Coming from Bandai Namco is another of their anime-styled action role players – Scarlet Nexus. Ever since the initial trailer for this dropped there has been huge intrigue by it; not just due to the art style and story telling, but the seemingly fluid and thrilling combat too. The big question though is whether this world of combat, chaos and (double) crossing can live up to those expectations.
First up is the story and this is so Japanese it’s unreal. And that means it is fantastically bonkers to boot.
The game is set in the year 2020 in an alternative dimension; a dimension where humanity has developed technology to unlock the power of the human brain, and in the process has given the majority of people extra sensory powers as a nice little side effect. In an unrelated development, there is an area called the Extinction Belt around Earth and from this various monsters and mutants descend to cause carnage and chaos.
These are Others, and it is their presence which has led to the formation of the OSF (Other Suppression Force); a squad of people with special powers who can put their abilities to good use. Think of them like S.H.I.E.L.D. – without Nick Fury. As Scarlet Nexus opens, we have to choose who we are going to be, from a choice of two OSF recruits. The first is a young man from a great family, Yuito Sumeragi, whose father is the current chairman of the government. The second is a young girl, also coincidentally from a powerful family, called Kasane Randall. Kasane and her older (adoptive) sister, Naomi, join the OSF at the same time, and their storylines are bound together. Each character has a different narrative to follow, crossing over at certain points in the game, which in turn leads to some fantastic storytelling opportunities.
So, the scene is set, and a cast of literally dozens of OSF members are set to do their part as well. It’s here where the combat and gameplay systems come to the fore and these are very well-designed indeed, with Scarlet Nexus playing out like a cross between Code Vein and almost Devil May Cry, particularly in regards some of the enormous bosses and skills that you can use. In an interesting move, you can borrow the skills of the members of your squad too, so depending on who you have changes the way that you fight. For instance, some of the Others move too fast for you to hit, so you need to borrow Arashi’s Hyperspeed ability, which makes the rest of the world move in slow motion. Kagero’s invisibility ability allows you to charge up a back stab attack to do massive damage, and so on and so forth. Kasane and Yuito have the same powers, so on the rare occasions they join forces, they just increase their built-in Gravikinesis power.
The actual combat in Scarlet Nexus, however you choose to fight with whomever’s powers, is fantastic and fluid. I played as Kasane on my first playthrough, and the way she uses a combination of weapon attacks, breaking off now and then to smack a tougher enemy around the head with a car before diving back in with her knives, never gets old. Add to this power attacks using parts of the scenery, and there is no shortage of offensive options. If there’s a better feeling than battling a massive, screen-filling Other, building up the combo gauge, then pulling a huge dump truck off a nearby roof and smashing the enemy with it, I’ve not experienced it in a while.
Dodging enemy attacks is also a massive part of Scarlet Nexus, very much in a Code Vein style, and if the dodge is pulled off with perfect timing, the action drops into slow motion, allowing you to counter attack. As you go through the game, level up and get more attacks, the options expand as well, and soon dodging and retaliating with a thrown object becomes second nature.
But there’s more and there are many things to explore, such as the Brain Field, which sees our guys becoming almost like Devil Dante with vastly increased power; the problem is the power will also kill you if you use it too long. Some strategizing is called for throughout Scarlet Nexus, even in the middle of a massive ruck.
The RPG segments are also fully realised and great fun to explore. As you level up, you have access to three skill trees, known as the Brain Map. Spending points on the nodes of this gives you extra abilities, very much in the standard kind of RPG style. This sees you given the ability to equip new and improved weapons to you and your allies, alongside mods that give extra health or a forcefield. You are certainly able to craft your character into a fighting machine that is more tailored to your way of fighting. There is also a huge amount of visual customisation, and in a pleasing touch, anyone whose appearance you alter will appear in all the cutscenes exactly as you made them look. We won’t go too deep here, but my Kasane has rabbit ears whilst Luka is wearing a proper pair of Kardashian sunglasses.
The way that Scarlet Nexus looks and sounds – in fact, everything about the whole presentation – is praise-worthy. At times it really does look like you are playing through an anime series, and as luck would have it, there is a series launching that will have tie backs to the game. There are missions present which require watching of the series in order to uncover code words, so it’s nice to see the crossover to other media. The voice acting is all top notch as well, and all in all I have no complaints about the way Scarlet Nexus is able to conduct itself at all.
The list of complaints is very small, to be honest. The only annoyance is that if you are going to fight a boss, for instance, they are invariably introduced by a cutscene. If you then die, and head back in, Scarlet Nexus will put you back at the start of the cutscene again. This is one of my pet hates in the world of video games, and while the scenes are skippable, it would have made more sense to save at the end of the scene, not the beginning. The only other slight fly in the ointment is found in the plethora of side quests that can be attempted, particularly as these are largely just fetch quests in pretty frocks. They fall into two camps, either “Kill this in this way” or “Get me X of Y”, and given the creativity that has gone into the main storyline and the things you have to do there, they feel a little flat.
If you enjoy an ARPG, spending time with Scarlet Nexus is a no-brainer – the story and action is strong enough to suck you in and keep you playing. With time travel, psychic powers and huge monsters to kick in the teeth, it’s one hell of a roller coaster ride from start to finish. The slight let-downs of the side quests aside, this is a more than assured entry into the genre, that wholeheartedly deserves a whirl.
Head into the psychedelic world of Scarlet Nexus on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, available on the Xbox Store