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Scarlet Nexus Review (PS5) – Jacked up Brainpunk

Scarlet Nexus was announced in 2020 during a Microsoft Xbox press conference. The game looked like it had a lot of intriguing ideas and concepts. There were creepy supernatural monsters and a lot of flashy cinematic action was showcased. Subsequent trailers built on this and there’s been quite a lot of hype surrounding this brand-new IP from Bandai Namco.

Now a year later in 2021, the game has finally released on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S | X and PC.

Scarlet Nexus presents players with the option of choosing between Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall as their player character. Playing as one character will tell the story from their perspective. Therefore, while it is not absolutely essential to play through both stories, it’s highly recommended that you do so in order to get the full picture.

If you’ve played a JRPG title such as Nier Automata in the past, this approach might seem familiar to you with the full story being delivered via multiple playthroughs. If you aren’t a fan of anime or JRPG games, you may want to look elsewhere for your gaming fix.

OSF – Other Suppression Force

Scarlet Nexus’s story revolves around the OSF or Other Suppression Force. The OSF are a military organisation that specialises in dealing with “Others”. Others are monstrous creatures that appear in the human world and wreak havoc. They also happen to have a taste for human brains. Obviously, this is problematic and the OSF is there to save the day.

Yuito is a descendant from a historical family who founded New Himuka while Kasane is also connected to a large corporation known as Randall Industries. Both the protagonists are therefore quite high rank people compared to the average citizen in the Scarlet Nexus. The story in Scarlet Nexus takes a long time to get going. The first few hours of the game will be spent getting up to speed with the game’s mechanics before the story really kicks it up a notch.
Learning the background of the OSF and being introduced to the game’s characters is a slow burn but one that keeps you entertained nevertheless.

Without spoiling too much, the story in Scarlet Nexus is remarkably gripping but does suffer from anime media tropes. If you beeline the main story, you will miss out on a lot of the nuance and side character development though so this is not recommended. The game however has a very solid plot involving fighting off Others with a lot of unexpected twists linking its characters and their actions. This is split up into “Phases” with story based segments interspersed between combat heavy sections.

SAS – Struggle Arms System

Gameplay in Scarlet Nexus gets quite complex despite the fact that the game’s main combat mechanics revolve around hack and slash third person fighting. If you choose Yuito, you’ll be more geared for fighting at close range thanks to his use of a sword. If you opt to play as Kasane, you’ll have a mid-range fighter at your disposal since she uses knives as her primary weapon. Both Yuito and Kasane have psychokinetic abilities and can use objects in the environment as projectile weaponry.

Where things get complicated is when the SAS or Struggle Arms System is implemented. SAS allows your player character to “borrow” powers from one of their OSF teammates in their squad. As the game progresses, you’ll have more members available in your squad to borrow powers from and this changes up based on your current mission. Hanabi Ichijo for example has the ability to use pyrokinesis or control flames. Borrowing her powers imbues Yuito’s sword with flame and he can then do burn damage to enemies. Environmental hazards can be combined with some of these borrowed powers. Say for example an enemy is wet, an electricity-based attack will do additional damage. If an enemy is covered in oil, fire attacks do more damage.

Players will also be able to pull off stronger psychokinetic attacks by pressing and holding L2 when certain objects are available in the environment. These attacks use these objects in the environment to deal massive damage to enemies. For example you can use a train to run over a group of enemies or use a streetlight pole to smash into enemies repeatedly. It’s incredibly satisfying to pull off these attacks but they do drain a lot of your psychokinetic energy.

This, along with the SAS abilities adds some strategy to the hack and slash combat when fighting against others. Players will have to make use of everything at their disposal in some of the harder combat sections where enemies are armoured.

Brain Drive

Later on in the game, players will unlock an ability called Brain Drive via the Brain Map. As you gain experience points and level up, you’ll unlock Brain Points or BP which can be used on the Brain Map to unlock nodes. These nodes impart special buffs or skills to your player character. When the Brain Drive section is unlocked, players will be able enter a heightened state of power in combat. This triggers a short cutscene where a mask comes up over your face and neon LEDs light up. Using your newfound power in combat is incredibly satisfying with attacks doing far more damage and your psychokinesis being enhanced.

Another ability known as Brain Crush is also available to players where once a certain amount of damage is inflicted to an enemy, they can be instantly destroyed. It’s extremely visually pleasing to see a brain crush animation play out in battle since these attacks are incredibly flashy.

Scarlet Nexus’ gameplay can be boiled down to visual novel storytelling interspersed with third person action adventuring and hack and slash heavy combat. The balance it strikes between this is perfected and the entire game will keep you entertained from start to finish without much feeling of repetition sinking in thanks to the almost episodic based nature of the game.

New Himuka

The world in Scarlet Nexus is clearly based on Japan with explorable areas having Japanese names. Unfortunately, the game world isn’t massively open but rather divided into smaller explorable areas. Missions can also be rather linear with not much in the way of exploration. This is quite similar to other more recent JRPG titles such as Persona 5 Strikers and Astral Chain.

Graphically, Scarlet Nexus is a visual masterpiece. The environments are packed with artistic detail and the Other designs are unsettling, fusing together organic and mechanical elements. Artist Masakazu Yamashiro has really done an excellent job here creating enemy designs that look terrifying. Character designs also look great too, especially in cinematics where the real visual flair shows itself. Players can also equip cosmetic items on their characters to change their appearance. It’s just a shame that the game itself does not have a photo mode when it looks so visually appealing.

The soundtrack of Scarlet Nexus is top notch with electronic music featuring throughout. The battle music is great and the upbeat catchy beats used elsewhere in the game fit it perfectly. There’s also a sense of ethereal otherworldy-ness which the soundtrack conveys when exploring some of the more fantastical locations in the game. The voice acting is superb too with a stellar voice cast on both the English and Japanese voice sides.

Overall Verdict

Scarlet Nexus is a brainpunkin’ good action adventure JRPG. The slow paced visual novel-esque storytelling might not be to everyone’s taste but for those who are a fan of games such as Astral Chain, Nier Automata and Persona 5 Strikers, Scarlet Nexus ticks all the right boxes.

It relies on tried and trusted JRPG gaming mechanics and delivers a solid, highly entertaining end product with a mysteriously gripping plot to boot. Highly Recommended.

Disclaimer: PS4/PS5 Review code was provided to Hypertext by the publisher.

Scarlet Nexus

9 Score

Scarlet Nexus relies on tried and trusted JRPG gaming mechanics and delivers a solid, highly entertaining end product with a mysteriously gripping plot to boot. Highly Recommended.

Review Breakdown

  • Total Score 9
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