Scarlet Nexus is a stylish game. When I was not skipping through the boring dialogue, messy cutscenes and confusing story, I was living my best life flying around an arena slicing up Others while tossing cars at them using my superpowers. If anything, this is the closest we are ever going to get to a decent X-Men game even if it is painted with anime stripes.
Before I go on about how great the combat and general gameplay is in Scarlet Nexus I need to tell you how terrible the story is. What starts off as a pretty solid story of youngsters thrown into defending a supernatural world from brain-eating monsters, slowly turns into a convoluted tale that plays out like a high-school beat em’ up. Characters are shallow and reek of cliche Japanese anime personalities and the story becomes hard to follow with all its twists and turns.
The writing is bland and repetitive and after you mix in time travel, totalitarian governments and the question of reality, you end up with a confusing plot that is better off skipped. I hated these characters so much that I ended up simply skipping through all the bond missions entirely. These missions were meant to be story chapters used to get to know the cast while also increasing your bond with them levelling up your powers. While these characters look stylish from the outside, they are painfully shallow and predictable.
Unfortunately, this goes for both the two main characters and the supporting cast. You see, Scarlet Nexus is played from two perspectives. You play the entire campaign as Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall. Both campaigns play out pretty much the same but focus on a different group of OFS members. Each batch is equally as annoying as the other. Hanabi Ichijo is a whiny girl who can’t make up her mind as to what she wants to do. Shiden Ritter gets on your nerves with his cliche rebel “I hate everything” personality.
Then there is Nagi Karman. A boy who obsessed with sex and woman. The moment you meet him all he cares about is how cute the girls are and how he wants to date them all. Just painful. I get that this is meant to be a sort of Japanese anime game but there was definitely a missed opportunity here to create characters that weren’t so run-of-the-mill. It doesn’t help carry this story at all. In fact, it drives it further into ruin.
As I mentioned before, Scarlet Nexus is played in two parts. Sure, you can just play the campaign as one of the characters and never go back but if you want to experience, and try to make sense of the story, then you should play it twice. Both campaigns interlink at certain points but for the most part, include the same gameplay. Both of the main characters also pack similar experiences when it comes to combat and attacks. However, there are smaller details between each campaign that makes them feel unique.
This is mainly thanks to the range of supporting, yet annoying, cast members that all have their own unique abilities. Both Yuito and Kasane each have their own handful of OSF members by their sides and make use of them during combat. This is where Scarlet Nexus shines as the combat is fantastic. Both main characters can whip together combos using melee weapons but can also pick up and throw virtually anything at the “Others” by holding down the right trigger. Be it a chair, ladder, massive piece of concrete or even a ball.
Then there’s the left trigger that is used to control various items with your mind. While the right trigger tosses stuff, the left results in a more combo-like interactive approach. Be it a barrel of oil that is dunked on enemies, a statue I used to slam down on their heads a handful of times or even a chandelier I pulled off the ceiling and spun around the arena until it broke. There was even a bus that I could jump atop and drive down a road knocking down enemies in my way.
All of this is then combined with the ability to use other OSF members at any time. Each main character has access to a handful. Hanabi can imbue weapons that can ignite enemies that have oil on them. Luca can then grant a teleportation ability masking combat faster and dodging attacks easier. Tsugumi can also grant clairvoyance making it possible to see invisible enemies and other monsters that mist up the area.
On Kasane’s side, her OSF team includes Shiden who can cast electricity and imbue her weapon with it. Kagero makes her invisible and Kyoka can duplicate her when she takes damage. I won’t say these two sets of abilities are greatly different from one another but they provide enough change to make each campaign feel refreshing.
These OFS members can also get upgraded unlocking even more potential in combat. Instead of their powers being granted to you for a limited time, they jump into combat and perform cool-looking attacks. Luca, for example, uppercuts an enemy with his hammer while Tsugumi shoots them with a powerful shot from her gun. These abilities are locked behind increasing your bond with each member. You need to craft presents for them by gathering materials while also sitting through painfully boring bond cutscenes.
The main characters also pack some unique combat skills. One being a Brain Drive. This transforms them into Dead5maus looking people and increases XP gain, attack damage, how fast the OFS abilities deplete and more. Then there is the Brain Field attack that sort of teleports enemies into a brain landscape and let me go to town with loads of floating objects and high damage attacks.
I can’t fault Scarlet Nexus at all on its combat. It feels amazing to master and even after dozens of hours of gameplay, I was still enjoying it. However, everything else is just “okay”. Exploration takes place in these dull hubs that include repetitive OFS powers to get through. Worst of all. each great combat experience is backed by a series of complicated story moments that are churned out over and over again. Sure, the story is all voiced and plays out in a comic book strip visual style but after hours of watching it, it got repetitive. As the game goes on, the story and the events just get more and more ridiculous. It is then topped by characters that are unlikeable and annoying. A pity.
With that being said, Scarlet Nexus could be the start of something great. Namco Bandai truly has a game on their hands that feels unique and provides some excellent combat to enjoy. The RPG side of the game is nonexistent as gear remains one-note and the item system is shallow. However, should the series stay around, no doubt a sequel might fix the problems this game faces?
Scarlet Nexus Review
If you are playing Scarlet Nexus for the story then don’t. The game is an action hack and slash adventure that will have you pulling off combos and throwing items all over the battlefield. It works. I just wish the characters weren’t so exhausting and the story was simplified.
This Scarlet Nexus review is based on a code sent to us by Bandai Namco
Available On: PS5, PS4, Xbox, PC | Reviewed On: PS5 | Release Date: 25 June 2021