Scarlet Nexus is set in a ‘Brain Punk’ future where humans have started to develop exciting psionic powers. “That sounds great!” you might think, but that’s before you factor in that monsters have descended upon us all and that the government has such strict control over its populace that they can censor the things you see in real-time.
It is, undoubtedly, rather dystopian. In fact, aside from the incredibly pretty visuals and a general sense of style in Scarlet Nexus, the thing that you’ll often end up feeling is a general sense of “How the hell did it end up like this?”
The monsters, called Others, are some of the most brilliantly grotesque creatures I’ve seen in gaming. Each one is a strange mix of assimilated technology, plant life, and the odd human-like arm or foot. The resulting creatures genuinely look like they all belong in a horror game, but instead, you get to beat the crap out of them by chucking bits of rubble at them and smacking them in the face.
Make a choice
You play as either Yuito or Kasane, both of whom have the same psionic power of psychokinesis, which is a fancy word that means you can yeet things at other things. They have their own individual style, though. Yuito uses a katana and likes to get up close and focus heavy hits on a single target, while Kasane uses flying knives to attack from a distance and hit a wide area with some of her strikes.
Alongside your character’s normal attacks and psychokinetic throws, you also get access to the powers your teammates have, which can bolster your own attacks. Some of these are useful for dealing extra damage, like electrokinesis, while others are practically essential for fighting certain enemy types, like invisibility or hypervelocity. It’s a good mix of tools that are there for fun and can be used at your own discretion, versus the ones that are literally essential to being able to take out specific Others.
It’s not all fighting in Scarlet Nexus, though. You have a wonderfully dystopian group of areas to explore, and while the dungeons are all a bit generic, the towns you’ll come across are bustling with interesting vistas and characters to interact with.
This seems normal
As well as Yuito and Kasane playing differently, they also have very different backstories and different story beats as you delve deeper into this world. While the main story in the game doesn’t change based on who you choose, the parts that you see will. The two characters regularly have separate experiences, and that means that if you want the full story, you’ll actually want to try out both paths.
Thankfully, both the story and the combat are more than good enough that you’ll be compelled to keep playing after that first completion. In fact, the plot is good enough that I found myself itching to get back to it in the same way I would any other weekly anime.
I say any other there, because Scarlet Nexus is the most anime game I’ve ever played, and that includes the likes of the actual anime games like Dragon Ball Z Kakarot and One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows. It’s a completely original property, not beholden to a manga or anime series, but every character is a play on some classic anime trope and, aside from the first couple of chapters, the conspiracy-laden story moves at a blistering pace that befits a 12 episode series.
I found the side missions a bit dull despite the fascinating world, but you can also go on things called Bond Episodes, which level up your relationship with your teammates to make them and you more powerful.
Can’t we all just get along?
The Bond Episodes usually come at the end of any given Phase (chapter), and unlock new abilities when borrowing someone else’s powers, but also give you more backstory about the characters and the world of Scarlet Nexus. Pretty much every single one will elicit a feeling of mild disgust at the state of the things that seem to be the norm in this world, including age-suppressing hormones, and the fact that you’re often fighting alongside literal children.
The world of Scarlet Nexus is more than intriguing enough to keep you playing the game, but the story will absolutely hook you and keep you playing until the next save point every time you jump in too. The fact that the combat also feels great, and that you can adjust the difficulty on the fly if a fight is proving a little too irksome, is just another plus point for this rather excellent game.