Scarlet nexus main image

Scarlet Nexus Review – Like Psychonauts but Anime.

Scarlet nexus score card

Scarlet Nexus is the latest game from Bandai Namco and released on the 25th of June. It was released on Xbox One, Series, PS4, PS5, and PC. As an Anime style, action-JRPG it kind of fits into a very specific box. 

Gameplay? 9/10 – Some of the most wild, expressive, amd fun gameplay and companion systems.

There ends up being a lot more going on with Scarlet Nexus than is initially presented. As you continue through the game more is unlocked; things like abilities, combos, modes, and boosts open up as you go.

Combat

The combat starts off simple enough. You get a basic attack for combos – which start at 3 attacks – as well as a wide spin attack. The spin attack starts off as being unable to combo. Finally you get your psychic ability, which is basically telekinesis and you can launch objects at the enemy. This you can combo from the start, using it as part of your combo, then back into the base attack nicely. This is literally just the start, it gets a bit crazier after this.

You can increase the length of your base combo and the spin attack’s combo for example. Or increase the amount of times you can put together the psychic attack combos. Then you add in the SAS system, which I’ll talk about a bit later in this section.

Scarlet Nexus choo choo

Enemies though have two bars that you can deplete. The first is a health bar, pretty standard, taking it to zero kills the monster. However the second is the crush bar, taking this down will basically down them ready for a finisher. There are a bunch of finishers too, all using psychokinesis and basically yanking the ‘bulb’ from the ‘Other’. These little scenes are very satisfying and well animated.

Killing enemies can have them dropping materials of varying rarity, used for getting better weapons, chips, accessories, and gifts.

SAS

Connecting to your team allows you to use their powers for a short while. In the beginning you can only use one power at a time. Some are weapon powers that add elements to all of your attacks, others are for defence, or movement speed, and others still can be used outside of combat. Like being able to teleport through some obstacles for example.

As you increase your bonds you can do even more though, like adding new combo options and also buffs and defensive options. Sometimes they will take a hit for you, or the length of time you can use the ability increases. For combos there are two options. Firstly, you can call them anytime using some of the SAS meter for that ally. Then, after certain points, you get a prompt to bring them up without using the SAS meter. It just adds some pretty big damage to both bars on enemies.

Scarlet Nexus clairvoyance

It’s a really cool system that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. It also adds a lot of flavour to the combat and any exploration. 

Bonds

The game also brings in some pretty neat companion mechanics. It’s similar to how games like Persona have your connections to your team improving, with combat buffs. But I think maybe the system in Scarlet Nexus is a little better, or at least more tangible. Seeing as each of your companions basically give you their power for a short time, it’s easy to see improvements. 

Like extending the time you can use it, adding follow up attacks, or improving that skill; my favourite being Duplication. Leveling up your bond with Kyoko means that you get Naruto shadow clones. These clones mirror you exactly and will attack along with you, multiplying your damage. By the end of her bond journey you end up with 3 Yuito’s all dealing massive damage together.

To increase these bonds you just have to interact with the members of your team and the hideout by giving them gifts or going through “bond episodes” with them. Gifts are either rewards from side quests or can be obtained by exchanging materials with the vendor. Each person has a little table in the hideout that fills up with the gifts you give them, which I love.

Scarlet Nexus bond

The “bond episodes” are more panelled scenes full of dialogue and interactions with that person. These can be really insightful and really flesh out each side character a lot and they’re very reminiscent of the scenes in Persona 5, for example.

Brain Map

The Brain Map is the skill tree of the game. 

My favourite skills are the ones to increase the number of SAS you can have active at once. First up to 2, then up to 4. You can also increase your base damage, crush damage, and psychokinesis meter. Other upgrades are for Brain Field and Brain Drive. With some others for item cooldown and combo lengths.

It’s pretty well rounded and extensive, one of the better skill trees to be honest. I can’t really think of any skill in the tree that’s useless. They all have a genuine use and benefit, a lot of them in combat which I really like. Damage, combos, power usage and the like is exactly what I want from a skill tree.

