SCARLET NEXUS is probably something you’ll only get out of the collaboration between the Persona and Gravity Rush series. They’re both great games in their own right and no one in their right mind would say otherwise. There’s the mystery-filled yet captivating story that interweaves within its excellent characters and their own personal and social developments but you also get the gravity-fueled combat system which made the Playstation Vita, ten times more enticing in its early years. And SCARLET NEXUS is just that and more…
With its story coming from the minds behind Tales of Vesperia, I was already sold on the idea despite my initial claims during the demo where its storytelling felt lackluster and doesn’t look next-gen at all because of the characters’ lack of emotional cues during conversations outside the live action scenes. While I still feel that it hinders the game’s potential, its core story had me hook pretty early on which completely blew those worries away. Because unlike a game that you’d play through once and start over to maybe get a new ending or two, the dual protagonist approach made one great story into two separate retellings from each of their perspectives. It works in such a flawless way that the game doesn’t tell you too much of what’s happening outside of your field of view but never far too few to get lost in the wall of texts towards its conclusion. It’s a game that you don’t have to play both perspectives to appreciate its beauty, but it paints a better picture when you do.
So for starters, the game starts off by having you choose which protagonist to play as. The male protagonist, Yuito Sumeragi, who is more geared towards using swords in close quarters as well as the so-called psychokinesis power to move objects with your mind is the typical pampered rich boy that descended from a historical family that started the New Himuka government thousands of years ago while the cool and stoic female protagonist, Kasane Randall is someone that is more aligned towards mid-range combat with her multiple knives that pierces enemies in its way. I don’t want to spoil much about the story because it’s something that you’d want to experience for yourself whether you start with one or the other. But I will say that while they do get enlisted in different regiments for the Other Suppression Force (OSF) that fights against monsters called Others, their interweaving interactions when they do come together never grows old and there’s always something to look forward to for each of their over 30-hour long campaigns.
To put it simply, its story is definitely its most defining factor just like how I found the story of Tales of Vesperia, captivating and enthralling. There’s enough mystery to keep you guessing what happens next to really invest in the entire thing. But just like the regular tropes of story-driven JPRGs, character interactions and development is pretty much a given here too. However this is far from the regular banters and filler dialogues that most RPGs tend to have. With every chapter in the game comes a standby phase or in some cases a rest day, away from wrestling against the dark and heavy struggles in the futuristic brain-punk city. Think of this as more along the lines of let’s say The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series where the almost robotic and timely pacing of switching between story progression and character events never fail to swipe in. It is by no means a negative point for both games as each encounter offers great character development just like how you start off with just two guys messing about in a bar only for it to be much more than just that. It’s great to see how their characters develop throughout the game and having two separate progressions with each protagonist makes sure you wouldn’t be having the same conversations even after your first playthrough.
Its combat doesn’t disappoint either. In true hack n’ slash fashion, the game does a pretty decent job at making a fluid mix of combo-based attacks that can be chained into follow-up psychokinesis attacks that throws everything but the kitchen sink at anyone unlucky enough to meet your crosshairs but it also weaves in a term called SAS which if you’re like me who still has no idea what the acronym even stands for, it’s basically a fancy way of borrowing other characters’ powers like pyrokinesis which if used can imbue your attacks with flame while duplication gives you a clone that attacks as you do or increases the amount of projectiles thrown from a psychokinesis attack.
The boosted gameplay thanks to its fast-paced combat also interlaces the entire game to not only require you to be quick on your clicks but also to be four steps ahead without any backward steps allowed thanks to its unique monsters and their own unique weaknesses or based on what unique interactable objects are available at the moment. From monsters that hide in plain sight with invisibility powers that can be countered with clairvoyance or the aberrations that hides behind a metal box which you’d need to either teleport into for a quick attack or take your own invisibility powers to good use for a nice little surprise. But really, the most interesting part about its combat is how you can make a pretty good combo of moves into a really freakin’ nasty yet disgusting killer combo thanks to the ability to also use multiple powers at the same time. There’s definitely something cool for everyone here and the ability to play as you like whether you play a Combo Vision-heavy playstyle that spams moves left, right and center or to go ham with a chain of fire or electric-based attacks on top of other useful effects like damage nullification or teleportation and read attacks definitely makes the game well worth it.
You also gain Brain Points which if my memory serves me right would increase your powers such as adding more chains to your combos or having abilities to charge your special attacks and obtaining things like a double jump or mid-air dashes. The only thing that puts me off here is that the early combat feels stale when the game takes a long while to obtain skills and lack a way to respec into something else. You’re supposed to obtain every skill in the long run however just going through the main story alone wouldn’t put you into the right levels to obtain all of them either. But when you do gain an arsenal of skills and passives, the game blooms into this fun, frantic and exhilarating combat system that makes the whole struggle worth the effort.
Visually though, the game does look and feel great… even if it does take the whole red, black and white color schemes a bit too seriously. There’s some great and varied environments from the broken-down subways filled with grotesque monsters, hidden secrets and honestly probably the most fun part about them is their unique interactables. The subway for example will have trains you can use to deal massive amounts of damage against unsuspecting foes while a highway would probably have a bus you can ride and control to smash into a number of Others. These things easily make progression towards new areas as fun as it is to explore them. Similarly, characters are also great with a ton of unique factors if unique is what you call to stuffs that would normally fall into certain archetypes. From their varying personalities to even their unwieldy quirks such as a cooking-loving macho man to the “ara-ara onee-san” and her censor-heavy cooking skills.
Enemies and bosses are also quite awkward to look at but in a weird yet positive way. Masakazu Yamashiro’s designs is something that stands out for its chimera-like aberrations that brings in a unique spin to the regular old boss battles thanks to their appearances which also translate to the actual gameplay itself. There’s definitely something cool with a crocodile-like monster that shoots laser beams from its mouth but what really interests me here are the subtle ideas like having a faucet handle on a monster that it would literally need to turn just to splash water attacks at you or even the tiniest little details of it having the actual sound effects of turning the handle to complete that experience
All in all, SCARLET NEXUS is one of those games that definitely brings a fun and memorable experience as a story-driven game. It’s something you can definitely look forward to for its dark yet mysterious story as you unravel the deepest roots of an underlying problem. By the end of it, it becomes a rollercoaster of emotions for its amazing story. Not only does it succeeds on its core campaign but its initial unwieldy combat evolves into something great given enough time. Even its enemy types offer great contact to its combat and power-based moves aside from looking like something taken out of an abstract piece of art with its chimera-like forms.
You can purchase the PS4 version of Scarlet Nexus here for £49.99.
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studios
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