Scarlet Nexus review: a surprising gem

Follows up and spinoffs are all over in video games. That’s since producing something brand-new can be dangerous. Scarlet Nexus, Bandai Namco’s upcoming role-playing video game, shocked me. It has a strong structure as a prospective future franchise, with an above-average story and enjoyable gameplay and characters.

The video game happens in an imaginary nation called New Himuka that has actually been gotten into by hazardous animals called Others. These animals fall from the sky, part of a phenomenon called the Termination Belt. Society has actually had the ability to use a particular “psionic hormone” in the human brain that enables individuals to establish supernatural powers, such as cryokinesis and air adjustment. People with these powers are called “psionics,” and they’re hunted and hired by the Other Suppression Force, or OSF.

You have the option in between 2 lead characters, Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall, each of whom has their own point of view on the video game’s plot. Other Japanese RPGs have actually included concurrent plot lines previously, such as Tales of Xillia, however because video game, there weren’t sufficient distinctions in between the lead characters’ courses to require such a mechanic. By contrast, the narrative beats of each lead character’s particular path in Scarlet Nexus are differed enough to be significant for most of the video game. There are particular discoveries and significant tradition discards that just Yuito’s or Kasane’s team experiences, so it’s required to play through both courses in order to completely understand the whole context of the video game’s story. It’s worth doing; the plot takes some wild turns.

Each lead characters likewise has a set team that follows them throughout their experience, and they’re all an enjoyable lot. Bonding occasions promoted by series like Personality exist in Scarlet Nexus. You get to discover more about each of your celebration members’ backstories and characters by speaking with them at the Hideout throughout the intermissions in between the video game’s chapters.

The dual-protagonist structure enables both characters to shine, with each course of the video game likewise canceling the advancement of a lots other characters, half of whom sign up with Yuito, while the others sign up with Kasane. The bonding episodes are amusing, too. For instance, throughout a few of these episodes, Kasane’s uncomplicated character clashes with the more prideful disposition of her colleague Shiden, triggering him to translate Kasane’s logical suggestions as individual insults. Her no-nonsense attitude also allows her to shut down the playboy-like advances of Kagero with snide remarks. Then there’s Yuito, the typical kind-hearted anime hero who’s always down to help and also can’t tell when a girl has a crush on him.

These interactions provide a happier contrast to Scarlet Nexus’ darker moments. But the strength of these scenes makes it more disappointing that Wataru Frazer and Haruka Frazer, the groups’ twin navigators, don’t get their own bonding events, despite being major characters in the main cast. The Frazer twins don’t have any direct impact on the gameplay, as they just sit in the background and provide helpful tips during battle, but I would have loved to learn more about them.

Yuito, one of the two protagonists of Scarlet Nexus

Image: Bandai Namco Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment via Polygon

Not only are the different character personalities balanced well between Yuito’s and Kasane’s respective parties, but the gameplay does a great job of having each member complement the protagonists’ respective fighting styles. You can utilize a mechanic called the Struggle Arms System to borrow your team member’s powers so as to enhance your own combat prowess.

Yuito specializes in close-quarters combat with a sword, so borrowing Luka’s teleportation ability lets him quickly close the gap between him and an enemy. Of course, you can also teleport away from the enemy and fight from a distance using Yuito’s psychokinesis power. Since Yuito is mainly going to be up close and individual, he can borrow Gemma’s sclerokinesis to nullify all damage and knockback, allowing him to dish out as much destruction as he can without being interrupted. Initially, you can only borrow one SAS power at a time, but eventually you’ll unlock the ability to activate multiple at once.

Meanwhile, Kasane is a midrange fighter equipped with knives. While both protagonists can hurl objects like cars and street poles with their psychokinesis powers (think Control), Kasane seems to have the advantage here, since she can capitalize on Kyoka’s duplication power, allowing her to copy and add to the number of objects thrown. Additionally, if enemies get too close, Kasane can utilize either Arashi’s hypervelocity power to slow down time or Kagero’s invisibility to retreat and reposition herself.

One of the Scarlet Nexus characters hovers in the air, preparing for an attack

Image: Bandai Namco Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment

Scarlet Nexus does suffer from a bit of Kingdom Hearts syndrome, where it’ll be the protagonist dishing out the vast majority of the damage compared to their allies. While I wouldn’t call the teammates useless, I did notice a handful of times when they were just standing around doing nothing while I was busy hacking away at enemies. Thankfully, they do heal you when you’re low on health, and they sometimes revive you if you fall. You can likewise set their AI behavior to focus on strategies, like targeting the same enemy as you or evading them altogether.

As you deepen the bond level between you and your teammates, you’ll likewise unlock cool new mechanics, such as a chance of a party member blocking a single attack for you, or summoning them for a follow-up attack of your own. As you get further in the story, more tactical options open up, making combat more fun and fluid.

I likewise appreciated Scarlet Nexus’ incredibly simple weapon upgrade system. You can find weapon crafting materials from pickups in dungeons or drops by enemies, and you can also purchase armor and accessories for your characters. If the attack or defense number is higher than the one you’re currently wearing, equip it — boom, that’s it. There’s nothing convoluted here, like innate weapon properties or other overly complex systems that burden some JRPGs (looking at you, Tales of Zestiria).

Kasane, one of the two protagonists of Scarlet Nexus

Image: Bandai Namco Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment via Polygon

There are few places where Scarlet Nexus falters. Its dungeons consist of segmented arenas, with the big areas obviously hinting at enemy encounters; there’s very little variation in dungeon design. My biggest gripe is the side quests, which are literally all fetch quests. NPCs will ask you to kill a certain enemy in a specific way, then offer you a reward after you report the task as finished. These rewards aren’t really even worthwhile anyway, as you can find, purchase, or exchange materials for many of them in the game’s shop.

It’s too bad these side quests don’t take more advantage of Scarlet Nexus’ rich lore and politics, which you learn more about through the bonding events. For example, retired OSF members have trouble adjusting to civilian life after leaving the organization. There’s also a segment of the population that was born without psionic powers, and thus is looked down upon. There are themes of classism, ableism, and discrimination in the game that could have been explored even further for more world-building.

Scarlet Nexus has a colorful cast of characters and an impressive variety of gameplay mechanics, but for me, the unexpected cherry on top was its story. The chapters are very well-paced, and none of them overstays its welcome. 2021 is seeing quite a lot of JRPGs, with many of them being continuations of existing franchises or just remasters. However after having played through both of Scarlet Nexus’ storylines, I believe it has the potential to be a surprise hit this year for fans of the genre. Don’t let this brand-new futuristic brainpunk adventure slip past you.

Scarlet Nexus will be released June 25 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PS5 using a pre-release download code provided by Bandai Namco. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased by means of affiliate links. You can discover extra info about Polygon’s principles policy here.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.