Considering the lack of trials and freebies in this day and age, I didn’t exactly go into the NEO: The World Ends With You demo thinking I’d get much out of it. Hell, I was expecting a half-hour glimpse at the game, with one or two chances to mess around with the mechanics. Instead, I got an uninterrupted look at the first two hours of NEO, with plenty of story, combat, and mechanics to boot.
As a huge fan of anything Nomura has got his fifty-belted hands on, it’s probably no surprise that I loved everything about NEO. What did surprise me is how much more respect I have for how Square Enix has handled this demo, and how it’s proven that you don’t need to be greedy to just let people try your game out.
By far the biggest win here is how accessible the demo is. It’s not platform-exclusive, it’s not a pre-order bonus, and it isn’t time-limited whatsoever. It’s simply available on the store for everyone to download at their own leisure, its store release isn’t date restricted, and you’ll never run out of time with the demo itself. You can play it as many times as you want as well without needing to worry about getting the most out of it as fast as possible.
Instantly, I can’t help but compare this to the time I winced as I watched £50 fly out of my account to have a pop at the Pro Skater warehouse demo. I was similarly disappointed by RE Village’s time-restricted demo, especially considering previous games in the series had no such time limit nonsense. You practically had to have a degree in space-time in order to understand the timetable for that thing. Even better was the lovely Ys 9 demo that gives you maybe one sneeze worth’s of time to play.
Maybe it speaks more to the poor state of demos nowadays, but every time I entered another area of Shibuya or talked to a new character, I expected to see a big countdown clock warning me that I only had a limited amount of fun left. It’s refreshing to have been able to go at my own pace, grab some food in between cutscenes, and Tweet my experiences without wasting some arbitrary demo timer.
The amount of content on offer here is seriously impressive. It’s not a “vertical slice”, it’s two sold hours of the game – enough to get you properly invested. I already care more about Fret and Rindo’s well-being than I do my own, and I can’t wait to dive deeper into the combat systems and pin evolution. What’s more, you’ll be able to carry your save over to the full game, so there’s no need to redo everything you’ve already done in this trial. I’m not saying this is the best demo in the world or anything, but unless you’re simply not interested in NEO, there’s not a crack in the armour here.
Sure, I already thought I’d love NEO, but now I’m even more invested in it. The cynical side of me wants to say that the only reason this was released is because the people who are going to buy it are already going to buy it with or without a demo, but the fact remains that this is a model demo, and the entire industry ought to be taking notes.
All of this isn’t even to mention the quality of NEO: The World Ends With You. I loved what I played, but even if I hadn’t, I’d still be singing Square’s praises for letting everyone have a fair shake. It just goes to show that you really don’t need predatory pre-order schemes or time-specific gimmicks to generate a buzz, you just need to give an honest look at the game.
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