Bandai Namco’s latest JRPG, Scarlet Nexus, brings the action and anime storytelling to gamers that shines in the combat department. Here’s our review!
Scarlet Nexus is Bandai Namco Studio’s latest release, developed in conjunction with Tose. The game is an action-roleplaying game that features a lot of JRPG elements, which just so happens to have a companion anime series that hit Funimation today. The game certainly feels like an adventure through anime.
This review will be spoiler-free aside from a few things below.
This is in part because the game features two unique storylines that converge at multiple points through the lives of Kasane Randall and Yuito Sumeragi. These are two young cadets in the far distant future who are part of a militarized force known as the Others Suppression Force (OSF).
After the first playthrough of the campaign, players will have the chance to pick it up as the opposite character. This allows you to see the story from their perspective, as well as moments you wouldn’t have seen. If you want to collect all of the game’s achievements, you’ll have to play through both campaigns.
Kasane is a standoffish cadet known for her strength throughout the training process and her protectiveness over her sweet, adopted sister Naomi Randall. Yuito is the son of the head of the government and comes from a long line of politicians traced back to the founding of New Himuka.
The game starts just as Kasame and Yuito are accepted as cadets in the OSF and all hell breaks loose. In the alternate universe where the OSF exists on Earth, humans have discovered a specialized hormone in the human brain that grants people with extra-sensory powers. These powers heavily influence the gameplay and also allow players to utilize the powers of party members.
The two main characters utilize a psychokinesis ability that allows them to telekinetically throw items around the map at enemies. Although Kasane and Yuito have the same power, the potential party members available to each of them have unique abilities. As such, overall gameplay variety is influenced by who players select to play as through the campaign and the party they’ll encounter.
Connect with the history of New Himuka by watching the #SCARLETNEXUS Lore Trailer.
Become a Scarlet Guardian when SCARLET NEXUS arrives June 25th, 2021.
— Scarlet Nexus (@scarlet_nexus) June 4, 2021
The main enemies of the game are the Others; hellish and grotesque creatures that fall from the sky from the mysterious extinction belt that appeared over New Himuka. The Others have ravaged the planet in search of their favorite food: human brains. Using your abilities, you quickly climb the ranks of the OSF and are put to the test to save humanity.
Okay, time to close the book on the spoiler-y contextual information.
The real star of Scarlet Nexus aren’t the main characters. It’s the combat.
The game features a blend of real-time hack and slash combat meant to be synergized with the SAS System and your psychokinetic abilities. You will manage your own abilities using the purple Psychokinetic gauge that depletes as you use your skills and will regenerate as time passes and through weapon attacks. You have a light and heavy psychokinetic ability that will throw items like cars, statues, crates, drop chandeliers and more on enemies. These attacks do damage and deplete a status bar called the Brain Crush gauge (more on that shortly).
『Psionic Survival Tip』
Connect with SAS to execute combo Visions to deal greater damage against the Other. #SCARLETNEXUS
— Scarlet Nexus (@scarlet_nexus) June 7, 2021
The SAS System allows you to utilize the powers of party members like Electrokinesis, Duplication, Hypervelocity, Invisibility and more. These skills can also be used to get through environmental obstacles, like using Electrokinesis to power reinforced doors to collect loot.
『SAS system: Activated』
Learn about covert maneuvers with this SAS tutorial. #SCARLETNEXUS
— Scarlet Nexus (@scarlet_nexus) June 16, 2021
Explore, Loot, and Survive With Your Team
Let’s talk more about loot for a second, as they’ll play a bigger part in combat down the road. There’s a handy mini-map which is helpful in showing items and data points once you walk into a certain range of them. The biggest problem with this mechanic, however, is I found myself confused because the mini-map changes as you change elevation by going up stairs. So it can be easy to lose track of where you’re actually headed.
The game really rewards exploration and delving into the areas you’re in. Collectible loot will regenerate when you load into areas, even ones that you have visited before. Health items have an inventory max, so you may find that you are unable to collect more when you stumble upon light or medium ‘jellies.’ Other items, like money, cosmetic items and giftable items meant to raise bond levels with your friends are readily available for collection if you choose to take the time.
Data points will also be available in each area of the map and these provide environment research of varying levels (i.e. Abandoned Subway Environment S, A, B, or C). Each of these data points can be used in the exchange system through the shop vendor who will somehow show up along your entire journey. The exchange system is essentially a crafting system that uses research items like ecology analysis, battle record analysis, environmental analysis and Other-type specific analysis to craft health items, weapons and weapons upgrades, cosmetic items and giftable items. I found myself returning to previously completed areas for the sole purpose of crafting an acoustic guitar set to gift one of my party members or upgraded weapons to save myself the money.
