Scarlet Nexus is Bandai Namco‘s much anticipated new IP -one of the first to launch on next-gen consoles. It came out last Friday, and the internet is already full of opinions – some positive, some… wrong. I’m kidding – I think Scarlet Nexus is great, but it might not be for everyone. It might not even be for every JRPG fan – it’s a bold new entry in an overpopulated genre, and there’s a lot of things it does differently.
Ahead of our review coming next week, here’s five reasons why I think you should play Scarlet Nexus.
Incredible anime visuals
Yeah, yeah – it’s not all about the graphics. Except Scarlet Nexus is an absolute treat for the eyes. It’s glorious – constantly in motion with sense of energy and colour rarely seen in anime-style games. Whether you’re roaming the city chatting up the locals or fighting hordes of flower baskets with legs, Scarlet Nexus’ world is rendered in glorious detail. We’ve been playing on PC and PS5, and quite frankly both of FULLSYNC’s resident weebs have been astonished by what we’ve seen.
Not only does Scarlet Nexus harness next gen power to deliver a living anime world, it has an undeniable sense of style – much like Persona 5 before it, Scarlet Nexus is filled with the visual confidence of a game that knows it looks slick.
Fast-paced, fluid combat
Fights in Scarlet Nexus just flow. Arenas erupt in bursts of colour as cars fly through the air and weapons tear into flesh. There’s a remarkable synergy between your character’s psychic and physical abilities. I’m playing as Yuito, and it is just a whale of a time. You can follow up on fast-paced melee combos with telekinetic slams for high damage, tearing chunks of scenery out of the ground to crush your foes. You can burst into combat by launching a car at someone’s face, closing the distance while they’re still picking bits of license plate out of their teeth.
You recover your psychic energy with melee combat, so you can never rely on one strategy for too long – you’ve gotta mix it up to keep your combos going. This gets even more intense when you unlock the Brain Drive feature, which supercharges your character’s destructive potential and gives you the opportunity to recover health. By using the SAS system, your chosen hero can temporarily “borrow” the powers of your party, amplifying their destructive potential in unique ways. Despite all these mechanics going on at once, Scarlet Nexus is ridiculously smooth to play.
Devastate your enemies with SAS
Scarlet Nexus’ world is populated by people with powerful psionic abilities, but everybody only has one – which might be a bit of a pain in the ass, if we didn’t have the SAS (Struggle Arms System). By making use of SAS you can borrow the powers of your party members on the fly, using them in combination with your own. After just a few short hours of play I’d seen electrokinesis, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance and invisibility powers all used in interesting combinations.
Activating SAS powers is intuitive and impactful. They make the hero’s psychokinesis power feel all the more substantial – an early sequence sees you exploring an abandoned subway station, using invisibility to get the drop on enemies. There’s something that never gets old about waltzing straight past the freakish Others, just to launch an entire train at their heads.
That’s not all – Scarlet Nexus’ companions pull their weight. You can modify their behaviour with tactical commands in the menu, but left to their own devices they’ll happily smash enemy ranks apart, toss the odd heal your way and even revive you from time to time.
Make friends and influence people
Much like the Persona series, you can spend time with your party members between missions to increase your bond with them. While the system isn’t exactly the same – there’s no dialogue options, for example, and the characters aren’t immediately as interesting as Persona casts – it offers some very tangible rewards.
The characters definitely hit a lot of the classic anime tropes, but they’re well done, with occasional moments of depth and goofy comic relief. Yes, we’ve seen a lot of these characters before, and yet it’s still a pleasure to get to know (most) of your comrades throughout the course of the game. Giving them gifts and taking time to watch the “Bond Episodes” will deliver some pretty substantial upgrades to your SAS powers, too!
A twisting, dual-protagonist narrative
Right at the start, you’ll pick between Yuito or Kasane. Yuito is melee focused while Kasane is ranged. The stories don’t play out entirely identically, but they do follow the same overall plot. It’s hard to sum up Scarlet Nexus’ plot based on my time with it, but it has parts of Nier and Attack On Titan in its DNA, infused with a heavy dose of brainpunk/cyberpunk motifs that give the game a distinct identity.
The story races from point to point, offering the player moments to breathe and evaluate their next move with the party before taking on the next challenge. It’s packed with twists, turns, and the sense that something much darker is lurking beyond the narrative we’re being told. The story isn’t just window dressing to lead from one bout of action to the next – it’s a compelling tale powered by interesting (even if they’ve been done before) characters.