Scarlet Nexus Review
Numerous anime series have made the transition to video games, but Scarlet Nexus has taken that road in reverse. The game has crafted an original world and story that has served to inspire a new anime series by FUNimation that will be coming this summer. That world is one with gleaming skyscrapers, AR road and shop signs, holographic advertisements, and the glowing red lines of the Scarlet Nexus crisscrossing the skies like power lines. A latent psionic hormone was discovered in the human brain, allowing humans to directly network with each other with their minds. They don’t need cell phones because they can send texts directly to each other’s minds. All is not idyllic in this brain punk future, though. Mutant monsters known as the Others began descending from the skies with an insatiable hunger for all of those enhanced brains, forcing humanity to turn their cities into isolated fortresses. Luckily, the psionic abilities manifest into powerful offensive capabilities in some people. Those with those abilities are recruited at a young age to join the OSF, the Other Suppression Force. Whenever Others drop into the city for a brain buffet, the OSF is called into action to meet them. The citizenry is understandably grateful for their work, and the members of the OSF have achieved celebrity status.
The game opens as a new batch of trainees are about to enter the OSF and earn their first assignment. You can choose to play as either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, but your choice is more than a cosmetic one. Yuito’s powers are suited to a close quarters melee attack style while Kasane is a ranged attacker, but it goes even further than that. Yuito’s and Kasane’s stories are unique and interwoven, and to get the full story you’ll want to play through the game as both characters. Scarlet Nexus gives you two campaigns for your money.
As an anime-inspiring game, Scarlet Nexus is heavy on dialog. While there are some fully animated cutscenes, most of this dialog is delivered in a multi-panel, motion comic style. It gets the story across and has its own unique style, but don’t expect the wall-to-wall animations typical of games in this genre.
The future city created for Scarlet Nexus is imaginative and interesting to behold, but it’s not an open world. The gleaming city and its industrial environs exist to channel you along well-defined paths as you move from one battle to the next. You can interact with some of the citizenry to hear a line or two of canned dialog, but for the most part it will feel like you are traversing past a movie set façade with nothing behind it more than you are moving through a living, breathing city. Even more imaginative are the various forms taken by the Others, which are all an amalgam of biological, botanical, and seemingly random parts. You’ll be defending your city against the likes of a bouquet of flowers with a lizard tail that’s wearing a dress and high heels that wants to eat your brain.
Battles are fast-paced, reflex-driven sequences. While the rest of Scarlet Nexus may play a lot like an RPG, its fights are pure action. Both Yuito’s and Kasane’s psionic power sets are telekinesis-based, so there’s a lot of flinging objects in the environments at enemies during fights. It’s not a free-for-all, though, as only designated objects can be thrown. The telekinetic attacks require energy to use which is primarily replenished by landing physical attacks, so even though you’re a psionic warrior you’ll have to do a lot of Other killing in the traditional way. It works best to mix your attacks between the two types so that you always have some energy in reserve to take advantage of the special contextual environmental attacks as they present themselves or simply when you need to back off for a bit to recover. The relatively pedestrian fight system gets a big boost from the game’s SAS system. The mind connection between members of the OSF allows you to channel the powers of your AI-controlled partner in the fight and combine them with your own to create new types of attacks. This adds some much-needed variety to the battles, as the relatively small number of enemy types and basic attacks would make the combat begin to feel like too much of the same thing before long without it. The combat system does evolve as you make your further into the game and unlock new skills and attacks through the game’s RPG-like Brain Map skill trees, but the enemies fail to keep up in their evolution.
Between missions you hang out with your squad in a safe house and spend some time getting to know them. While this helps with the story’s world-building, it also serves another purpose. As you increase your bond with a squad mate you’ll unlock new SAS options when you combine powers with them.
While I did have some fun with Scarlet Nexus, I am left with the feeling that it could have been more. If there was more life to the city, and any life at all to the frequently drab mission locations, all of the traversal in the game would have felt a lot less like traversal and the world would have felt more immersive and fleshed-out. The combat has its unique aspects, but there is a repetition to it that is exposed by the volume of battles that you will fight against the same enemy types. While it is a plus that the game essentially gives you two campaigns, you may find yourself having had enough after making it through one.
Final Rating: 76% - An interesting premise that falls a little short of making for an interesting game.