Tuesday 31 August 2021

Neo TWEWY review (4): story and thoughts

*Spoilers alert! This part of review containing spoilers all the way up to the secret reports.

The final part of my review, on the story itself. So be warned that all spoilers are possible!

Again, it is not easy to give a full contextual analysis on the development of Rindo in the story, but I agree with what the secret report says: this is a story of Rindo taking responsibility in contrast to Neku trusting his partner in OG.


The structure is simple following the 3 weeks framework. Week 1 is an orientation and of course they failed to clinch victory. Week 2 is the transition because they now know about the game but they still failed to win, and they find something shady behind. Week 3 assuming a big story we should be facing someone above the GM level, and whoever to be the boss must have done something extraordinary that is unwrapped during the week.

NEO follows such frame closely. They spent time learning to play as a team in week 1 "just short of" reaching the top. They did well in week 2 taking other teams head on and still failed to clinch the top while discovering the truth about the Ruinbringers. Week 3 is a plain 1v1 between the team and Chiba (and his underlings). 

Puns from the past

Oh and the producers throw OG memes here and there. Whenever that happened it brings a smile on my face. 

"Yo phones!"
"Tin pin slammer!"
"Still remember reaper creeper?"

If you want to give a message, you will probably need better encoding than a plain ternary system.

Jokes aside, most of the 2000-ish elements were gone from the game. Not only Tin Pin Slammers but also reaper creeper (which is mildly popular in the pre-computer era), folding phones (and gadgets modification like in OG), stories around phone booths (so popular in the 90s) and so on. For those who know OG so well like they have played OG yesterday like me, it's just weird to find that all the old technology had been replaced in 3 in-game years whereas it has been 13 years in reality. This is not a criticism and this is necessary, the only to blame is Square Enix who halted NEO development back in 2012.

Time reversal

What differs is how the missions are solved. This is due to the difference in mission style (as the GM changes) and also how teams interact. More importantly, how the rewind skill is utilized.

In theory you can do very complicated things with such talent. By going back and forth, one can obtain pieces of information seemingly impossible to be known in the past. These information can be used to lead the user to the correct path in the future.

This approach is observed in a number of detective games like Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney or Zero Time Dilemma(/Escape) where players have to decide which timeline to jump onto and what to do in those timelines in order to grind something fresh out of them.

Of course NEO is not a detective based game so the produced didn't bother to trick players -- in fact, the instruction to players is extremely clear as dropped by Rindo on his mental notes. (The hardest non-combat part lies on the consecutive multiple choices. Reaper's review is easy but the conversations with a Pureheart and with Shoka are so hard!)

As a result the game took a much simpler approach to how Rindo uses his talent if he found that the sequence X->Y->Z didn't work then you can first rewind and correct Z to Z'. If that's not enough you rewind further to correct Y to Y' and X to X'...then you just proceed with everything corrected. That applies even to the grand final on W3D7: the team is exhausted after fighting Shiba and they won't be able to take down Soul Pulvis (the bird noise), so they go back trying to avoid the fight with Chiba; to avoid the fight you need to get someone to persuade him, so you find the reapers...

Such story is linear and easy to understand. Although some players may found that repetitive as your last conclusion coincides with your next action. I also wonder that in a number of days the rewind is actually triggered because "you possibly cannot defeat the opponent" -- but we players have proved that we are so good in the combats. Why can't we just take the fights in the hard way? Of course Rindo didn't know clearly that rewinding come at a cost, but it would be fun if we can do those fights by ourselves say in postgame. For example on W1D5 I wouldn't mind taking 20 DRS members (bet they don't have such a big team) plus the golden pig. This is just a matter of diffusion beam massacre right?

The rewind structure is mostly simple. Rindo basically have to correct 2 or 3 things before he can go ahead and change the fate except on W3D7. On that day it's 90 minutes of pure cutscenes (under autoplay) without any fights repeating the "correction" process. 

Some players may find it too long, especially who wants a damn long dialogue when you are on full gear towards the end. I had the same feeling when I first cleared OG back in 2008: it was a family gathering and I started the game with the Konishi fight after dinner. I played and fought all the way through, but it took me much longer than expected. When I finally saw the end of the day it was already 12:30AM with a few adults grunting outside. It's easy to understand why people are not happy with that. 

Still I would say such approach is good in terms of storytelling because you want to focus on Rindo and his team as much as possible throughout the 3 weeks. It is already much harder to unveil the story around Rindo as he now has many more characters around him comparing with OG, and you don't want to add further disturbance on it. 

