The genre of Action-RPG is broad and covers everything. It includes soulslikes, first-person stealth-action games such as Deus Ex, isometric RPGs such as Diablo, and many other things. Scarlet Nexus, a game that mixes inspirations from fast-paced action games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta with epic JRPGs such as the Persona and Tales of series, is unique within this broad range. Scarlet Nexus is an ambitious endeavor, but perhaps even more surprising is its success rate.
Scarlet Nexus is an Action RPG. However, that’s not the best way to describe it. Its moment to moment gameplay is pure action, just as you would expect from Platinum Games. The game’s linear levels are designed so you can move quickly between closed-off battles while combat is flashy, flashy, reflex-driven.
However, the main difference between this and Platinum is that Scarlet Nexus is equally focused on its story and worldbuilding as it is on combat. Perhaps even more so. First, the campaign is split into two separate 20-hour campaigns. Each campaign follows the story of Yuito and Kasane. These campaigns are distinct and essential. While they may occasionally overlap, you can still play them in either order. To fully understand Scarlet Nexus, you must complete both.
This is a compelling story, and it is well worth the effort. It takes place in a fascinating universe where the majority of people have powers of the mind. Augmented-reality ads are used to color city streets. People can communicate with each other’s brains via augmented reality, and those who have exceptional combat skills are drafted into an OSF (Others Suppression Force) organization to battle “Others”.
Although the overall story is fascinating, Scarlet Nexus’s eight supporting characters are what make it stand out. After most large missions, you’re brought back into your hideout for a stand-by phase. This allows you to talk with your teammates and give them gifts. It also triggers “bond episodes” which allow you to improve your relationship with each other. This concept is not new, though it is familiar to Mass Effect and Persona fans. What’s more, the bond episodes can be tied to events in the main story. However, they are different depending on what campaign you play, and don’t always improve relationships. Although these episodes may sometimes seem hostile, the key thing is that they teach you something about each character, and help you understand why they behave the way they do.
While it’s easy to look at Scarlet Nexus, and dismiss it as another anime title, this would be a huge mistake. Bandai Namco’s ambitious endeavor to merge the two different genres of JRPGs and character-action games is impressive. The combat and the lack of enemy variety in the dual campaigns don’t last long, but the story and characters are great and will be a huge hit in 2021.