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NTWEWY staff discuss game's reception, design concepts, and more in new interview with Famitsu



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Famitsu has released a new interview with the NEO The World Ends With You development team! In it, they discuss the reception to the game, concepts behind character designs, favorite pins, and the mystery behind Coco.

Participants: 

Tetsuya Nomura: Creative Producer & Character Designer
Tatsuya Kando: TWEWY Series Director
Hiroyuki Ito: Director
Tomohiko Hirano: Producer
Gen Kobayashi: Character Designer
Miki Yamashita: Character Designer

14 years of love for The World Ends With You.

―It's been about half a year since NEO: The World Ends With You released. Can you tell us about the fans' reaction to the game and how you feel when you look back on it?

Nomura: Let me preface this by saying that I always take a look at feedback and reactions, not just for this game. That being said, the response has been unbelievably positive. People were much happier than they have been with my other games, so I'm glad that I was able to make this title.

Kando: This game is filled with 14 years of love for The World Ends With You. I pulled out all the stops and gave it my all.

Hirano: It's been six months since the game was released so I'd like to lift the spoiler ban. I was happy to see that players were receptive to the unique experience of being able to control up to six characters simultaneously in real time.

Ito: After 14 years of waiting, I was worried about whether or not the new characters and [battle] system would be accepted by dedicated fans of the original game. I'm relieved that so many people welcomed it with open arms.

Kobayashi: I've been actively following fan reactions on social media, and as far as I could tell, most of them were very positive, which made me relieved and happy at the same time. Personally, I found the battles and scenarios to be really interesting when I playtested the game during development, so I was confident that fans of the original would enjoy it. But even though I was sure that NEO would be well received by said fans, I was still nervous to see how people would react to it.

Yamashita: I was a newcomer to the project, so I wasn't sure if my designs would be accepted, but I was relieved to receive such an unexpectedly positive response...!

―Looking back on development―

―Before NEO: The World Ends With You was released, the anime adaptation of The World Ends With You was aired. Were there any aspects of NEO that were influenced by the anime, or any elements from the anime that are reflected in the game?

Kando: The anime progressed almost in parallel with that of NTWEWY, so conditions were shared between the two. There were many scenes that reminded us just how unique the interpretations and expressions of the anime are. The direction of the last scene with the [new] graffiti [on the wall at the Udagawa Backstreets] was so good that we decided to use it in the game.

―Takeharu Ishimoto's music is a big drawing point of TWEWY. I'm told there were some requests from the development team and suggestions from Ishimoto about NEO's music. How did you go about creating it? Also, please tell us if there are any songs that left a strong impression on you.

Hirano: We asked Ishimoto to write songs that would surpass the original's. Ishimoto suggested that we develop each genre of music in a more pointed direction, so we decided to include more rock and metal songs.

Among them, the most impressive song is the opening theme "NEW GAME". We wanted to update TWEWY's image and made the song more powerful and slow, as well as incorporated some elements of "Twister", which was the trademark of the original game. To be honest, I think this song was the most difficult for Ishimoto to write.

―h.a.n.d. was in charge of development for TWEWY -Final Remix-, and before that, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Did you have any memorable episodes during the development of this title?

Hirano: There are very enthusiastic fans of TWEWY within h.a.n.d.. When we on the Square Enix side only had rough ideas of what we wanted to do for this project, we would receive suggestions such as "If you do that, then it won't be very TWEWY-like. Why don't we try something like this?" and so on. It was relatively common for us to receive suggestions like that, so we built upon them on our way to completion.

Ito: Personally speaking, I've worked with h.a.n.d. since Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. They've been a very supportive partner, especially on a project like this that requires a lot of innovation.

When it came to developing the battle system, we began by asking a zen-like question: "What is TWEWY-like?" We tried implementing all sorts of different ideas. I think it's because we had h.a.n.d. as a partner that we were able to arrive at a system that is quintessentially TWEWY-like: interesting, and very engrossing.