The key characters on the final time reversal is certainly Kaie and Rhyme. The producer knew that and had them showing up at the end of the days time to time. It's like having the ingredients prep'd beforehand -- sensitive players would have already known what's going on, then the actions taken on W3D7 would come smoothly.

Impressions on the OG characters

The OG characters undoubtedly took an essential role in the game, and accounts a crucial part of player's love on the game. To those ingame characters 3 years have passed but to the players outselves 13 years have passed. This difference could cause deviation on how player expects the characters to behave in the NEO timeline. I want to express my feeling on some OG characters briefly here.

Neku: he seemed much more mature than expected. Even with his mental growth in OG (and in the new days in the final remix) he never behave like that. He is more like a big brother only giving advice when necessary. I think that's a correct decision because we need space for NEO characters to grow -- just look at what happened to Appollo Justice Ace Attroney when Phoenix Wright refused to step down.

Beat: I never noticed that his hair is blonde in OG till I looked back after his appearance in NEO. He stays the same as in 3 years ago and this is kind of expected.

Rhyme: cute and heartwarming as ever. We didn't know much about her in OG other than her interactions with Beat but her personality shown in NEO isn't very surprising either.

Shiki: she deserves more air time other than her two encounters with Neku. It would be a nice starting point for the producers to fill the gap on what happened during the 3 years. OG, the animation and the final remix all failed to explain the change in appearance for her and I kind of want to know why too.

Josh: my impression on him is seriously distorted by his outlook and voice, both much more mature than expected, even though his personality stays the same considering that he isn't really a teenager.

Sho: the mysterious character in both OG and NEO, but his background and intention is prelly clearly explained by Coco, the secret report and himself. Luckily now he is under the supervision of Coco.

Eiji "Prince F" Oji: yes please continue to F everything :D

I wonder what was Shiki doing during the fight. She can't stand in the middle of the crossing right?

Questions unsolved

The nature that everything is caused by moved made from the "higher planes" decided that the story can't possibly be decoded in full, thus the need of secret report. However the reports were in an oblique style and some questions remain unanswered. Here are the few that always tick my heart during the years:

- Josh's stance on the "old" Shibuya in OG was never clear. Was it the lack of creativity/imagination or is it simply boring that he decided to destroy Shibuya? 

- In a similar way what happened to Shijuku's inversion? This is a question even deeper: the inversion happened after the 3 weeks timeframe in OG. Is the motivation of Haz related to Josh's? Why must it be an inversion, a bold act with severe consequences, rather than purification or other form of cleansing?

- While my memories on the final remix has been fading away, I think we need more details on Coco to complete the story because she's one of the few that has clear association with both the Shibuya and Shinjuku branch. According to secret report (Neo#22) she's (not sure why it was written as "he" in the report) the one who drew the Shinjuku inversion report. If we were to know more details about that it's probably from her mouth.

- The "fact box": producers saying that NEO was made based on the facts covered by the anime. I expected an enormous amount of information (like, 10 episodes for 3 weeks plus something extra for the 2 episodes) in my anime review, but the anime turned out to be a plain reiteration of OG with little simplification to some unhandy details. The amount of detail covered in the anime is far from sufficient to withhold NEO, not to mention that the anime talked nothing about the Shinjuku inversion. So what were actually assumed in NEO? 

- Continuing my question on the facts, one of them stood out and is quite important in my eyes. The latent power is unique to players like Shiki's ability to attack with Mr.Mew, Fret's reminder or Nagi's dive. Does Shoka's teleportation counts as "player's latent power"? Or, can we say that latent power isn't exclusive to players but also reapers or UG residents? At which point do the players receive such power? 

- If Shoka's power is confusing enough then Neku's power is even more confusing. According to OG Neku has the talent to utilize various pins for different psychs which is incredibly rare...but wait, is everyone in NEO doing that? Or by saying "utilizing various pins" refers to utilizing them simutaneously like in OG combats? Or, is the Rindo team *that* special that they all have such ability to use various pins? -- this couldn't possibly be true though because Beat can't use multiple pins in OG. So back to my earlier question: what's truly assumed in NEO?

- Imagination, a term made up possibly to describe characters' potent, is never properly explained. How do we understand imagination, for example by the literal mean (Wikipedia: ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses)? Or according to secret report (OG#1) the "true intention" of the characters...? Is that something that can even be quantified? I never found any trace about imagination in OG TWEWY nor in NEO.

