Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $99.95 AUD – Available Here
There was a time that many risky games were made for a certain platform that, with a fairly die-hard fanbase, kept the little handheld going long beyond it was officially supported by its own developer. This led to many unique titles being developed that really weren’t found elsewhere and Scarlet Nexus not only looks but even at times feels just like one of those games that would have been right at home on the Vita. Bandai Namco has experimented in the past with some interesting anime-styled takes on genre in the past, especially with Code Vein in 2019, and their latest take on an action-RPG is one that stands out in more ways than one.
Set in the near future in an alternate reality humanity has managed to develop psionic super abilities that vary from person to person as well as create a technological world capable of linking everyone to the net at all times. The problem is that despite their advancements humanity is forced to live within large areas defended by the Other Supression Force, the OSF, who battle against mysterious creatures known as the Others who appear from an “Extinction Belt” that circles the globe. Little is known about what the Others are besides the fact that they kill indiscriminately, can appear from thin-air or drop out of the sky, and want to eat the brains of anyone they come across.
In Scarlet Nexus players will immediately be presented with a fairly significant choice as they will choose between playing as either Yuito Sumeragi, a more mainstream style protagonist by all appearances, or the cold and blunt Kasane Randall who lives for her adopted sister Naomi. Both happen to share the same psionic ability of psychokinesis that allows them to throw objects and control them to some extent. The reason this is a significant choice is because, while Kasane and Yuito’s storylines do intertwine, there are nearly two games in one package here as these storylines are lengthy in nature. Both character’s see new elements of the story and explore different aspects of the world with more than enough variation to keep players on their toes even after finishing one character’s story and moving onto the next.
Another aspect that keeps things fresh is that, outside of a fairly slow start, the game quickly begins to evolve beyond its generic anime styling and go in new unexpected directions that we won’t go into here as things quickly spiral out of left field. Mysteries abound and the characters players thought may have been their friends might quickly become enemies and vice versa, it is truly difficult to guess just what can happen next and being able to tie that together across two separate storylines that still intertwine with one another makes for some great storytelling that will keep players hooked.
It is also worth noting that the core storyline is separated into “Phases” with intermissions in-between. These intermissions allow players to freely explore areas they have traveled to before in an effort to level up, retrieve items from enemies or various locations, and of course interact with the large cast of characters that eventually join them in their Hideout. Any character that can join the player’s party can be given gifts in the Hideout and unlock bond episodes that not only reveal new aspects of the character, another aspect that can differ between Kasane and Yuito, but also serves as a way to increase their combat ability as well.
Things can be a bit funky at times as characters that just tried to kill the player may be openly having a nice chat around tea immediately afterwards in a bond episode but this tonal shift isn’t too much of an issue as they remain mostly isolated from the core plot.
Being an action RPG, especially one that has multiple characters with special psionic powers, it only makes sense that Scarlet Nexus tries to be as flashy as possible with its combat system and it manages to pull that off almost flawlessly. While Kasane and Yuito may have the same type of psionic power the two play very differently from one another as Kasane fights at a bit of a distance using floating knives whereas Yuito battles up close and personal using a sword. Initially combat is a bit finicky but, as players level up and unlock various perks on their Brain Map, combo attacks flow far better with more movement abilities keeping players on their toes and off the ground.
Both fighters can chain together normal attacks, use a parting blow to gain some distance and, whenever they wish to as long as they have energy, pick up a piece of rubble, car, garbage can, etc. and throw it at the foe dealing extra damage. There are even special items that, with extra inputs, can deal extra elemental damage or strike multiple foes such as driving a bus, swinging a telephone pole, or blowing a tanker truck. Any psychokinetic attack can then be followed up with a chain attack that will have the player dash in to deal extra damage, with these chains being able to be repeated multiple times. In fact there are even special break gauges that, when hit with either a weakness or chained attack, allows for a stylish “Brain Crush” finisher. Combine this with an eventual temporary super state that triggers automatically and a risky but even stronger form that goes beyond that level and players will find that they have quite a lot of power at their fingertips, and that doesn’t even touch upon the assistance that your party members provide.
For almost every mission players will find themselves accompanied by either a party of their choosing or one forced onto them and each of these characters has special abilities. These range from applying elemental bonuses to attacks and potentially changing up the user’s combo strings, duplicating thrown items, speeding up time, and even becoming temporarily immune to damage. Initially these powers can only be used one at a time but as mentioned before it is possible to eventually unlock the ability to use all four at once using the Brain Map.
It is worth noting that outside of the core storyline and unlocking various bond scenes with characters during intermissions, that there really isn’t much in the way of side content to be found in Scarlet Nexus. While there are side-missions that can be acquired from random NPCs they all boil down to either finding enough of a random item or killing enemies in a certain way and even then the rewards for completing them are almost never worthwhile. In fact none of these side-missions even serve to expand the world as a whole which is rather disappointing.
Visuals & Audio
Bandai Namco has really outdone themselves when it comes to stylizing Scarlet Nexus as the Others players fight against make for some of the most memorable enemies in recent years as their twisted forms are amalgamations of animals, humanoids, plants, and more all set against a dystopian futuristic city with an anime twist to everything. The character models themselves are nicely handled but it is worth noting that while the Others are gorgeously designed, there is an unfortunate lack of variety to the point that players will quickly find themselves battling old foes just at a higher level. The same thing can be said regarding the various environments that the game takes players to since, as detailed as they are, are rather limited and often players will be investigating the same areas multiple times.
The title readily offers both an English and Japanese voice track that players can choose to swap between as they wish with the English voice actors really putting their all into making sure this world, filled with its unique technobabble, feels as fitting as possible. The soundtrack features some great catchy music as well as some noteworthy pieces of background music that make some of the more frequent dungeon visits a bit more tolerable.
Taking a risk is never easy, especially when it happens to be a stylized one but Bandai Namco has pulled it off here. Scarlet Nexus is an action packed game with a unique combat style and storyline that constantly keeps players on their toes but it does feel like it is held back a bit by the lack of any notable side content and expanded world. Even then, those looking for something new with plenty of flair and great in-depth combat look no further than Scarlet Nexus.
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