Game Reviews

Scarlet Nexus Review

Experience a unique Brain Punk world

by Victor Vellas

BANDAI NAMCO knocks it out of the park with Scarlet Nexus, as it is without a doubt one of the most polished titles they have ever released yet. The new anime, punk action-RPG features a futuristic world with bright colors and lots of sci-fi vibes, alongside fast paced combat and memorable characters. At first glance, it looks like your bread-and-butter anime hack-and-slash game, but Scarlet Nexus is much more than that. There is an overwhelming amount of combat systems and deep mechanics which will satisfy absolutely everyone, even without being a fan of the specific genre or art style. Also, while the story has a certain cheesiness to it, it is actually very interesting with lots of twists and mysteries.

The narrative is told from two sides, as you will be tasked with picking one of the two different protagonists, Yuito Kusanagi and Kasane Randall. While the major plot focuses around both of them and in the end it is a tale with the two of them at the center of it, the events that unfold from each side are different. Depending on who you picked to play the game, you will meet different people, tackle different missions and even have different party members. Additionally, each character plays vastly different from one another, so replaying the game from the side you didn’t pick to experience that story as well, isn’t a chore at all. With this dual-story at hand, it not hard to understand that Scarlet Nexus is rather plot-rich and as with any other true RPG, expect a lot of dialogue and epic events.

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A self-claimed Brain Punk world that lies in the far distant future

A lot of years have passed from our current timeline and suddenly, psionic hormones were found in the human brain. These gave people around the globe extraordinary powers which led to a completely different world than what we knew so far. Not only that, but otherworldly, mutated creatures started falling from the sky, now known as Others. Since humanity couldn’t deal with these monsters with already known means, everyone started to use their psychic powers to deal with this extinction-level threat. Certain individuals with powers stronger than the rest, hence a ‘stronger’ brain, were recruited by OSF (Other Suppression Force) as an elite group with sole purpose being to eradicate every Other threat out there. Which brings us to Scarlet Nexus’s current events, with Yuito and Kasane starting a journey of no return.

The story itself starts out pretty basic in a surely interesting, futuristic environment, and keeps heading to an upward spiral from that point forward. The sequence of events that our characters find themselves in, get more mysterious as time goes by and there will be lots of instances that you will have yourself watching with surprise as twists and surprising changes take place. Unfortunately though, this is where the biggest drawback of the game lies as well. There is a lot of reading to do if you want to pay attention at every single detail of Scarlet Nexus and its story, which sometimes take away much of the excitement that the rest of its gameplay brings, considering how intense its combat is. What doesn’t help as well, is the robotic conversation between certain early character interactions, especially when you have the voice language set to English. The game treats its players and viewers like this is the first narrative title they are playing, which as such, results to a lot of voice lines being cheesy and boring. Thankfully, this doesn’t last for long and as you go further into the game, with more and more characters being introduced, things change for the better. The conversations feel more alive and less brain-dead with some very interesting moments to boot.

With that said, and fortunately enough, we need to mention that cinematics and story events don’t receive the same treatment. Scarlet Nexus brings forth its rich plot with a mixture of static images alongside some really well-made cutscenes, in contrast to some of the company’s previous work in other titles. In fact, some action-heavy cutscenes could be easily mistaken as parts of an actual anime series. To that end, while the English dub is not really that great, the Japanese voice-over actually brings more life to all of the characters and makes those already great cutscenes, really awesome to look at.

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It looks fantastic, it plays great and its combat is simply fast and exciting

Right off the bat, Scarlet Nexus looks without a doubt beautiful. The aesthetics are totally on par with the game’s theme, with bright colors everywhere, neon lights almost around every corner and the necessary edgy dose that our characters need to have. Considering the team behind the new IP also brought us Code Vein, one of the edgiest anime games of the modern era, it was a given that Scarlet Nexus will have some kind of influence from that as well. And I don’t even mention this as a negative, since characters and locations alike are quite fitting for what Scarlet Nexus is supposed to be. A Brain Punk world where holographic street lights and fences are common to see, and 99% of the human population has some kind of superpower. With that in mind, how could you not have a city full of people wearing quirky outfits and cosmetics?

In next gen consoles, everything mentioned above is further highlighted due to the power of the new hardware. Running at 4k and 60fps on Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 and modern PCs, Scarlet Nexus looks stunning and plays smoothly as butter. Xbox Series S may reach up to 2k 60fps, but that doesn’t diminish at all the beauty of this game. Where you will actually see some difference, or rather a lot, is in previous gen consoles. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are not optimized for 60fps and the most you will get out of them, is a locked 30fps game session. While the difference is undoubtedly visible, it doesn’t remove the enjoyment you get out of the game. Combat will be more sluggish for sure, but due to the nature of your combos and attacks, it is still a blast to connect weapon attacks and psychokinetic projectiles.