Philosophical thoughts

To conclude this part of the review let's look at the story again from another perspective. There are two issues that are worth discuss based on the TWEWY world.


"Higher existences". The OG game was a bet between Shibuya's composer and conductor. The NEO game was a bet between an angel (presumably Kubo, NEO#1) and Shibuya's composer Josh. While it may deemed as "game" from the higher existences, it's bringing disaster to UG and RG.

One may asks the thinking process of those "higher existences" or if the consequences on UG/RG ever their consideration. On the other hand what would human (who have been associated to UG/reapers) think about those "higher existences" given their action? We have seen such conflict at the very end in OG between Neku and Josh, also on Josh's trick on Rindo at the end (although this is less consequential). 

Similar questions are asked very frequently in some religions in the form of "if your God is universally powerful then why isn't the Earth an utopia". Things aside, it would be nice to see similar discussions at the end of NEO like in OG, although the vibe may not fit too well for these topics...

"Rationalism". Haz has a completely off the ground sense as from human's judgement via his conversation with Josh and Rindo. He asked Rindo why would he risk Shibuya being destroyed just to rescue his friends and called that irrational. As a player we know that we will win and have both Shibuya and Rindo's friends saved, but what if that's uncertain? What's the "rational" answer?

If, instead, we know that we don't have both saved in the new timeline anyway what's a rational/moral choice? 

It was explained in W3D7 how time reversal worked: it's basically a shift to a parallel world to achieve whatever they want. But when they leave that parallel world it was destroyed, hence the bird noise coming from the overflowing vibes that had nowhere to go. Is it rational then to sacrifice the undesirable parallel worlds for your ideal outcome?

The exact same question was asked in the ADV game Zero Time Dilemma which I have mentioned above as well, and is a very nice game to play.


I am very surprised that I wrote more about the story than the mechanics because game design is always my first priority when it comes to games. That's probably because I loved the franchise so much and I know the story too well.

How is NEO's storytelling? It's an enjoyable story fitting the themes preset as in the secret reports. It might be true that the huge cast caused difficulty to develop enough on each of the protagonists, but the producer had done a good enough job on the matter. The flaw is inherited in the script that they failed to explain things in full detail. They took the same approach as in OG so similar unsolved mysteries were left behind.

Final words

Unlike solo, live or final remix, this is the true sequel to the original TWEWY game. It tried to adopt the stylus free environment and did a great job with it. 

The combat is fun and endgame content is truly challenging unless OG, albeit sometimes a bit repetitive and time consuming. Still, there are more unique bosses this time.

The artwork design is again great with more pins and brands, although the pins and threads combination sometimes feels restrictive. Songs are less striking than last time, or maybe not. 

It's a master storyteller -- any completely new player can easily dive into the story, and OG players will absolutely love it.

In overall this is a sequel that matches the quality of OG. If OG deserves a 9.5/10 as a best in an era game, then NEO will get a 8.5/10 from me.

I like how you have both unmodified and modified drop rate in OG.

The obligatory collection.


Further reading: 

There are toooooo many games that are Tokyo based with teenager protagonists and sell stories about growth. P5 is the most popular one, but there are many more like trip to Akiba, Megami Tensei and so on. A direct comparison between TWEWY and P5 is kind of controversial, but it's worth a read.

Kind of true and false. We have a number of these games especially from Asia. They are just not as popular. Heroism is just too popular in the West.

I can deeply feel that as a Nintendo fans. Extreme 3D quality is not necessary to make a good game, and they sometimes even backfires. A game is good because it entertains, not because of your billion dollar worth model or what your bullshit sociopolitical concept that you tried to bring in.

Saturday 28 August 2021

Neo TWEWY review (3): artwork and music

*Spoilers alert!

The third part of my review, on artwork designs.

OG TWEWY stresses heavily how special is Shibuya as a place where mind collides that is observed by the wide range of artistic expressions around the city including brand products, music and so on.

As story progresses, NEO no longer focus just in Shibuya. Although Rindo and his team still embraces the Shibuya value this is much less obvious for the rest of the characters. 

But that shouldn't stop the producers from making good designs, right?

It's too hard for me to talk whether this pin is well-designed or that song is technically nice, so I tend to mention my favourite here. 

There were so many weird threads that can be accessed via secret reports in OG, unfortunately we do not get those in NEO. This is the funny set that I have for Fret.


