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.

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