Scarlet Nexus Review: Empty Cities on the Front Line

Character with a sword in action

Scarlet Nexus We have been waiting for a long time – since the release of the surrealistic trailer, where crazy monsters in high heels and vases instead of heads were parachuted onto the squad of fighter-esper. It was supposed to be at least beautiful, at most interesting. The guys from Bandai Namco usually delight with non-standard ideas. Did it work out this time?

The action of the game takes place in an alternative future under the code name “brainpunk” (brainpunk – a suitable name for a setting that is based on the fact that everyone or almost everyone has some kind of psionic abilities). In this world, science has finally reached the point of unlocking the full potential of the human brain, so practically all children are born with super abilities: telekinesis, pyrokinesis, telepathy, and so on.

A futuristic cityscape

It may seem like everything is fine, but it’s not. The planet suffers from attacks by aggressive mutant monsters, naturally falling from the sky, from the Extinction Belt surrounding the Earth. A large part of the territory is abandoned and left to the monsters, and the remaining population has been evacuated to several major cities equipped with shelters and defense systems – yet the mutants occasionally break through. To fight against the monsters, called Others, squads of the Other Suppression Force (OSF) were created, recruiting the most talented psionics. Teenagers, because their abilities are most active in their youth. And in order to avoid having to replenish these squads every couple of years (because children grow up), young soldiers are given hormones that slow down aging, so they look sixteen even at the age of forty-five.

That’s the grim situation we find ourselves in – as the main character, a new recruit of the OSF. More precisely, one of the cadets, to choose from: Yuito Sumeragi, noble, brave, and honest slacker (a classic JRPG protagonist) and Kasane Randall, silent and always serious, only thinking about the well-being of her beloved little sister. They have completely opposite personalities, even their weapons are different: Yuito has a sword, Kasane has throwing knives. But they have the same special ability – very strong telekinesis, allowing them to throw themselves at enemies even with cars and pieces of sidewalk. You can play the game as either Yuito or Kasane, but it is recommended to play both routes to fully understand the plot.

A character using psychic abilities

What’s great about Scarlet Nexus is its incredibly dynamic combat. Whee! Thanks to the aforementioned psychokinesis, every battle with a group of enemies (they don’t walk alone, of course, except for bosses) turns into a fun “I’m kicking your ass” fest. Throwing a roadside lamp, a rusty car, a bicycle, or a chunk of concrete at a monster? Absolutely and with pleasure! When we unlock combos, it all ends with the most beautiful slow-motion fatality. In the subway, we can knock a couple of train cars off the tracks and ram a crowd of mutants with them, on the highway, we can jump onto a truck, perform a spectacular somersault with it, and crash into the monster that’s blocking the way at full speed. Magnificent, stunning in every sense, only with us, many, many times! And while the psychokinesis energy gauge is replenishing, we can kick the enemy with regular weapons, which is equally enjoyable.

A group of enemies

Of course, Yuto and Kasane do not fight alone – they are accompanied by comrades in their squad, adding vigor to the battles. By default, they simply attack monsters, playing the role of a support squad; but with the press of a button, the protagonist and any of the teammates can “combine” their powers. Depending on the teammates, we get a variety of short-term buffs: super speed, teleportation right to the enemy, electric or fire damage, the ability to see through fog, invisibility… Of course, you have to keep track of all these effects because they expire quite quickly (and if you haven’t taken special skills, you can’t activate more than one synchronously), but while they are active, fighting becomes pure joy.

A dramatic confrontation

“Special skills? Yes, I’m talking about Brain Map, the RPG part of Scarlet Nexus. You have to put those points you get after leveling up somewhere, right? Especially considering that there are essential abilities like double jump (where would an action RPG be without a double jump?), aerial evasion, and increasing the psionic energy gauge. So as the main character progresses through the story, they also level up accordingly, and the battles become even more (although how much more?) dynamic and interesting.”