The pins are well-designed and their style align with the brand impressions. With the game now being 3D, the producers also put effort on pin effects to align with the brands. 

It's easy enough to find online for a complete analysis on the brands (like this - thegamer: all brands, ranked). Instead of the 12 brands corresponding to the 12 zodiacs, there are now 15 brands in NEO. Most of them are well-made except for the brand "Black Honey Chili Cookie" that looks half-done with very few pins and threads.

My favourite is for sure Monocrow because this is what I personally like to wear: a black and white themed, simple, cool and mildly sporty wearings. Now if I have to choose another brand it's probably Cony Cony because I like Gothic rock...? Although it's likely that I do not fit to wear those fancy butler suits.

As mentioned the significance of brands is really compressed in NEO. This is bad in terms of storytelling because brand is a major sign of clashing signs in Shibuya, as glorified by the everywhere seen brand logos. In OG the shopkeepers had a stronger personality (reaction against different VIP level); the popularity boost is gone, and the brand set boosting is minimal. Why would you abolish something that important?

Of course one mystery left unsolved -- where were all the brands three years ago? All except natural puppy and Neku's favourite Jupiter of the Monkey had been "erased" from Shibuya. Yeah I know fashion is extremely competitive but a mass extinction even in 3 years? Quite unlikely.

Character designs

No complaints in the new characters. The bottom-line is that they fit the taste of 2021. 

It's clear that OG players like me would care more about how OG characters look like in three years of time. Let's say that most of them looked as expected except Josh. He looked a lot closer to a mature adult like Haz then a grown adolescent. Granted he is definitely not 15 or 18 years but like 3000 years old, but that simply violates the "3 years later" impression.

Beat, Sho and Rhyme looked as expected. Shiki's quite interesting: we know her change as in OG, but she really looked so pure in contrast to what her products under the brand of Gatto Nero.

The new outfit of Neku looked nice and it fits the mental change he underwent in OG, although I am not fully convinced that mental change could also lead to such a big change in trendy taste. It's also clear that his costume is designed by Gatto Nero...which is from Shiki, but it looks different from the rest of the clothes from the same brand.

Oh for Kariya and Uzuki I can't tell what were they wearing in OG, but they now look nice.

Character with the most significant change from OG to NEO imo.


This is the hardest part for me to comment on. It's almost impossible for one to appreciate the songs ingame while keeping full pace clearing the game, so let's say I can't give a full review on the matter.

I like how the music amplifies with extra beats when you surf around the city and it's a nice way to enjoy the music, but most of the time you just want to get through the city faster...

They certainly did a great job producing music of all kinds. Hip hop, J-pop, EDMs, raps and many more already in OG with extra genres introduced: nu-metal for the postgame final boss fight. Granted I am not a big fans of that, but it fits a boss that would drive you crazy and any mistake would kill you in an instant. Another instance where I like the use of music is the BGMs for the dives. They made a few different songs that come in rounds during the chained fights to fit the 'emotion' of the noises and that's a fresh experience to me.

But are there any (new) songs that strikes my soul that I fell into love the first time I hear? Probably not. My all time favourites still lie in the OG tracks like Calling and Someday. 

To be fair when I first played OG I played the game muted, so my first impression on the OG tracks did not come when I first played the game. Instead I got them from the blooming Youtube community as well as from Osu -- TWEWY is my first Osu skin used. 

The good ol' days.

So my comment may change in the future. But as it stands the NEO (new) soundtracks are less attractive unfortunately.

Friday 27 August 2021

Neo TWEWY review (2): ingame systems

*To make it clear, player refers to the player who plays the game, and characters refer to the in-game characters. OG refers to the original TWEWY and also the final remix if necessary, and NEO refers to NEO:TWEWY.

*Spoilers alert! This part of the review contain some spoilers but the later parts are full of spoilers.

In the second part of the review I would like to talk about the ingame system of everything. This is also part of the success of OG TWEWY. Does NEO managed to glory this part of the original game?



The map is much better than OG. I'm not saying that the old one is bad -- I learned to surf around Shibuya on my first arrival to Tokyo just by playing OG. It's just that the new map is much better. Three key differences:

- Real landscape is replicated into the game making it much closer to real life Shibuya. What OG reflects was a 2008 (or earlier) Shibuya, but NEO shows a 2021 Shibuya which raises more familiarity if you are ever there. The two new areas -- Takeshita a bit weird to count under Shibuya, but Hikarie (and the new Ginza metro station) is definitely the new landmark of Shibuya which I strongly recommend everyone to have a go. (And seriously Hikarie is full of good restaurants!)

