Developed By: Bandai Namco Studios
Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, PS5, XBOX
Reviewed On: PS5
It took me 53 hours to complete the two playthroughs required to finish Scarlet Nexus – 33 hours was spent on playing as Kasane Randall, the female hero of the game, and another 20 hours as Yuito Sumeragi, the male hero. From start to finish, the game has generally been a very enjoyable experience though it also reminded me of the similarities it had with other games – mainly NieR Automata for its high-paced action and multi-perspective & playthrough experience, Persona styled art presentation and bonding system, and Monster Hunter inspired weak point system, to name a few.
But what is uniquely Scarlet Nexus here is definitely the satisfaction guaranteed high-speed combat with fluid smooth combos’ execution where one can continuously dish out finishing moves in quick succession and ending every encounter in a flamboyant style. This is a game that puts great emphasis on the player’s combat experience and the developer’s effort in this area is evident.
Story-wise, Scarlet Nexus takes place in a futuristic cyberpunk-ish world where humankind is born in two breeds now, one with psionic abilities, and the other without. The world is plagued with a threat called “The Others”, a human-brain-feeding creature spawned from an anomaly in the sky. Those born with psionic abilities are scouted from young and enrolled into the OSF (Others Suppression Force), an elite unit tasked to patrolling borders of the remaining human cities and as an Others extermination force.
The setting of the game seemed promising to me at first, but they soon go down the predictable path. A group of newly graduated elite cadets somehow bands together and soon found themselves fighting humanity’s greatest threat with the survival of mankind’s entire species now rest in their hands. It’s another J-Story cliché like many others out there but that’s fine with me. There are many JRPGs and Animes/Manga/Light Novels out there and anyone who has spent enough time consuming these materials is bound to encounter similar if not identical plots or characters down the road. What mattered to me is if the story is interesting enough to hold my attention and not bore me before I reach the end. This is especially important for a multi-perspective/multi-playthrough game like this one because I’m supposed to play and finish the game twice. But thankfully, although there are bits that I dislike, the overall story and mystery in it is not bad enough to keep me away entirely. There is also my gratitude for the Skip button for repeating parts in my second playthrough.
Some of the bits that annoyed me in the story were the game mentioning something interesting early in the game but just completely forgotten about it later. Now, I am not sure if this was the way it was written, or they have genuinely forgotten about concluding it. There is also a named character who would appear to gain your attention, you would even end up fighting her several times throughout your Kasane playthrough only in the end for her to disappear without a trace or mention. As if she did not exist in the first place or they have forgotten to give her an ending. Those are just some examples and there are some more inconsistency and narrative-logic clashes throughout the game that would constantly make me raise an eyebrow.
All in all, the only consistency I felt from the game’s story is how the game has consistently missed out on the story they appeared to have set out to tell, which is a shame, really. Because I thought the game had great potential with the plot and had they been more careful and meticulous with the story writing as they had been with the combat design, Scarlet Nexus would have been a respectable example for other JRPG makers to follow.
The side quests department is another big turn-off for me being so poor in quality and lazy in design. All the side quests are in a manner of – Go Kill Monster X under such and such conditions. They add no meaningful information on the game’s world at all even though they are such a wonderful opportunity to be so. And again, what a shame because the game’s plot could really use some more details and lore.
Kasane and Yuito are your typical good cop – bad cop, hot and cold, fire and ice, duo. I find them very likable (except the cringey moments, I just cannot stand cringes anywhere). It did not matter which character a player starts the game with, but after having finished the game now I would vouch towards starting as Kasane first before finishing it as Yuito. I feel the story just falls into place more naturally like that. Anyway, the main differences between Kasane and Yuito are, one is a ranged fighter and the other a closed quarter combatant. Both characters have stories and scenes unique to them in the campaign with parts in the game where both their stories are aligned. For the shared scenes, a player would be playing through identical scenes in both playthroughs. But no matter who you start and finish with first, you can start a second playthrough in New Game Plus mode with your collected skill points, levels, gears, purchases, all carried over to your new game.
Yuito whacking an enemy left and right with his Psychokinesis ability
Both of them have the same ability – Psychokinesis, it allows them to pick up and move objects with their mind. While it does not sound particularly powerful at first, it is actually quite formidable. Being able to hurl concrete road barriers, cars, taking control of a bus or train carriage to mow my enemies down gives me this weird yet profound sense of pride in their ability. This is further reinforced by the satisfying ‘click’ sensation the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller adaptive triggers whenever an object is successfully hooked by my ability.
