Get ready to hate me, because when I first saw the trailer for NEO: The World Ends With You, I thought “huh, that looks a lot like Persona 5.” Sue me, okay? They’re both set in Shibuya, both have an anime artstyle that leans towards angular edges instead of Genshin Impact’s waifu softness, and both have an incredibly busy, colourful, and chaotic aesthetic. I see a little bit of Jet Set Radio – and to be honest, Crazy Taxi – in there too, but Persona 5 was my first takeaway. Then I found out that some TWEWY fans were annoyed at people making the same connection, and now the release date has been confirmed, the same issue is popping up again. But I’m here to say it’s fine if Persona 5 is the reason you’re excited for The World Ends With You, and I’m not just writing this to convince myself. Promise. Well, maybe a little.
I understand why TWEWY fans are annoyed. It came out in 2007, a decade before Persona 5, and I’m aware of the meme that Persona 5 fans compare every other game in existence to Persona 5. Like all good memes, it’s an exaggeration rooted in fact, but the links to TWEWY are far more substantial than to Paper Mario: The Origami King, which yes, was actually compared to Persona 5. The reason for the Mario one was that both feature battles which take place in a circle – a pretty flimsy link. It’s not just that P5 fans are irritating (although sure, some of us are), it’s that TWEWY fans have been pushing for their hidden gem to get recognition for years now, and to have the parade rained on by comparisons to Persona 5 – especially when it’s accused of ripping off the Phantom Thieves – can’t be pleasant.
I don’t want to talk too much about TWEWY fans here though; they’re getting their new game, so they’re all set. I don’t want to talk about people dumping on TWEWY because of Persona either. If some people are ready to skip it because it’s ‘a Persona 5 rip-off’, it’ll be their loss. Fandom culture can suck, when the game you love is perfect and every other game is therefore garbage. But people who think like that are boring, and no one really cares what they say. They’re not worth the energy. I’d rather talk about Persona 5 fans like me, who are looking to embrace TWEWY with open arms.
Game recommendations are one of the most enjoyable things about being in a fandom. The whole reason I got into Dragon Age, now one of my all-time favourite franchises, is because I played BioWare’s other behemoth, Mass Effect. The first Life is Strange is a contender for my favourite game ever, and it was sold to me off the back of ‘imagine Telltale’s The Walking Dead but gayer and with no zombies’. This pattern is everywhere in gaming. Like Halo? Try Destiny. Tomb Raider? Uncharted. Only play Mario? Try Sonic, Crash, or Spyro. Hell, Persona 5 has already introduced me to Fire Emblem: Three Houses because I’d heard they were similar, and now I much prefer FE3H over P5.
In fact, I’ve been using ‘us’ to describe Persona 5 fans, but I’m not even sure how much I like it. I found it overlong, and its worldview was weighed down by problematic tropes – I skipped Royal and it took Strikers for me to finally decide that I like its characters enough to feel like a Persona 5 fan. Still, when I think about TWEWY, the reason I want to play it so much is because it looks like it hits on all of Persona 5’s good notes while avoiding the botched ones.
The action is a faster hack-and-slash affair, the first game has a more sensible runtime, and it doesn’t appear to be overreaching with its themes in the way Persona 5 did – but it still has fantastically vibrant animation, a huge cast of instantly interesting and fiercely fashionable characters, and is built off tightly knit dynamics in a grounded yet supernatural world. It’s like someone has taken all the best things from Persona 5, put them in a blender with mid ‘00s angst, and poured it out over crushed ice.
And yes, I know it didn’t actually take anything from Persona 5, since TWEWY existed first and if anything, it was the other way around. But I know I’m not the only one who made the link instantly upon seeing the trailer, and I’m not the only one who has no real knowledge of TWEWY, but feels pulled into it because of the Persona 5 comparisons.
And look, at the end of the day, TWEWY went away for a reason. If fans want this new sequel to be successful and spawn a long term revival, then new players need to be able to join the party. Persona fans could be just what TWEWY needs, and they’ll never see us coming. Except they will, because we’re very loud and annoying. Sorry about that.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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