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Speaking of which, combat in Scarlet Nexus is the highlight of the new title and if I chose just one word to describe it, it would be ‘satisfying’. You start out with just your weapon of choice, depending on the protagonist you picked, and then you proceed by unlocking a plethora of new abilities, skills, perks and more, in addition to your already outstanding psychokinesis power. The unique SAS system is also something you will be using a lot in Scarlet Nexus. What this essentially does, is that you borrow a party member’s power for a limited time, and you enhance your own abilities with it. You can make your weapon fiery with lots of different effects while at this state, become invisible, teleport, and a ton of other things. Eventually this will be your go-to way of approaching any battle in Scarlet Nexus, and at some point you will even be able to combine lots of these powers together.

There is a ton of other features and mechanics you can use while fighting enemies, so it’s hard to name all of them here. Which actually, can even end up as a little overwhelming, making this the second flaw of an otherwise excellent action system. There is just too much going on while in a battle, and at the end of it you may ask yourself, do I really need all of these? The answer is both yes and no. It’s a given that the more you can do, the more cool-looking a mob or boss fight can end up being. However, that means you need to both learn and remember numerous button combinations and skills, which if more simplified, could end to a more pleasant sequence. It really is subjective, but if you would ask me, I’d say that the huge amount of combat options you have in Scarlet Nexus don’t mind me at all. The game paces out the time in which you learn new stuff, so you have enough room to practice and use what you learned so far, resulting to mechanically pressing buttons and pulling out huge combos. This may not be for everyone though, and if that’s the case, some players may end up losing themselves in the clustered UI which has button prompts for all the possible actions you can use.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure. You will love fighting Others in Scarlet Nexus. After you get the hang of everything, level up your character and unlock a ton of new moves and abilities, you will feel like an overpowered machine of destruction. Good thing is that enemy levels and difficulty do scale on a good pace with your characters, so it’s not like you are going to break the game and make it easier than it should. Not to mention you can even increase the difficulty settings at any point during your play session, if you believe the game is starting to become easier than you’d like. Of course smaller enemies will end up tools for grinding levels and materials, or completing quests, but bosses are no joke here. They are tough, with more complex methods to beat them, other than ‘press the attack button’ and they will for sure prove a challenge anytime they jump onto your screen.

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Most of Scarlet Nexus is a linear experience, in a good way

The amount of sand-boxy games we have right now is ridiculous. Open-worlds, freedom of choice, all of that good stuff is becoming more and more popular, for a good reason. They usually expand a game’s lifespan and provide an epic journey for the player. That said, not all games need to be like this. Scarlet Nexus is first a sci-fi story, then an action-RPG. This means that there is a beginning and an end, with not much branching out other than fun features you can take advantage of while not progressing the story. You can increase your bond with your teammates in various ways, and rest assured you will have a lot of party members to meet and interact with, you can visit older areas to complete side quests, grind materials for creating new gear for your characters and other things to do which we won’t spoil here. All of this side content can be experienced outside of the main narrative, so you can tackle each activity at your own pace.

After you feel like you did everything you can besides the story, it’s time to head back to your original destination and continue unveiling the mysteries of the OSF organization and their course of action in Suoh city, the main hub area of Scarlet Nexus. You will visit loads of different environments, most of them though being inside an industrial biome, and all of them are structured in a dungeon-crawling pattern. There is usually one entrance and one exit, and locations have their own sub-areas as well. Lobby areas also exist, without any dangers in them acting as a break from the usual action-heavy instances that take place during the main story.

Verdict

Overall, Scarlet Nexus is a simple, yet great and enjoyable experience for any fan of the genre out there. You hunt monsters, make yourself and your allies stronger, gather resources for making new cosmetics and gear, constantly unlock new features for inside and outside of combat, all that while you watch an interesting story materialize in front of your eyes. It really is a modernized, old-school adventure which will satisfy anyone, even with the few drawbacks it has and the rather slow beginning. The featured dual-story adds even more hours to Scarlet Nexus with a high replayability factor that isn’t an artificial increase to its lifespan. Fast paced combat, light anime tropes and joyful characters are for sure going to inject a satisfying feeling to anyone who gives this new IP a try.

 

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

- This article was updated on July 9th, 2021

"loved"
loved

Scarlet Nexus

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
  • Published By: BANDAI NAMCO, Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
  • Developed By: BANDAI NAMCO Studios
  • Genre: Action-RPG
  • US Release Date: June 25, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
  • Quote: "Overall, Scarlet Nexus is a simple, yet great and enjoyable experience for any fan of the genre out there. You hunt monsters, make yourself and your allies stronger, gather resources for making new cosmetics and gear, constantly unlock new features for inside and outside of combat, all that while you watch an interesting story materialize in front of your eyes. It really is a modernized, old-school adventure which will satisfy anyone, even with the few drawbacks it has and the rather slow beginning."
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