But combat in this game would take more than sending objects flying into your enemy’s face to secure a victory, and that is where the other eight abilities come in, one from each party member I have. Each of the 8 abilities are unique and useful in certain scenarios, be it in a fight or just navigating the map sometimes. I had expected the developers to have a hard time balancing the game so that each of the abilities would have their own room to shine and while this is true to a certain degree, it is not perfect. Of the 8 abilities – Invisibility, Duplication, Clairvoyance, Electrokinesis, Pyrokinetic, Hypervelocity, Teleportation, and Sclerokinesis, I find Sclerokinesis, an ability that hardens your body for defensive purposes the least use ability in my gameplay experience. In fact, I almost never use it at all. 7 of the other abilities, however, I do use them rather regularly. Not a perfect balance, but 7 out of 8 is still amazing.
Brain Crush – A finishing move you can execute in Scarlet Nexus when the right condition is achieved – always fun to do it :3
Combat may seem like a normal hack-n-slash at first glance, but it can get technical when one needs to balance between using normal strikes and activating the right ability to face the enemy. Dodging is still a challenge for me even after 50 hours of gameplay, as is intercepting a projectile meant for me and returning the shot at the shooter. And since combat usually takes place at an intense pace, I was constantly caught between doing several things at the same time like my left hand keeping busy with movement and a finger constantly on L1 to hold-activate my SAS abilities, my right hand is busy controlling the camera angle, dancing between the Square and Triangle button for attacks, activating my own Psychokinesis power whenever I can with R2, and forever trying desperately dodge any incoming hits – and this is the dumbed-down description of the combat so far. The game has several more combat features that I can’t explain here without making this review sound like a guide for the game.
The game is bloody fun to play if you can handle the controls and respond correctly at the right time, and even if you cannot, there’s an option to lower the difficulty. The combat experience in this game alone is enough for me to recommend this game to anyone. This is without a doubt my favourite action game from Bandai so far.
Each of the party members’ abilities can be upgraded to a better effect as our ‘Bond’ level with the members increases. This can be done by giving them gifts or doing their Bond Episodes with them. I usually find these Bonding Episodes boring since they usually revolve around cringey and unimportant dialogues between the main character and his/her friends. I just do them to get it over with for the sake of upgrading my abilities. But what I did enjoy was the gifts that I gave the characters would turn up at our team’s hideout because the character would decorate their personal space with them. It is fun to see how the hideout grows with more stuff and how the party members’ personalities and interests are reflected in their decorations.
After finishing both playthroughs, the game prompted a message informing me that I can now continue the game and switch between the two heroes anytime I want by speaking to them at the hideout and that I was free to pick up the new side quests. I was disappointed because I thought the game would have an arena-style system where we could challenge the bosses again or a high-level bounty system where we could go out to hunt some more. And as I have said about the side quests quality above, having more of them to do in the end game isn’t exactly an incentive.
Finally, for a title that the developers knew fully well would launch on the next-gen consoles where fast loading speed is the new norm yet, the loading speed in Scarlet Nexus on the PlayStation 5 did not actually reflect this standard. I do not think I’ve waited as long to save a game on other PS5 titles as I did for this game. I do not know what prevented it from loading faster or saving a game in the background instead of keeping the player on the save screen, but I hope there’s a future patch that improves this.
What I liked about this game so far –
- High and Intense paced combat at 60 FPS
- Good looking graphics and visual effects
- Absolutely superb and memorable combat experience.
- Monster and Character Design are well done.
- The Visual Novel-ish story presentation is kind of classy.
What I wish was better –
- The side quests need to be more meaningful than this.
- Part of the story feels incomplete or left out.
- Loading and game-saving speed are not up to next-gen standard.
- Lack of proper end-game content is a missed opportunity IMO.
If I look at it as it is right now in short term and present tense, Scarlet Nexus is without a doubt a good game. But that is not the only value present here. What is bigger for me here is this game has shown great potential and the developers have already nailed down arguably the most important part of a game – a good and fun Combat Experience and Mechanism. What is left now is to go back to the storyboard and come out with a blockbuster worthy story to tell, and of course to tell it properly. Despite some of its shortcomings, I have absolutely no regrets on the 53 hours I spent playing and finishing this game. In fact, I want to see it backed for a sequel.
Final Score – 7.5 / 10