Scarlet Nexus is an action-RPG with a fun combat system and interesting story weighed down by repetitive content and static cut-scenes.
There is no shortage of anime video games on the market, though most of those games are based on existing anime franchises like the countless Naruto fighting games or the upcoming Demon Slayer arena brawler. Scarlet Nexus from Bandai Namco Entertainment is doing things a bit differently, delivering a video game first with the anime adaptation coming later. It’s really no surprise that a Scarlet Nexus anime adaptation is already on the way, as the game is essentially a season of shonen anime in video game form.
Scarlet Nexus is set in a futuristic world where the vast majority of the population has psychic powers, used to fight off bizarre creatures known as Others. The first few hours of Scarlet Nexus introduce a lot of weird concepts all at once, and it accomplishes this through exhausting exposition dumps delivered via static cut-scenes. These static cut-scenes are unfortunately a constant presence throughout the rest of the game. The voice lines are performed well by the actors, but their work is wasted on emotionless talking heads.
The static cut-scenes are especially unfortunate because Scarlet Nexus‘ story is otherwise very interesting, ramping up a few hours in and continuing to deliver one intriguing plot twist after another. Something big, unexpected, and disturbing happens in the game’s early chapters that will keep players hooked to the point where they will absolutely have to see what happens next. Each of Scarlet Nexus‘ chapters is paced well, like a great anime episode, making it difficult to put down the controller.
By the time Scarlet Nexus players reach the end of the story, things will have gotten reallyweird, and while it may not be winning any awards for its narrative, there’s no denying its entertainment value. Scarlet Nexus offers a bizarre but exciting story and it will likely be even more well-received when presented in the form of an actual anime. The video game version uses static cut-scenes for some of the more action-packed moments and is full of excessive dialogue that one has to imagine is being trimmed down for the TV version.
Scarlet Nexus‘ has a mostly entertaining story, but the way it’s presented doesn’t do it any favors. Those issues extend to Scarlet Nexus‘ Bond Episodes, which players have the option of participating in at their hideout in-between chapters. Scarlet Nexus Bond Episodes unlock special bonuses in combat and so players will feel compelled to complete them, though they are oftentimes dull conversations between characters or repetitive side missions.
The Scarlet Nexus Bond Episodes usually have one or two interesting revelations about the characters and their motivations, so they’re worth doing for that reason along with the gameplay benefits. However, actually sitting through these conversations isn’t recommended. A much better way to experience these is to skip the static cut-scenes and read the recap in the pause menu. That way players get the most important information without having to sit through excessive and mostly uninteresting chatter.
The cut-scenes for Scarlet Nexus‘ main story shouldn’t be skipped, but players can still improve their pacing quite significantly. The best way to play Scarlet Nexus is to read the subtitles and force the dialogue to skip ahead as players will almost certainly be reading much faster than the actors are delivering their lines. This will shave a significant amount of time off one’s Scarlet Nexus playthrough, and will make the game more fun in general.
Between the long static cut-scenes are stretches of gameplay where players get to battle Others using an ever-growing arsenal of psychic abilities, and this is where Scarlet Nexus truly shines. Scarlet Nexus regularly adds new combat mechanics to the mix for the first half of the game, giving players new tools to work with and fresh strategies to try while out in the field. Figuring out the best way to take out each type of Other is fun, and the psychic powers add a lot to the experience as well.
Scarlet Nexus playable heroes Yuito and Kasane aren’t restricted to only hacking-and-slashing the Others, but rather they can utilize their psychic abilities to throw large objects at them, too. New party members lend their special abilities to Yuito and Kasane, and eventually players will get in a rhythm of cycling through all of the different powers they have at their disposal. In a single fight, players may throw a car at an enemy, imbue their sword with fire, slow down time to unleash a flurry of melee combo attacks, and then teleport to safety before their opponent can even respond. Upgrading Yuito and Kasane’s “brain map” eventually unlocks an ability that lets players have two psychic powers active at one time, which makes the combat even more entertaining.
Scarlet Nexus players are able to unleash these abilities on the Others, who all have their own unique quirks and powers that players need to take into account. Scarlet Nexus‘ enemy design is impressive, with players having to take on a whole roster of original, grotesque monsters. Scarlet Nexus bosses especially look great, and it’s always a treat to see the twisted designs the developers thought up for each creature.
The only bummer is that the enemies get re-skinned and recycled in the game’s later areas, so even though Scarlet Nexus has fantastic combat, it starts to overstay its welcome. Fighting the same enemies over and over again for the 20+ hours it takes to get through a single playthrough becomes tedious, a problem worsened by the fact that the enemies level up alongside the player and become much tankier near the end. Combine this with some annoying enemy habits that make them a chore to fight and even the otherwise exciting combat starts to disappoint.
The repetitive enemy encounters in Scarlet Nexus aren’t helped out by the game’s “dungeons.” Scarlet Nexus dungeons are visited multiple times throughout the main story and much of the side content also has players retreading familiar ground. The dungeons tend to have generic designs, like a construction site, an old hospital, etc., and that certainly doesn’t help keep things interesting.
While the dungeons aren’t the most original designs ever, at least everything in Scarlet Nexuslooks good. Scarlet Nexus‘ anime-inspired graphics really pop, plus the game runs incredibly smooth when played on next-generation hardware. Sometimes the on-screen action can get super busy, which makes the game’s consistent performance all the more impressive.
Scarlet Nexus runs great on next-gen hardware for the most part, but we did encounter multiple crashes with the Xbox Series X version of the game. One of the most frustrating times this happened was during a long, multi-phase boss fight, and the crash sent us back to the very beginning. Other than the crashes, the game ran great, maintaining its frame rate with zero dips.
The more serious technical issues will likely be addressed in future Scarlet Nexus updates, but in the meantime, the game is still a safe bet for big anime and Japanese action-RPG fans. There’s serious bang for the buck, as Scarlet Nexus has New Game Plus and is stuffed with content, being one of the few games with two playable characters where going back through with the other one is actually a worthwhile endeavor. If the combat didn’t lose its luster in the last five hours or so and if it wasn’t bogged down with so many boring static cut-scenes, it would be much easier to recommend it to everyone else, too.
Scarlet Nexus is out now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Game Rant reviewed the PC version of the game.