Finding a good anime game these days is like looking for a good burger. There’s a wide selection of them out there that will satisfy your appetite but only a few that will indeed hit the spot. Scarlet nexus gave me that exact feeling. It feels appropriately anime tropey with a story that can borderline on the insane. The combat system is satisfying yet deceptively simple. It’s not going to win any groundbreaking awards. Still, the level at which it satisfies your hunger for the juicy familiarity of an excellent anime-inspired adventure hasn’t been matched since the release of Code Vein.
Scarlet Nexus wastes no time showing you its world. You’re a recruit for a military organization known as the Other Suppression Force or OSF. Like your peers, you’re a psionic, a person with acute extra-sensory abilities who the OSF scouted to join the fight against disturbing creatures known as Others. From the get-go, you get a choice between two protagonists, Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall. This aspect is what makes Scarlet Nexus’s storytelling different from most other games with a protagonist choice. While the story is the same regardless of who you choose, you experience it from a different perspective by playing either character.
The story itself is pretty tropey, so if you’re a fan of campy anime storytelling, Scarlet Nexus won’t disappoint. Every possible anime character cliche has found a home in Scarlet Nexus. From a commander who’s as nurturing as a mother to a hard-headed genius who’s full of himself, there’s no shortage of familiar character profiles in this game. And that’s not in a bad sense, either. Scarlet Nexus manages to give each of its characters enough depth to make you care about them. Through well-placed narrative threads, we gain insight into each character’s backstory and personality. Insight into each character is further supported through Bonding quests, a series of mini-story missions that allow you to strengthen your relationships with other characters.
While I genuinely enjoyed the narrative itself, I felt the pacing was incredibly sluggish most of the time. I blame this solely on the delivery method. For a game heavily marketed to be played on PS5 and Series X – though available on past-gen consoles – Scarlet Nexus relies almost exclusively on still panels with voice-over to tell its story. The animated cutscenes are extremely few and come far apart. Their poor execution makes them feel like an afterthought, which is a shame because the engine is gorgeous.
If you’ve played past Bandai-Namco games like God Eater and Code Vein, you’re likely familiar with their polished cell-shaded visuals. Scarlet Nexus is an upgrade to this engine that dials it up to 11. Character models look and move smoothly. Each character has enough features to set them apart from others in a way that goes beyond a few simple styling changes. The Others, the hideous creatures that are the main antagonists, also look and move great in Scarlet Nexus. Their designs are creepy and disturbing in ways that would challenge even the greatest of horror anime. They exist in several varieties, making fights against them a genuine challenge. There’s an Other, for instance, that has a metal casing around it that needs to be knocked out with psychokinetic abilities to open it up for attack.
Going back to the two protagonists, Yuito and Kasane, their differences don’t just materialize in the story. Yuito has a sword, making him a melee-based fighter who’s strong but can be highly susceptible to attack because he needs to be up close. On the other hand, Kasane uses small blades that she directs with her mind to attack from a distance. Her attacks aren’t as strong as Yuito’s, but it’s easier to manage crowds and keep your distance.
Like every member of the OSF, both main characters have one unique ability that they have in common. Psychokinesis allows them to hurl items at foes with their mind. By holding down the right trigger, you can pull in small and medium-sized objects from the environment and slam them into your target. The left trigger allows you to use even bigger objects – including entire trains. These heftier psychokinetic attacks result in quick-time events that enable them to inflict even more pain. Combat is essentially a dance between using your combos in tandem with your psychokinesis skills. Besides these, you also get the ability to channel powers from your squad. You can bring up to three other members who will lend you their powers when you activate them during battle. Having the hard-headed Shiden on your team, for instance, gives you the ability to infuse your basic attacks with electricity. Other abilities range from allowing you to see invisible foes to doubling up your psychokinesis attacks. Once you unlock other systems like Brain Crush and Brain Drive, Scarlet Nexus’s combat becomes a lot more satisfying and fast-paced.
In a time when good anime games can often get lost in a sea of mediocrity, Scarlet Nexus is a genuinely satisfying experience. Even though the narrative plays out dully, Yuito and Kasane’s perspectives on the story are intriguing enough to warrant two playthroughs. The game’s combat is simple to get into yet leaves you satisfied even during the game’s cookie-cutter and pointless side-quests. If you’ve been looking for an excellent juicy jolt of anime action to sink your teeth into, look no further.