well to the Switch, even after being updated. Nonetheless, any disappointment that a lackluster port might’ve given TWEWY fans was overshadowed by their joy at getting even a little new content after all these years, and more importantly, Nomura’s recent assurance that TWEWY would soon be moving on to “the next step.”
“The next step,” many naturally assumed, surely had to be a sequel—after all, if this really is the last time Nomura planned on working with the original game, then where else would there be for the series to go? TWEWY was highly overdue for a sequel and everyone knew it. More than ever, the release of a TWEWY sequel felt less like a question of if and more like a question of when—and Final Remix’s sales, many fans anticipated, would likely play a huge role in determining that.
Despite TWEWY’s cult status, sufficient sales for Final Remix wouldn’t come as easily as many fans had hoped. Just like TWEWY in 2007, Final Remix sold noticeably better in North America than it had in Japan, but that’s where their similarities end. Although digital sales aren’t fully accounted for, VGChartz estimates that the original TWEWY outsold Final Remix by a massive margin; a disheartening blow for the fans who hoped to prove to Square Enix just how badly people wanted new TWEWY content.
But hope for TWEWY’s future is nothing if not a yo-yo. A few months after Final Remix’s North American release was the worldwide release of Kingdom Hearts III (KH3). It’s hard to talk about TWEWY’s significance in the game without completely spoiling the ending, so suffice to say, even though none of the TWEWY characters appear in KH3, it still strongly hints that TWEWY could be important to the story of future Kingdom Hearts games. In the meantime, the hints were strong enough that TWEWY fans were starting to feel more optimistic than ever about the possibility of a sequel—even though, at the time of KH3’s release, TWEWY was nearly twelve years old.
At long last, the next update would come in May 2020. While the gap between KH3’s release in January 2019 and the announcement in May 2020 may have felt distant to some, it was still a considerably shorter wait than the typical years—very plural—that TWEWY fans had been accustomed to waiting between scraps of news. This update wasn’t inherently news itself, but it seemed to strongly imply that news was on-the-way: the update (if you can call it that) was Anime Expo Lite’s official key art, which featured the protagonists of TWEWY posing alongside the con’s mascots.
Speculation about the implications of what this key art meant ran wild (and how could it not? It was effectively the first piece of fresh food that the starving fans had seen in years). About a month later, it was revealed that a TWEWY anime was in production, and that Anime Expo would be hosting a special (online) panel for it with more details. The panel, which was live streamed the following weekend, confirmed some of the anime’s staff members and Japanese voice cast, a spring 2021 release, and that it would take place in the modern day (rather than 2007). Noticeably unconfirmed was how faithful the anime planned on being to its source material… and noticeably still absent was word on a game sequel. Nonetheless, the first trailer left new and old fans alike curious about what this anime would do for the future of TWEWY. What nobody knew at the time, however, was that it was already a work-in-progress.
If you had told any given TWEWY fan before, say, the release of Final Remix, that an anime adaptation of TWEWY wouldn’t be the biggest TWEWY news fans would get that year, there’s a reasonable chance they wouldn’t believe you. TWEWY fans were, after all, already pretty used to going long stretches of time with little or no new content; the idea of getting an anime adaptation was large enough on its own. To ask for more, while desirable, would’ve felt extremely unlikely–but against all odds, that’s exactly what happened in 2020.
Indeed, after thirteen years of waiting—thirteen years of ports, Kingdom Hearts cameos, and of hearing developers say time and again that they wanted to make more TWEWY content—the long-awaited sequel, NEO: The World Ends with You, was finally announced on November 23, 2020. One need not look any further than the comment section of the announcement trailer, which currently boasts over 600,000 views, to get a sense of how thrilled TWEWY fans were to get the long-awaited news; not least of all because the game in the trailer looks incredibly sleek. And so, after more than a decade, the wait for a TWEWY sequel is finally nearing its end.
As of when this article’s being written, the TWEWY anime started airing only a few weeks ago, but the reception thus far is more or less what you would expect for a project that seems to be attempting to condense a roughly thirty-hour JRPG into twelve episodes (though it’s still too early to tell whether or not it’ll continue this). The opening theme has been changed at the last minute due to the arrest of the band’s drummer, but aside from that, it’s been one of the more low-key shows airing this season.
Low-key or not though, the fact that this anime even exists is a testament to TWEWY’s staying power; that despite the fourteen years that’ve passed since TWEWY’s release, despite several year’s worth of “soon”s from Nomura, it still has plenty of dedicated fans. Given that it’s airing alongside the likes of a fifth season of My Hero Academia, Zombieland Saga: Revenge, Don’t Toy with Me Miss Nagatoro, and many other highly-anticipated series, it’s unlikely that the TWEWY anime will even be among the most-viewed anime this season, nor will it probably be among the overall top-rated. Because the final season of Fruits Basket and a Shaman King remake are also airing this season, it’s not even the one that’s been the longest time coming.
Nevertheless, it still stands as powerful proof of how much TWEWY’s fans love the game, and how much faith there still is—among both its fans and developers—that it could still have a successful future. Regardless of its quality, this anime still stands as one of the most integral points in TWEWY’s history.
NEO: The World Ends with You is currently scheduled for a worldwide release on Switch and PS4 on July 27, 2021; the day after the fourteenth anniversary of TWEWY’s initial release. A lot of details still aren’t clear, but the trailers have nonetheless inspired a lot of optimism in new and old TWEWY fans alike. It’s hard to imagine calling something “worth the wait” when the wait has lasted fourteen years, but that nonetheless seems to be one of the recurring phrases of longtime TWEWY fans talking about how excited they are for NEO’s release. Expectations for this game are, understandably, extremely high, so however reactions to this game end up being, you can expect them to be strong because, well, fans feel strongly about the long-awaited return of TWEWY.
“Ever since the original version of this game was released fourteen years ago, many dedicated fans have been asking for a sequel, and now we can finally answer their requests,” Nomura said in a recent interview with Dengeki (translated here). “I myself still can’t believe that a sequel exists, but the game is as innovative and fun as the first one, so please look forward to its release.”