Scarlet Nexus - Review

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Martí Micolau
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Review for Scarlet nexus. Game for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, the video game was released on 25/06/2021

From his very first moments of life, Scarlet nexus has been able to generate a lot of hype and curiosity in the gaming community. The new work by Bandai Namco, put together by a staff of the highest level in which figures such as Keita Iizuka (Code Vein), Kenji Anabuki (Tales of Symphonia, Xillia, Xillia 2 etc.) and Masakazu Yamashiro (the designer of Tales of) stand out. Vesperia), was presented at the turning point of this interesting 2021 videoludio surrounded by great expectations, many of which confirmed by the goodness of a production that has been able to be very intriguing from different points of view.

A vast and layered narrative, full of twists and never banal, a colorful and well-kept cast, combined with a dynamic and fun gameplay make Scarlet Nexus a product that is difficult to "lose" for fans of the genre, although the main shortcomings are to be found precisely in the poor role-playing depth from which the game suffers. Let me be clear, the playful formula packaged for the title works properly, fun and passionate, but being an Action-RPG we would have appreciated a little more attention to this last aspect, perhaps left too far in favor of a ' immediacy and a decidedly more marked action vein.

Overall, however, the journey (or travels) made with Scarlet Nexus has left us basically positive feelings. While not aiming to be an unforgettable masterpiece, the new production of Bandai Namco (which will also receive an anime adaptation) has been able to convince us and in some way surprise us, although not without criticalities that are also evident in some situations.

A world in ruins

Scarlet Nexus, as we said at the beginning, has immediately shown to have several aces up its sleeve, especially related to the narrative aspect of the production and, on balance, the expectations have not been disappointed. On the contrary.

One of the main strengths of the new work produced by Bandai Namco is in fact precisely the narrative and thematic sector, which proves to be moderately original, potentially interesting and layered and above all full of twists from the very first minutes. The first major consideration to be made is that relating to the choice of one of the two main selectable protagonists: Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall. Choosing whether to impersonate one or the other character is already an important factor in both narrative and thematic terms, since the game offers the player two stories that are partly different and above all lived from a different point of view depending on the choice made. .

It should also be noted that to get the "true ending" or in any case a more total vision of the events narrated, it is recommended to play both campaigns, possibly in the Yuito - Kasane order, a bit like it happened in Tales of Xillia for the couple Jude - Milla . The narrative plot of Scarlet Nexus is actually very simple at first, and then takes on more and more extensive and intricate connotations and branches from chapter to chapter. Taking for granted the choice to leave with Yuito Sumeragi, descendant of a great hero of the past and belonging to a very influential family, one quickly finds oneself catapulted into a ruthless, threatening, ruined world. In an unspecified future, the human race has gone further and further, managing to manipulate the power of mind control with incredible effects on people's extrasensory abilities.

This continuous research, in some cases even ruthless and careless of the weakest, has become fundamental due also and above all to an impending threat that has become more and more ineluctable and oppressive over time. The society of New Himuka is in fact scourged by the threat of the Strangers, the frightening alien creatures thirsting for human brains, which over time have begun to decimate mankind in an increasingly unstoppable way.

For this reason, the survivors have created special troops, the FSE (Strangers Suppression Forces), a group of elite soldiers with particularly advanced psychic powers able to fight the threat of the Strangers on equal terms. Yuito, our protagonist, is basically a new recruit, eager as ever to do justice and fight to defend the weakest. From the first day as a cadet, however, it was immediately evident how much there was much more under the story, both that of Yuito and in general that of the FSE and the other government bodies that control the game world. Between allied factions and then rivals, government conspiracies, betrayals, faction wars and internal struggles, the plot of Scarlet Nexus is demonstrated from the very first lines of the highest level, well written, narrated through a large number of dialogues and animated sequences in anime style of fine workmanship.

Without going into too much into the merits, it is enough for you to know that the twists will be continuously around the corner and that everything can change rapidly from one moment to the next, without any warning but always in a coherent and never banal way. What is hiding, in a product packaged certainly ad hoc in this respect, is certainly the narrative background, which is little explored and above all seems to throw the player too directly into what is however a very refined narrative universe, especially if we analyze them. the various factions and above all the character design.

An exceptional cast, but ...

