This was one of the most anticipated games of the year, so you probably heard of Scarlet Nexus before. There's also a Scarlet Nexus TV anime that's about to premiere next week, so considering its nature, it's safe to say that all anime fans with a thing for JRPG games were looking forward to this release... and now it's finally available! That being said, this is a game catered to shounen anime fans and action games with RPG and visual novel mechanics.
What to Expect
Scarlet Nexus is not an open-world game, and in fact, it's pretty linear. Still, you can experience the same story from two perspectives, so you're pretty much encouraged to play it twice to fully understand the plot and characters' motivations. Although it's an action game, Scarlet Nexus is also a narrative-heavy title, with hours of cutscenes and lots of dialogue... and to be fair, we don't even complain! Have you seen how good Scarlet Nexus looks? The thing is, you'll have a hard time if you don't like anime or you just hate visual novel storytelling and other JRPG mechanics like bonding through gifts.
Okay, this is THE reason to play Scarlet Nexus. There are dozens of anime games out there, even from Bandai Namco, but this one has to be the most impressive in terms of graphics. We love the character design, and we also love the fact that although Scarlet Nexus includes several cute girls, they never force them to look sexy or act raunchy—all uniforms look awesome, and all characters are extremely cool in their own way. Another thing we'd like to highlight is the concept behind these post-apocalyptic cities, especially the use and abuse of screens and augmented reality.
Scarlet Nexus is not a perfect game, and we'll talk about that in the Gameplay section, but there's one thing that will definitely make your jaw hit the floor: the cutscenes. Just look at this screenshot we took of Arashi!! Just imagine playing Scarlet Nexus in 4K...
You can't have jaw-dropping cutscenes without good voice acting, right? Well, Scarlet Nexus did a fantastic job in this department. Every cutscene or dialogue segment feels like watching an anime—so we're sure most of you will love that—but even the gameplay parts make great use of conversation and sound effects. Of course, we could talk hours upon hours about the subjective quality of the script or how original the plot is, but that's another story.
As for the music, Scarlet Nexus comes with a soundtrack that's pretty much what you would expect in a modern JRPG. The main theme is basically an affair between a piano and a beautiful strings arrangement, but then we also have the classic J-rock songs that always complement any action anime game, jazzy songs like Break Time to bring some peace in-between stages, and several industrial tracks to reinforce the futuristic spirit in this post-apocalyptic context.
Scarlet Nexus tells the story of Yuito and Kasane, two of the Other Suppression Force's newest recruits. The OSF is the military unit that protects the planet from the Others, nightmarish monstrosities born in the Extinction Belt that descend to earth to eat people's brains. In the world of Scarlet Nexus, 99.99% of the population has some kind of psionic powers, and those in the ranks of the OSF possess the most extraordinary abilities. Yuito and Kasane share the same power, psychokinesis, allowing them to move large objects with their minds and toss them at their enemies. However, Yuito's weapon of choice is a sword whereas Kasane uses floating throwing knives; gameplay-wise, this means Yuito is a melee character and Kasane is better at keeping enemies at a distance.
Now you know about the two main characters, let's talk about the plot. You can play as either Yuito or Kasane, experiencing the whole story from their perspective and slightly changing the gameplay—sometimes Yuito and Kasane are at different places, fighting different enemies (even bosses) with different party members. If you really want to know both sides of the story, you can just finish the story with your favorite character and then start over again with the other protagonist on Easy, so you can just breeze through the game and focus on whatever is new for you. If you do this, don't forget to save frequently so you can put it back on Normal or Hard whenever you fight a new boss!
Scarlet Nexus is not a game where your actions impact the story since pretty much everything is scripted, even some fights that you're not supposed to win. It would have been nice to have some freedom, something that will bother those of you who don't like dungeon-crawlers—because yeah, all areas in this game are basically mazes...
In these labyrinths, you'll find different kinds of Others, but you don't need to kill all of them if you don't want to since only some of them will force you to fight before leaving the area. To continue with the lack of freedom, don't expect Scarlet Nexus to allow you to party with your favorite characters unless it's a special occasion or they are already a part of your platoon. In our case, we wanted to complete the story with Kasane, Hanabi, Arashi, and Seto, but midgame, we resigned ourselves to playing only with the characters that the game offered us. Party members are important because they determine what power you can borrow for them, ultimately defining your playstyle. With Hanabi on your side, you can burn whatever stands in your way; Kagero's invisibility is perfect to ambush your enemies or just fall back without being chased; Arashi's Hypervelocity comes in really handy once you know how to play and can pull some neat combos... and the list goes on.
By leveling up you earn Brain Points you can use to unlock new skills. Some of them will make your Psychokinesis powers stronger, some will allow you to combine your allies' abilities, but others will grant you skills like double-jumping or dashing mid-air... which feels off considering other action games let you do that from the start. Later on, you learn how to use Brain Drive and Brain Field, unleashing the protagonist's true potential. In our case, we never needed to grind for exp; we just followed the story and never felt underpowered, but you could consider farming more BP for a perfect build.
Playing with Yuito transforms Scarlet Nexus into a hack and slash game, but mastering Kasane's ranged combat is somehow trickier. Still, weapons are not always helpful since you won't deal enough damage unless you hit the Other's weak spot. To be honest, weapon attacks are mainly used when your Psychokinesis gauge depletes since that's how you recharge it. By pressing R2, you can lift cars, poles, and other heavy objects to throw them at your enemies. With L2, you do the same but with special objects, hitting the Others and triggering a quick-time event for bonus damage. Maybe this is not enough to kill them, but it could be enough to stun them, creating a perfect opportunity to finish them with another L2 move. We know, Psychokinesis attacks—even when combined—are nothing but a gimmick, and some people will get bored of it pretty soon.
The combat is dull and repetitive, and the only thing forcing you to go out of your way in the standby phases is suppressing specific Others for a chance to drop whatever items you need to exchange for whatever the character you're trying to bond with loves—not because it's fun to kill Others but because it's useful for those that are willing to spend more time with Scarlet Nexus. Giving gifts to your teammates will unlock bond episodes as well as other benefits related to their psionic powers, so that's useful if you're willing to spend time on this. Maybe you care about cosmetics, too? If you want to enhance your party with better weapons and outfits, get ready to pray to the RNG gods and visit the same mazes over and over again!
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Graphically, Scarlet Nexus is one of the best anime games we've played in quite some time, but the gameplay is kind of a hit or miss. There are several mechanics that we barely touched in our first run, like Brain Field, and we didn't even care because we never felt like something was missing. We love the story, we love that everyone has an ace up their sleeve and you never can tell who's good or evil, and we love how it's presented... but we'd be lying if we say the gameplay is engaging.
Great character design and voice acting makes it feel like you're watching a high-quality anime.
Weird, unsatisfying combat mechanics.
The plot, although complex, is kinda predictable if you're not new to shounen anime.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Scarlet Nexus is already available on PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Oh, and did you know that there's a sidequest that requires encrypted codes that will appear in Scarlet Nexus the animation? Another reason to watch the TV show if you get attached to the game!
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...