(Reviewed on Xbox Series X by Games of DAYNE)
Taking place in a distant future Scarlet Nexus is a third person RPG that puts the player in the middle of an epic conflict as either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall as they join their fellow members of the Other Suppression Force (OSF) to defend the city of New Himuka from monstrous creatures known as the Others.
Using the power of psychokinesis, players can string together combos and utilise the unique variant abilities of their ally party members in fast paced action as they explore together, grow stronger together and ultimately suppress the Others together.
Players assume the role of either Yuito or Kasane before the story kicks off, a decision that cannot be changed within the entire playthrough. Regardless of the character chosen the story essentially plays out the same way with the other character adopting a supporting role. Encouraging replayability, playing a future playthrough with the opposite character will show the story from the other character’s perspective, just subtle enough to be intriguing and worth exploring throughout the approximate 25-hour experience. Yuito favours a close-range combat style with Kasane is more appropriately used at mid-range. Aside from a perspective shift narratively, this is the only difference between either character.
The story is interesting and unique, the world it takes place in is embroiled in conflict just as humanity entered the dawn of a new era and one where a psionic hormone in the human brain allows people to tap into extrasensory abilities. This historical evolutionary feat would have little time to be celebrated before mutant creatures known as Others descended from the sky with an insatiable hunger for human brains. The arrival and chaos unleashed by the Others led to the formation of the Others Suppression Force to repel these monsters and prevent the fall of mankind.
New recruits Yuito and Kasane barely have time to come to terms with their new positions before being thrust into combat with the Others, learning on the fly with the more experienced members of their squad. With the fate of humanity resting on the shoulders of the duo and the OSF, the story constantly feels epic and tense, delivering a satisfying conclusion when all is said and done. An impressively fleshed out cast of characters, and the bonds they grow to share with Yuito and Kasane, give the ensemble troupe of saviours’ emotional depth and reasons to care for the various relationships that develop.
A fairly comprehensive tutorial takes place almost immediately as the story starts an introduces players to a somewhat overwhelming amount to process. Luckily, any tutorial information can be revisited at will in the menu screen, a feature I certainly resorted to on many occasions. With a little time, it becomes more familiar though as Scarlet Nexus is constantly introducing new mechanics along the way, demanding the player’s attention in order to keep up with the arsenal of attacks and manoeuvres at their disposal.
This constant evolution of the gameplay keeps things interesting. At its core, the combat is focused on stringing together the largest combos possible by utilising the equipped weapon, the environment, psionic abilities and the abilities of party members. Mastering perfect dodges, follow-up attacks and some very cool execution moves known as a Brain Crush. This Brain Crush has a different animation depending on the enemy it is used on which keeps it varied and satisfying as new ones are discovered. Using telekinesis to launch cars, rocks and anything in between at the enemy is a novelty that soon wears thin and becomes less interesting than the combos that can be formed with simple melee attacks and other psionic abilities.
Some truly epic and larger than life boss battles introduce a variety of elemental effects that require careful consideration in order to exploit enemy weakness and deliver maximum damage. The deep level of party member control can make these, and any enemy encounter for that matter, dynamic and enjoyable to experiment with. Effective team management can make or break these battles against the gigantic bosses in particular.
There are a variety of options that can be chosen from that determine how the party members will react in combat situations. They can be left to default to behaving however they please but they can also be set to react offensively or defensively, to attack the same enemy as the player or only enemies not currently engaging the player. Each party member can have different allocations to their combat response which allows for very flexible control and tailoring it to the player’s preferred playstyle.
In between enemy encounters players can access what are known as Brain Messages, typically aligned with story progression and the relationships between the characters as per the strength of their bonds. These messages are relatively pointless in the grand scheme of things while some can be replied to, albeit in a predetermined manner that does not even offer a choice.
Areas of exploration are fairly linear, though there are a few hub type areas that are more open and have items scattered around such as cosmetics, weapons, consumables that replenish health or temporarily increase stats in combat for instance. Perhaps the most useful type of item to find are plug-ins. These function like mods and can be allocated to provide stat boosts during combat.
This level of customisation really lets the player take control of how they want to play, and the best part is that every type of customisation the player can control for their character can also be applied to their party members. Their appearance, their weapons and their plug-ins can all be customised. This level of depth is such a highlight, offering the flexibility to genuinely feel like this is YOUR team in every sense.
With experience from combat and story progression the player can access the Brain Map, a skill tree that branches out and offers offensive and defensive stat boosts, increased combo lengths, additional use of certain abilities and so much more. As experience is rather generously earned it doesn’t take long before the player has access to a variety of combat bonuses that increase the joy and satisfaction from each enemy encounter.
As the story progresses and new characters are introduced, the player can tap into the unique abilities of more members that join their party such as pyrokinesis, electrokinesis, clairvoyance and teleportation to name just a few. These actions are only available for a short duration before a brief cooldown is required for repeated use. Increasing the effectiveness of party members abilities comes down to the bond the player has with that particular character.
This bond is strengthened by side missions and special interactions that take place between the story chapters, known as Phases, in the form of Bond Episodes. Between Phases the player is transported to a hideout, which can also be accessed at any point when not in active combat. These hideout sequences, known as Standby Phases, are where these Bond Episodes occur. Little more than a dialogue interaction, these can be missed if characters are not engaged. It is worth talking to all team members that are scattered around the hideout to ensure no opportunity to strengthen the bond, and therefore combat performance, is missed.
The visual style of Scarlet Nexus is a striking take of anime in a three-dimensional format, with the characters adopting a noticeably different style the environments they inhabit. It feels slick and stylish, an appropriate companion for the elegant combat animations. The enemy design and variety are impressive, varying from monstrous and a little outlandish with the latter working in the favour of the unique world this adventure takes place in.
The sound design is fun with an upbeat electro-pop type score that is a little familiar for fans of anime or JRPGs. Satisfying sound effects during combat match the energy and pace of the chaos and ultimately rounds out a solid presentation on the audio-visual front.
+ Constantly evolving gameplay
+ Excellent customisation options
+ Combat grows increasingly fun
+ Unique and interesting story
+ Fun enemy design
– Story feels a little too long
– Bond Episodes not as fleshed out or exciting as they could be
– A lot to digest at the start
Developed by: Bandai Namco Studios
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: June 25 2021
Platforms: Xbox One/Series X|S, PlayStation 4/5 and PC
* A digital code was kindly provided by One More Game/Xbox Gamer Dad via the Publisher for the purpose of this review. This review was written as a member of their team *
– Additional Links –
For more of my reviews, click HERE.
For this and additional reviews, latest news, trailers and more from the rest of the team at Xbox Gamer Dad and One More Game, click HERE.