Review: Scarlet Nexus: Entry Level JRPG
Scarlet Nexus is the brand new Japanese RPG from Bandai Namco. A nice action game with fast and flashy gameplay with many good ideas and elaborations but with room for improvements.
Take on the role of Yuito or Kasane in Scarlet Nexus and move through a futuristic Japan as Scarlet Guardian. Humanity has discovered a new kind of sense that gives almost everyone in the world special powers. Yuito and Kasane, the main characters in this game have a psychic power that allows them to lift and throw objects. Supporting characters in the game use powers such as fire, teleportation, clairvoyance and more. Thanks to the smart SAS system (Struggle Arms System), you borrow the powers of your teammates to eliminate the dangers in your path.
On the road with the OSF
You start your adventure as a newcomer to the elite OSF (Other Suppression Force). This unit is set up to defend the New Himuka region from the Others. The Others are the enemies in this game and they come in different shapes and sizes. Each Other has certain strengths and weaknesses that you have to deal with creatively during battle. You do this by combining different types of attacks and special powers in fluid combat. This brings us directly to the game's strongest point, the incredibly flashy and fluid combat.
The focus is clearly here. By means of your sword and your special powers in combination with the powers that you borrow from your teammates you perform the most crazy combos in flashy style. The combat setup can be compared to Devil May Cry . You enter a certain room after which some enemies are already present, or suddenly the room is closed and a number of waves of enemies appear.
The Others come in different sizes and shapes and each Other has a certain weakness. Enemies have a life bar and a Crush Bar, the Scarlet Nexus variant of a stamina bar. Exploiting an enemy's weaknesses or performing combos will help you break through an enemy's stamina bar faster. Once this bar is empty you will get an opening to perform a Finisher Move. These moves look brutal and have some unique animations per enemy type.
The disadvantage, however, is that you soon have seen everything in terms of combat and enemies. Within the first 6 hours you have already discovered most of your powers and attacks and you have already seen most variants of the enemies. You do make your character stronger by assigning skill points in a skill tree that expand the possibilities during battles a bit, but not very much.
In addition to combat, Scarlet Nexus also focuses very much on telling a unique and quite deep story. Where you can roughly compare the combat to Devil May Cry, the other aspect of the game resembles a Visual Novel. There is a lot of dialogue in the game. We see the necessary plot twists and gripping events, the first few of which happen a little too early in the game. At this point, I didn't bond with the characters yet, so it didn't leave me with the desired feeling. Fortunately, the game picks up well and you empathize more and more with the characters and you understand better and better what is going on in Scarlet Nexus.
Bonding Episodes between Narrative Chapters also helps you get to know your teammates better. You can go out with them and have a chat with them. You can also find and buy gifts for them to strengthen the bond with your teammates. Strengthening such a bond allows you to do new things with that teammate during battles. It gives a bit of a Persona feeling, in which you also make your teammates more effective during battles with optional bonding.
Every bond you create with your teammates is a different story in itself. You get to know how a character works and what they like and dislike, for example. It enriches the world and the story of Scarlet Nexus because you are constantly on the road with these characters and there is continuous conversation during the story.
Scarlet Nexus is more of an action game in the same vein as Devil May Cry with a solid story that stretches the gameplay segments together. It's a pretty unique approach for a Japanese game in my opinion. The story of Yuito and Kasane is divided into chapters. Each chapter starts and ends with a story section, where you play with your character in the different linear areas in between. These gameplay segments are virtually seamless with minimal interruptions. It's a nice change with a healthy balance, but it leaves something to be desired for the seasoned JRPG fans. The depth is mainly in the fluid combat and not so much in building your team or character. Each character has only one kind of weapon that you can actually upgrade to the next level once in each chapter.
There is minimal choice to build your character and that in itself is not a bad thing. For me the depth in the combat is enough, but I want to emphasize it anyway. The game is very tailor-made for what the developers have in mind. You play the story of Kasane and Yuito and not your own story. The side quests are therefore no more than variations on fetch and kill quests, which again is not a problem in this case. The story itself and the characters around you offer enough depth.
Although I would of course have liked it more if there was more freedom for the player. This also applies in exploring the world. As you progress through the game you unlock new areas to explore and you can travel freely between these areas during most chapters and rests, but they are very linear. Exploration is clearly not part of this game. While you really want to explore the world because some backdrops are really cool.
Scarlet Nexus feels like a combination of Devil May Cry and a bit of life-sim from games like Persona 5. For me a delicious and entertaining combination. The combat is undoubtedly the star of the show and this plays off very well. The story is also entertaining, but not necessarily groundbreaking. In my opinion, the story could have been more visually supported with typical anime cutscenes, but I think those are all reserved for the Scarlet Nexus anime series , which the game also draws your attention to in a hidden way. If you pay close attention during the anime you can unlock in-game rewards. I think it's great that the developer breaks the fourth wall in a proverbial way, but at the same time I think it's a shame that the cinematics in the game are cut short because of this.
All in all, I'm very pleased with Scarlet Nexus and hope for a sequel in the franchise. With the points for improvement in mind, I see a very nice sequel for the franchise. Keep going with the soundtracks, because these are also very cool!
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