A sci-fi environment

In general, running and killing enemies here is fun, no doubt about it. If only it all happened in an open world or at least there was a possibility to freely switch between locations! (After all, the developers have created many beautiful areas – the starting city, abandoned construction sites and settlements, and… well, I won’t spoil it.) We simply move in a straight line, like a first grader’s ruler, without deviating a step. And there are hardly any side quests, and those that exist are hardly worth calling quests – “kill two mobs while jumping”, “bring me three items”, they can be completed by pressing a button in the quest menu, without even reaching the NPC.

But there are Bonding Episodes! Those who have played Persona 3-5 already understand what I’m talking about. Relationships with party members are developed through frequent use of SAS Link (the “power union”) and, of course, by giving gifts at the hideout. You can give the same gift twenty times and not worry – friends are not picky! If you raise the bond level enough, you will unlock an episode in which you will have a heart-to-heart conversation in a cafe, an outdoor adventure, or something else with the chosen character. You don’t need to choose what to give or think about what to say during the episodes – everything is linear. Increasing the Bond Level provides significant advantages in battle. And some alternate costumes or costume bonuses, which is also a plus. The gifted items are then displayed in the hideout-“house”, turning the faceless bunker with minimal furniture into a cozy living room.

A team of characters

(Romance, like in Persona, in Scarlet Nexus, however, is not present. At most, there is light flirting.)

So, what do we have here? Impressive environment, good combat, companions. Linearity, well, Amaterasu would be with it, in other games we’ll look for open worlds. It seems perfect, but not quite. The main complaint about Scarlet Nexus is the story. It could be ignored (I can’t stand doing that, honestly), but it’s impossible.

We are not allowed to freely run around and fight crazy Lovecraftian creatures in the ruins of cities, like in Nier Automata. We run a hundred meters – cutscene (not even in motion, but static, like in visual novels; dialogue – and pictures), another fifty – another cutscene. Usually, I’m all in for the story, the story in RPGs is the main driving force, but in Scarlet Nexus, it’s more like a force that wants evil and commits… hmm, some kind of heresy, honestly. And at the same time, it grabs us, the protagonist, by the scruff of the neck, like a kitten, and drags us through the story, not allowing us to come to our senses and look around.

A close-up of a weapon

There are no dialogue choices in the game at all, even consisting of “yes,” “of course,” and “as you wish” (and this is an RPG! Before this, I played Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth from the same Bandai Namco, and there were a hundred times more quests and dialogues with choices – millions of them…). The characters are made up of anime clichés, almost entirely; I saw a character once – I recognized them completely, don’t worry, there are no hidden depths planned. Thanks to the classic anime moves, you can predict who will die soon and why in the first five minutes of the game. The writers tried to go all out on the story, cramming in as many “plot twists” as possible, and as a result, they got a mix of cheesecake and vinaigrette: we are constantly told “and also, here’s how! and you didn’t expect this!”, and as a result, the player quickly gets tired of the considerable illogicality of what is happening. If the plot had been limited to the dark confrontation of psychics of the future and insane mutants on a planet on the brink of destruction, honestly, it would have turned out to be a much more cohesive and worthy work. And here, they didn’t even add space pirate unicorns as a bonus.

In the end, we get half an hour of enjoyable gameplay – and then a looong cutscene with a detailed analysis of “what is happening and why everything is not as it seems.” The player doesn’t think anything anymore, they just want coffee and for everyone to finally stop giving lectures on history and let them go beat up more monsters.

A group of characters in combat

On the other hand, everything except the plot is top-notch in the game. And as for the plot – there is an anime adaptation of the game coming out now, maybe it will be more coherent and less boring there.

P.S. Personally, I have another purely PC-related complaint: the lack of built-in widescreen and ultra-widescreen support. It’s understandable that Japanese developers consider wide screens heresy and demonic tricks, and that modders on Nexus will eventually find a way to squeeze the game into the necessary resolutions, but how much longer can this go on?

Scarlet Nexus
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Action, RPG
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Bandai Namco Studios
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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