I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little intimidated by Bandai Namco’s Scarlet Nexus, I was. A beautiful cyberpunk style adventure, action Japanese role-play game, you would think would be right up my alley. But I was frightened that it would have the same mechanics as Bandai Namco’s other title, Code Vein, which I knew was not for me. I don’t consider myself a skilled gamer and only play for story, but little did I know, Scarlet Nexus had everything I needed and more.
Scarlet Nexus gives you the option to play three different difficulty levels; Easy Normal and Hard, with two different characters; Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall. Both characters are opposites of each other. Yuito is forgivingly clueless (in a cute way), friendly and open-hearted. He’s type of person who you would want to be your friend. Whereas Kasane is more reserved, shy, intimidating and doesn’t appear to talk or smile much. She only seems to project warmth towards her sister, Naomi.
Yuito and Kasane join the Other Suppression Force, otherwise known as the OSF. Although they applied to enter differently, they are both of equal rank and there are no advantages or disadvantages come from choosing one over the other. Kasane was scouted by the OSF for her impressive abilities and powers, whereas Yuito volunteered (not that he is any less powerful). The differences between these characters aren’t limited to gender, appearance and background, they also have two completely different campaigns. This means, you will tend to witness many battles and story arcs during your gameplay that are unique to your chosen characters. And yes, while they do share a major plotline that overlaps, both characters still have their unique curated journeys.
While a little overwhelming at first when you start the game, the mechanics and gameplay become quite easy to control and adjust to. I found this the case with both Yuito and Kasane’s playthroughs. Although both characters do have psychokinesis abilities and can borrow powers from party members during battle, Yuito is more for close-range combat and is great if you prefer some decent sword slices, whereas Kasane is more ranged and has the ability to throw knives (yes, multiple) from a decent distance. The parties that both Yuito and Kasane have access to differ and I found this rather intriguing when playing both characters. Especially when knowing that you can improve and enhance access to your party’s abilities by improving your Bond with them, which can be done by completing little side quests that showcase little story arcs, providing further depth to your supporting characters.
The combat style is fun, fast, satisfying and the battle system is surprisingly addictive. I found myself yearning for more fight sequences, which is something that I don’t do very often with games. Because you know, I mostly play for the story. If you love witnessing character development or wicked banter, there’s also a Brain Talk function, which I guess is a form of telepathic text messaging, and while you can skim over the messages, reading them are a real treat as it provides more insight and personality to the Scarlet Nexus world and its characters, as trivial as some conversations can be. Between you and me, I want to know more about this magical anti-aging drug the OSF soldiers take!
The Brain Map in-game is Scarlet Nexus‘ version of a skill tree, which you can use to pick, choose and grow your chosen character’s abilities when you gain Brain Points from levelling up. Healing items are also available almost immediately in the wild as green continuously changing glitched looking blocks called Jelly. These are also widely available (among other things) from your save stations/shops that are in the form of some random yellow dude in a suit. Honestly, most of it is pretty self-explanatory, and you learn along the way. But I must say, I loved how there were different sections for useful items, and visual items to dress up your character. I also thoroughly enjoyed how when you equipped visual items, your characters would show up wearing these custom outfits in the cut-scenes. I’ve seen many games which don’t do this, but Scarlet Nexus does.
In Scarlet Nexus, you fight monsters known as Others that somehow fall from the sky. The story begins quite vague about the lore but is a deliciously detailed plotline that unravels so consistently and delicately, that the anticipation to unearth and discover more is incredibly exciting. During some moments of the game, you really feel like you’re watching an anime or reading through a manga, due to talented voice acting (English playthrough) and the cut-scenes giving off a visual novel display. Sure, most visual novels provide you choices that determine your fate, something that Scarlet Nexus doesn’t do. But it’s still visually stunning with its stylish character designs, unique monster designs (the flower monsters wear heels!), its vibrant choices of colour and the way it looks on the next gen Playstation 5 console is nothing short of amazing. The music is also perfect with its fitting catchy synth soundtrack. To the point where I really want to hunt down a physical copy to just listen to without playing because it is just that damn good!
Ideally there is no preferred or recommended character that you should begin with. But if you are keen to do a straight playthrough with one character, be prepared for the story to not really make as much sense the first-time round. This is because both stories intertwine at pivotal moments and each campaign would need to be played through completely for the full Scarlet Nexus story. This is even something one must do to obtain a platinum on the Playstation.
To combat this, I have been taking turns to play through each chapter by using different character save files. I’m certain not many would want to do things this way; play a little bit of Yuito and then play a little bit of Kasane here and there. But it certainly gave me a better understanding to both Yuito and Kasane’s stories. And honestly, it has been a great way to witness the main story unfold. When playing through a huge moment in Kasane’s chapter, because my other save file and character were only a chapter behind in the timeline, I couldn’t wait after finishing Kasane’s route, to play through and find out what happened with Yuito during the same crucial moment. Granted, not everyone will want to make an effort to play Scarlet Nexus this way. But personally, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing each campaign have its unique differences play out, and having the ability to compare them pretty quickly. I understood the story a lot better and faster because both of my characters were progressing at the same time.
Overall, Scarlet Nexus is a hell of a great time and is not only one of the best Bandai Namco releases to date, but it is also one of the best JRPGs I have ever seen. This isn’t just a game, it’s a work of art. The characters are interesting, the gameplay is intuitive (not intimidating at all) and easy to adjust to, the voice acting makes you feel like you’re really in an anime, the story is compelling, and every moment that you play of Scarlet Nexus is beautiful.
Scarlet Nexus is available now on Playstation 4, Playstation 5, XBox One, XBox Series X, XBox Series S and PC.
An early-access copy of this game was provided for review purposes by Bandai Namco Australia.