Anime themed games are met with a mixed reception most of the time, mainly due to how many are presented. Whether it be another generic 3D fighter or a ported JRPG with unfamiliar systems, the genre has a divisive audience to say the least. Scarlet Nexus is a game that outshines the rest just off presentation alone, with combat that looks intriguing even to fans of other hack and slash games. The fresh take on action combat paired with an interesting story gives Scarlet Nexus a little bit of a leg up, but it is far from a perfect action RPG.
The main appeal of Scarlet Nexus, and rightfully so, is the combat. The game sees you playing as one of two characters that each have their own story, but have the same powers. The differences come in what weapon they use and the team they have access to for the majority of the game. Yuito uses a sword and is more geared to close range combat, and Kasane has knives that she levitates for her combos to attack from a range. They both have access to psychokinesis, which they use to levitate their weapons and the environment around them to throw at enemies. The psychokinesis mechanic flows into combos incredibly well, and after upgrading perks in the talent tree you have access to even more uses for it in combat. The psychokinesis isn’t where it ends, however. As you make your way through the story the party gets larger, and allies that can help you in combat all have their own powers. In and out of combat you can use these powers just as they would, and incorporate them into your combos. Things like drenching enemies in oil and then igniting them with pyrokinesis, or using hypervelocity and duplication to throw a bunch of objects faster than enemies can react. You can use multiple powers at a time as you progress through the talent tree, and switching between them is seamless. This doesn’t change much in the late game, but there is certainly an incentive to use certain pairs of powers over others.
Scarlet Nexus’ presentation, both in story and in display, is above average. The game’s environments are beautiful, and later in the game the surrealist approach they take with the environments is astonishing. Aesthetic elements like the city in the background of the brain field add to other bits of the story that are answered through dialogue, and generally the environmental variation is very strong. The enemy variation is where the game ends up lacking, and honestly makes some of the later parts a slog. This game suffers from an issue a lot of ARPGs have, which is reskinning enemies in order to feign variety. Bosses are different, but most of the game you’re fighting reskins of enemies over and over with very little variation in how you fight against them. Combining powers is cool and all, fighting the same enemy a thousand times gets incredibly stale. By the end of the game I was mainly using my powers to skip every skippable hoard just because the process became tedious. The story is strong for the majority of your playthrough, with Yuito and Kasane having distinct motivations that drive them to make extreme choices and end up making more enemies than they can manage. While that holds true for the start, plot holes form rather quickly. This is especially true when you start having open dialogue with characters you just fought 15 minutes ago over dinner, only to fight them again in another 30 minutes with absolutely no correlation to the conversation you just had. While the story goes off the rails and takes a ton of unexpected turns that are sure to hook even veteran players, a lot of this cannot be ignored, and would stand out even on the most casual playthrough.
As a whole I feel that Scarlet Nexus is a great title for players looking to live through a futuristic power fantasy and slice up some enemies. While there are other ARPGs, Scarlet Nexus has a distinct feeling of fluidity to its combat. Every use of power and every combo feels skillful, and even with the lacking enemy variety there are lots of ways to utilize the powers in succession to make some encounters feel unique. Aside from the story and some character writing being either too crazy or too one-note, there’s a substantial amount of content in the campaign. With features like New Game + and carry over save data, replayability isn’t an issue either. Experiencing both sides of this story will feel unique enough to warrant another playthrough. Scarlet Nexus is a title with flaws, but still has a solid enough foundation to warrant a recommendation.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Playstation 5