Title: Scarlet Nexus
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed on), PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC
Release Date: June 25, 2021
I had tempered expectations with this game, given that the various anime ARPGs out there don’t have lasting power. Anime games in general, especially in western hemisphere, don’t perform very well aside from your typical big names like Dragon Ball or Naruto.
However, my experience with Scarlet Nexus was quite phenomenal. It’s not your typical anime RPG game where it looks all cool and flashy with an overly simple controller scheme. This game has those aforementioned cool and flashy details with a surprising amount of depth to its combat controls. Think of Astral Chain, but replace the blue with red colors. It sports a sizable cast of memorable characters with their own quirks and abilities. It also has the qualities of a game that definitely had lots of love put into it.
Scarlet Nexus is not a one trick pony. It does so much right and hopefully it achieves the success levels of games like Persona and Danganronpa. I specifically named these games as examples because they started off as just games and have since gotten their own anime adaptations to go alongside them. Funny enough, Scarlet Nexus is also getting that treatment, so this is definitely a big deal.
If you combine the aforementioned Astral Chain, add in some Cyberpunk 2077, and a coat of red paint, this is the kind of game it is. In fact, Bandai Namco deemed this aesthetic to be “brain punk.” It makes sense. The environments, namely in the civilian-populated cities, wreak of flashy advertisements and zero personal privacy to its citizens. Everyone is connected to this neural network called PsyNet.
The idea of a futuristic society ridden with intrusive ads and all this government surveillance mumbo jumbo could not have come at a better time. Better yet, since this kind of trope hasn’t been too overdone yet, Scarlet Nexus has the upper hand in having some originality.
What I can also appreciate about the game from the get-go is that upon starting up your first playthrough, you have an option to play the story as one of two main protagonists. Pick Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, new recruits to the OSF (Other Suppression Force). They’re basically gender counterparts of each other, having the same psionic capabilities, but different weapons for combat. They also have different back stories and motives while serving in the OSF. Their overall duty in this organization is to protect humanity from the enemy called the “Others.”
It also doesn’t matter who you start off with first because the story follows a parallel plot, meaning the game will come to the same conclusion. However, the story unfolds from the perspectives of these two individuals, so Yuito’s playthrough won’t be the same as Kasane’s.
The story of this game is also one that is quite interesting and somewhat convoluted, with decent plot twists and plentiful dialogue. Good thing Bandai Namco put in a whole compendium in its own game giving character bios, digestible summaries of what happens after each completed chapter, and all sorts of other info like enemy intel so players don’t have to seek external means to do so.
My only gripe about the delivery of the story is that the game’s cutscenes aren’t consistent. Sometimes, there will be fully animated cutscenes with dialogue. Other times, there will be a freeze frame of what’s currently going on, with character portraits overlapping what is going on in the scene with dialogue. Sometimes, and this is mostly when actually controlling your character freely, you’ll get no spoken dialogue and just text boxes when interacting with others.
You get the idea of what’s going on, but I wish everything just had the cutscenes acted out. It breaks the immersion at times when you’re reading the dialogue with still images. However, what the game has to offer in terms of story makes this gripe something I can overlook for the most part.
The gameplay is what personally intrigued me the most for Scarlet Nexus. It looked really stylish and over the top with cool cinematic finishing moves and team attacks. How it plays is basically how it looks. It’s smooth like butter with a gameplay loop that doesn’t get stale after a few hours. This isn’t the kind of game where you just spam one button in and win. There’s actually some skill and game sense you need to have or you’ll find yourself losing battles. It’s not as easy as a Musou game, but it isn’t as hard as a Soulsborne game. You’ll be utilizing the majority of the buttons on your controller to play this game.
What I can appreciate even more about this game is its difficulty slider. You can choose to have a more story-oriented experience on the easy mode, take on a decent challenge on the hard difficulty, or have a mix of both on medium.
On top of that, Scarlet Nexus is a JRPG at its core, and it does a surprisingly great job at keeping the momentum between completing missions and acquiring upgrades for you and your party. Never did I have to do any sort of mid-game grinding because I was underleveled or didn’t have the proper gear. It keeps you in on the action or going through different cutscenes and dialogue so the immersion is never really lost.
My few gripes with the gameplay aspect is that the lock-on system can be a bit unreliable when there are multiple enemies fighting you all at once. You also can’t swap out between other characters in your party, meaning you can only play as the two main protagonists. That problem is mostly mitigated by the fact that you can tag team with one of your party members via SAS— a brain-to-brain connection via a virtual connection that allows you to use their powers. To avoid spoilers, I’m refraining from saying what these powers your allies have.
What ultimately makes this feel like such a great experience for an anime-styled RPG is that it has an amazing soundtrack whether in combat, free roaming in different areas, or even chilling in the menus. It just helps enhance the rest of the experience which was already a solid one to begin with. Scarlet Nexus is definitely going to be that sleeper hit that anime games desperately need, especially when even Microsoft is marketing the hell out of it.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.