Scarlet Nexus (PC) Review

By Steven Mattern 23.06.2021 1

Review for Scarlet Nexus on PC

The character action genre has had its fair share of ups and downs, especially in Japan. Developer and publisher Bandai Namco offers a brand new IP with Scarlet Nexus, a game that brings new ideas to the table in a striking anime-inspired visual aesthetic dubbed "Brainpunk" by the developers. Bandai Namco aims to double down on this title with an anime to start its run this July, but how well does this title stand on its own and is the PC port in particular worth considering?

The world of Scarlet Nexus is an intricate one with many layers to unravel as you play. It's set in an alternate future in which humans have developed a psionic hormone in the brain that enables various powers and abilities. At the same time, mutant beings known as Others start to appear that are after human brains. In New Himuka, an urban cityscape, an organization called the Other Suppression Force (OSF) is formed. The game revolves around two fresh recruits to the OSF and their endeavours with their separate platoons of five members.

Scarlet Nexus presents players with a choice from the outset: which character will you play? Yuito is a young man who has always admired the OSF since he was young and they saved him as a child during an Other attack, and has family in high positions in the government. Kasane, who is roughly the same age, is a level headed girl who is scouted into the OSF due to her exceptional combat ability. Curiously, she has the resemblance of someone who helped save Yuito as a child during the Other attack, which spawns its own web of mystery. Your choice is final for your save file, and does not switch between the two protagonists. Once the choice is made, you play that character the whole way along with their cast of squadmates. However, the two will often cross paths throughout the adventure.

Screenshot for Scarlet Nexus on PC

Even with the English voice track, every character in the cast has their own unique voice and the actors fill their roles really well. Aside from a few inconsistencies with the voice acting and the written text, the localization is very good. From the shy Tsugumi to the overconfident Shiden, each character does well to set one from another. Yuito and Kasane can prompt Bond Episodes, akin to the Persona series' Confidant system, with their squad members. This allows you to learn more about each of their interests, pasts, and thoughts about the current state of the story. And unsurprisingly, each character has their own unique weapons and abilities. Thankfully, all cutscenes are voiced, and these are no exception. There is a Team Bond level, but it seems to offer no benefit to the player and may be bugged. With every party member at Bond Level 4 or higher, only Team Bond Level 2 is obtained and it's unclear what this means.

Gameplay wise, Yuito and Kasane have unique weapons but share psychokinetic powers, allowing them to throw objects at Others. From bricks and bicycles to canisters of oil or water, there's always something in the environment to hurl at foes. Yuito uses a short ranged sword, dealing great amounts of damage as he dodges in and out, mixing melee attacks with psychokinesis. Kasane wields a set of knives that she can throw out and recall at will, allowing for a more midrange style of play. The skill tree that they have expands as the story progresses, allowing for a good amount of depth in their playstyles. Where it gets even more interesting, is how they can synergize with their party members' abilities.

Screenshot for Scarlet Nexus on PC

The protagonists can use something known as the Struggle Arms System (SAS), allowing them to borrow friends' powers. For example, have an enemy covered in oil? Yuito can borrow Hanabi's pyrokinesis to set the enemy ablaze. Is an Other moving too fast or teleporting around? Kasane can tap into Arashi's hypervelocity to move so fast that time slows down. Bond Episodes, as mentioned, don't just clue you in more about these characters, but also enhance and expand on these powers.

Another great attribute of Scarlet Nexus is the enemy design. The design of the Others is unique and creative, combining human and animal skeletons with plants, and metal objects which act as protective shells that the protagonists must break. One Other variant from early in the game might have a femine physique, and another line of creatures could revolve around giant bugs. To show more of these might be considered spoiler territory. The art and design team went to town making many bizarre and creative enemies, and the boss designs in particular are a highlight. The way the Others change often helps keep combat fresh. In a video showcase released at E3 this year, developers talked about the use of motion capture for these creatures and it shows, especially in the boss fights.

Screenshot for Scarlet Nexus on PC

However, outside of combat, the level design, cutscenes, and story leave a bit to be desired. The level design is ripe with hallways and small rooms and battle arenas. Each zone has its own visual flavor, but the layouts don't change too drastically until the back half of the game with the exception of some light traversal puzzles. While the areas get more flair and art variety other than "generic construction site" as you progress, the story gets wild and out of hand.

No spoilers here of course, but it's worth mentioning the broader plot in minor detail. Take all of this with a grain of salt, because there are two different sides and perspectives of this story, and this reviewer only experienced one. Perhaps one a second playthrough, the narrative would flow better with both points of view being experienced. Scarlet Nexus has a story with many angles and tangled threads to unravel that can be seen as more and more convoluted as key events unfold. It's unfortunate that the vast majority of these events are told through sideshow style cutscenes aside character portraits with occasional 3D animation when things get really intense. The game does its best to explain and elaborate on the initially bizarre topics presented but by the end, it's the cast of characters and their comradery that carries the weight of the plot through its winding twists and turns. If the cast and character writing wasn't this good, the overall narrative would suffer greatly.

The PC port of Scarlet Nexus gets the job done, but it is nothing special. Don't expect extensive graphic options here. Camera motion blur can be turned off but cannot be adjusted to taste. Anti-Aliasing solutions are serviceable, and the graphical settings themselves are fine and reasonable for a title with this aesthetic. Thankfully the framerate can be unlocked or set to a 30 or 60 fps limit.

Screenshot for Scarlet Nexus on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Scarlet Nexus blends a unique Brain Punk visual style with tight combat that requires adaptation and synergy. The Others are the game's ace up its sleeve with bizarre but creative creature variety. Each enemy type demands adaptability with the assortment of abilities at Yuito and Kasane's disposal thanks to their squadmates. Outside of combat, character moments shine in Bond Episodes and the writing is complemented well by a talented English voice cast. The variety of personalities does well to carry the weight of the convoluted plot as it progresses. However, the slideshow presentation of the vast majority of cutscenes diminishes the emotional impact of events that would have benefited more from animation. The game provides a solid gameplay experience on PC and I look forward to what this team can come up with next.

Developer

Bandai Namco

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Sounds pretty interesting! I wonder if I should pick it up on a console rather than PC though with my aging hardware XD

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