- The new map is less fragmented. Perhaps due to technicality or whatever reason the old maps is broken into finer pieces. In OG you have to go through 7 areas to reach cat street from the crossing while it only takes 3 in NEO (via center street)! Many of the areas in OG are just so close to each other in reality (e.g. scramble crossing and Hachiko) so it's unreasonable to split them. It's much more comfortable to surf through the maps in NEO.

- Inter-connectedness. There are shortcuts everywhere and allows much faster access. For example the Hikarie - expressway underpass - bus terminal formed a ring instead of two dead ends; the far away Takeshita region can easily be accessed via Miyashita park late in the game; and Ugadawa backstreets and cat streets are much closer now. On the other hand, a few maps including Takeshita and Dogenzaka includes multiple exits to the same area, so players don't have to dash to the only designated area to teleport.

On the downside, it takes time to change from one area to the other. The visual effect is nice but I don't want to see that after playing the game for 100 hours. I am sure this is the usual slow switch issue but it's just annoying to see that every single time.

(The slow switch issue is also a problem in combating as the game lags when many things happen at the same time. This really hurts the gaming experience unfortunately.)

Another aspect of the map is the way you encounter noises. Similar to OG you scan the noises and the noises approach you when you get near. The problem is now the game is stylus free, meaning that you will need to attract noises by running near them. That means you need to run a fancy path in order to produce a big chain (instead of dragging them together in an obvious way in OG) which is painful in particular during the scramble slam (which we will talk soon in this part).

Even though the game shows the building in 3D, the camera angle is fixed for every position on the map. That means you can't appreciate Shibuya 360 degrees which is a shame. A more practical problem is that the camera angle is fixed in according to your position, so it changes sharply at some points which confuses you on your direction. This is a serious problem for the center street map as it contains multiple 90 degrees turn and has a dead end.


One of the highlights in OG, done poorly in NEO.

If you scan through the threads list for OG you will find that there is a much wider varieties of abilities given. A large pool of them disappeared due to abandoned systems in NEO (which is a pity) like puck passing, partner-side fusion moves, obstacles and so on. The fact that characters now battle in the same way eliminates the possibility of skills that boost performance on particular characters to their fighting styles. Still there are skills that should have been ported to NEO effortlessly like more SOS and defense break (on both characters and opponents) skills.

Similar to how pins work, abilities other than pure stat boosts are categorized into a certain type of wear so you cannot have multiple items on a character with similar boost. With the limited types of abilities available on NEO it becomes a multiple choice question...with 2 or 3 options only. For example the abilities given to headwears are limited to drop boost, button psych up or brand boosts...which all three are kind of boring. Almost all interesting abilities are locked to accessory only including regeneration. Without healing from the lower level killer remixes you really need regeneration from threads (in particular all the long chains during scramble slams), but that means you are locked from all other abilities fun to have.

Speak of the brands, the importance of brands in NEO is greatly weakened but we will address about this in the artwork section. At the beginning I thought that wearing a complete set would greatly boost the stats but no. Stats boosts is minimal in NEO in the first place (and almost nothing boosts attack), and wearing a complete brand PLUS wasting the headwear slot for brand boosts only bring another 10% of the total stat boosts (not your overall stats) which is like...another 50 points of defense. Wearing a complete set is purely a waste of time, although I only recognized that so late in the game when I was doing the postgame time trials.

Threads is definitely a weak point in NEO.

If Neku was around he might sense something familiar...?

Social network, side quests & dives

A replacement of swag or sticker system in OG. It's quite well designed, and saves you from running into every shop just to search for the sticker that you missed. 

Side quests is a replacement of the postgame secret report quest list. On the bright side, that allows you to do the quests when you first visited the day so you don't have to waste time doing all the story quests and encounters again (still there are unavoidable days necessary for 100% noisepedia collection -- even worse you have to do those 3 times!). 

On the other side, having all the quests being social orientated can be good or bad depending on players' taste. It is fun to watch the interaction among characters, but sometimes it's also fun to just to walk around the city and solve some puzzle (I like to do that in reality when I visit a new city).

