Scarlet Nexus is a brand new IP from Bandai Namco. They have taken their experience with the ‘Tales of’ and ‘God Eater’ series which shows up very well here. Some inspiration has been taken from character-action games as well. This is why I was surprised to see how the developers managed to nail all of these concepts so well into this game. Scarlet Nexus is a very ambitious project with dual protagonists and character-driven action, and the developers have managed to succeed in executing it all even if they were taking a big risk.
Psionic abilities have become commonplace in this universe, and everyone has the ability to communicate via brain waves. This breakthrough has had major implications on mankind and society at large. As part of a collective conscious, humans can communicate without the need for primitive means like physical presence or speech. Not everyone possesses the same degree of psionic abilities, however. Some are more gifted than others, which leads to them being chosen to join the OSF (Others Suppression Force), a military organization that’s dedicated to combating a new threat referred to as the “Others”.
Others are the main enemies in Scarlet Nexus who have the power to eat the brains of humans. They are the result of a random event that leads to the formation of a strange belt that surrounds this world. There are two controllable characters in the game: Yuito and Kasane. The story is divided between the two characters with each story path offering an alternative viewpoint of the events presented in the main game. There is an incentive to not only replay the game with a different character but to experience the story from a fresh perspective and all in, you can spend upwards of 40 hours going through both campaigns.
The difference here extends to the combat as well and not just for the story. Both main characters wield different weapons. Yuito is a swordsman who can land a few hits quickly. He can dish a large amount of damage up and close to the enemies. His combat is focused on offense. Kasane is a ranged fighter. She can use daggers to attack enemies from a distance. The developers have done a great job presenting the scenario consisting of these two characters. Each of the characters has a story arc that provides twists and unexpected turns. You can enjoy both without having to sit through a repetitive campaign.
It takes some time to get a good grasp of the combat system. Things improve as you gradually unlock more moves and begin to control your squadmates using the SAS (Struggle Arms System). This is a mechanism in which your playable character may briefly link their brain to those of other squad members and utilize their abilities. This allows you to target particular foes’ vulnerabilities or exploit specific status conditions. Enemies can be weak to various elements so it is best to take advantage of their weakness in combat by using your own skills and your squadmates’ abilities.
The combat goes really well with the Telekinesis ability. You can mix the Telekinect with weapon-based attacks to create a chain of combos. It keeps the combat fresh and open to experimentation. The boss fights are exciting and keep you on your toes. In fact, they can be quite challenging too. Sadly I can’t say the same for the enemy variety. You usually end up fighting the same enemies with little changes to set them apart. The targeting system is a little flawed which can make some of the fights a little frustrating, but the overall combat system is still a lot of fun. You can upgrade your skills and abilities to improve your capability. This system is tied to the Brain Map which works with nodes. You can level up your characters to unlock more nodes and increase your options in combat.
The game places a lot of emphasis on its supporting cast. Yuito and Kasane are joined by eight squadmates who can also help with their combat abilities. You can return to your hideout after finishing the main missions. You will have to maintain and improve a bond level with the side characters, which feels like it is something out of the Persona series. To improve your bond, you can complete tasks or talk to them. You can also give them presents to further improve your bond level. Not only you will enjoy these quiet moments, but you will also get to see the growth of these characters.
This is not the only optional content that you have to deal with in the game. There are more than two dozen sidequests that are different for both of the lead characters. They are usually repetitive and mundane tasks ranging from killing a certain number of enemies or trying to find certain items. You will explore familiar locations during this time as the game allows you to return to gain more experience and deal with new sidequests. The lack of major side-missions is a bummer because the world carries the potential for some amazing quests. Maybe it can be realized in the sequel.
Scarlet Nexus has surprised me more than it should with its high-quality character action gameplay, and an engaging cast helped by a somewhat anime story. It draws your attention from the beginning and offers a decent chunk of replay value. While you are waiting for some of the heavy hitters to launch later this year, this is not a bad stopgap to play through in between the long wait to the next game.