Let’s be real. Scarlet Nexus hasn’t had the best marketing campaign. Did you know that it is coming out this week? On Friday, to be exact. Unless you had a Google calendar alert or an Amazon shipping notification, it’s one hundred percent possible you forgot about it. The box art isn’t particularly intriguing; it’s rather drab, doesn’t scream Japanese RPG, and your eyes kind of gloss over it. But if you look past that and pick up a copy you will find yourself in for a real treat. My goal was to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, so here goes.
Scarlet Nexus Review – The Extinction Belt
In the year 2020, mankind keeps itself confined to cities littered with emergency shelters. Supernatural entities called Others decent from a mysterious red haze in the sky known as the Extinction Belt, with the intent to feast on human brains. The government’s Other Suppression Forces (OSF) division enlists those with special abilities to keep the citizens safe and eradicate threats. Players will choose to start Scarlet Nexus with either Yuito or Kasane, and then replay the story from the other character’s perspective after the first playthrough is complete. For the purposes of this review it should be noted that I chose Kasane Randall, the adopted daughter of the powerful Randall family who joins the OSF alongside her older sister Naomi.
Kasane soon realizes something isn’t quite right in Suoh. There’s an internal struggle brewing, sketchy back alley deals, and a life changing event that just might break her. As she sets out to discover the truth, Kasane and her platoon members cross paths with Yuito and his group on several occasions, not always pleasant. There are plot twists and turns only fully appreciated on your second playthrough where players can connect each of the red strings ourselves.
Traditional cutscenes JRPG fans have come to expect aren’t nearly as frequent in Scarlet Nexus. For example: scenes where people are all in the same room tend to be static images with pop-up windows depicting talking heads. While this makes sense for cutscenes where the characters are using the brain messaging system, it takes away from the experience when everyone is together. I can’t say for sure whether this was the plan from the beginning or a concession made due to pandemic working conditions. It took me a while to adjust to this style. While it isn’t my preferred way to JRPG, it has grown on me and doesn’t bother me as much 30+ hours in as it did at the start.
Scarlet Nexus Review – The SAS Connections
Where Scarlet Nexus truly shines is its blended combat system. As gravikinetics, Kasane and Yuito can move environmental objects to do heavy damage in addition to their base weapons. These standard attacks fill the MC’s Psychokinesis (PK) gauge, the fuel required to throw objects with the R2 trigger or pull off a special attack with L2. When combined with SAS ally powers, the MC deals higher damage and can inflict status effects. One of my favorite combos is to engage Kyoka’s duplication power in tandem with Shiden’s electrokinesis. If I’ve played my cards right these attacks more often than not allow me to trigger a Brain Crush. Brain Crush attacks decimate the enemy with special animations that I never get bored of.
There are two other special actions to pay attention to. The first is Brain Drive. This mode auto-enables once the gauge is maxed out and sends Kasane into a hyper-focused battle mode. The temporary buffs here can increase attack, speed, and even experience earned. But the Brain Field is where it’s at. Inside the Brain Field Kasane channels her powers to the nth degree dealing powerful blow after blow. Kasane can pull several objects together as one heavy blow or throw single items to do more harm than they would outside of the field. Because she’s a psionic, this is her world and everyone in it better beware. You do need to pay attention to her; if she stays in the Brain Field for too long it will kill her and it’s Game Over. You want to activate the Brain Field when you’re up against tough enemies. I recommend keeping a couple of consumables on hand just in cast your gauge isn’t ready when you need it.
Looking for new moves or ways to increase your effectiveness? Do not ignore the Brain Map. The five branches of this skill tree system are: Enhance, Expand, Support, Brain Drive, and Brain Field. Like any RPG, Brain Points are earned as you level up and it’s up to you to unlock the paths that best suit your play style. I maxed out my Support and Brain Field segments first, dabbling in a few others to unlock important moves like double jump and aerial dash. The sooner I can rid myself of those pesky Brawn Yawns the better. Maximizing my Brain Field output has me swinging those gators by the tail in no time.
Scarlet Nexus Review – Super Best Friends
In order to get the best from the platoon, Kasane will want to regularly use her teammates in the field and woo them with gifts. Increasing the bonds between your MC and friends opens up new co-abilities and perks. Standby Phases are the best time to get to know one another. If a pink link icon shows up instead of the normal talk icon you have a Bond Episode to enjoy. Depending on the character these can be serious or delightful scenes. Gifts purchased from the shop or discovered via exploration can be given while in the hideout and is a great way to nudge your way closer to increasing that bond level. What I love here was the attention to detail; whatever items I gave to my cohorts would show up in their respective nooks in the hideout.
I do have a couple of qualms with Scarlet Nexus. The first is with the barrier that forms during an Other encounter. When Kasane is too close the barrier she tends to “disappear” off camera and I don’t know where I am. I’ve been stuck in corners and somehow between the barrier with a throwable object at my feet that I cannot see to target and toss. Not the most pleasant spot to find yourself during a boss fight. The second is that yet again I’m playing a game where the English voice director did not have the actors learn the correct pronunciation for some of the Japanese names. It’s 2021. The localization should have been better. We have the ability for people to practice this sort of thing and it’s really unacceptable and honestly a little disrespectful.
Having finished Kasane’s version of the story and getting ready to experience Yuito’s side, I’m truly appreciative of the storytelling. Japanese sci-fi has long been a genre I enjoy. Last year players were spoiled with 13 Sentinels, and Scarlet Nexus has delivered another wonderfully woven narrative worth playing. Do not sleep on this game! JRPG July is just around the corner and the perfect time to spend 60 hours playing video games.
Scarlet Nexus PS5 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.001 reviewed on PlayStation 5. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.