In many ways, Scarlet Nexus reminds me of Code Vein. Bringing us another highly stylised adventure with dark undertones, Bandai Namco Studios’ latest post-apocalyptic action RPG has finally arrived, presenting an alternate reality where most of humanity is born with extrasensory abilities, amplifying these powers through technology. I thought it looked promising, so now it’s finally here, I’m happy to say Scarlet Nexus delivers.
Starting off in the city of New Himuka, we find a world threatened by Others, creatures who sustain themselves by feasting on human brains that are born from the “Extinction Belt”. Using a dual protagonist approach, you play as either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, two psychokinesis users freshly recruited to the Other Suppression Force (OSF). Rather than offer a single storyline that swaps out these protagonists, Scarlet Nexus contains two individual stories, as both characters are placed within separate platoons.
Soon after beginning, we’re called into an aptitude test to assess combat skills with each character employing different strategies, making for a good introduction. Kasane uses ranged abilities, summoning psychic knives alongside basic strikes, while Yuito’s better suited for close range thanks to his sword. Both can launch environmental objects at foes using psychokinesis, tapping into a limited psychokinesis gauge that’s recovered by landing basic attacks. As part of the EXP system, new abilities are learned through the “Brain Map”, a skill tree split into five paths that provide “Brain Points” when levelling up.
Powers For Hire
Now, each protagonist fights with two additional party members, and though you can’t play as allies, you’ll link up to borrow their powers through SAS. For example, Shiden’s electrokinesis can stun enemies, Kyoka duplicates thrown items for extra damage, Tsugumi uses clairvoyance to detect hidden enemies, while Arashi’s hypervelocity slows time for quicker attacks. Those are available from reserve party members too, and some enemies can’t be defeated without using SAS. However, links last for a short time before cooling down, so you can’t fully lean on them, either.
Defensive strategies are key, as a well-timed sidestep grants temporary invulnerability and, later on, counterattacks. For extra damage, both can deal follow up attacks after throwing objects and grab special objects with the left trigger. However, enemies can inflict status effects too, though for convenience, characters warn you when that’s happening. It adds some necessary strategy to combat and killing Others felt really satisfying. Better yet, some weakened enemies can be finished with Brain Crush, offering a more cinematic kill.
Of course, it’s not just about combat here, and Scarlet Nexus isn’t purely mission-focused. Between fights, you can explore different locations, buy supplies, reply to texts from fellow soldiers and speak to NPCs to take on side quests, which provides rewards like new weapons. Annoyingly though, only one quest can be active at a time, they’re easily missed and often involves criteria like "Defeat 2 particular enemies while using Arashi’s hypervelocity”. What’s worse is that you could easily hit said criteria, but because that quest wasn’t selected, it won’t register as completed.
A Tale Of Two Soldiers
You’ll unlock hideouts too, which are home to “stand-by” phases between missions, and they bring 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. These segments do an excellent job developing our squadmates, even if they often fall into the usual anime clichés.
While one playthrough can be completed within 20 hours, Scarlet Nexus does a fine job at worldbuilding, and events never felt dragged out. It’s certainly not horror, though (spoiler alert) it explores several unsettling themes like human experimentation, adding to an oppressive atmosphere. That said, Yuito’s half of the game feels a bit flat, and while I wouldn’t call him boring, Kasane’s character is just better written. Ideally, you should play both stories, but they ultimately converge anyway, meaning you could understand almost everything by playing one campaign.
That’s all boosted by a solid visual presentation, reminiscent of Code Vein that heavily leans into the red/black aesthetic. Taking a comic-book style approach for cutscenes, those are often presented like individual panels with a talking head over it, though full cinematics are reserved for more pivotal moments. While the soundtrack isn’t much to write home about, it complimented this stylish aesthetic well.
Ultimately, Bandai Namco’s done a fine job with Scarlet Nexus and there’s an entertaining action RPG within. There are small flaws like a lacking side quest system and those minor story issues, but thanks to in-depth combat and an engaging story, it kept me invested until the end. It’s a step up from Code Vein and whichever playthrough you end up choosing (if not both), Scarlet Nexus comes highly recommended.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Reviewed on PS5