Some of these side quests involve talking and multiple choices, but the rest are dives. That is, to erase noises on the characters to solve their problem (mentally). These noises are assigned special ability (increased damage/huge noise...) which should be familiar if you have played the final remix. These battles are quite fun, albeit slightly too hard for those who wants to get gold medal on first try. Fortunately most of them are available early in each of the days, so clearing them postgame won't be too hard.

Scramble slam

This is the annoying part of the game.

Three instances in the game were the so-called scramble slam, an UG version of battle royale where teams tries to conquer the turfs in Shibuya. To starters this is already annoying as each of them consists of like 20~30 fights, each taking considerable time. 

And if you just do these fights and nothing else, you are likely to finish with a poor score unable to get the bonus items. If you want to collect all the bonus items on your first try, you will need to farm the points using low attack pins (hence prolonged battle time) and do up to ten 10-chain battles. Instead of 20 battles you now need to do 120 battles, each taking a few minutes. Even worse, all enemies are terribly strong later in the chain because you are damn weak in week 1 or 2. Remember in OG you are only allowed to do 4-chains till postgame, but you are doing 10-chains in week 2! In fact, I had most of my level ups happening in the slam more than anywhere else. You can see that from my stream (sorry for the echo though)

The idea isn't bad, but we just don't need to experience the fatigue that three teams -- Deep Rivers Society, Purehearts, Variebeauties had throughout their loop of being stuck in UG.

Other mumbles

What else? 

Oh the lack of tinpin slammer. We have to admit that children in 2021 don't play that anymore, but it's still nice to have anyhow. At least we found Tinpin Bros walking around as cameo, and Beats talking to Neku about that. It would still be nice to have that in NEO, controlling the pins by joysticks is another challenge though...

And food system which is a complete renovate from OG. Some say the current one is better but I don't fully agree. The stat boost in OG is much more significant so it's necessary to restrict that early in the game. It doesn't matter in postgame with the sticker that keeps your hungry. In NEO the stat boost is just minimal so letting you to eat as long as you do exercises (aka fights) is fine.

Further reading:

Gamerant: 8 biggest fixes the game needs Not like I agree with everything, or let's say the only thing I think was practical is to add co-op mode. Showing the threads in-game is good on paper but hard to execute and...how can I show Rindo wearing a full set of Lolita dress?

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Neo TWEWY review (1): gameplay

Ah...yes the obligatory ending.

*To make it clear, player refers to the player who plays the game, and characters refer to the in-game characters. OG refers to the original TWEWY and also the final remix if necessary, and NEO refers to NEO:TWEWY.

*Spoilers alert! This part of the review contain some spoilers but the later parts are full of spoilers.

Greetings sheeples of Shibuya!

I played the original TWEWY in 2008 and I had so many good memories with the game that I do not have to repeat. And finally I had my hands on NEO and I just finished everything in one go. 

Main story done in 50 hours, and 145 hours postgame content included. It's a bit slow due to the fact that I can't skip the dialogues as I was streaming, and some of them are not properly optimized.

There are too many things that I want to say when I play, but it's just too impossible to do something else when I streamed the game. Streaming is fun but probably does not suit me.

I will probably split my thoughts into four parts: gameplay, system, artwork and story but things may change. Let's start with gameplay mechanics here. 

The focus is to talk about the game from the perspective of an OG TWEWY player. Just as players being unhappy playing the trash game TLOU2 after the success of TLOU1, we the old players have high expectation on NEO to inherit the high quality game made 13 years ago recognized the best DS RPG game.

You can find my streams on my Youtube channel, although there were echo problems for all the earlier streams...

The F-prince returned...how did he change that much in 3 years?

Control & Pins

This is something that lots of TWEWY fans worried about: it was such a success because it made the best use out of the DS dual screen. Dual screen for two characters in separate screen that are controlled separately, and the bottom screen can be controlled by ever-varying stylus motions.

TWEWY was ported into iOS and Android a few years after, by then the two characters were squeezed into the same screen. How do you maintain the battling system without changing the game much? The answer given was to hide Neku's partner who will only be around upon specific motions and the partner is not going to take damage. This is an acceptable answer, because at the end of the day you can't force-split the screen anyhow. It's just that half of the charisma of TWEWY's battling system that was gone.

iPad and good enough Android devices are very good touching device for all kinds of touch based games including TWEWY. Players have no problem playing on those. Back in the days I played the Android version on a very cheap pad (~100usd, but it runs very smoothly and is still my favourite by far) and I could play the game just fine. 

Switch isn't good for intensive stylus control.

