“The brain is the body’s strongest muscle,” is probably one of the most common sayings that exist in society today. A strong mind can push you through any reasonable obstacle. Well, Bandai Namco is going all in on this idea with their self-described, “Brain Punk” game, Scarlet Nexus. A hack and slash adventure where gifted warriors fight other worldly monsters using the power of their brains… and other weapons. 

The Story

Scarlet Nexus is the tale of two heroes, Yuito Kursaragi and Kasane Randall. Having been recently recruited into the Other Suppression Force. Using advanced technology that taps into the power of their brains, they defend the remnants of humanity from monstrous creatures known as the “Others”. Creatures who descend from the mysterious “extinction belt” in the skies and eat human brains. However, it doesn’t take long before things really go haywire and the truth slowly begins to reveal itself, as our heroes unravel a deeply rooted conspiracy within the OSF. 

If you’ve ever played an anime inspired game, then you may already know what to expect from the game’s writing. Despite being split into two narratives, it never escapes being horribly generic, especially where the cast is concerned. Kasane is the seemingly stoic tough anime heroine while Yuito is the sword bearing hero with a childhood love interest. You’ve got adults that look like kids thanks to anti-aging drugs, the guy who wants to hook up with every living female in the story and the woman who wants to be your mom. Name an anime character trope and you’ll probably find it in this game. 

scarlet nexus

Source: screen capture – Kyle Simcox

Some details are vaguely explained then, just flat out forgotten about. The media, for instance, plays a big part in the beginning of both Yuito and Kasane’s storylines with drones swarming both characters as they complete their first assignments. They swarm our protagonists, buzzing around excitedly until they’re distracted, and our heroes are whisked away from the scene. At one point, very early on, the game even goes on to state that damaging media equipment is illegal. Then, you never hear from them again and it just stops being a thing. The news drones can even be weaponized in odd areas they don’t even feel like they belong in. 

For instance, the Others are the main enemy of the game, you fight them literally everywhere you go. However, while the extinction belt is where many of them come from, they’re not the main antagonists and only really exist so that you have something to fight. There’s actually a secret shadow war being fought between two different branches of the OSF, and the narrative is focused solely on that and the dangerous technology developed by one of them. The Others and their origins within the Extinction belt are just kind of side details that occasionally come up as you learn the truth. 

Gameplay

On its surface, Scarlet Nexus looks like quite a fun game, and it is. Stringing together a flashy combo on an enemy only to leap back and chuck a car using your psychokinesis is certainly satisfying to a degree. However, it doesn’t take long before you realize that’s about as deep as it ever really gets. There is also the SAS system which is a mechanic that lets you borrow your ally’s ability to exploit your enemies’ weaknesses. This, however, just ends up feeling like a gimmick. Is the enemy covered in oil? You should use Hanabi’s fire. Is that flying enemy too fast? Arashi is the girl you want to see when it comes to speed. Did that enemy turn invisible? By now you probably get where I’m going. As you progress through the story, you’ll eventually have access to up to eight other abilities but only half of them ever felt useful while the others were simply situational. 

scarlet nexus

Source: screen capture – kyle simcox

Even with the option of playing two different characters, there fails to be anything that really sets them apart from one another aside from their stats. Yuito is the sword wielding warrior while Kasane uses bladed fans in an attempt at being the “ranged character”. Admittedly, while Kasane does have a bit more reach than Yuito does, it isn’t saying much, and you have to be within melee range to hit anything. Ranged combat comes in the form of the flashy Psychokinetic attacks you pull off by using the left and right triggers which both heroes have complete access to. Psychokinetic attacks using the right trigger are most useful for chaining together your combos while the left trigger delivers the more notable attacks. The first boss you encounter for example will leave itself open after a specific attack. If you’re close enough to certain spots in the room, you can heave a large dump truck at it and smash the large container on its back, covering it in water. Which in turn then opens the boss up to be hit with electric attacks both stunning the boss and allowing for more damage to be done. 

  

Your effectiveness in combat is rewarded by allowing you to access your heroes’ more powerful combat abilities. The Brain Drive for instance is a powered-up state in which you hit harder and gain more experience when defeating enemies. Then there’s the Brain Field, which is more of a super Saiyan like state that can only be maintained for so long before the user goes mad. It draws enemies into a field affected by the user’s mind and allows players to deliver some powerful attacks. 

  

There is a somewhat diverse range of Others to fight and most of them are fun, including the bosses. However, there were three that I really did not enjoy encountering. We’ll start with the flying enemies. These annoying jerks require you to fight them in the air, which is probably the clunkiest part of the game’s combat. It doesn’t help that they often recover quickly and fighting them early on before you unlock more aerial attacks simply isn’t fun. For the second enemy, there are horse and goat like enemies that utilize a dash attack to keep as far away from you as possible. You spend way too much time chasing them around and it draws the fight out. Finally, the alligator-like “Yawn” enemies. These boys are just beefy, take a lot of damage and towards the end of the game, they’re thrown at you like candy at a parade. The last dungeon in the game is very obnoxious for this actually.  

scarlet nexus

Source: screen capture – kyle simcox

Side content is also a huge problem for Scarlet Nexus. There are about sixty side missions in the game and all of them involve you backtracking and killing specific enemy types in very specific ways. In fact, the game spends a lot of it’s time encouraging you to back track to areas you’ve previously completed in subtle ways. Another way the game encourages backtracking is through relationship building. There are side stories players can experience by bonding with their teammates but those are unlocked by simply using their powers and giving them gifts when you’re at your hideouts. Some gifts can’t be found within levels and rewarded from side missions, many of the other gifts must be traded for by bringing vendors specific materials. 

