Scarlet Nexus is an excellent new IP that lays a strong foundation for future entries, while self-containing its well-developed narrative.
I really appreciate some of the new IP Bandai Namco has put out in recent years. Code Vein, Captain Tsubasa, and even Little Nightmares have all been relatively new ideas. Now that Scarlet Nexus has been released – a game I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced – I can officially add it to the list of unique releases from Bandai Namco.
A lot of it falls in line with the publisher’s other offerings. It’s an anime title with a lot of the typical anime tropes, but a strong narrative with an excellent supporting cast bolsters it throughout.
A dual-sided story
Scarlet Nexus is through and through an action RPG. Players take control of either a young man named Yuito or a young woman named Kasane. What makes Scarlet Nexus really unique is that it’s ultimately two games in one. Each character has their own stories that converge at various points during the narrative. I’m only about halfway through Kasane’s story, but I’ve finished Yuito’s. Both protagonists have full story arcs too, with each one lasting about 20-30 hours with all of the cutscenes and story beats, depending on how much time you sink into the side quests.
You’ll spend a lot of time in cutscenes though, and Scarlet Nexus is better for it. The care that has gone into making each supporting member of the team relevant is astounding. Instead of making Yuito or Kasane feel like the driving force of either story, each character’s role on the team is filled well, and all members play a crucial role in keeping the narrative’s momentum. There is a lot of world building, of course. How else would we come to understand why these young members of the combat group OSF battle these “Others?”
Scarlet Nexus does have some pacing issues outside of missions though. After each chapter (of which there are 12 for each character), players are taken back to the hideout, a place where you can deepen your bond with the other team members. Some of these bond events are quick and easy, while others may take you to an already visited location to take down some enemies.
Outside of these events, players can redeem materials found during chapters for gifts that can be given to team members to raise their bond. In addition to just raising the bond meter, these gifts are also specific to characters that have an interest in whatever item you’re giving them. Because of this, they become cosmetic items that team members decorate the hideout with. It’s a smart way to show your bond with each teammate and shows how far you’ve gone since the start of the game with an empty hideout.
My biggest complaint is that very few of the cutscenes are actually animated. Instead, they’re presented in comic book-style panels that give a glimpse of the scene. It’s overall effective, but some of the scenes would have been really cool to see animated as opposed to the comic style.
Over the 12 missions, players will battle through a handful of different locations: an old hospital building, a snowy pass, a dilapidated city, or even a seemingly abandoned construction site. The locations are pretty varied, but the locations themselves seem very lifeless. This might be because the Others have taken over a good amount of the world. Outside of the city and the snowy pass, most of the environments just aren’t all that fun to explore, especially the old hospital. Each hallway of the hospital looks the same, and the environment itself requires a lot of back and forth just to make progress.
Use your teammate’s abilities wisely
Luckily the enemies in Scarlet Nexus over the first half of the game are doled out in a pretty wide variety. The same can’t be said about the back half, where outside of boss battles, a lot of the enemies start getting recycled.
Scarlet Nexus‘s combat is where things are the most dynamic. Controlling the protagonist, it’s a pretty basic hack and slash. Things become more interesting when using his normal attacks in conjunction with his psychokinesis. As you land attacks on enemies, your psychokinesis gauge fills. Each psychokinesis ability (basically a throw attack where you pick up a big object and hurl it at an enemy) uses up a portion of this gauge. Scarlet Nexus keeps players engaged, allowing Yuito or Kasane to chain attacks with psychokinesis in order to quickly fill the gauge and keep combos going.
In addition to this, as you progress through the game and unlock new party members, the SAS menu starts to open up. This lets players use team member’s abilities to take down enemies. Hanabi imbues your weapon with flames, while others let you see invisible enemies or teleport through objects or to enemies for quick attacks. Each enemy has different abilities that they’ll succumb to a little quicker, so utilizing the right teammate for different enemies is key. It’s really nice how well these abilities flow together during a fight.
Dancing around through SAS abilities can create some really flashy fights, particularly when dancing around enemy attacks or hurling the environment around at enemies. One minor gripe I had was that Yuito would sometimes just swing his sword in different directions, even when locked onto an enemy. It was an issue I had throughout, so I eventually had to adjust how I behaved in combat, but it was a little off-putting when in frenetic battles.
The new generation of consoles elevate combat
Visually, Scarlet Nexus‘ environments can go from bright and colorful to boring and dull, even if they are a little uninteresting. Character models and enemies look really great, and enemies in particular often have a nice contrast on different parts of their bodies.
I played through the story on PlayStation 5, and things ran really smooth at 60 frames per second. Combat-heavy games like Scarlet Nexus really benefit from the increased frame rate, so if you have a new generation console or good PC, those would be the places to play it. The game also has a really cool EDM-ish soundtrack that suits the “brainpunk” style of gameplay. If I ever had a headache while playing, I’d have to turn the volume down outside of combat, but the OST is perfectly tailored for the experience.
Scarlet Nexus is another great new IP from Bandai Namco. As much as I love all of their anime-based titles, I would love to see even more of these new experiences, as the developers in their umbrella really seem to excel at them. We’re just a few months away from Tales of Arise, so I’ll be spending some more time with Yuito and Kasane in the meantime.
Game Freaks 365 received a review copy.