When it comes to anime style action titles, Bandai Namco tends to shoot straight to the top of the list of publishers. Last year, they released games like Code Vein and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. This year, one of their biggest releases is Tose’s Scarlet Nexus. We previously watched a hands-off demo last year, getting an inside look at this upcoming “Brainpunk” action RPG. Now, with the Scarlet Nexus demo released, we were able to go hands-on to experience the action ourselves. Here’s what we thought.
Scarlet Nexus takes place in a futuristic society with a 1990’s aesthetic. Think the 1995 anime film Ghost in the Shell in terms of set designs. Taking place in the country of New Himuka, the people have a neural connection through a setup called Psynet. The Other Suppression Force, or OSF, deal with mysterious creatures known as Others to keep the peace. To do this, the OSF creates brain links between their members to have them fight together. Their forces consist of powerful psychics, each with their own special abilities. Thanks to the brain link, members can share their abilities between each other for support.
For the demo, we have two missions to take on; one for each protagonist. Scarlet Nexus has two main protagonists, Yuito and Kasane, who each wield different but similar abilities. Interestingly enough in Scarlet Nexus, at least based on the demo, these protagonists have very similar experiences despite having different missions. Just by entering the cutscenes, the dialogue is nearly identical and different characters substitute another from the other campaign. I’m not sure if this means both campaigns follow the same patterns or if it’s just for the first missions, but it was a bit surprising to see.
Playing the demo as Yuito first, I got a good experience with his psychokinesis and sword combat. Entering the city of Kikuchiba, Yuito and his allies investigate waves of Other activity. While Yuito’s party has four other members, he can only fight alongside two at a time. Even though two allies will sit on the bench, Yuito will still have their SAS brain link abilities at all times. This could be Hanabi’s pyrokinesis, Gemma’s defensive sclerokinesis, Luka’s teleportation ability, or even Tsugumi’s clairvoyance. Each ability works for a limited time before having to cool down, but they each have their important uses.
During combat, Yuito will have his sword attacks that charge his telekinetic abilities. When he has enough energy, he can manipulate nearby objects to launch them at foes. Some objects will even have special commands, like repeatedly smashing an Other, or swinging objects for a wide sweeping attack. Players will also be able to jump and dodge attacks, and with the right timing, they can pull off a perfect evade. Hanabi’s pyrokinesis is among the most useful link abilities, allowing for different combos and dealing fire damage. Eventually, you’ll come across moments where Gemma’s sclerokinesis and Tsugumi’s clairvoyance become necessary. Sclerokinesis basically provides higher defense to withstand bigger attacks while clairvoyance allows Yuito to see invisible enemies.
The game offers elements of exploration, especially using Luka’s teleportation ability. This allows Yuito to pass through various gates to reach secret areas. Using teleportation will allow players to find hidden consumable items, equipment, or even collectibles. You might find a more powerful sword, or even a cosmetic items to customize your squad. Working through the stage, there’s a handful of Other enemies to tackle. Enemy variety seems interesting so far just based on this first mission, though it’s difficult to tell how far that goes. Combat is fluid enough to get started, though leveling up and earning brain points allows for more skills on the Brain Map.
Getting to the boss of the mission, it’s a Major Other that stalks a construction site. Major Others are more powerful creatures that have apparently killed OSF members in the past. This boss particularly has a large oil cannon on his back that acts as a focus point. As you attack the giant beast, he’ll eventually perform body slams. During these moments, you’ll have a chance to grab larger construction objects to smash the Other and temporarily stun him. With enough attacks, he’ll eventually go down and end the mission.
Getting to Kasane, she doesn’t play too differently from Yuito. The main difference is her telekinetic kunai, which gives her a bit more range and quite frankly, cooler looking combos. For her demo in Mizuhagawa, her allies portray different abilities. Shiden has electrokinesis, which is like Hanabi’s pyrokinesis, working as an electrical elemental buff. Arashi’s hypervelocity allows for the game to slow down, making it easier to attack faster enemies. Kyoka’s duplication allows for multiple telekinetic objects to be used. Finally, Kagero’s invisibility allows for Kasane to attack unsuspecting enemies. This comes into play with Others that hide in small containers, making them invulnerable until they come out. She fights the same Major Other at the end of her mission, though using water instead of oil.
Kasane is a colder character personality-wise, but her kunai just feel more fun to use. Despite her more serious demeanor, it’s her ally Shiden that causes the most irritation. While his electrokinesis is a powerful ability, his abrasive personality doesn’t make him an ideal party member. Overall, forming bonds with your allies allows to get stronger abilities from them. As you play and strengthen your bonds, you’ll even be able to perform special “assault vision” attacks with your allies to deliver a powerful blow. Your allies will also heal you more often with stronger bonds.
Combat itself does go a bit deeper than just using melee attacks and psychokinesis. Enemies have a crush gauge that, when depleted, stuns them long enough for the player to deliver a finishing blow. These are flashy cinematic attacks that often pull out the Other’s weak point to destroy it. Performing follow-up attacks depletes the crush gauge easier and makes it easy to dispose of enemies quickly. As you fight, you’ll even activate Brain Drive, which buffs your character temporarily. Your SAS links last longer and you’ll even be able to perform psychokinesis attacks faster. In certain instances, enemies can also get doused in oil or water, and using certain types of attacks will inflict a status effect on them.
The Scarlet Nexus demo might not be a representation of the final product, but it does give an idea of the presentation. Offering English or Japanese voices, players will have the option to go with whichever they prefer. The English voice acting itself was fine, and worked with every character personality well. As for the cutscenes, it’s a mix of comic panel style sequences with more traditional cutscenes. The comic panel style isn’t as ideal, but at least it’s not the only way the story presents itself. As for the music, the background music offers catchy riffs for combat and even fitting tracks for the calmer moments. The theme is even performed by the Japanese rock band, The Oral Cigarettes, who treat you to a music video at the end of the demo.
Overall, Scarlet Nexus looks and plays great, and offers an interesting premise. It might not be a true strand game, but it’s still an enjoyable action RPG. After playing the demo, I can definitely say I’m more excited to check out the game than I was before. As for how the final product plays, I’m still very curious as to how Yuito and Kasane’s stories differ. If I have the option to start as Kasane, then that’ll likely be my choice since I find her combat more fun. Luckily, it won’t be too much longer of a wait, with just under a month left to go. Scarlet Nexus will launch on June 25th, 2021 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC. If you want to check out the Scarlet Nexus demo now, it’s available on both PlayStation and Xbox.
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