Brain Drive

This is a type of awakened form, increasing stats and attack speed, and reducing the consumption of the psychokinesis bar. That’s the technical changes but more importantly, the look and music changes. The music speeds up, I guess to match the change in attack speed, which is very cool. Also there is a slight change in your outfit too. Lifting your hood up and donning a pretty amazing mask.

Scarlet nexus yuito

Brain Field

Absolute madness this one. You kind of super connect to the SAS system, almost going into another world. A sort of tech space, with floating debris all around. 

You get much more powerful psychokinesis powers in this mode, doing more damage and often taking less. The attacks you have available change a bit too.

Then there’s the small matter of you literally going mad sometimes. I honestly don’t know how this works, but I’m sure the game told me and I missed it. You basically start laughing maniacally whilst grasping your head. Sometimes a team member is able to snap you out of this which also adds some time to your limit.

And finally you have the countdown. A countdown to your literal death. If you stay in the Brain Field too long, till your countdown hits zero, your brain basically self-destructs. Which is a crazy feature in a game if I’m honest. It’s a great spectacle, does loads of damage, and is a funky as hell idea.

Scarlet Nexus brain field

Customization

There’s quite a lot to do here. The first is cosmetics, from your entire uniform to a bunch of accessories. Now I will say that there are way too many accessories and variations of them, and not all of them are actually that good. The ones that are good, are very good, so that makes up for it. For example I had a great rabbit mask for ages which I transitioned into some Oni horns. Some of the uniforms are really good looking, for getting my team bonds high enough I got a white one, just for example.

Other than that, each character gets a weapon and some upgrade chips. There are quite a lot of weapons for each character, who each one use a different kind with steadily increasing damage. Not much emphasis is put on the weapons and their designs themselves, but you do at least see a lot of the weapons your protagonist used. The only change I would recommend here would be to have a large preview image for them all.

Upgrade chips are interchangeable and add a not at all insignificant buff. More attack, defence, and health being the simplest ones. They are a really good addition and can be bought, found, and exchanged for materials.

Issues

There are only a couple of issues for me, major or not is very subjective. The first is one of the main issues with the Witcher 3 too. Trying to pick up items to interact with people. You basically have to be in the exact right position and have come to a full stop. If you’re off by even a millimeter you’ll basically just attack and fly past it.

Scarlet nexus dragon sword

The other issue is with the quick item menu, especially during combat. It gets a little full and hard to navigate quickly when you’re trying to not die. This could be a me problem but I constantly had trouble going through the whole menu quickly in a fight. It was just a nuisance is all.

Visuals? 8/10 – A whole lot of style in this package. Some areas are rough but the level of art is indeniable

Scarlet Nexus is a strange mixture of more realistic looking worlds, sets, and environments, combined with Anime cel shaded characters. That alone gets it points, purely for boldness.

The first point is that overall it works really well, the contrast is stark but it also makes all of the characters and combat animations pop. Pop in such a way that a different environment couldn’t achieve, or even come close to. This also goes for the enemies, most of which aren’t in the same style as the characters yet still stand out from the environment.

Some areas of the more ‘realistic’ look a little rougher. Slightly lower quality resolutions would probably explain it. The reason it still gets such a high score is the style. So the character models and designs are impeccable, the monster designs are gruesome but are inspired and unique. Then there’s the visuals and effects therein for the panelled cutscenes that are amazing. I’ve always been a supporter of style over fidelity so Scarlet Nexus passes with flying colours.

Scarlet nexus kasane

Just as a final point that’s worth bringing up, the effects during combat are incredible. Some powers change the filter of the screen and others are just a spectacle. My favourite is the fire tornadoes that you can make with the help of the SAS system.

Audio? 10/10 – An absolute dream of an OST. Some absolutely banging techno metal

Goddamn this soundtrack is absolutely stellar. One of my favourite genres is techno metal. It’s the best of all worlds and I love it, the best in the genre for me is Crossfaith. Whilst I don’t think they got Crossfaith for the OST, the essence is the same.

Some of the combat tracks for example are truly fantastic and really pumped me up. Then when you’re safe, in a zone or city the music changes to kind of chiller synth music. Which, again, is absolutely delightful.

Everything else is crystal clear, well mixed, and satisfying. Like the callouts during fights, or the teleportation effects and fire tornadoes. 

