From the moment I first watched the reveal trailer for Scarlet Nexus it captured my curiosity. Having at the time just finished an incredible time playing CODE Vein, I was ready to sink my teeth into another Anime styled action-adventure RPG and Scarlet Nexus certainly ticked all the right boxes. But it has been an agonisingly year long wait to finally get to play it myself, beginning with the early access Xbox Series X demo but then trying it on PlayStation 5. Once I tried out the combat I was hooked and the rest well, Scarlet Nexus blew me away!
Scarlet Nexus is set in a Japan in the far distant future where science has discovered a psionic hormone in the human brain, granting people extra-sensory powers and changed the world. With so many of the population now wielding incredible mental powers, psionics have been scouted for their talents and began being recruited to the Other Suppression Force (OSF), a task force designed to keep humanity safe from the threat of Others, monstrous deranged mutants that began to descend from the sky with a gruesome taste for human brains. These monsters were highly resistant to conventional attack methods and so the OSF was created to use the new Psionic abilities to build a defence against the others.
The story and setting are everything I love about a good Anime story and world but something I also came to like was the quite western sci-fi elements threaded throughout the story. Playing through the game’s dual stories is very rewarding and rather than an anime film, it really feels like I was playing through an episodic anime series because of how it is structured from dramatic cutscenes to gameplay and satisfying combat and boss fights to the causal relationship building with the various characters in the game, something I did not expect but came to really appreciate and took the time to get right but I will come to that a little further on.
Right away I must talk about how incredible the visuals and art style of Scarlet Nexus are and how they help immerse the player in its world so effortlessly. Every trailer I have seen before being able to enjoy the full game just had my eyes wide open. I love the continuity of the cutscenes to the action of the gameplay and combat just leaps out of your TV or monitor and never gets tired of being one of the coolest looking action-adventure games I have played in recent years, something I am truly coming to adore from Bandai Namco games. The vibrance of the colour pallet really comes to life with the 4K and 60FPS performance on the PS5 and just looked astonishing on my TV. The cutscenes are a blend of storyboard with voice over and fully animated scenes making it at times feel like a comic book brought to life.
In the game the smoothness of the 60FPS really shines through as you move through the various locations in the world but more importantly, helps make the combat system in Scarlet Nexus one of the most fluid I have experienced in what in essence is a party-based fighting system. The player can choose to play the story as either Kasane Randall or Yuito Sumeragi and though both characters have the psycho-kinesis ability, each one has their own story narrative which will mix with the other but immediately gives this game instant replayability in order to experience the story of both characters. They have different weapon and fighting styles with Yuito relying on his sword for up close and personal combat whilst Kasane uses her knives for a faster quick attacking style. The combat has the usually melee style of weapon strikes with combo’s you would expect but it is how the psycho-kinesis ability is used that elevates every battle into something special as the ability also allows you to throw objects at enemies as part of combo and it is quite the visual spectacle to see a good sword combo end with the throwing of a nearby box, rubble or even a car, yes a car going smack into the face of one of the Others.
The psycho-kinesis power adds so much to the fighting when you have the freedom to see an object you think will do a good amount of damage, set up the sequence to best make use of it then trigger the power with right trigger and watch the animation in real time as the object flies up, builds up momentum then smashes into the monster. Others come in a variety of types and sizes and the strategy to defeat them determines on their type as some may have an elemental weakness whilst the bigger Others could have armour protecting their weak spot and you will need to work out what it will take to break it. Now, once you have found the weak spot and you have done enough damage you can perform an execution with left trigger and the animations of the executions are thrilling and extremely satisfying when triggered.
Earlier I mentioned how I felt the combat was very squad based and this is because as you progress through the story, other OSF members and friends, will join you as your squad, who you have will be determined by playing as either Yuito or Kasane. One of the more surprising elements to the combat is that your squad members will have their own ability such as Hanabi who has Pyrokinesis and Gemma Garrison with Sclerokinesis. As Squad Leader, you can instruct the members of your squad to share their ability with you for a short time so for Hanabi, she can her ability giving you access to have fire-based attacks whilst Gemma, whose Sclerokinesis ability is defensive, will give you armour stopping you taking damage for the duration of its use. Every time you take their power, it goes on cooldown to show how long you can use it and then how long before you can all on it again. New member will be added depending on what the element the story feels you need such as a new type of Other requiring a certain ability to fight it and the OSF member with it, will be added to your squad. So how you fight now has the added factor of having the capability of using the powers of squad members as well as you own and balancing out which to use on what Other whilst making sure the timing is correct so you will always have access to the right power for the right fight.
The deep and rich combat system is one of the big reasons I loved my time with Scarlet Nexus, the next is the natural element to having a squad of different people, relationships. Maintaining and improving your relationships with your squad mates not only adds more story elements in terms of learning their character histories but also in combat as well as the stronger your ‘bond’ with them, the stronger the sharing of their powers will be, giving you more elements to the fighting and improved use of their shared abilities. This comes from talking with them, giving them the right gift, that they will enjoy and via ‘bond episodes’ where a dialogue exchange will create a chance to have some one-on-one time with them allowing you to learn more about their relationship with your chosen hero and their life story. These all happen via the Hideout, a safe place between the Story Phases, where you can hang out with your squad and take a pause which is why the story feels like an episodic story rather than a full-length animated feature film. The pacing helps the player take stock of the team and to apply much needed skill points via the brain map to enhance your own abilities.
You can also stop to use the shop and save point, something the game is very generous providing in every location you find yourself in during the story, where you can buy health supplies for you and your squad as well as upgrading weapons and booster add-ons. Now whilst I do not want to spoil any of the story, I will advise to always take a look at the “Exchange” area of the shop as this is a very handy way of making sure you always have the best weapon for you and your squad and for buying the Presents to gift the squad with, a hear will show by their thumbnail to show how well that gift will be received, it is all a little Stardew Valley that way.
With an amazing combat system that becomes more and more fun the deeper into the story goes as well as that story being full or surprises and twists all the way through to keep the narrative entertaining, there are just so many elements to Scarlet Nexus to enjoy and there are quite a lot of those factors that all come together. From the visual art style to the incredible soundtrack that accompanies all you do, to the mechanics of managing and building the best squad possible to improve your combat just creates a brilliant experience that has genuinely been one of the most enjoyable of 2021 so far.
The demos released only scratched the surface of what is capable with the fighting mechanics and once you are in the world and meeting some totally unique and wonderful characters in an exciting world with a rich anime story, this is a fantastic game to have at this point of the gaming year. For me personally, this has certainly been worth the year long wait for release and I am still enjoying just listening to the digital soundtrack and planning my 2nd run through the game but this time as Kasane!