Scarlet Nexus is technically an action/RPG, although that nebulous term means precious little nowadays. The game takes obvious inspiration from cinematic action games like Bayonetta, or even Devil May Cry, while applying a hefty layer of JRPG goodness. The end result is an engaging game with a deep story and action-packed combat.
Fighting the extremely strange baddies and sitting through static storyboard sequences are how you’ll spend your time in Scarlet Nexus. The linear levels can be somewhat frustrating due to their lack of depth, but they’re just there to funnel you into battle after battle. This may sound dull, but I assure you that you’ll hardly notice.
Although the soundtrack, early game dialogue and English voice acting leave some to be desired, Scarlet Nexus is an intense experience, filled with interesting characters and a plot that keeps you on your toes. It has much of what people love about JRPGs, combined with the fast pace of an action/adventure game.
Scarlet Nexus review: Gameplay
Scarlet Nexus revolves around two characters, Yuito and Kasane, both of whom possess telekinetic abilities. Regardless of which character you choose, you’ll be throwing cars, statues, steel girders and other items. The dynamic combat remains exciting, even as you get deeper into the game, making it a key strength for Scarlet Nexus.
This is a fast-paced game, where you sprint between battle sequences. But there’s more to the game than just fighting enemies. Scarlet Nexus plays into the storytelling strength of the JRPG genre. As you run from battle to battle, there's plenty of dialogue and the occasional cutscene in between. The hours fly by, thanks to this very satisfying gameplay loop.
If the combat has a downside, however, it’s that the enemies lack variety. You’ll be fighting the same types over and over, and that part alone begins to feel stale.
Which character you choose will impact not only the story, but how you play as well. Yuito uses a sword and specializes in quick, close-quarters combat. Kasane, on the other hand, stays further back, and wields a bunch of knives telekinetically. Both characters can do a lot of damage once you unlock more of their combos and skills via the expansive skill tree. Their damage output will also increase if you utilize their party members effectively.
Using what the game calls the Struggle Arms System (SAS) — which is a virtual link between soldiers — you can temporarily share powers with other characters to take advantage of enemy weaknesses and status effects. Did you soak an enemy in water? Borrow Shiden’s electricity powers to stun that enemy. Or, have you doused an enemy in oil? Grab Hanabi’s pyrokinesis to light them ablaze.
In-between chapter missions, you’ll have the chance to bond with your team. Doing so makes for a deeper connection with them. As your bond level increases, so do the abilities you gain from your party members in combat. You can also give them gifts, which they’ll use and keep in their personal spaces in the hideouts between missions.
Scarlet Nexus review: Story and setting
In the far future, humanity has discovered a hormone that unlocks psionic abilities in almost everyone. However, shortly after this discovery, otherworldly monsters called Others descend from the sky and attack. They feast on human brains, and resist traditional combat techniques. Humanity has had to adapt to survive.
Scarlet Nexus contains two branching storylines, following either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall. When you finish one plotline, you can go back and play the other, meaning that you can expect upwards of 40 hours or so to finish the entire game.
Regardless of which character you choose, you’ll be part of the Other Suppression Force, an elite paramilitary organization that fights the Others. Each member brings their own power to the table, such as telekinesis, electricity, fire, and much more. These soldiers will often link up with each other to temporarily share powers via the SAS, making for effective squads.
Bandai Namco spent a lot of time on character development. While the characters start off with typical anime tropes, they become more than their archetypes as the game goes on. As the world starts coming to an end and humanity suffers a schism, you'll start to see who these characters really are. Fans of the Tales and Ys series will enjoy the story and how it evolves.
Although Scarlet Nexus is a bit dry to start, it quickly picks up and grips you for the entirety of the campaign. And when you’re done, you can start again with the other character and experience a new plotline.
Scarlet Nexus review: Visuals and sound
Visually, Scarlet Nexus strongly resembles another Bandai Namco game, Code Vein. Both share a 3D anime look with similar animations, lighting effects, and character models. The futuristic “brain punk” vibe in Scarlet Nexus somehow reminds me of the post-apocalyptic atmosphere in Code Vein, too, despite stark differences in presentation.
The sound design is probably my least favorite part of Scarlet Nexus. I chose the English dub, assuming that’s what most of the Western audience would go for. At the beginning, the voice acting wasn’t the best, with many of the characters (in the Kasane arc, at least) feeling flat. But as the story progressed and the characters evolved, the voice acting improved, too.
The music isn’t much to write home about. It grows repetitive, even annoying at some points. This soundtrack is nothing outstanding, but at least it stays in the background without causing too much trouble.
Scarlet Nexus review: Verdict
I came away impressed with Scarlet Nexus, and excited to go back and try the other character arc. The game balances plot and combat quite well, something that many other JRPGs cannot claim.
Despite its lack of enemy variety and repetitive soundtrack, Scarlet Nexus is a win in my book. Its story and combat excel, making for an engaging game that should keep you entertained throughout both of its campaigns. The characters are why I kept going back, as I was excited to see how they’d evolve over the course of the plot. Even the main characters Kasane and Yuito go through their own changes as they grow.
Fans of deep stories and fun, fast-paced action combat will find a lot to like in Scarlet Nexus.