Scarlet Nexus has finally arrived, published by the anime powerhouse Bandai Namco and co-developed by Tose. Is this the anime game fix you next-gen gamers need? Read on to find out.
Scarlet Nexus puts you in what is described as a “Brainpunk” setting, it’s a futuristic cyberpunk SLASH post-apocalyptic setting with a heavy focus on brains and their power.
You pick from either the male lead Yuito or female lead Kasane, these characters join a military force called the OSF who hunt down monsters who have started to chow down on humanity called “The Others”.
Along the way of trying to cull The Others and solve the mystery of the cloud they drop from called the “Extinction Belt”, You’ll naturally meet other members of the OSF and uncover mysteries that only anime could pull off!.
As this is a dual protagonist deal you’ll be playing the campaign twice, while not completely different affairs there are several unique sections and story elements to complete the full narrative, plus the characters play differently.
Yuito plays mostly like your standard brawler, getting in close and dropping combos with minimal effort, Kasane on the other hand is a little more of a ranged affair and requires a little more focus to get the most out of her.
The cast you meet in the game manage to tick just about every box for “anime cliche” as crafted by the lords of Shonen, you’ve got the Tsundere, the cocky guy, the mysterious one, battle-hardened tough guy, shy girl, nerd girl if you’ve watched an anime since Dragon Ball Z debuted I’d wager you know this cast well.
As you get further into the game you can give these teammates gifts, reply to emails and attend various skits much like most modern RPG games, these reward you with extra story and abilities which will be discussed later on.
While the characters are far from bastions of originality, especially in how you interact, they are really enjoyable throughout and you do grow quite fond of them when you spend more time alongside them, initially the game tends to throw them all at you rather quickly and it’s a giant mess!.
Graphically Scarlet Nexus is beautiful, from its artistic bones to its detailed world and character animations it does look like a playable anime series.
Enemy designs are macabre and perfectly suit the world, The scenery nails down this newly coined “Brainpunk” genre, with every brain connected to an invisible network you can see the wires everywhere but it’s done in a way that feels natural to the player and the scenario.
What is curious about the presentation is the way cutscenes are handled and by that I mean mostly static in-game images. Scarlet Nexus screams big budget up until you witness the first lengthy cutscene and you question if the budget or the ambition went first.
On the audio side of things, the game is well voice acted throughout with a lot of the usual talents showing up in some capacity or another adding weight to a rather middling but enjoyable narrative.
The in-game music, my god is so frickin good! It features a mix of cyber-sounding tracks, some more ambient sounds, and even a little bit of the loud stuff. I think it was either the 2nd mission or quite early into the campaign where one of the tracks jumped out so strongly that I just stood and listened, it resonated with me so strongly and gave me Yuzo Koshiro Streets of Rage 2 vibes and it was love at first listen.
On the gameplay side of the spectrum, Scarlet Nexus is an action RPG, you’ll explore a small hub world, you take on side quests and you’ll level up, craft, and buy items all day long.
The side quests in this game manage to be the most pointless in recent memory, adding nothing to the story, minimal results, and consisting of the same fetch/kill quests throughout, here just to bulk the game out and give “Achievement Hunters” something to mull over.
Combat is king in this title and takes more than a few hints from titles such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, commonly referred to as “Character action” titles, rather than other action RPGs such as Tales of or the Mana series from Square Enix.
You have the standard weak melee attack which can combo, you have a launcher to send foes into the air, and a heavy attack which has a little bit of cool down, initially not a lot going on with it.
Then you factor in the fact you can throw most objects with the power of your mind and this opens combat up and increases the fun somewhat, follow that up by the fact you can copy abilities from teammates and you suddenly get that “click” this title needed.
Picture this scenario if you will, foes that are covered in oil are bearing down on you. While you perform a perfect dodge, time slows just enough for you to activate your teammate power of Pyrokenisis, melee picks up and your dodging, setting foes on fire and throwing cars around the arena in perfect harmony, with ease!. An enemy then launches a damaging attack and you’re unable to dodge! Fortunately, you’ve brought the unbreakable Gemma, you turn his power on, take the attack with ease and continue to stay in the foray, all without dropping a frame or fumbling with unintuitive controls.
The last statement I made is the really important one, while enemies tend to be recolored and lack variety they are always fun to fight because of how easy you can fight like a total badass.
Boss fights come in the usual flavors of Giant Enemies or human enemies that chew you up and spit you out. While nothing too stand out and usually have a gimmick to them, the larger enemies are some of the more interesting designs in the game.
Items are easy to use and appear in a mini menu in the corner of the screen, navigate with the D-Pad and press down to use an item, saves breaking the pacing of the gameplay.
Occasionally you’ll come across sections of the world that let you use your powers in different ways. These usually launch big attacks like slamming a train into a group of foes or emptying barrels of water onto an Other before you throw down thunder like the mighty Thor.
Sadly outstanding combat can’t fully carry the game, especially when it feels like such a contrast compared to the other elements of the game that are so cookie-cutter they are almost forgettable.
You can upgrade your chosen character by filling out there “brain map”, you’re given points anytime you level up and even without hitting up the side quests you’ll level up rather generously regardless.
The further you get into the story the more of the “Brain Map” opens and while I never fully unlocked every node of it, some abilities seem essential such as the “dual ability trigger” which lets you trigger two team mate powers at the same time!.
The narrative has some pacing issues, one of the roughest opening hours I’ve experienced in a good while but fortunately, it does improve significantly following that, sadly it doesn’t stay that way. Curious plot decisions later on and the feeling that ambition was hampered by budget declaw this cat before it truly becomes king of the jungle.
With an anime series on the way, bumper sales, and large levels of hype generated, it’s possible Bandai Namco has the start of what could be a great new franchise on their hands. Going forward we need a little more innovation, less clinging to clichés of the past, and a bigger budget where it counts and then we could have something truly special rather than “above average at best C-“.
Amazing combat is held back by a buffet of unoriginality and questionable narrative issues.
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