Scarlet Nexus Review on PC
Scarlet Nexus is probably one of the most insane games I’ve played in recent memory when it comes to plot, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I do know that any fan of action JRPGs will absolutely love the combat. For better or worse, both the narrative and gameplay are frantic, fast-paced, and full of over-the-top sci-fi elements.
The game drops you into a futuristic “Brain Punk” world where every major technological advancement has to do with peoples’ minds and the powers they have hidden within their psyche. For example, a network called Psynet allows citizens to send Brain Messages telepathically to whoever they choose to link to, creating instant communication through thoughts.
The lore and technology are fascinating, and you’ll be introduced to it all through the eyes of either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall –it’s your choice. Each character goes through their own storyline and the two parallel halves come together to make one whole if you decide to play them both.
Yuito comes from a family of well-known politicians, but instead of following in their footsteps, he joins the superhuman branch of the Other Suppression Force (OSF). The OSF is basically a military group that protects society from monstrous creatures called Others. He becomes a volunteer cadet in the OSF because one of its members saved his life when he was younger.
Kasane, on the other hand, lost her parents at a young age and was adopted by the military-focused Randall family. Unlike Yuito, she was scouted to join the OSF after graduating top of her class thanks to her high-level skills.
Yuito and Kasane aren’t the only characters we follow in Scarlet Nexus, though. A whole host of platoon members get introduced. Each protagonist is in a different OSF platoon, so depending on which protagonist you choose, you’ll get to know your squad members through interactions that are exclusive to each storyline.
Thankfully, both platoons house colorful characters –figuratively and literally. They all have distinct personalities with interesting backstories and unique powers that distinguish them. Each squad member also happens to literally have different colored hair too, as well as custom OSF gear that stands out just enough to let their personalities shine through.
Arashi from Kasane’s platoon and Tsugumi from Yuito’s platoon are a couple of notable standouts. Arashi’s Hypervelocity power grants her super speed, but of course, she’s easily the laziest member of the OSF. Tsugumi’s Clairvoyance is basically X-ray vision, which is useful for scouting, but she has to consciously make an effort not to peep on people, or just keep their secrets to herself when she accidentally does.
These little touches really help you connect to the characters. Making the powers have significance outside of gameplay is just one way that Scarlet Nexus creates engaging, serious conversations along with a few funny lighthearted squad interactions during the moments of downtime found between major story missions.
The story is told mostly through the use of little character boxes on top of changing background images, kind of like the skits in Tales games. There are also fully animated cutscenes for major moments, but all other dialogue is done like that. The character box dialogue doesn’t detract from the experience too much, though, since it actually fits within the style of the game.
However, what does detract from the experience is the pace at which the story is told. Things start off smoothly enough, as you go on routine missions to exterminate Others in various locations. But after a certain point, the narrative will somehow become more and more confused as you progress. There are so many moments where you’re about to get vital information and you get attacked, or characters say something along the lines of “there’s no time to explain.”
It can get frustrating, but as truths get revealed, the plot goes to wild and unexpected places. I honestly enjoy the sheer craziness of it all, even if it’s a lot to take in at the pace that it unravels. You’ll eventually be hit with plot twist after plot twist at breakneck speed. Thank goodness for the story summary section of the in-game menu.
At the very least, no matter what you may think of the plot, I’m fairly certain that you won’t be able to predict the majority of the insane and absurd story beats. In fact, so many unbelievable revelations happen that, at one point, the characters themselves create a Brain Message group chat within your platoon just to get the facts straight with each other and confirm what they witnessed moments prior.
Looking past the hit-or-miss story, it’s easy to see that gameplay is where Scarlet Nexus really shines. It’s also a prime example of how the aforementioned brain technology works. Platoon members maintain psychic links with each other to share their mind-based powers via the Struggle Arms System (SAS) for short bursts.
Combat is extremely fun, fast, and fluid, as you mix and match multiple different powers that are borrowed from your teammates to perform combos. At first, only one power can be borrowed from a teammate at a time, but the decently-sized skill tree provides some creative options as you progress. Certain skills allow Yuito and Kasane to use more than one power at once, and that’s where the mayhem begins when it comes to combat possibilities.
The skill tree is initially split into three sections: Enhance, Expand, and Support. Enhance upgrades your stats in simple ways like increasing ATK by 5%. Expand unlocks brand-new abilities like air dashes or recovery rolls. Support adds new possibilities for existing moves, like allowing you to activate two or more SAS support powers at the same time.
These SAS support powers are all on individual timers that you can activate or deactivate whenever you want. Stronger powers like Arashi’s Hypervelocity drain quickly, while Shiden’s Electrokinesis gives you electricity-based attacks for a good while. Balancing these abilities along with using Yuito or Kasane’s regular telekinetic attacks is the trick to most fights. Things get even more challenging when certain enemies are weak to some powers but can counter others.
Once you can use all four of your teammates’ SAS powers at once, you’ll feel unstoppable. Activating Gemma’s Sclerokinesis to negate damage while Hanabi’s Pyrokinesis adds a fire element to your attacks covers both offense and defense at the same time. Adding two more like Tsugumi’s Clairvoyance and Luka’s Teleportation will have you warping around the battlefield as you dodge enemy attacks with ease, all at once.
But of course, you need to spec into that area of the skill tree. Do you want more SAS teammate abilities at your disposal, or would you rather buff your individual stats to do more solo combo damage? The choice is up to you, and it feels good to know that these choices made in the skill tree actually show a noticeable difference in the gameplay.
Scarlet Nexus is a game that might just split the gameplay lovers and story lovers right down the middle. Your mileage may vary with this one, depending on which of those two things you value more –and whether or not you’re willing to let the narrative take you on a wild ride.
Many of the plot twists and reveals are almost outside the realm of believability, even within this sci-fi world. But I genuinely enjoyed being constantly surprised, as I could never actually tell where the plot would go from moment to moment.
The combat is no doubt the star of the show, though. Even when it becomes hard to take the narrative seriously at times, those sweet, sweet combat mechanics will overshadow the issues to pull you right back in, no matter which platoon you choose to roll with.
- Combat is extremely fun, fast, and fluid.
- Both platoons have colorful, distinct characters.
- The plot is insane.
- “There’s no time to explain.” cliches.
- The plot is insane, and not always in a good way.
June 25, 2021
Bandai Namco Studios
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, PC
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