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Scarlet Nexus

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: June 25, 2021

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PC Review - 'Scarlet Nexus'

by Cody Medellin on July 23, 2021 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

In Scarlet Nexus you take on the role of Yuito Sumeragi, a new recruit to the OSF aiming to become an elite psionic like the one who saved him as a child.

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Scarlet Nexus was announced during a press event that touted some of the early titles that were coming to the Xbox Series X shortly after the console's launch. The initial trailer sold people on the idea of what looked like a high-action, Devil May Cry-style title with the usual anime trappings. Since then, we learned that this was going to be a multiplatform title, and with some of the people behind the Tales of series involved, it would lean toward an action-RPG rather than a straightforward action title. Regardless of the genre, the result is a game that will not only please anime fans but also hold the interest of those who would normally be turned off by the aesthetic.

Scarlet Nexus is set in a future that's advanced yet apocalyptic. New Himuka looks suspiciously like any Japanese city but with loads of augmented reality elements, like animated billboards and holographic signs. It also suffers from a phenomenon that has become increasingly common over time: invasion. Hailing from an area above the Earth known as the Extinction Ring, beings known as Others frequently come down from orbit and feast on human brains. Some humans have developed psionic powers that help in the fight against the Others. You play as Yuito or Kasane, two recruits on the Other Suppression Force, as they fight the good fight while handling issues in their own lives.


If you enjoy anime because of their stories, then you'll certainly like what you find in Scarlet Nexus. The setting is fascinating thanks to a mix of modern aesthetics and technological advancements that don't seem too far-fetched. There are tidbits that are both interesting and disturbing, such as the celebrity given to the OSF members despite their young age and the forced censorship of the dead. Little by little, the tale starts to reveal several surprises to keep you guessing. It remains engaging even if some of the story threads can feel like absolute nonsense.

Of course, having an ensemble cast like this demands that the characters are at least intriguing, and the game succeeds in that regard. Initially, both playable protagonists fall into the typical archetypes, with Yuito being the good-natured, down-to-earth type despite his upbringing and Kasane being cold and no nonsense to those she isn't already close to. Squad members occupy their expected roles well enough, including the brash, insecure guy; the dependable guy; the trustworthy childhood friend; and the lazy starlet. As the game progresses, everyone gets more than a few chances to gain some depth, and by the end, you care about their well-being.

It also helps that character choice impacts the plot. Although both protagonists go through the same major events throughout the campaign, they do so with different squads, so the dialogue is always different. Some events are exclusive to each character, so you need to play through both campaigns to get a more complete picture. That also translates to gameplay, where some bosses are only encountered when playing as one character. The actual play styles also differ, with Yuito being more of a close-quarters fighter with his sword and Kasane going for a more distance-based attack with her daggers.

Some players may be disappointed in the format of the cut scenes. Instead of fully animated cut scenes, the game transitions into a manga/visual novel combination. There's a still of the scene done with the in-game engine, and character portraits appear above it, with only the character mouths moving. The scenes don't take up the whole screen, and you can even shift it to see more of the background while temporarily tilting the image perspectives. The transitions between the cut scenes and back to gameplay are done smoothly, but since the engine can produce some nice visuals on, the lack of full animation is a letdown.


At first glance, the combat system is familiar enough. You rarely go on a solo mission, as you go into battle with at least one or two people by your side. The companions can attack and heal, and you can give them basic directions on how to behave, but you're mostly taking care of threats on your own in real time. You can dish out quick and heavy attacks and well as a few combos; your defensive measures include a dash, healing potions and other items without jumping into a menu.

It doesn't take long before you use psychokinesis, a power shared by both protagonists. Provided you have enough of a meter to pull it off, you can hold down a button to have your character automatically target a nearby object and throw it at the enemy you're locked on to. The move will be familiar if you've played the likes of Control or Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, but the execution is much easier since you don't need to actively aim at an object to throw it. It is seamless enough that it's easy to incorporate it into combos, and since using it means that you'll dash to execute the throw, it doubles as a stylish defensive maneuver. In a few cases, you'll hold down another button to use your powers on heavier objects that lets you execute more hits on multiple enemies at the expense of completing a Quick Time Event (QTE). The abundance of throwable items in an area means that there's plenty of opportunity to use this power in combat, but the meter means that you can't go around a level just throwing objects at everyone.