―About the rules and designs of character names―

―In a previous interview, you mentioned that the new characters are named according to a common rule. Given that Susukichi ⇒ deer, Shiba ⇒ butterfly (based on his pendant), Tsugumi ⇒ crane motif (from the official guidebook), and Mikagi is associated with the image of a phoenix, is hanafuda one of the motifs? Also, if you have any other rules or motifs, please let us know.

Nomura: The motifs of the main characters in this work correspond to plants and sounds, and the motif of the Shinjuku Reapers is indeed hanafuda. The Reapers are as you said. There are many new characters to write out, so I'll share the main four:

Rindo ⇒ 奏 (pronounced "kanade", from the verb "kanaderu" meaning "to play an instrument") 竜胆 (pronounced "rindou", refers to Gentiana Scabra or autumn bellflower)
Shoka ⇒ 桜音 (pronounced "sakurane", 音 meaning "sound") 紫陽花 (pronounced "shouka", refers to the hydrangea)
Fret ⇒ 觸澤 (pronounced "furesawa", "fret" refers to the metal strips embedded along a guitar's neck) 桃斎 ("tosai", refers the Tosai variety of Geum Coccinneum?)
Nagi ⇒ 笛吹 (pronounced "usui", 笛 refers to the flute) 椥 (refers to the Pinus Densiflora or Japanese red pine)

―Please tell us about the design concept of Mikagi, who appeared in the final trailer and was a mysterious character with an outstanding presence, and why you cast Seiya Konishi.

Nomura: Mikagi was initially meant to be the last boss, but as a result of adding Kubo, who was not in the original scenario, he no longer held that position. However, in the end, I think this was a better way for him to appear. The atmosphere of such an unworldly person is well expressed, due in large part to Konishi's voice.

In regards to his casting, a few of my acquaintances did some research and recommended him to me. After listening to his voice, it felt as it I had put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

―A question for Kobayashi. In NTWEWY, Beat was mistaken for Neku. Could you please tell us about the concepts for his design, as well as that of the Game Master, Shiba?

Kobayashi: In the original scenario, Beat was set up to be "disguising himself as Neku," so the concept was to create a "fake Neku." Over the course of development, the setting was changed to "he hides his true identity and is often mistaken for Neku," so I added colors that reminded me of Beat and settled on the current design.

As for Shiba, since he's the leader of the Shinjuku Reapers, we wanted to make a clear distinction between himself and the Shibuya gang, so we decided to proceed with a design based on the concept of "Shinjuku = night city".

―Next, I'd like to ask Yamashita. In the original game, Shiki's true appearance was not shown, and all we could catch was a glimpse of her mouth. Now, in this game, her face is depicted in full for the first time, and her costume is also brand new.

Yamashita: I was asked to make Shiki look fashionable in her own right, though not yet sophisticated. I retained elements of her original design such as her glasses, cardigan, dress and leggings, but arranged them in a modern way. Her hairstyle is also a little more modern, with a short bob.

―Among the characters you designed, which one is particular memorable?

Kobayashi: Fret was the first character I designed, so I'm very attached to him. I also have fond memories of Beat. His design has changed quite a bit since the previous game. Since we weren't allowed to introduce him before and after the game's release due to spoilers, I was really curious about how the audience would react to him.

Yamashita: I have a lot of feelings for Nagi as she was the first main character I got to create myself. Being an otaku, I can relate to her in many ways, so I had a lot of fun designing her. "My fave is precious" (the message on her shirt) is of particular note.

―Please tell us about the design concepts for Lord Tomonami, who is Nagi's favorite character.

Yamashita: He is a character from a game that Nagi likes, so the concept was to draw him in an otome-style, with a different touch than those from the main story. My designs tend to skew in this direction, so he was easier to draw than the other characters.

―Rindo wears a Jupiter of the Monkey hoodie and Neku and Shoka wear Gatto Nero branded clothes. Please tell us if any of the other characters wear established brands, or which one you personally imagine them to be associated with, if any.

Nomura: Characters who have the brand logo on their outfits or accessories are set up that way, while those who don't are assumed to be wearing brands that aren't featured in the game.

Kobayashi: I don't think the brands had been decided yet when I was designing the characters. That being said, while I hadn't settled on a specific brand to be associated with this character, I later realized that Susukichi must be a fan of Monocrow since he likes black and white.