Scarlet nexus oni friends

I like all of it a lot, to the point where I’d say for this style of game, only Persona 5 really tops it. The style is kind of similar, though a lot heavier for the combat tracks, but it all blends into a gorgeous medley. As a fan of the majority of the genres presented, I’d add a good amount to my personal playlists if they release the OST on Spotify.

Story? 8/10 – A wacky world that takes you all over. Somewhat predictable but overall very enjoyable.

This is another game that’s hard to talk about story details without spoiling quite a lot. The twists, wacky tangents, and Anime-ness of it is the highlight. So there will be very minor spoilers here because I’ll try to keep it all to a minimum.

The world of Scarlet Nexus is set in basically a post apocalyptic version of Japan. Not exactly Japan but it is Japan. The human race has developed psychic powers and technology to work with it. To go with these powers go far worse threats; the Others. Monsters that basically fall from the sky and eat human brains, kind of like way worse zombies. 

The New Himuka government sets up a new division called the OSF, it’s basically a military branch focused on killing Others. The recruitment comes in two forms, firstly those with exceptional skills are scouted and it is illegal for a scouted person to refuse. The second are the volunteers, these are people that didn’t have exceptional skills and weren’t scouted. Despite choosing to help and to put their lives on the line, volunteers are discriminated against in the OSF.

Scarlet nexus uhoh

The game follows one of two protagonists, Kasane, a female scouted by the OSF and Yuito, a male volunteer. Depending on who you choose you’ll have to fight the Others, save lives, and maybe unravel the origins of the Others.

I can honestly say that I really enjoyed the story in Scarlet Nexus. The ideas, the themes, and overall competency of all of the little threads. I’m also really happy with the satisfying conclusion and end to this story. It just makes me want more. A sequel or especially a prequel for this franchise.

There’s some pretty heavy themes present throughout too which was a surprise. Like government censorship, information control, and racism. All of these are presented in a deeply sci-fi fashion but I think it’s all done well. Racism for example is covered by people known as “duds”; people with no psychic abilities. It goes into how they can’t interact with anything in the city and are basically shunned, forgotten, and excluded from everything because of it. 

Acting? 9/10 – Great voice acting even in English. Adds the necessary gravitas to characters

There are some things that come out of Japan that get English translations that are not good. Either it’s bad or it’s just a bit weird. Our own Zack pointed out the same thing as me in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake with Cloud’s sighs. That’s just one example but there are plenty to pick from. In the last few months, with games I’ve played, there seems to be a trend of improvement though. Scarlet Nexus follows this trend splendidly.

Scarlet nexus pose

I played with English voice acting but I believe it has Japanese available as standard too. Pretty much all of the voices, the voice actors, and the scripts were pretty good. I even recognised a bunch from other games and shows which was neato. Also the interactions between the characters are really quite good. Adding a decent amount of depth and nuance to some of them. With the use of stationary panels instead of animations, the voices really drive everything. So it’s even more important that the acting is prioritised as it is.

My one complaint is with one of the main characters, Yuito. Sometimes he’s too dense, or too calm for the current situation. It really doesn’t fit, luckily this doesn’t take too much away from the rest. Everyone else entirely holds it up, even when there are those dips. Other than this though, I have not a single complaint. 

Writing? 9/10 – Incredibly competent. Doing some of the weirdest stuff but tying it in well. Best example of a time travel problem I’ve seen.

The writing is good, there I said it. I say that there are two areas that Scarlet Nexus gets major points for.

The first is that there’s some wild ideas but they all make sense within the context of the game. For example, the moon and time travel. Borrowing ideas from other series and mediums but giving it a bit of a twist. Another is how basically nobody is the good guy. This again has been done before but it really works here.

The second is very personal for me. I hate when any situation could be saved by everyone just talking. Just explaining themselves and their motivations. Scarlet Nexus takes this awful concept, runs with it, then gives a valid reason for it. I won’t spoil it here but I went from “goddamnit again!!” to “oh damn that makes sense”. I can’t remember a game, show, or movie doing this for me before. It made an unbearable trope into a working plotline, kudos.

