Scarlet Nexus Review: A Deep Story With Even Deeper Action

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“Scarlet Nexus is an excellent action role-playing game for all fans of the genre.”

  • Unique fight

  • A surprising story

  • Funny characters

  • Long running time

  • Stylish look

  • Weak exploration

  • Strong on backtracking

There’s no shortage of Japanese action RPGs out there, but Bandai Namco’s Scarlet Nexus is a new IP that stood out from the crowd and caught my eye right away. After playing the demo that was released earlier this year, I knew I was having a good time, and I’m overjoyed that my guess was correct.

Scarlet Nexus is a game that takes all expectations and pushes aside from amazing players with new ideas in all directions. This “brainpunk” title takes place in a futuristic world in which people have found a way to use a hidden gene to unlock superpowers in certain people. This premise lends itself perfectly to both the gameplay and the storyline, which pleasantly surprised me throughout my experience.

While the game starts off a bit slow and took a bit of time to get into, Scarlet Nexus is a rewarding experience and a great addition to any JRPG collection thanks to its bombshell of storyline and gameplay.

A shocking story

At the beginning of Scarlet Nexus, I got the impression that the story with boilerplate characters would be based on books. Fortunately, I was completely wrong. While the characters may seem like tropical ticks to anyone who’s seen an anime in the past decade, they have so many memorable moments together that they quickly grew on me and I wanted to spend more time with them.

The world of Scarlet Nexus is a futuristic world in which certain members of humanity have awakened to various superpowers thanks to a psionic hormone discovered in the brain. There are also other, wonderfully designed mutants who come from heaven and enjoy human brains. The Other Suppression Force (OSF) was formed to combat the zombie-like threat.

Scarlet Nexus Boss Fight.

Things start with players choosing either Kasane Randall or Yuito Sumeragi, two new recruits to the OSF who have very unique powers and abilities. There is a lot more to this new duo than meets the eye, however, and this is where the story of Scarlet Nexus really shines.

These surprises really make the Scarlet Nexus plot so special – you just have to see them for yourself.

Things start out as one would expect from a story like this one. You meet your teammates, do an apprenticeship, go on a mission or two, get to know each other, the usual. Then suddenly one surprise after another begins and leads to a story without brakes and loads of excitement. Before I knew it, I found characters to get excited about, mocked others, and kept wondering where things were going next. As is usually the case with a story like this, players will wonder who and what they can and cannot trust.

I wish I could go into further detail, but that would mean spoiling everything. These surprises really make the Scarlet Nexus plot so special – you just have to see them for yourself.

Psychokinetic strokes

History isn’t the only area this game excels in as the gameplay has me drawn to my screen as well. Even in the opening tutorial, Scarlet Nexus wants to show players that it’s not like any other action RPG. This is because of its unique combat mechanics that allow for some fun graphics, combos, and strategies.

The game has everything you would expect from a character driven action game / hack and slash title – perfect dodging, weapon attacks and throwers. What makes it stand out is the use of the psychokinesis attacks and assist specials that got me primarily interested in the title.

Scarlet Nexus RPG Battle.

By holding R2, players consume a psychokinesis meter. This allows players to control surrounding objects and throw them at enemies, doing great damage. Attacks can be chained with standard weapons and specials, with the chains getting longer and more elaborate as you level up to make way for some fun combos. As with any game that has a huge focus on combos and free-flowing combat, you can already guess what you’ll see with this system, but it gets even wilder with the SAS mechanics.

Even in the opening tutorial, Scarlet Nexus wants to show players that it’s not like any other action RPG. This is because of its unique combat mechanics that allow for some fun graphics, combos, and strategies.

SAS is a brain-to-brain connection that allows players to temporarily use the various skills of group members, basically granting different assists. These include elemental attack reinforcements, invisibility, time slowdown, a doppelganger who can double attacks, or a partner who steps in with an auxiliary attack.

This mechanic adds a deep strategic element to combat as different SAS attacks have unique stats that are more effective on certain enemies. For example, an enemy can shoot water that splashes over them after a certain number of hits. Using a SAS assistant with electrical properties allows players to do more damage to their soaked opponent. In the beginning, players start with one of these assists and work their way up to four at a time, which opens the door to high combo potential. It just takes a bit of sanding to get there.

Yes, there is also a role play in it

While the focus is on action and story, the game doesn’t lack the usual RPG elements.

To unlock all of a character’s abilities, players will have to fight their way through the story and revisit previous areas to level up and earn brain points. As with many other RPGs with such a mechanic, players select points on a map to decide which path to take next.

On the other side of the field, party members can be leveled up to unlock more SAS skills. This is achieved by increasing the level of attachment with them, similar to what is done with the Persona series. The bond with a character is increased by talking to characters or giving them gifts, which in turn unlocks more skills. Once a specific interaction requirement is met, players will also unlock a Bond Episode, a special cutscene in which the player character gets closer to whoever they are connected to. This also increases overall team loyalty and grants bonuses such as special items and free resuscitations. While it may sound like a chore, it opens up lots of fun moments of dialogue between characters without getting in the way of the core battle loop.

Exploring the overworld of the Scarlet Nexus.

There is also the classic material system that RPG fans are familiar with. In the levels, players will find small digital cubes that they must pick up. These can be taken to a store and exchanged for various party cosmetic items, health items, and various weapon and stat upgrades.

It feels lively thanks to the abundance of NPCs and the great care that has been put into the look, feel, and sounds of the various maps.

The only downside to RPG gameplay is the exploration of the game. While I really liked the game’s bright and detailed city and ruinous environments, it feels like traversing the city. Items are placed in empty and boring hallways and often feel unnecessary. It gets even more annoying when you return to these areas to find more.

Still, I enjoyed my time exploring the world of Scarlet Nexus. It feels lively thanks to the abundance of NPCs and the great care that has been put into the look, feel, and sounds of the various maps. I just wish hunting for items didn’t feel like a drag at times.

Our opinion

Scarlet Nexus is a must have for any fan of Japanese action RPGs and standard JRPGs. If the story doesn’t get your attention, the fight will be. It has enough flesh to distract from its tiny blemishes. It’s a pleasure to interact with his characters, and seeing them grow together really got me fully invested in all of their story arcs. I left the experience and longed for another title like this one that would take its excellent action even further.

How long it will take?

It should take over 60 hours in total. The unlockable skills are also well worth the hunt as they add plenty of extra play time for those who want to dive deeper.

Is there an alternative?

There are tons of other action RPGs out there. The Tales series and the acclaimed Final Fantasy 7 Remake are some that I would recommend, but Scarlet Nexus offers such a rich and unique experience that I wouldn’t turn it down.

Should you buy it?

If you’re hungry for some good action or story, I highly recommend jumping right into this one.

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