Yamashita: I hadn't decided on the brand at the time, but I designed Nagi after we discussed that her clothes would probably be sold at variety stores like those found in the previous game.

―Who was responsible for the chapter titles, Fret's Remind images, and Motoi's poems?

Kando: The chapter titles and Fret's Remind images were created by the team staff in a competition. We wanted the titles to have a variety of touches, so we decided to recruit a number of staff to lend a hand. For the Remind images, since they are meant to serve as a reproduction of Fret's brain, we left it to the staff, who drew the perfect line that is neither too good nor too bad. Lastly, Motoi's poems were written by Ishibashi, the scenario writer. I think Motoi's shallow nature is ironically well conveyed.

―Kobayashi, you drew the key visual of the Twisters, as well as the cover art for the August 12, 2021 issue of Weekly Famitsu. What were the important points you took into consideration when illustrating for NTWEWY?

Kobayashi: It's been a long time since the previous game, so I've made a few changes to my illustrations compared to how I drew them back then. I wanted to create a self-homage or a "new" TWEWY feeling, so I tried to create a similar composition even though the characters are different. I also tried to draw them with a sense of movement and momentum. In the game, Rindo and the others are running around Shibuya, risking life and death, so I drew them in a way that conveyed that sense of desperation.

―Director Ito's favorite pins & additional battle info―

―I'd like to ask the director, Ito. What are the top 5 pins you recommend (or personally like) and why?

Ito: Below is a list of my Top 5:

#5: Black Cat Blades

I like all of Gatto Nero's Mr. Mew-themed pins because of their elaborate effects. I enjoy the Spectral Sword-type because it's easy to just press and hold a button.

#4: Thanks Very Mochi!

I'm fond of the cute pin design and the strange name (which I gave myself...)

(T/N: The Japanese name is "ここはどこ? わたしはモチ。" which translates to "Where is this? I'm Mochi.")

#3: Flyin' High

I love all of the pin designs for croaky panic. This one in particular is a great way to make money in the early stages of the game.

#2: Azamaru

I chose this pin because, in TWEWY, the slice-and-dice shockwave is indispensable. I also like the straightforward pin designs of Jupiter of the Monkey.

#1 Angelic Kick

I like the pin design, and the Massive Hit psych is memorable because it provided a sense of direction for battle speed and the like during the early stages of development.

―There are 47 types of psychs, but how did you assign them to each pin? Also, please let us know if there were any ideas that weren't implemented, but that you would like to share.

Ito: The pins were intricately designed by different illustrators for each brand. It wouldn't be very interesting if the images and psychs matched too closely, so for about half of the pins, I withheld the details of their corresponding psychs save for the attributes, and asked the illustrators to design freely. In the end, I think this was the right decision because it allowed their personalities to come through loud and clear.

As for rejected ideas for psychs, one example was regarding psychokinesis. Initially we had planned on being able to grab poles, cars, etc. right off of the field, but we decided to nix it because its performance would vary too much depending on your location. We also thought about implementing something meta, such as attacking with the on-screen pin UI itself. We had something like that in the previous game, but gave up on the idea here as it was not feasible in 3D.

―Is the reason why the party reaches a maximum of six people due to narrative influences, such as from the characters [Rindo] befriends? Or was it a request from the battle team?

Ito: This was what the battle team hoped for. Since the previous game had 6 [pin] slots, we estimated that 6 would also be appropriate here after taking challenges and side content into consideration.

The timing of increasing the number of slots was also decided by the battle team to some extent. Since the number of pin slots match the party members in this game, it required the scenario team to put together a very technical narrative. As a result, I think the escalation of the story combined with the joy of opening up new functions made for very intriguing level design.

―Please give a message to those who have already played the game and those who will play it in the future.

Yamashita: Thank you to everyone who played it! And if you haven't done so yet, if you're even a little curious about the world, I hope you'll give it a try. It's a game filled with personality that only TWEWY can offer!

Kobayashi: Thank you so much for playing the game. I hope you enjoyed the new TWEWY. Even if you're curious but haven't played it yet, or if you're unfamiliar with the previous game, I'm sure you'll enjoy the TWEWY world filled with all sorts of interesting things. I hope you'll give it a try.