Scarlet nexus big mask

One final big compliment goes to how competent the story is for having only two perspectives. By that I mean you basically only experience the story through the perspectives of the two protagonists. Then only that of the protagonist that you chose at the start. So Yuito doesn’t see anything that happens to Kasane when they’re not together. They also don’t see what’s going on with the villains or other friendly characters when they aren’t together. It really surprised me how well the plot can be moved without the normal ‘villain cutscene’ for example. You still end up with all the information you just get it all at the same time as the protagonist.

The only issue I really had was its predictability. Some of the twists and key plot points were pretty easy to work out early. I had a decent portion of the story sussed out after a few hours.

Performance? 10/10 – Literally perfect for me.

This new generation, along with big releases the last few years, have had teething problems. It’s been frankly a bit of an issue in the industry for a while. Broken games, lack of content, and just straight up awful.

I played through for a good 30-40 hours for one playthrough and didn’t get a single problem.

No dropped frames, crashes, or anything, and there were no audio bugs. I honestly had an absolute perfect experience playing Scarlet Nexus start to finish on Series X.

Fun Factor? 9/10 – Had an absolute blast all the way through. Story, combat, characters, and flashiness!

If you’re into action rpgs, anime, techno metal, or games emphasising friendship then this is it. As it’s an Anime style game the one constant is friendship. You can overcome anything with friendship. As always, whether it’s timely evolution, a perfect draw, or now shooting fire out of your hand, I’m in. Convenient as it normally is, Scarlet Nexus basically makes you more powerful with friendship, tangibly. Your overall combat prowess is improved, the combos get crazier, and the effects amplified. That’s the kind of fun I like in my games.

Scarlet nexus finisher

Eventually using 4 powers in combat is one of the most satisfying loops I’ve had in a game like this. Gaining pyrokinesis, moving crazy fast, duplicating yourself with shadow clones, and becoming invulnerable. Let me tell you, not only does the screen go mad with effects and filters but being unstoppable is goooooood.

Boil all this down with some zany story threads, some really likable characters, and a fantastic soundtrack. That all creates a fine ass soup.

Value? 10/10 – Absolute great price for a game also on next gen consoles. A lot of content and a fantastic game for a small price

Scarlet Nexus will set you back £49.99 on Xbox, and that includes the next-gen version. That’s already a pretty mad price based on recent companies going up to £70 or charging for upgrades. The price is matched for the PS4 and PS5 but on Steam it’s even cheaper and £40. Which is frankly pure madness for how good this game is. 

With that £50 you got an intensely stylish game, with incredible combat and friendship systems. That’s not mentioning the fact that between the two campaigns you could get 80 to 100 hours of gameplay. Each campaign focuses on the singular perspective of the protagonist. What this means is that going between each campaign will yield a decent amount of new content. Content, context, and events that tie into the same story that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s an immensely clever way to tell the story and adds genuine value to the game in my opinion.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 9/10 – I loved Scarlet Nexus so much. I truly hope that this spawns a genuine franchise and we get more!

Let’s get right down to it, Scarlet Nexus is a really good game, with some of the flashiest and most satisfying action combat around. It takes the idea of Devil May Cry combos and cranks it’s Anime-ness up to max. Which is a funny thing to say because DMC is already pretty mad in its own right.

Scarlet nexus loli

Scarlet Nexus also gets points for being incredibly stylish through the character designs, animations, and soundtrack. I love the contrast between a more realistic world look and the Anime characters and psychic powers. Big flashy psychic sword combos, followed by fire tornadoes and teleportation feels incredible. Running through the cities with techno playing and then out in the field hearing some really good techno metal. 

Even the crazy way they made all cutscenes more of a coloured Manga than actual animations. I’ve not seen it done quite like this before I don’t think and it was done to great effect. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.

The only knocks are a few quality of life issues and the story was a little predictable. That’s just about all I could complain about really. Which, really, isn’t all that much to have wrong with a game.

Other than these though, Scarlet Nexus is one of the best action JRPGs I’ve played. Especially in recent times. Really only beaten out by the works of art from FromSoftware for me personally. If you like action RPGs, JRPGs, action games, or Anime this would be a hard one to miss. I would very much like this to become a series and not just left as one game. A prequal for example would work wonders.

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