Scarlet Nexus is one of the flashiest action role-playing games to be released this year, and despite featuring a unique battle system, Bandai Namco’s Brain Punk brawls leave a lot to be desired.
Bandai Namco aren’t exactly strangers when it comes to releasing action role-playing titles. In fact, Code Vein famously tried to wow Souls fans with its blend of beastly boss fights and brutal post-apocalyptic setting. Fast forward two years and the developers are it again.
However, this time the team is aiming to pull players into the Brain Punk world of Scarlet Nexus – a world where humanity has evolved to a point where people can use psychic superpowers.
The game features plenty of stylish psychokinetic abilities, a customizable party system, and unique enemy designs. On a surface level, Scarlet Nexus has all the whistles and bells of a standout ARPG title, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find some rather glaring issues that only make it an average one.
Scarlet Nexus – Key Details
- Price: $59.99
- Developer: Bandai Namco
- Release Date: June 25, 2021
- Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series
Scarlet Nexus trailer
A familiar sci-fi story
Scarlet Nexus takes place in an alternate reality future where humanity is under constant threat from brain-eating abominations, known simply as the Others. The only thing stopping these fleshy creatures from decimating the surviving remnants is the Other Suppression Force (OSF) – a group of highly trained super soldiers that utilize psychic superpowers to keep the hellish horrors at bay.
It’s a story as familiar as they come – in fact, those expecting a grandiose tale will likely come away feeling a little disappointed. While the intertwined paths of the game’s two main protagonists, Yuito and Kasane may offer different perspectives of this apocalyptic world, there is very little we haven’t seen before.
Everything from shady governments, military factions with hidden agendas, cruel human experiments, and dashes of time travel are sprinkled throughout the game’s 20-hour runtime. Scarlet Nexus may not push any boundaries when it comes to its narrative, but its exciting combat keeps Bandai Namco’s Brain Punk adventure from slipping into obscurity.
Simple yet effective combat
While Scarlet Nexus’ overly familiar tale may slowly plod along, its combat is not met with the same fate. It’s here where the game’s Brain Punk brawls truly begin to shine. Both Kasane and Yuito have the ability to use Psychokinesis – a form of gravity control that enables them to effortlessly uproot nearby objects and send them hurtling towards their fleshy foes.
Despite having the option to play as either character, the two heroes share similar playstyles. The only real difference is demonstrated in their weapon choice, with Yuito delivering a flurry of deadly katana strikes and Kasane preferring the ranged slices of her knife. No matter which you choose, the real excitement comes from Scarlet Nexus’ unique party mechanic, known as the Struggle Arm System.
SAS enables both protagonists to borrow their party members’ abilities for a brief period of time. By mixing and matching these various techniques, players can unleash a lethal cocktail of movement-enhancing abilities, increase their defenses, imbue weapons with elemental status effects, and even double the effectiveness of Psychokinesis attacks.
The game’s Combo Vision takes this a step further, enabling Kasane and Yuito to physically conjure a vision of their allies to unleash a special attack. Not only can these be combined together, but they are also extremely effective at stripping away an enemy’s armor – an area that is incredibly important when fighting tougher foes.
Adding to this is the Brain Field, a special psionic state that maximizes the protagonist’s powers. While in this volatile state, both characters can attack without restrictions for a set period of time, unleashing barrage after barrage of devastating hits. However, if you stay in this empowered mode for too long, you’ll lose control and be sent reeling back to the main menu screen. Balancing all of these actions is part of the fun, but they do come with some major caveats.
Flashy actions without depth
While the onscreen action may look complex at first, there is definitely a stark lack of depth and combo potential to be found – something that is highlighted whenever Kasane and Yuito are forced into solo situations. It’s here where you see just how barebones Scarlet Nexus’ battle system truly is. Aside from featuring flashy animations and interjecting character abilities, both protagonists only have access to a string of simple weapon attacks. All of this is done by mashing the same two buttons over and over again.
The game’s skill tree (Brain Map) does add several moves and mobility options, like adding a charged weapon attack and an aerial dodge, but none of them truly alleviate the repetitiveness that comes with using the same attacks over the duration of its 20-hour campaign. To make matters even worse, there is also a distinct lack of weapon variety. In fact, the only changes you’ll see will come in the form of incremental stat upgrades and minimal cosmetics differences.
Scarlet Nexus is at its best when you can freely interchange your squadmates and create killer ability combos, but the combat is often weighed down by its overly simplistic nature. If you’re expecting looking to dig into a complex APRG with an in-depth combat system, then Scarlet Nexus is most definitely not that.
Bland level design and limited interactions
Despite featuring speed-enhancing and acrobatic abilities, Scarlet Nexus’ levels rarely make use of these game-changing character traits. This is particularly disappointing, considering how pivotal they are to the game’s combat.
It was only until the final missions that we actually had to use a combination of Hyper Velocity and Teleportation to dash through force fields, sprint across conveyor belts, and phase through metallic doors.
There were even a few light platforming sections that enabled us to finally make use of the double-jump feature – an ability that remained largely underused due to the sheer lack of verticality present in the game’s environments. Unfortunately, these scenarios were just a mere oasis in a sea of bland and uneventful missions.
Instead, the vast majority of levels revolved around fighting hordes of Others, picking up glowing items, and simply running over to the boss arena. From desolate train tunnels to abandoned city streets, there is a striking lack of environmental detail interaction. This is something that is worsened by the constant backtracking, dull fetch quests, and character Bond episodes.
While Scarlet Nexus may not push the visuals of current-gen systems, the blend of cel-shaded characters and realistic backdrops does look visually striking. It’s just a shame that it is ultimately weighed down by bland, beige environments.
Scarlet Nexus is an action role-playing game that heavily focuses on style over substance. While its flashy combat and unique Brain Punk setting may help it stand out among other games of its ilk, Bandai Namco’s latest title falls short in a number of ways. However, if you’re you’re willing to put up with its familiar anime tropes, bland environments, and overly simplistic combat, then there is some fun to be had.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X