DEMO REVIEW: ‘Scarlet Nexus’ Provides a Peek at Stylish and Fun Anime Action (XSX)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Scarlet Nexus

Scarlet Nexus is a third-person action RPG developed and published by Bandai Namco. The OSF is a combat group made up of individuals with extraordinary psychic powers. For Cadets Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall, the day has come to prove their worth and join the ranks of this elite group whose purpose is to defend humanity from the threat of the Others, grotesque monsters. 

Since I got my first look as Scarlet Nexus just over a year ago during an Inside Xbox stream, I’ve been eager to see what the game would look like when it came together. Now that Bandai Namco has released the demo, I can say that the game’s combat, graphics, and overall aesthetic look amazing. Complete with anime-styled intro credits, this game knows exactly what it wants to be and holds nothing back.

Since I wrapped up my playthrough of 2019’s anime-inspired action RPG Astral Chain, I’ve been waiting for something else to come along to fulfill my desire to be an anime action hero. But it not only left me with a desire for sleek action but for something else to bring another unique take on the action RPG genre through creative controls and unique abilities. Scarlet Nexus is looking to deliver both in spades.

While the demo provides little in the way of story information, it gives players a taste of the state of the world. It doesn’t feel full on post-apocalyptic, but humanity seems like it has seen better days. Plagued by the Others, most of what the player sees of the world looks abandoned and rundown. One is left to assume most people have probably fled to safe zones of some kind to escape the constant threat of these grotesque monsters. And when I say grotesque, I mean it. These creatures look as if they fell out of a Lovecraftian nightmare or a Silent Hill game.

As they prepare to participate in humanity’s struggle against these monsters, players are first asked to choose which of the two main protagonists they wish to play: Kasane Randall or Yuito Sumeragi. While both have identical command inputs, Kasane’s attacks are slightly faster, cover a larger area, and hit with less force than Yuito. In addition, both characters back up their direct melee by utilizing psychokinesis to move objects with their minds.

Now psychokinetic (also commonly called telekinetic) powers are not new to video games. However, what sets Kasane and Yuito apart from the numerous other wielders of such abilities is how smoothly Bandai Namco has integrated their powers into the rest of their combat.

As one would expect, the use of psychokinetic powers in Scarlet Nexus drains a gauge. Refilling the gauge is done through melee attacks. This forces the player to engage with both sides of their offensive potential. Once the gauge is charged enough, the player can immediately lock onto one of many objects littered across the battlefield. The object the player can pull will be highlighted and marked with an RT icon. Holding the RT button until a bar fills will allow the player to fling the item at whichever enemy is currently locked on to.

Something that surprised me about this system is that the player is not forced to stop attacking as they prepare their psychokinetic attack. Instead, they can keep pummeling their enemy until the attack is fully prepped, where they will then back away and fling the object. And to make this even more fun, there are special objects with unique extra attacks scattered about as well.

These special objects are differentiated on the battlefield with an LT icon instead of RT. When one of these objects is activated, something special can happen that requires a secondary button prompt at the right time to do extra damage to the enemy. One such example is a vending machine that, after colliding with the enemy, splits in two. If the player pushes both thumbsticks toward the center of the controller at the correct time, the two halves of the vending machine will be brought back to slam the enemy from both sides. Numerous different specialty objects were littered around, and all added an extra level of fun and excitement to Scarlet Nexus‘s battles.

The other aspect of the game’s combat that made it stand out is the implementation of your squadmates’ powers. By holding the RB button, players gain access to four different special abilities from their allies, corresponding to the four face buttons on the controller. These range from adding elements like fire or electricity to attacks to teleportation and slowing down time. The squadmates available to both Kasane and Yuito are also different. This would seem to imply that the two characters may have separate stories, though that’s just speculation.

The game also says that squadmates’ powers become more useful the closer you get to them. Whether or not this is determined by how much you use them in combat or if Scarlet Nexus sports a full relationship system in the vein of a Mass Effect or Fire Emblem: Three Houses is unknown from the demo. But the possibility has me extremely hopeful.

Also of note is the gorgeous graphic presentation in Scarlet Nexus. Every animation is fluid and smooth, the art direction and cinematic style fully embrace the anime/comic book inspirations, and the lighting effects are nothing short of gorgeous here. Being topped off with a fully animated opening sequence, and it’s fair to say that Bandai Namco spared no expense with making this game as gorgeous as it possibly could.

The demo itself lasts about 30-45 minutes for each of the two characters and gives an excellent snippet of the game’s potential. With an interesting assortment of enemies, opportunities to utilize the numerous powers at the player’s disposal, and a wrap-up that sees a confrontation with a sizeable boss, Scarlet Nexus deliver as good of a first impression as one could ask for.

It is also important to note that having a completed demo savefile on your console when you purchase the full game will yield special item(s) when you buy the full game. So even if you are already sold on Scarlet Nexus, it may be worth your wild to give the demo a look anyway.

Scarlet Nexus releases on June 25th for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.