Scarlet Nexus puts players in a “brainpunk” anime world in which psionic powers and bizarre creatures from the other world threaten humanity. What does brainpunk mean? In this somewhat modern era, massive advances in brain technology have resulted in the use of incredible psychic abilities. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and a mystery will unravel as the journey progresses. Scarlet Nexus excels at selling its stylish and unique world, developing fights that are fun and enjoyable to watch, and pitting players against strange, wonderful bosses. However, some elements – such as character dialogue, relationship building, and level design – put a strain on an otherwise excellent experience.
Scarlet Nexus seems made for anime lovers with sharp graphics, crazy storylines and fantastic action sequences. Even if you don’t love anime, the fighting and animations are eye-catching. At first you just knock down monsters and gain experience – tasks that are familiar to anyone who has ever played an RPG. Soon you will have the opportunity to manipulate the environment through psychokinesis. This can be as simple as throwing barrels and boxes around, but it’s a lot more fun lifting buses, chandeliers, ice sculptures, and more. I had a blast tearing the world apart to shredding enemies and pulling up the landscape and then riding through the surroundings. The kinetic elements make for an incredibly smooth flow from fight to fight. As the game progresses, the battle becomes much more complex and interesting as you gain the ability to use your friends’ special abilities and use them in your attacks. For example, does an enemy become invulnerable when you approach? Go invisible or teleport to them! Do you have trouble dealing with fast opponents? Stop the time entirely. Later in the game, you can even use multiple skills at once to really blow up the screen with massive combo chains. I loved experimenting and combining skills to absolutely take enemies apart.
As I was building relationships with the character list, I got the opportunity to call them directly to participate in massive combo attacks. Skirmishes often end with epic anime animation as you slaughter the villainous creatures with stylish finishing attacks. As if this were not enough, you acquire new brain-related skills as you progress, such as an activatable brain field that has to be charged in combat and imparts enormous psionic powers for a short time. To add some element of risk / return, you have to manually turn off the brain field before the timer runs out – or you die. The fight is the best part of Scarlet Nexus, and it just got more fun and interesting as I progressed through the story.
The world of Scarlet Nexus is great. The monsters you fight, known as Others, are a peculiar mixture of organic matter and random, familiar objects. These creepy creations are as fascinating as they are unusual. Hectic boss fights, in which you get caught up in lightning-fast brain wars with other psionic adepts, play out like tough anime sequences and made me feel like I was actually playing an anime.
The action is incredibly exciting. The story and the characters, not so much. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the story the story introduces a ridiculous number of characters who don’t grow much during the campaign. The plot is an absurd story that is out of this world, that only makes sense in such a strange universe, but the little vignettes you unlock by improving your relationship with each and every character feel sterile and stagnant.
Scarlett Nexus also repeats itself to an extreme extent with reused areas and monsters, especially in the later areas. There are enough bizarre things to grab your attention even if you get bogged down with the formulaic level design that alternates between checkpoints and arenas. The level layouts in Scarlet Nexus feel overly functional to a ridiculous degree, with close control point to control point distance – just a straight line of control points and arenas with no disguise whatsoever. Fortunately, there is enough lush, animated insignia to get you out of this cold design as you make your way from stage to stage.
Whatever Brainpunk’s view of exaggerated psychological reality, I’m in now. Bandai Namco did something really weird and pretty satisfying with Scarlet Nexus, and I hope we get a slightly more refined sequel.