Bandai Namco’s developed a strong reputation for RPGs. Better known for Tales, God Eater, and Ni No Kuni, recent years have brought original experiences like Code Vein. Packing a darker anime aesthetic and post-apocalyptic setting, Scarlet Nexus now arrives two years later, walking a remarkably similar path. Launching on June 25th, Bandai Namco offered a sneak peek at Chapter One in preparation for this action RPG’s release. Based off the PC build, I played using an Xbox One controller.
Set in the near future, Scarlet Nexus takes place in an alternate reality where humanity found ways to utilise extrasensory abilities like invisibility, amplifying these through technology. Set within New Himuka, this world is threatened by creatures known as Others, mindless monsters that feast on human brains, and the city comes under the Other Suppression Force’s (OSF) protection, led by elite soldiers known as Scarlet Guardians.
Using a dual protagonist setup, you’ll play as Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, two psychokinesis users newly recruited to the OSF. We could play as either and for this preview, I chose Kasane. Now, this isn’t a case of simply swapping out characters within the same storyline, as both campaigns run parallel to each other. They’ll often interlink - Yuito showed up several times during my playthrough - and there’s clearly value in playing through both.
Proceedings begin with a
tutorial aptitude test before being inducted, and as a psychokinesis user, Kasane’s special ability involves throwing heavy objects at foes using RT. Using that taps into her psychokinesis gauge but that’s recoverable by landing basic attacks, including a back-step attack where she throws her weapon by pressing Y, alongside summoning throwable knives. Rather straightforward, but you’ll quickly realise you can’t button mash through combat.
Enemies are fast and health pickups aren’t commonly found, making it vital to use her sidestep ability for quick evasion. Defensive strategies are key, as a well-timed dodge grants temporary invulnerability. For extra damage, Kasane can deal follow up attacks after throwing objects, creating combos, and grab special objects with LT like water barrels to soak enemies. However, enemies can also inflict status effects, and should Kasane get soaked with water, movement will slow, while electrocution outright stuns you.
Upon advancing, Kasane is accompanied by (up to) two additional party members, and though you can’t play as allies, she can link with them to borrow their powers. For example, Shiden’s link lets you use electrokinesis to stun enemies. Kyoka can duplicate items grabbed with psychokinesis for extra damage, while Kagero can turn invisible, letting us perform a powerful backstab attack. These last for a limited time and have different cooldown rates, so you can’t lean on allies too much. There’s plenty of combat depth here, and though enemy variety didn’t feel particularly strong, landing kills with psychokinesis was undeniably satisfying.
You can customise your approach through the “Brain Map”, a skill tree system that provides “Brain Points” when levelling up. That’s split into three categories and “Enhance” offers more direct combat enhancements, like a quicker charge for your psychokinesis gauge and stronger attack damage. “Expand” starts with double jumps and midair dashes, later going into new combat abilities. Finally, “Support” is primarily defensive, granting extra plug-in capacity for battle enhancements (plug-ins are bought separately), gradual health restoration, and more.
Now, Scarlet Nexus isn’t purely mission focused. Between fights, you can explore limited segments of the city, visit shops for supplies, even reply to texts from fellow soldiers. Eventually, you’ll unlock hideouts too, which act as safe zones between missions, and they offer some crucial character development. Here, you can talk with teammates, gift items, and accept bond missions to develop said relationships with other characters. In turn, a better relationship unlocks increased abilities when linked in battle, such as decreased link cooldown, making them essential.
All of this comes within a stunning visual presentation, one that’s highly reminiscent of Code Vein, and at first glance, you’d be forgiven for confusing the two. Scarlet Nexus takes a comic book-esque approach to tell this story, using cinematic cutscenes for bigger moments but presenting smaller scenes as individual panels, where only the person talking is seen moving. It’s a simple yet stylish approach, complimented by a surprisingly techno-heavy soundtrack.
Though my time was brief, Scarlet Nexus proved an enjoyable experience. Packed with entertaining combat mechanics, I found myself drawn into this strange world, and though I can’t say much about the story just yet, there’s certainly promise that RPG fans will likely enjoy. It’s not without fault – I do wish there was more enemy variety, and occasionally it had some performance hiccups – but overall, I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.