In the world of Scarlet Nexus, we’d all be duds.
That is, unless you have special powers facilitated by an advanced brain. It might be the power of telekinesis or clairvoyance, or it might even be the ability to turn yourself invisible or imbue yourself with the power of flame. People with these abilities are instead called ‘psionics’, and are recruited into a organisation called the OSF. That’s the Other Suppression Force to you and me.
As to what the Others are… well, that’s for you to find out as you progress through Scarlet Nexus. On the face of it though, they’re monstrous brain-eating creatures believed to come from something called the Extinction Belt that has been surrounding Earth for thousands of years. They come in various shapes and sizes – some have feminine legs which then sprout into flowers from the waist up; others are large horse-like beasts with drills for faces; and some appear to be huge mechanical creatures with fleshy arms grafted onto them.
Scarlet Nexus lets you take control of two psionics, both just about to join the OSF. Yuito Sumeragi is a volunteer, and he’s also the son of the current leader of the government. Because of that, many believe he has a silver spoon in his mouth. Kasane Randall, on the other hand, was scouted for the OSF based on her elite combat skills. Being adopted into a family that runs a huge military corporation, it should perhaps come as no surprise. Depending on who you choose at the outset will affect the story in numerous ways. And there’s no switching over at any point; once you’ve made your choice you have to live with it until the credits roll.
The crux of the game remains the same whoever you choose, however; recruited into the OSF, it’s your job to respond to Other attacks. That means visiting various locations and exploring them while wiping out any hostile forces you encounter. And of course, there’s the odd boss fight along the way. The story of Scarlet Nexus goes places, however, with shocking twists revealed every few hours or so until your head starts to spin. Still, it’s an entertaining ride, even if things eventually start to get a little convoluted.
In terms of gameplay, with Yuito and Kasane both having the same psionic power – telekinesis – it’s down to subtle differences to keep both feeling fresh. Yuito, for example, attacks at close range with his sword, focusing on one enemy for more damage. Kasane, on the other hand, flings daggers around her, resulting in attacks that hit both wider and further, but dealing less damage. They can both make use of the unique skills provided by their teammates, too, which they’ll gain different access to throughout the course of the game.
While you’ll only ever be in direct control of Yuito or Kasane, up to two computer-controlled teammates fight by your side. Despite that, however, you can make use of up to three of your teammates’ psionic skills in combat, and you’ll need to if you want to play effectively. Some enemies can make themselves invisible, for example, forcing you to use clairvoyance to reveal them, while some others hide their squishy bits if you get too close, requiring you to make use of teleportation to get in close before they can even notice you. Such skills add a nice bit of depth to the combat, complementing your own combination of physical and telekinesis attacks, the latter of which typically result in you picking up random objects and hurling them at your opponents.
It’s the special, more powerful version of those telekinesis attacks that perhaps offer Scarlet Nexus‘ most entertaining moments from a gameplay perspective. Using my powers to interact with a bus in one area, I was filled with delight when my character jumped on top, allowing me to steer it into others as it sped down a road. It also feels very rewarding to lift a giant rock and then bring it crashing down on your enemies time and time again using the left stick.
There are numerous other elements to Scarlet Nexus’ combat, too; by wearing down an opponent’s defences, for example, a powerful Brain Crush move can be performed which instantly kills them, and once a gauge is full, your character automatically enters a powered-up state for a brief period, boosting their capabilities. Eventually there’s also another temporary powered-up state available, this one which you can instigate yourself, that effectively drags your enemies into another dimension and changes your moveset.
The final piece of the puzzle is that in between each chapter, or phase, of Scarlet Nexus‘ story, there’s a brief intermission where you can interact with your teammates and raise your bond with them. Whether it’s by presenting them with gifts or being talkative, forming bonds with your team is beneficial as it improves the skills they provide you with in battle and more. Raise your bond level enough with any specific team member, for example, and you’ll be able to summon them to your position to perform a powerful attack in your stead. Some of them will shout out during combat, too, giving you access to helpful opportunistic attacks.
Everything considered, you’d imagine the combat of Scarlet Nexus to be fast-paced and lively, and indeed it is. Sometimes, however, it can be a little too much so. Smaller skirmishes and battles against large bosses are generally always fun, as you really get to plan your moves and think tactically. When facing off against a larger number of foes, however, including some of the ranged variety, things can get messy thanks to the game’s ho-hum lock-on system that can make changing targets fiddly, and a camera that often doesn’t give you the best view. There’s also the fact that the game’s dodging mechanic is awkward. You’re rewarded for dodging just before an enemy hits you, but it feels very inconsistent. And some enemy attacks just come from nowhere.
The linearity of some of the environments you explore is also an issue, as is the fact that you’ll visit multiple of them more than once throughout the game’s story with little, if anything, new to make them more interesting. Side quests are also equally dull, generally requiring you to do nothing more than defeat X amount of a specific enemy.
Offering a lengthy adventure that you’ll need to play through twice if you want the full picture, Scarlet Nexus is entertaining enough. Due to numerous issues with its gameplay, however, it’s a game that’s carried by its story. It’s a shame really, because the world created here is genuinely interesting and unique; I’d certainly like to see more Scarlet Nexus games in the future, and will definitely check out the anime when it arrives. But there were times throughout my adventure where the combat was irritating rather than fun, and traipsing through an environment just felt like a chore rather than an exciting foray into the unknown.
Scarlet Nexus Review: GameSpew’s Score