We’re now only days away from one of my most anticipated titles this year, and Bandai Namco were kind enough to grace us with a sneak peak of what may truly be, a genre-defining experience. Scarlet Nexus is aspiring to inject a new flavour of expedition into the JPRG action genre, with tumultuous gameplay and subtle narrative connection. In almost a Devil May Cry meets Persona-like format, the new IP produces a refreshing take on the diverse, hack-and-slash freeform approach that has been changing the fundamentals of the predominate turn-based loop. The archaic novelty has been slowly dissipating through the years, with other franchises such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest leaving the monotony in favour of seamless combat. Scarlet Nexus adapts this, but takes it to a whole new level.
I praise the protagonist and his multiple capabilities, but I will raise one minor concern of some anxieties that overcame me. Learning a whole new skillset can be quite overwhelming, but a beginner’s tutorial initiates a style and premise that the title bodes. Playing on XBOX Series X, I was able to manipulate the earth and many inanimate objects within the surrounding area to my advantage. While simple hack-and-slash movements will aid some progression, you will find it imperative to your hero’s repertoire in using his incredible telekinesis techniques. Like a magnet to a fridge, the supernatural gift of swaying a megaton Bus into mutated, unorthodox beings is grossly satisfying. Holding down the Right Trigger, and deploying a choice of objects within the area will sling scattered rubble, vehicles, vending machines or many movable pieces into your opponents.
Combining this with a simultaneous combination of melee offense is some of the most impressive gaming I’ve had in quite some time. There’s a lot of fun to be had in Scarlet Nexus’ basics. A chain attack, with an uppercut-slash, followed up with a random bench flying by is just a small example of how insane and rapid each sequence truly is. The Left Trigger’s availability is a much more rare occurrence, but upon availability will allow you to move larger object like lamp-poles caving and impaling your enemy, while you can split pieces and have them diverge into oncoming foes. Having an opponent down in-battle, you may also charge your special ability to perform a final blow by tapping down on the Left Shoulder button.
As you traverse through an abandoned metropolis plagued by the mystery specie known as “The Others”, you’re flanked by comrades within the OSF (Other Suppression Force) as brigading party members. Their service is to not only aid you, but to grant you their supernatural ability for specific occasions called “Brain Links”. Each encounter will pose different threats that will demand a certain attribute to front an enemy; using teleportation to dash without impeding obstructs, you can avoid an attack from the enemy. Clairvoyance will expose an Other that hides in plain sight, using their invisibility/camouflage capability for sneak attacks. These are two primary examples of the many that are unlocked along your journey.
I must admit, the world’s map is a tiny confounding. Whether it was my own doing or not remains to be seen, but I found myself lost a few times while trying to progress through the short Demo. There are pointers that guide you through the campaign, but there will come moments where you may be running in circles only to realise that you need to use a specific ability to teleport through a closed gate (ala Delsin inFamous: Second Son; Smoke Dash), or simply find your way to the next part of the map itself. A confounding universe with a unique blueprint that’s for sure. New Himuka as it’s called, is marvellous in aesthetic, quite possibly the best world design in Japanese role-playing this year. From the hour that I played, there were moments I stopped purely to appreciate the vibrancy implemented in each district. It’s Beautiful.
Akin to an Astral Chain-like experience, Scarlet Nexus’ dependence on serving justice looks to be its onus. However, not completely comprehending its narrative just yet I may be presumptuous to think that. Portraying either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, you have the capacity to forge and sculpt your character’s DNA, using their “Brain Map”, our hero’s skill-tree. Upgrading and unlocking more powers will expand your potential of carrying out objectives willingly without an incited struggle – the norm in an action role-playing title. A steady cycle of still frame narrative sequences that are shown in comic book slides, which is devastating due to the fact that the title is remarkably gorgeous. But these beats are done to quickly connect the dots and move to the next chapter without lingering for way too long. There are exceptional cinematics that accompany these but are far and few between.
Walking away from my first look at Scarlet Nexus, I must admit that I’m intrigued by its offering but my perception of the the title may be a little skewed from what I initially envisioned it to be. None the less, it’s still a promising showcase of awesome combat, and delightful world design that may further escalate its somewhat foggy campaign. A plethora of adaptations will go hand in hand with its launch, including an Anime series on Netflix, and a Manga expected in the fall – if anything, that’s a promising outlook for what its writing may be like. With Code Vein’s Keita Iizuka leading production, I have no doubt that we may be in for one of 2021’s greatest thrillrides.
Scarlet Nexus releases on June 25, 2021 for XBOX Series, XBOX One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC Digital.
Scarlet Nexus is an upcoming action role-playing game developed and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It is set to be released on June 25, 2021 for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.