That's the biggest problem of playing TWEWY on Switch: it's hard to do all the slashes. At the end of the day I resided to a bunch of patrol rounds and tapped my progress all the way through. That is just not fun.

As for Neo, we know that the game would be on all platforms (Switch + PS4 + Epic=PC) at the same time, meaning that the control is stylus free. The expectation is high: can Square Enix make something that is stylus free, but preserves the essence of multi-tasking fights just as in the original game?

They sure did. I still prefer the original one, but they literally utilized all regular buttons on the Switch controller (except for D pad which is understandable because you don't wield two arrow pads on keyboard)! How much more can you ask for?

In Neo you can equip up to 6 pins (in late game) team corresponding to 6 players in the team. Each character is going to wield one pin only in the battle and you can only control the movement of one character at a time. Each pins is assigned a button (X/Y/L/R/ZL/ZR) and the psych is activated only by pressing that button. Even though all players are on the same field, those inactive ones know to evade and are taking minimal damages, i.e. attacks are only made towards the active character. There is a niche though: if you switch between psychs frequently the active character will switch accordingly, and it is not easy to distinguish the active character. (Another problem is that frequent shifting of active pins and hence characters would cause the camera to shift back and forth and you basically see nothing useful).

Without stylus control the possibility is greatly limited, but all the psychs in OG basically appeared in NEO, just in a slightly altered form.

X: Rapid tap; close range combat (slash/slugger/lunge)
Y: Rapid tap; non-contact psychs (darts/time bomb/mid range combats like storm, circuit break and bullets)
R: Charge; charged attacks (throwing bombs/missiles/tackles...) and some automated X psychs
L: Charge; assist and obstructive attacks (projection/trip wire) and some R-similar psychs
ZR: Hold; continuous attacks (laser/psychokinesis/automated X/long tackles/...)
ZL: Hold; assist and obstructive attacks (healing/storm/whirlwind)

With the type restriction players are directed to use a wide varieties of psyches which makes the battles more interesting. My only complain is that players are not allowed to use a 2211 combination (e.g. 2 X pins and 2 Y pins) instead of 3111. 

It is a natural choice for all four L/R buttons are controlled by holds because it would then be unhuman to tap them quickly. But still controlling R and ZR accurately and simultaneously is very hard on joycon or even pro controllers. 

In OG the attacks are basically either positive (close combat) or negative (distant combat) psychs. In NEO such classification is abandoned. Instead they used an affinity system and introduced weaknesses for the noises. Among psychs of similar nature they are usually differed by their affinity. This is a nice design as players may want to use more different pins rather than a single reliable set.

A side problem without stylus control is that you have to scroll through pins and threads in a painfully slow way.  With up to a thousand of pins and threads in the list, it is unmotivating to browse and pick the one you want.

The hype-chan that we have long waited for.


Another worry without stylus control is to aim the right opponent in the battlefield. It would be insanely absurd if psychs are activated in the directions where character are facing, because there are multiple characters around and you can only control one of them. It would be impossible for the game to determine the "proper" direction for the inactive characters.

The solution in NEO is to introduce an auto-lock system. Instead of aiming by yourself, you select a particular opponent and the characters will know to aim for that opponent (except for a few R pins where you can still control the characters by stick, but I found them impractical). This is quite handy and even allowed some no-brainer/no-watch fights. I can simply smash the buttons blindly while doing other things to get through!

To be fair though, the auto-lock system not only allowed such way of battling, but sometimes it forces you do it in that way. More precisely you are sometimes forced to do that because the battlefield is too chaotic in two ways: too many enemies and weird camera angles.

You can choose the enemies to lock on using the right joystick, but this is painful when there are many enemies. Comparing with OG, it's quite common to face 5-7 enemies in every fights. Choosing the right enemies means that you may need to input right once, check if you locked on the right opponent and repeat (up to 4+ times). This is quite annoying and time consuming when the enemies are trying to attack you! 

The camera angle depend on the enemy locked on and the position of the active character. Inactive characters tend to stay a fixed distance from the main group of enemies, so the camera won't change vastly when you switch characters. However if the characters are all moving in separate directions against the enemy (because they are using different psychs), changing the active characters will give a very chaotic view for sure. The rendering system does not help either: since nothing behind the camera is shown, sometimes the characters are simply stuck but you may not sense that except not being able to run around until you get tossed midair by those rhinos.

These are generally more of a problem for normal battles. It's much more comfortable to do those boss battles in contrasts because you don't have to worry about locking on the wrong opponent and the camera is steadily on the same guy.