Ito: First of all, for those of you who have played the game, I'm very grateful and honored to have received such a high level of enthusiasm and positive response, which, to be honest, I've never experienced before. And to those who have yet to play, I hope you'll see that it's a very enjoyable title that can be picked up easily even if you're just starting out here.

Hirano: Those who have already played the game will know what I'm talking about, but it depicts the real Shibuya of 2021, as well as with human relationships that are very close to reality. I asked my nephew what he thought of it, and he said, "Oh, I get it. It's just like in real life." so I believe the content is something that students can relate to. I hope you'll give it a try.

Kando: We've created something that we enjoy playing. If we didn't, then we wouldn't be able to enjoy making games. I believe that this enjoyment is created by intertwining various elements into an experience that can only be found in NEO: The World Ends With You, and I'd like to share it with as many people as possible.

Nomura: I'm sure that many people who have strong feelings for this series have already played this game, but there are also many people who have never touched TWEWY before. As I mentioned before, the feedback from people after playing the game has been so good that it's almost scary, so I would like to encourage everyone to feel free to play it even now.

The original game exists and can even be enjoyed through the anime adaptation, but this one is made to be enjoyable even if it's your introduction to the series.

―BONUS - A mystery from the previous game: Who on earth is Coco?―

―The reason for Coco's actions in the new scenario "A NEW DAY", as shown in The World Ends With You -Final Remix-, was revealed in this game. To revive Minamimoto, it felt as though she had a great deal of power for a Reaper. Just who on earth is she?

As a result, Neku was forced to investigate Shinjuku's inversion. Since it seems to be line with Joshua's intentions, is Coco connected to him?

Kando: It's true that there are parts of the story that don't add up unless Coco is connected to Joshua in some way. However, it would be boring to reveal everything, so I hope that everyone will have fun leaving it up to their imaginations.

―Is the Mr. Mew plush that Tsugumi carries around the same one that Shiki had? Also, I know that Tsugumi has Mr. Mew because she got it from her friend Coco, but how did Coco get Shiki's Mr. Mew? What sort of connection is there between Coco and Shiki?

Kando: The Mr. Mew that Tsugumi has is indeed the original belonging to Shiki. Also, there is a story behind why Mr. Mew was given to Tsugumi through Coco, but unfortunately, due to the sheer length of the scenario, we made the decision to omit it. It'd be nice if we were able to deliver this scenario in a way that complements each character.

―The battle with Coco in "A NEW DAY" of Final Remix pitted players against an elephant-type Noise, and the Noise that held Tsugumi captive was also an elephant.

Ito: Just between you and me, but the last Noise (Dissonance Tapir) is not an elephant, but a tapir. It's an animal that eats dreams (laughs). The reason why the Noise that held Tsugumi captive is an elephant is mainly for other reasons such as battle balance.

―We learn from Coco's dialogue that Tsugumi used to be a Reaper, but she returned to being a Player three years ago, in Shinjuku. Are there any plans to depict the reason behind this change, or anything along those lines?

Kando: I'd personally love to delve more into Tsugumi's time as a Reaper and what was going on in Shinjuku during that period! If enough fans have a desire to know more, perhaps the day will come where I can talk about it in some way.

 
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LightUpTheSky452

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Very interesting stuff here! Thank you so much for the translation, guys!

I'm surprised that Nomura said his other games aren't usually as received as well. LOL

And I didn't know that about the characters' names having to do with sounds and plants. Dang.

And, yes! Please give us what happened in Shinjuku, Square Enix.

I wasn't expecting to hear that Coco might be connected to Josh, though. Dang.
 

Sakuraba Neku

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My 2021 GOTY. I'm glad they acknowledged how positive the reception was from people that know this game exists.
If there's a next time, just make sure to advertise the game properly by not skipping all the big events.

A shame they weren't asked if we can expect any kind of DLC
 
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AdrianXXII

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This interview was really good. And I was wondering about Mr. Mew, hopefully we'll get the interquel that'll tell us Tsugumi's story someday.
 
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