Scarlet Nexus is a bit of an oddity. Since it’s initial reveal, it’s felt like it’s been kept out of the spotlight. Outside of knowing that it’s an action game that features special powers and what appeared to be a very hefty dose of anime, not much was really known about it at all. Thankfully, having now spent a couple of hours with it, I know a lot more about it, and that means I can bestow that knowledge upon you.
First up, Scarlet Nexus is the most anime game without a source anime in existence. We get a lot of anime adaptations, and while games like Code Vein certainly feel like anime as well, Scarlet Nexus takes it up to an entirely new level. It kicks off with you being introduced to the world, where it turns out that your character is very good at having special powers for some reason. The specifics of your character depends on which of the two protagonists you pick at the start of the game, but the general vibe of it is classic Shonen fodder.
What that means is that each user has a power that broadly fits into the general field of “vaguely mind power-related.” Some people have control of electricity, others manipulate fire, or objects, or have clairvoyance. It’s all related enough to make sense, but broad enough to allow for different abilities and unique uses of them. It also means that you’ve got a host of characters that fit into different archetypes. You’ve got your classic anime rival who wears glasses, a chilled-out ex-priest who would rather play than work, a bumbling friend, and your overpowered protagonists. Also, the entire world seems deeply messed up.
That’s not right
Alongside everything being a bit more digital than normal and the world being invaded by mutated monsters, there are the telltale signs that Scarlet Nexus might just have some darker undercurrents. For starters, everyone who fights is young, and they’re kept young by using “Growth stunting hormones”, presumably because this somehow makes them more powerful. In fact, the one adult in your little posse is a complete oddity.
You’ve then got the world outside of your squad, which has digital stuff all over the place, including (it seems) chips in everyone’s brains. This means that the media operates via drones they send all over the place, and even that the things you see in real life can be censored to protect your mental health. That definitely seems pretty bad, but maybe that’s just me. Also, it seems to be commonplace for Others to invade the city, the battles to fight them back seeing things like cars getting thrown at them. That feels inconvenient to me, but needs must, I guess.
Others are the collective name for the monsters you’ll face, all of which have some really cool designs. They’re not going to sound it when I describe them in a second, but they’re all rather unnerving. One of the first enemies you come across is a vase with legs and high heels for some reason, and you’ll fight against gigantic primates with rusted metal for arms and cannons on their back, among other oddities. Also they eat human brains.
Time to fight
Anyway, enough of the setting, as fascinating as it is, and onto the gameplay. Scarlet Nexus takes place in relatively contained open-ish areas situated on a gigantic world map that you fast travel around. It’s a bit like you’re venturing into dungeons all over the place, but they don’t all feel like dungeons, from what I played.
Most of your interactions are going to be running around, talking to people, and then fighting Others. The fighting is a little different depending on your character, but the basics have you using a mix of weak and strong weapon attacks interspersed with your psychokinetic powers, which will have you yeeting bikes and other scenery at weird monsters. It doesn’t sound all that complicated, but more and more layers were added to it throughout my time with the game, and there were clearly a few more things to come later on, based on the skill trees.
I actually really enjoyed the fights overall. It’s not as complicated as Devil May Cry, for example, but it does have a similar veneer of stylish action to it, which means you generally feel like an absolute badass as you mix and match your attacks to disperse the Others in front of you.
You eventually get the ability to add other abilities to yours too thanks to a weird mindlink system. This means you can infuse your weapon with fire damage, or go invisible, or see the unseen. Stuff like that. These abilities get stronger if you have a better bond with those who originally own the abilities, which leads to one of the other systems.
That’s right, you’re gonna have the chance to build up your social links with all of these characters to become stronger. Sometimes that’s going to be via gifts, sometimes it’s going to be via special missions, but the aim is always the same; try and date people. Well, I actually don’t know if you’re gonna have romance in this game, so we should assume it’s just making bonds, but we all know how anime games and relationships usually work.
As you can tell, there are a lot of systems in place here, and given that I only played the first three hours or so, there is going to be plenty more to come. My time with Scarlet Nexus has left me really curious about it, and certainly a lot more excited than I was before going hands-on with it. It feels like a natural evolution from previous anime games that Bandai Namco has release, and I prefer it to many of their anime adaptations, partly because it feels like a game that could be an anime, rather than the other way around.