The “Action-RPG” genre encompasses everything, from soulslikes to stealth-action first-person games like Deus Ex to isometric RPGS like Diablo and many others. Scarlet Nexus is a game that blends inspirations from the fast-paced character-action games of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry with epic JRPGs like the Persona or Tales of series. Scarlet Nexus is a remarkable undertaking. Perhaps even more surprising, it hits more times than it misses.
Scarlet Nexus is an action-RPG, so calling it that doesn’t give the whole picture. Its instant-to-moment gameplay feels just like Platinum Games’. The linear levels allow you to move from one battle to the next while combat is quick, flashy and reflex-driven.
The key difference between Platinum’s and Scarlet Nexus’s style is that Scarlet Nexus focuses equally on its story, worldbuilding and character development than it does on combat. In fact, in some cases, perhaps even more. It’s divided into two separate campaigns of 20 hours that each tell the story of Yuito or Kasane. Although their stories may overlap, they are two separate and equally important campaigns. You can play them in any order to gain a complete understanding of Scarlet Nexus’s story.
It’s an amazing story that is worth hearing. The story takes place in a world where most people are gifted with the ability to think. The streets of cities are painted with augmented reality advertisements. People can send messages to one another’s brains and people with extraordinary combat abilities are drafted to the OSF (Others Suppression Force), a Special Forces-like organisation to fight against “Others.”
The overall story of Scarlet Nexus is fantastic, but what makes it special is the care taken to create eight supporting characters that join Yuito or Kasane at their parties. After most major missions, you are brought back to your hideout to engage with your team members, exchange gifts, and trigger bond episodes that increase your level of trust with them. It’s nothing new for Mass Effect and Persona fans, but it’s something that Scarlet Nexus has done well. The bond episodes are often linked to the main story. They are completely different depending on the campaign you are playing and do not always aim to improve a relationship. These bond episodes can sometimes be hostile. However, you will learn more about your character or a better explanation for the actions they took in the main story.
Although it is easy to dismiss Scarlet Nexus as another anime game, it would be a mistake. Bandai Namco has taken a bold step to combine the two genres of JRPG and character-action games. This project is a huge success. Although its combat and lackluster enemy variety are not strong enough to last the combined 40 hours, its story and characters make it a surprising breakout hit in 2021.