Employing psychokinesis alone would've made the combat enjoyable, but Scarlet Nexus adds in a few more things to keep it fresh. Aside from chipping away at an enemy's health meter, you can also eat away at their defensive meter. Doing so gives you the chance to execute a flashy one-hit kill cut scene that looks cool no matter how many times you've seen it. Constant fighting builds up a different meter that increases overall speed and strength and allows for faster item pickup for psychokinesis, but I wish you could trigger when to use the power instead of it activating automatically. You'll often borrow the powers of your teammates for a limited amount of time, giving you a much bigger arsenal of powers, such as initiating fire or electric attacks or sneaking around enemies for an ambush. Due to the nature of each mission, you won't always have the preferred team, so you need to change tactics depending on who you have. It also ensures that you won't fall into a rut and use the same combo for every situation.


All of this comes in at a quick pace due to the game's generous leveling system. Whether it's because of the high amount of XP or the level thresholds being low, you're almost guaranteed to level up at least once during a mission. There are no stats to keep track of while leveling, but you have a large skill tree that doles out percentage boosts for attacks, health regeneration, etc. Thanks to the leveling system, gathering enough points to unlock a node in the skill tree is relatively painless, and you have a good chance of unlocking almost everything before the end of the campaign.

The game takes a page from titles like Persona, so it isn't just about monster fighting and uncovering conspiracies. You have time between missions to hang out with members of your squad. Some of them laze about, offering up a few lines of dialogue for that session or giving you an opportunity to give them gifts, but others ask you to go on bonding episodes with them. Some of these are cut scenes where you'll engage in some dialogue as you get to know the characters and/or their intentions. Other episodes are simplified missions that perform the same function of getting to know people better. Taking on these episodes gives you a chance to strengthen the bonds between people, which results in more moves becoming available, so it's worthwhile to play even if you prefer to skip the side content in favor of the mainline stuff.

There are only a few gameplay elements that put a damper on the sizable multi-hour campaign. Plenty of the dungeons are reused for main quests and side-quests. The creatures you encounter may be different, and your party may be different, but seeing the same layout multiple times can give you a sense of déjà vu. The side-quests also lack imagination, as almost all of them are fetch quests or require you to kill Others in a certain way, and the rewards are on the paltry side. The main hub seems busy but is rather sparse upon closer examination. There's only one shop, and it is also the same guy who follows you around to every dungeon with the same goods. There are plenty of people in the city, but except for the few with side-quests, every NPC you meet gives you the same line of dialogue. Compared to the overall experience, this is minor stuff, but it's still noticeable.


Graphically, Scarlet Nexus falls in line with many of Bandai Namco's other anime-related titles, but with much more detail than before. The characters are well detailed and animate nicely, while the environments are done with a mixture of clean textures and diffused lighting. While some features, like a solid frame rate and loads of particle effects, make the scenery look even better in motion, the highlight is in the monster designs, which are a fusion of biological and mechanical parts. There are some truly disturbing creations here, such as metallic alligators with light bulbs in their mouths and large rams with pointed helmets. The designs are creepy yet cool, and we wish that the bestiary were larger so we could see more of these designs throughout the journey.

The audio, on the other hand, breaks with tradition. The soundtrack is a medley of different genres, from hip-hop to acid jazz. Except for what's played during the anime intro, it isn't what you'd expect, but the tunes are all infectious enough that it works well in every situation. The voice acting for both the Japanese and English languages is quite good, and while purists would suggest using the Japanese voice track, there's a case to be made for going with English because of how frequently allies speak to you in battle. That wouldn't normally make much of a difference, but the HUD places the dialogue to the side rather than at the bottom center, where subtitles are traditionally located. Changing languages frees you up from darting your eyes away from the action.

Scarlet Nexus is an absolutely solid action-RPG title. The story might get too complicated for its own good, but the characters keep things interesting. Having to revisit the same environments multiple times can get tedious, but the combat is enjoyable throughout due to the new abilities afforded to you by the constant leveling and party member changes. It is a fun romp overall, with enough of a reason to revisit it after completion. Scarlet Nexus is a game that anime fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Score: 8.0/10



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