Before we carry on to the next section let's not forget about the pin evolving system. The evolve chart in OG is just a complete mess and a pain to follow. In NEO everything is reduced to battle PP and you can select not to evolve which is much better. The only complain is that differentiating evolution and mutation seems to be pointless since they are mutually exclusive anyway and the formula for mutation doesn't seem very secrety after all (unlocked via FP easily).


Noise & difficulty

In OG you dodge by dragging the characters around. And in NEO, you dodge by pressing B. The difference is that by dragging you can go to the other side of the screen pretty fast and you can do it at anytime (when you drag Neku around your stylus is effectively not doing anything with the pins so he won't be attacking). On the other hand in NEO characters takes time to stop attack to dodge, and the invincible timeframe is pretty narrow. 

It is straightforward to feel that NEO is much harder even early in the game. In OG you fight against usually 2~3 noises in a single combat in early days week 1. In NEO you start with 3~5 noises as early as W1D2. It does not help that the weaker noises in the family are as aggressive as those stronger noises: both early ravens and wolves are capable of incapacitating characters in NEO. Players are required to learn to dodge these attacks (even in ordinary battles) consecutively that early in the game. Such difficulty curve is deemed inappropriate and a bit unfriendly I would say.

The difficulty curve plateaued in week 2 as players learned to deal with these noises (and equipped with better pins), but then the curve again rocketed in towards the end. You get bosses with various gimmicks (in particular the few bosses with DPS checks -- Motoi, Ayano and Shiba), then you found out that random noises are also capable of dealing significant damage to you under hard or ultimate. With more and more noises on the field it is very easy to get stuck, and when that happens you are vulnerable of taking enormous damage in a blink of eye. Jellyfish's' spin and puffers' spikes are just like...blender on the characters literally; Rhinos are so huge and most of the time not properly captured by the camera; Rexes can simply deal AOE blows...some may then think they can boost the stats indefinitely just like OG but no. NEO's stat cap is much lower and players must excel in dodging in order to stand a chance against the endgame contents.

Another big factor contributing to the difficulty curve is the use of fusion pin/killer remix. The big difference between OG and NEO is that in OG all 3 levels of fusion attacks would restore a big chunk of health while in NEO that only happens at 300%. While 300% killer remix is only made available in week 3 it poses a much greater challenge in durability. Once the 300% remix is unlocked it kinda forces you to do that every time because the lower level attacks looked like a joke comparing to the 300% one. The only upside of the lower level attacks is that you get to choose the affinity of the attacks according to the affinity of the pin that you triggered the last groove boost.

Taking W2D7 into account, you basically meet 2/3 of the bosses (say, excluding the "boss noise" that behaves just like normal noises like gorilla, emo puffer, plague giant jellyfish etc) in week 3 and they are all uniquely designed. At hard you really need to think about how to defeat these bosses after banging hard into the wall for a few times: a fixed set of pin may not be enough unless you are skillful enough to dodge all those attacks. Credits must to given to those who designed these as the boss fights are much more enjoyable than OG.

Susuki's noise form is actually the most interesting one in my eyes. It's actually similar to OG week 1 GM if not basically the same: static boss with slap, electric and dark hole attacks. His attack of a full field thunder attack is damn unique. Demanding players to hide behind the cars THEN to dodge the to-explode puffers afterwards is such genius design.

To conclude the section I want to mention those pig noises as well. In NEO most pigs can easily be slaught by usual means except for affinity-locked pigs and pig waltz -- pigs that can only be erased by matching all the colours of the pigs. Colours are only changed by dealing enough damage to the pigs, but any wide-ranged attacks could cause chaotic consequences. Even more troublesome there are bomb pigs that blows the pigs around changing colours in the undesirable way! I tried very hard with my X pins trying to lock onto the right pigs and deal damage as fast as possible, just to find out some pigs are bombed and changed colour faster than I can deal the necessary damage. After a while I finally realized that this is more like a puzzle: the pigs will diffuse in a pre-programmed way so that you can clear the stage much much easier if you wait for the bomb to trigger at least once.


So, what's with NEO's gameplay mechanics? 

In short, they tried very hard to bring the battle experience into switch under a 3D and stylus-free setup. It's fun and enjoyable, but at the same time it's also challenging and sometimes weird.

We will see a lot about "xxx becomes a problem because NEO is stylus free" many more times later in the review.