The party mechanic relies on growing your personal bonds with team members (something fans of the Fire Emblem series will probably recognize pretty quick). Growing your bonds can be done during Standby Phases in the story, which happens in between main missions. Increasing bond levels can be done through engaging in bond event cutscenes, giving gifts, and keeping them as active members in your party.
You will have a hideout you can visit at any time that allows you to interact with party members to give them gifts, which you will then see displayed in some way around the base. The menu also allows you to communicate with other characters via texting. These text events help expand the story and give life to side characters. Some of these texts can prompt bond events with characters who are not currently in your party.
As you grow your personal bond with your party members, the SAS System upgrades how you utilize these other powers in ways like additional special attacks like Assault Vision, cooldown reduction, and other uses up to six levels. While you will see some adorable stammering when speaking to crushes, romancing other characters is not possible.
Into the Action
All right, back to basic combat. The combat mechanics in the game reminded me heavily of the hack-and-slash-and-react system we got in Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3 and with aspects seen in Devil May Cry, Bayonetta coupled with JRPG mechanics from the Persona and Tales series.
You have two weapon attacks, two psychokinesis abilities, and the SAS System that will improve and change how your weapon attacks deal damage while giving you additional abilities. Psychokinesis abilities will not only chip away at enemy health but also deplete the yellow Brain Crush gauge.
Once depleted, Kasane and Yuito can mete out a special Brain Crush attack that utterly destroys basic enemies and deals significant damage to bosses. Using Brain Crush also ensures some sort of loot drop from enemies and, as you progress through the skill tree, can offer additional rewards like added money or experience after the battle is over.
As you fight, you will build the Brain Drive that, once active, gives your character increased movement/attack speed, reduces Psychokinesis gauge use, and increases Psychokinesis attack speed. Brain Drive inevitably drains and deactivates, returning you to your default state.
『S.A.S Brain Field Activated』
Maximize your psychic abilities & deal massive amounts of damage for a limited time.
— Scarlet Nexus (@scarlet_nexus) March 4, 2021
Kasane and Yuito both have access to the experimental S.A.S Brain Field that changes both the battlefield and how you utilize your own abilities. It’s not all peaches and gravy with those extra abilities, however.
The mode offers an insane amount of damage to be dealt to enemies with the use of your psychokinesis abilities. There is a time limit, however, on Brain Field that will kill the player if they stay in it too long. You’ll also want to be careful as some enemies can also activate their own Brain Fields. My recommendation in those situations is to let the timer run down when you’re face-to-face with other Brain Field users.
All of these various aspects of the combat system can be influenced through the Brain Map. The Brain Map is the skill tree to spend points earned through leveling up to influence various combat mechanics in addition to movement mechanics like adding a double jump or aerial dashes.
The Anime Effect
Overall, the combat system is the highlight of the game for me. It kept me engaged as the story pulled me along and even dove into some of the more typical anime tropes. Don’t get me wrong, the story is engaging, but it definitely felt like I was playing through continuous anime betrayals, awkward crushes, and characters that fit a little too nicely into the cliches often depicted in my favorite genre of television.
I played the game with Japanese audio, but it can also be experienced in English. The visuals in the game are stunning and cutscenes were engaging even when they weren’t fully animated—most story cutscenes featured a vignette of the characters interacting with their voice lines overlaid. This didn’t break the immersion for me at all, but I can see how this may be surprising/offputting for other players.
The combat mechanics all come together beautifully as you venture through New Himuka and surrounding areas. The landscapes are pretty, but bare aside from the items you can interact with using your psychokinetic abilities. Despite that, I can’t say that aspect took away from the game as a whole. There isn’t a massive bestiary of enemies to encounter, but I enjoyed the variety and how combat varied depending on who you are fighting.
🔊 Museum: The abandoned plans for an academic city has left this location in a state of decay.
Threat Level: High | ⚠️ #SCARLETNEXUS
— Scarlet Nexus (@scarlet_nexus) June 17, 2021
I played through the campaign on PlayStation 5 as Kasane first and will inevitably take up Yuito’s story to see how all of the Red Strings connect and to experience the full breadth of the story from both character’s perspectives. The game offers somewhere between 30 and 40 hours worth of story.
BRB going to watch the anime now.
Scarlet Nexus is available to play on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.