  

Another problem with Scarlet Nexus’ Level design is that it is incredibly linear. On a positive note, the linearity makes backtracking for materials simple. Specific enemies are in specific levels and items are usually located in the same spots you found them at the first time. Grinding out materials or killing that one specific entity is never a difficult process. On the other hand, however, none of the levels are all that exciting to explore and often require situational use of an ally’s power such as teleportation or super speed. 

  

Scarlet Nexus sports very light RPG systems in that Yuito and Kasane will level up as players progress through the game. As they level up, each character is allotted a various amount of skill points to apply to their brain maps. The brain map is a rather extensive unlocking system that will further increase their characters’ Other slaying capabilities the deeper in they get. I felt that some of the skills were unnecessary at times, like the ability to use double jump but otherwise, this is one of the more impressive features of the game. Being able to skip to use multiple SAS powers or increase the length in which you can remain in your more powerful states feels almost essential. There is a lot to unlock, and you can feel your characters’ growth as you unlock the more useful skills. 

scarlet nexus

Source: screen capture – kyle simcox

There is an equipment feature but it doesn’t allow for any variation or customization as far as how you approach combat is concerned. Yuito uses a katana, and that’s the only option players have. When you’re not exchanging materials for your companions’ gifts, you can upgrade your weapons as well, which for the most part, is easy to do. There does come a moment where you’ll start to run out of materials, but this is just one of the ways the game encourages you to backtrack and run through previous areas. Another thing you can do, is that if you’re into customization, you can add little knicks to your team and personalize them to a certain degree. One thing that I found most disappointing though was the lack of alternate skins. There are only two if you didn’t pre-order the game or buy the higher end version of the game. It’s one of the areas Bandai Namco had the opportunity to deliver some cool customization features but really dropped the ball on it instead. 

Graphics

Graphically, I’d say there’s a lot anime fans will love about Scarlett Nexus. Combat is very flashy, and the technology based around the use of the characters’ brains leads to some cool looking tech. When the “Brain drive” activates, your character goes through a cool transformation where their hoods come up and a mask covers their face. The “Brain Field” pulls you and your enemies into this sort of… alternate dimension? You become surrounded by this psychedelic darkness and gravity becomes your toy. There are two hub cities you can wander around in that just feel lifeless despite being full of NPCs. They’re decorated in cool, augmented reality ways but the lifeless NPCs in static positions leave a lot to be designed. The dungeons you’ll visit are also bland and empty as well, but one dungeon had a very pretty piece of artwork tucked away at the end of it. 

One detail that did stand out for me and that I loved a lot, is that you get a safe house in the game. It starts off empty and it’s a very boring space to be in. However, this is where you interact with your team and give them gifts. Upon giving them said gifts, they show up in the safe house, displayed on your teammates’ tables. So, while it starts out boring and empty, it soon becomes full of knick knacks that you’ve provided your team with, and I really like that sort of progression. 

scarlet nexus

Source: screen capture – kyle simcox

Character designs are hit and miss unfortunately. The main cast, for the most part, leave a lot to be desired as they just tend to blend in with one another. Hoods and face masks can only go so far where “cool factor” is concerned. Everyone looks to be of different ages but that only plays more into the anime trope as well. There’s never any real distinguishing factor between them aside from hair color and a gadget or piece of clothing, such as Arashi’s mechanical bunny ears. 

  

On the other side of the coin though, there are the Others. The Others have unique designs. There are stumbling, twisted mannequin-esque creatures, grotesque flying sacks of flour and twisted tree-like demons. Then there are the bosses who have some of the coolest designs in the game. I absolutely loved the last boss all around, from the way it looked to the setting it takes place in. The downside to the Others is that there is very little variation between different types. Rummy are the mannequin-esque enemies you encounter in the game and the “Kitchen” variant is on fire, whereas the electrical variant has an umbrella. Every enemy in the game has these little differences but the issue is that in the heat of battle, you don’t really notice these differences. It just makes things a tad more inconvenient, especially when trying to choose the appropriate abilities. 

Music and Sounds

I very much enjoyed the soundtrack in Scarlet Nexus. Lead composer Hayata Takeda does an absolutely superb job at fitting in perfectly with the game’s setting. There are some very catchy tunes played throughout the game. During your excursions into Other infested areas, the upbeat fusion of jazz and synth will keep you moving and bobbing your head along with the beat. When you’re outside of those areas and in a safer zone, you’re gifted with more relaxed beats, like when you’re walking around the city of Suoh. Takeda is definitely a man who knows his music. I enjoyed the soundtrack so much, I even pre-ordered the vinyl version of it. 

scarlet nexus

Source: screen capture – kyle simcox

The voice acting however, is fine. If you’re a fan of anime, then you’re going to enjoy it. I do apologize for using this word again, but it is very tropey and the dialog always feel generic. You have the shy girl, the older woman, the stern heroine, the unknowing hero, the arrogant jerk, the pretty boy/ladies’ man, etcetera, etcetera. If there’s a specific anime personality you like, well rest easy knowing the gang’s all here, and you are sure to find your waifu. 

Summary

Overall, I feel like Scarlett Nexus is a game that exists within the middle of the pack. It has its ups because the combat is fun and flashy, but its downs exist in that everything else about the game is so mediocre and basic. I put about thirty hours into the game and the only moment I found myself really disliking was the very last dungeon. It was simply far too long and drawn out. I don’t recall ever encountering a bug in the game and another cool thing about Scarlet Nexus is that for those who want to experience both stories, there is a New Game Plus option. Your progress carries over to the other character so when I started Yuito’s story, it made the opening hours a lot more fun to experience. 

Price: $59.99

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS4, PS5

Developer: Bandai Namco Studios

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Score

Kyle Simcox

Kyle Simcox

Article Team

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