I’ve encountered a lot of weird digital enemies throughout my playing career, but none quite as weird as, say, a human-cow hybrid with trees for the eyes and a literal water tap for the mouth.
If you’re the least bit adjacent to the ARPG, there’s no doubt you’ve at least heard some positive rumors about the post-apocalyptic, anime-inspired cyberbrain, sort of dating sim, in some sort of adventure Scarlet Nexus. There are several people from Tales RPG series behind, so before you even step foot in this very original Japanese cartoon, it’s obvious you’ll be in good hands.
At its core, the game screams JRPG, which isn’t at all surprising given the development team’s extensive pedigree. In a nutshell, you command a team of young OSF (Other Suppression Force) soldiers who are tasked with ridding the world of the aforementioned Others, who are mutated monstrosities from a terrible place called the Belt of Extinction.
This all takes place in a futuristic setting where everything is broadcast via swarming camera drones, the government is shady at best, and the holographic AR ads (or Visions, as they are called in the game) pollute virtually every square inch. of Modern Life. It sounds familiar, really.
The focus is on the different extrasensory powers of the brain in Scarlet Nexus, such as pyrokinesia, sclerokinesia, electrokinesia and the most commonly used, psychokinesia. With the latter, you can grab virtually any object nearby and throw it at opponents as you attack them with melee attacks. Everything looks incredibly smooth during the game’s hectic battles.
Speaking of which, with gorgeous cel-shaded Unreal Engine 4 visuals, Scarlet Nexus is definitely a sight to see, especially on some of the new console hardware and a proper 4K display.
The smart folks at Digital Foundry posted a solid side-by-side graphical comparison for the different versions of Scarlet Nexus, especially between the Xbox Series X and the PS5. More or less, DF claims that both versions of Namco Bandai’s ARPG run at 4K 60FPS, albeit with slight caveats and under-the-hood tricks deployed by both systems. The PS5 version appears to slightly exceed the Xbox Series X port, with fewer temporary drops in framerate in the upper 50s and slightly faster load times.
You can check out the full analysis below:
Those frame hollows are really just that: lightweight, and incredibly, probably not even enough to be seen by the average gamer’s eye. I played Scarlet Nexus on my Xbox Series X and the performance was downright stunning, the in-game cutscenes and epic finishing moves (Brain Crushes) in particular. I didn’t notice the small frame rate drops until after later viewing the Digital Foundry video. To be completely objective, however, the PS5 comes out on top with this title, albeit by a hair’s breadth.
Unfortunately, for the game to run smoothly, there are some important pop-ins on both versions, especially with vehicles and other interactive items as you travel around town. I really hope Bandai Namco can fix this at some point, because otherwise Scarlet Nexus is a visual treat. It must be, because the creatures you are fighting are anything but, and in the best possible way.
The tree-stemmed creature I mentioned in the introduction to this article, AKA the Winery Chinery (yes, that’s his real name), is just one of the countless enemy abominations that have come from the belt. extinction to the more civilized environments of Scarlet Nexus. And truly, ‘abominations’ is generous. These things, whatever they really are – and kudos to you if you can put them in any meaningful natural order – fall more into the category of “nature’s glaring errors.” You know, like the blob fish or the goblin shark.
Take the Auger Sabbat, for example. Masked horse with a forest face, I … guess? Naomi Randall, with her oddly normal name, is partly an actual house, partly busts of blind twin mannequins. As far as I know, Saws Paws is one of those corpse flowers from Rafflesia who wears a corset (because of course it does) worn over a pair of presumably feminine legs with – yes, you the guessed it – hand saws for the feet.
I mean, what is this are these entities? They’re like that off-putting amalgamation of housewares, animal parts, bad feelings and hindsight Exorcist animation. All i say is that Scarlet Nexus give the silent Hill series a run for its money in the WTF department, and I’m certainly not complaining. It makes me want a first-person spin-off that delves into the horror aspects of the game’s unsettling enemy art.
One complaint I have is that the game’s environments, unlike its amazing monsters, are pretty bland and identical. i understand that Scarlet Nexus takes place in the distant future, and that distant future is dystopian, so the lack of color and variety is mostly brand related. At least on the mission front, there are plenty of abandoned factories, isolated construction sites, and drab, empty highway viaducts. Of course, there is a bustling city life between carrying out orders, trying to woo your teammates with gifts, and wiping out others. But would it have killed the dev team to throw in, I dunno, something green every now and then? A humid forest? A cascading cave? A disgusting kale smoothie? You understand my point.
My biggest gripe (and it could be a personal preference, so take it with a grain of salt) is the amount of dialogue that takes place throughout the narrative. We’re talking about Hideo Kojima’s levels of conversational self-indulgence. These often redundant exchanges, from normal progression bits to extra Bond episodes, are very common and can derail the action for sometimes around 10 minutes at a time. I never thought the story was good enough or compelling enough to deserve this kind of dedicated attention. I mean, the writing is correct, but nothing surprising.
Again, if you like this kind of anime that regularly turns cheesy, grimaceous, and trope – and no one here is raining on this particular parade, you do – then you might find Scarlet Nexus the insistence that her characters are extremely interesting and absolutely worth everyone’s time … lovely? I think what I’m trying to say is it’s not for me, but I hardly think I’m the target audience.
However, I can quite overcome these drawbacks, as the real strength of Scarlet Nexus for me (and it’s huge) is the awesome action combat system. The combat is fast, frantic and smooth. It’s all about connecting physical attacks, psychokinetic hits, and teammate tags into elaborate, seemingly endless combos. The flow takes some getting used to, and unlocking different moves can be a bit of a drip feed through the brain map, and I’m watching you overtake.
Once you tie things together and launch Military Humvees while effortlessly successfully completing Brain Crushes, the whole process starts to feel like some sort of destructive poetry. This is made even more evident by the high energy music which kind of struck me as a modern version of Fantastic Star Online.
I think no matter what hardware you play on, even the less powerful Xbox Series S, Scarlet Nexus is not a game you want to miss. The last time I heard it was not selling very well, which I hope will change through word of mouth.
Warning: Bandai Namco has provided a review code for coverage purposes.