Scarlet Nexus Review – Cyber Teens Do Battle in the Anime-Trix
Developed by Bandai Namco Studios
Published by Bandai Namco Entertainment
Available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
I’ve gone on record saying I’m not a huge fan of anime. It’s usually mopey teens being sad about mopey teen anime things. I get it. It’s hard to be a teen. At 31 years old, I had forgotten. Scarlet Nexus is no different. You play as Yuito Sumeragi, or at least I did. You have a choice between a male and female character. I chose male, because I like the video game characters I play to be the same as me on some level or another. I identify better with a character that’s like me. Yuito Sumeragi is unlike me in a lot of ways. His dad – Joe Sumeragi – runs the OSF. The OSF, or Other Suppression Force, seeks to stop monsters from eating our brains. I’m getting ahead of myself. The Others are monsters that showed up just as humanity was learning how to harness a psionic hormone found in human brains.
Unlocking this potential brought forth The Others from some unknown place. They are like vampires, but for brains. The Others are not weak to conventional weapons. You can only fight them toe-to-toe using psionic powers. Powerful psionic people are scouted by the OSF to build a child army of psi warriors. Now, Scarlet Nexus doesn’t explicitly say it’s just for kids, but they do only scout young people. In one of the OSF platoons there is an adult that was scouted, and the mopey teen characters are always calling him out for being what appears to be in his 20’s.
Yuito himself was saved from The Others by a powerful psionic when he was a child. He was not scouted, but joined. His power is psycho-kinesis, which means he can move things with his mind. The set-up is actually pretty interesting. Scarlet Nexus wasn’t winning me over with it’s characters. I didn’t identify enough with teens who just wanna do wars so bad. The visuals and gameplay absolutely shine though. I’m not saying the story is bad. Actually, quite the contrary. The writing is on point, and the story gets intriguing. There is just a lot of socializing back and forth between the members of the team that I didn’t care for. It might be your jam. I don’t know.You start on the final day of Yuito’s OSF training. You get to skip his presumably awkward childhood years when he couldn’t control what he threw around with his mind. After completing training you meet up with some like-minded recruits and get to the business of killing The Others.
Scarlet Nexus kind of plays like Yakuza or DreadOut 2. In between missions you can go around the gorgeous and utterly expansive city New Humika. You can go check out the Sumeragi Tomb, where Yuito’s ancestors are buried. Entering missions gives you a bit of story, and then you get into it. It’s a 3rd person action RPG. You’ll be moving around and absolutely teeing off on Others. You’ll be fighting with usually two other OSF members fresh out of training. This is where things get neat. You can channel their psionic powers through your brain link to modify your attacks. Yuito normally fights with a katana and his psycho-kinetic powers. Say you get tired of throwing trash cans at Others; well, you’re more than welcome to channel whoever you’re with.
The characters that you’re teamed up with in Scarlet Nexus run the gamut. You have a defense focused member that will let you up your defense. An electro-kinetic team member lets you do sweeping, electric-infused attacks. The combos you can create are endless. I was fond of using my kinesis to throw water barrels at my foes, and then channeling elctro-kinesis to stun them down with electric attacks. As you get paired up with more and more OSF folks, you’ll find that channeling powers is often the key to winning encounters. These other members are also as customizable as you are. Yuito is highly customizable. Throw a new hat on him, or outfit, change out his sword, maybe put a charm on his shoulder. It’s all up to you.
I personally had so much ridiculous junk on Yuito that it was blocking the view of other characters in cutscenes. I love this aspect of Scarlet Nexus deeply. With full control over the clothes of my teammates, it was wise of them to keep me healed. Teammates that didn’t heal me fast enough had to wear the rabbit ears accessory until I’d felt they learned their lesson. Going through missions is fun, if at times confusing. There is a mini-map, but oftentimes the goal is off the map, so you’re forced to run around these spaces until you accidentally run into an enemy or the door you’re looking for. Thankfully, wandering has it’s rewards. Scarlet Nexus has a crafting system that allows you to use pieces of data from monsters, along with data on the environment, to craft new accessories, items, and even weapons.
As I continued playing Scarlet Nexus, I realized I was getting invested in these characters. There is a safe house you can use between missions to take a load off. The characters will sit around and watch TV and just hang out. In these cool down times, you can complete character-specific missions to raise your relationship level with them. By getting better acquainted with team members, you’ll increase the effects gained through channeling their powers. It is always in your best interest to do their side missions. I was happy to do the side missions, because they provide deep characterization to what, in any other game, would be interchangeable faceless allies. I was concerned for their plight. When one of my homies got turned into an Other? I felt that.
It looks great, plays great, and has a lot of little things that make it feel whole. Scarlet Nexus is not to be missed. The spooky character designs and at times moral-challenging story will keep you entertained all the way until the credits roll. You might even go back for seconds.