Scarlet Nexus is a third-person action RPG developed and published by Bandai Namco. The Others Suppression Force (OSF) is a combat group made up of individuals with extraordinary psychic powers. For Cadets Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall, the day has come to prove their worth and join the ranks of this elite group whose purpose is to defend humanity from the threat of grotesque monsters called the Others.
Having previously gotten a taste of Scarlet Nexus’s sleek combat and cool monster designs in the recent demo release, I have been more than hyped to experience the full game. Now that I have, I can say that these aspects of the game’s design land even better than I expected. But while the action and creature design deliver flawlessly, the story has some unfortunate struggles.
Before I dive into the plot, I should note that my experiences with Scarlet Nexus come through the lens of Kasane as my playable character. Advertising for the game implied that the stories of the two potential main characters, Yuito and Kasane, were different and interweaved. I can see how that would work from my playthrough. If the game does take Yuito on a decidedly different journey than Kasane, it may be that a player’s experience with the story will hinge on which character they choose to play. Some of Kasane’s most pivotal and impactful moments are things Yuito players would most likely never see if the game functions as advertised.
The plot for this game starts simply enough. After electing to play as either Yuito or Kasane, the game begins as the player is inducted into the OSF. The OSF is a group of psionically powered individuals who protect their country from the constant threat of the twisted monstrosities, Others. But while the mission is clear at the start of Scarlet Nexus, the plot soon takes some twists and turns that make the mission much less clear.
While so much of this game’s package is easy for me to dive into, it is difficult for me to fully explain my feelings about the game’s plot because it is a really mixed bag. For every surprising plot twist, there is an eye-rolling character moment. For every moment my main character struggled with the right thing to do, there is a moment of bizarre decision-making. What Scarlet Nexus‘s grand story is trying to do is really impressive, and it has moments of brilliance, but it can never quite stick the landing.
The single biggest struggle for the game’s main plot rests in the fact that so many fights and battles could be avoided if people just talked to each other. The game even acknowledges this fact as more than one clash is doted with voice lines yelling, “Why don’t you just talk to me!!??” Unfortunately, while this resistance to talk is given a reason for being, the game just takes it much too far. Ultimately, this refusal to talk comes across as a weak excuse to put a few extra missions and character battles into the game’s narrative.
The same mixed bag delivery can be attributed to the cast of Scarlet Nexus. Each character is brought to life in a somewhat over-the-top fashion that tends to over-emphasize a single aspect of each character’s personality. Some characters, such as Kyoke, who tends to mother her recruits, are pleasant enough to spend time with despite her often one-note personality. Other characters are not so fortunate. The self-styled “ladies man” is particularly eye-rolling to deal with. If combat bonuses weren’t attached to interacting with him off the battlefield, I never would’ve spoken to him. However, these struggles with character and narrative are the only ones I found during my time with Scarlet Nexus.
The single greatest achievement this game delivers is its gameplay. The gameplay is fast, fluid, intuitive, and extremely fun. From the first training mission on, I never stopped feeling like a force to be reckoned with. This is largely because the game continuously reveals new ways for the player to dish out damage.
When Scarlet Nexus first introduces players to their chosen characters, the options for fighting are fairly limited, though already well implemented. The X and Y buttons performing melee attacks serve as both the basic attack of the game and the primary means of charging the player’s psychokinetic meter. Once this meter is charged, the player can utilize their powers to throw objects scattered throughout the environment at their opponents. These objects range anywhere from trash cans to cars. And many objects have special follow-up attacks. These follow-up attacks range from slamming enemies in a refrigerator to skewering enemies on telephone poles. Some are even more impressive, but I’m loathed to ruin the surprises of the game’s most jaw-dropping combat moments.
Once Scarlet Nexus has put the core of its kinetic gameplay in place, it begins building on it with options. The first of these is how squadmates can augment the player’s attacks and open up new combat tricks. These options range from adding electricity to your attacks, which add damage and can stun enemies, to increased speed or even invisibility. And what your squadmates can do for you only increases as the game progresses.
In between the primary missions of Scarlet Nexus, the player’s team will retreat to a hideout where many of the personal moments between the player and their squad occur. By engaging in these moments and giving gifts acquirable at the game’s shop, the player can increase their bond with the other members of their squad. As this bond increases, the boosts the squadmates provide grows. From increasing the usage time of their support ability to occasionally jumping in to block incoming attacks, the characters become more valuable the more you get to know them. Which, of course, makes some of the squad’s more annoying personalities all the more painful.
And while the potential aid from squadmates opens up many combat options to the player, it is far from the only way the game augments the player’s combat potential. Scarlet Nexus also features a full-fledged upgrade tree. As the player levels up, points are rewarded that can be spent unlocking new maneuvers or strengthening already available abilities. These upgrade options continue to grow as the game progresses and more options become available. By the end of my time with the game, the number of options available to me was quite impressive.
The last element of Scarlet Nexus we need to talk about is the visual design of the world. Bandai Namco has done a great job of utilizing the cell-shading of this game’s visuals to their fullest. Every attack animation looks dazzling. I never tired of seeing my character bouncing around a battlefield crushing enemies. And let’s talk about those enemies.
Scarlet Nexus delivers some truly disturbing creature designs throughout its campaign. These monsters look like they came wandering out of a Silent Hill game as they shamble around, seemingly assembled from random elements from the environment and local wildlife.
When all is said and done, Scarlet Nexus delivers a game that hits every gameplay beat flawlessly, providing the player with stylish visuals to enjoy, all mounted on characters and a narrative that only sometimes lands. However, the narrative struggles shouldn’t be nearly enough to keep anyone who loves fast-paced action games from reveling in just how fun, cool, and bombastic Scarlet Nexus’s gameplay is.
Scarlet Nexus is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Scarlet Nexus delivers a game that hits every gameplay beat flawlessly, providing the player with stylish visuals to enjoy, all mounted on characters and a narrative that only sometimes lands. However, the narrative struggles shouldn’t be nearly enough to keep anyone who loves fast-paced action games from reveling in just how fun, cool, and bombastic Scarlet Nexus’s gameplay is.