We don't want to go around it: the character design of Scarlet Nexus, while not revolutionary, is definitely a little pearl. Starting from the two protagonists up to the many battlemates, the product manages to bring a rich, varied and above all profound thematic imprint to the screen, much more than it might seem, thanks also to the quality of an excellent writing. Each dialogue demonstrates great attention to detail, and this is evident in particular with the Link Events, perfect both on a playful level and and above all on a narrative level. Carrying on the bond with one or another character unlocks some advantages in game, but above all it helps to let the player know those who are the many "supporting actors" that Scarlet Nexus has managed to bring to the screen, with more than valid results. This exploratory and cognitive phase of the cast left us with wonderful sensations, also because it reminded us a little of those atmospheres experienced and never truly forgotten di Fire Emblem Three Houses from which the title, in this respect, seems to inherit several traits.

Although the characters are fairly stereotyped, it must be emphasized how their stories are very interesting, intriguing and never banal. Each of them is driven by very specific interests and motivations and discovering little by little what lies behind their actions and their choices is undoubtedly very interesting. Everything is enriched by interesting and continuous family ties, which are discovered more or less quickly and which give the adventure an even more intriguing aspect in terms of the topics addressed and the way in which they are treated. From the beautiful and tormented Kasane to the shy and sweet Hanabi, apparently all in one piece Gemma passing through the young and imperturbable Port, the cast of Scarlet Nexus turned out to be one more weapon, not to be underestimated in the general economy of an ambitious production from a narrative point of view.

It is precisely in such an apparently solid and functional context that the "but" arrives, because something is missing from the excellent character design of Scarlet Nexus: a thick villain. Without going into too much detail, we would like to underline that we have felt the absence of an antagonist worthy of the name and that it should be a bit, if you like, a typical trait of such products. Let's be clear, we don't want to demonize this aspect too much, but from a work with a similar structural imprint as Scarlet Nexus turned out we would have expected some more effort.

An inspired, varied and damn fun combat system!

One of the most intriguing and above all potentially decisive aspects of the title, of course, is that linked to the gameplay and in particular to the combat system. Being a Action-RPG it is clear that a large part of the hopes of the players were in particular placed here and, after testing the game for tens and tens of hours, we can say that the final result is certainly very valid.

If from the point of view of the basic commands the title appears close to the titles of the genre, with the usual keys used for actions such as light attack, heavy attack, dodge and jump, to make Scarlet Nexus is somewhat unique in skill management, perfectly contextualized with the game world, playfully rich in possibilities and far more complex than one might imagine.

In the futuristic world of New Himuka, humans are linked from birth to a kind of gigantic neural network (Psynet) which makes them able to master certain psychic abilities, an element that inevitably binds deeply to the combat system and to the management of the clashes, apparently "linear" but in reality very complex and with a well-defined strategic vein.

In addition to being able to control environmental objects and use them to his advantage in battle (throwing various objects, dragging cars, or blowing up tanks full of flammable material, to name a few) the protagonist of the story, whether Yuito or Kasane, is able to to establish a neural connection with one's battlemates, thus opening up decidedly interesting playful horizons.

Taking advantage of the SAS (Struggle Arms Systems) connection mechanics, our alter ego can master the arts of their fellow soldiers, which is essential not only to expand its technical background, but more than anything else to overcome various obstacles that would otherwise be insurmountable (or almost).

Some enemies, in reality almost all of them, both "normal" and special, are in fact characterized by a certain vulnerability and, although these always remain inserted in the context, we are not referring to the classic elemental weaknesses, but in many cases they concern aspects different. By exploiting the power of Luka (teleportation) it is possible to attack an enemy who tends to defend their sensitive parts very quickly or perhaps by exploiting Tsugumi's clairvoyance ability it is possible to see otherwise invisible enemies, while relying on the mastery of the arts of Sclerokinesis by Gemma Garrison it is possible to become immune for a short period of time from enemy attacks. These are just some of the examples of a complex and layered videogame scheme, which requires the player to have a fair knowledge of the skills to be used at the right time against the enemy taste, which makes every fight more tactical and complex than it might seem at first glance.

It goes without saying, therefore, that what may seem like a "simple" action with which to have fun creating long combos and shattering hordes of increasingly numerous and complex enemies actually hides much more precise mechanics.

By pressing the R1 key plus one of the four cross, circle, triangle and square keys, it is possible to rely on the powers of one or another ally, which can be selected through a menu related to the team that is enriched as you advance in history. However, the "starting" formation does not preclude the use of the abilities of the characters not deployed in battle, which certainly makes everything simpler but at the same time no less pleasant.

Knowing the potential of your allies is therefore a fundamental step for an easier progression, although the level of challenge on more than one occasion has shown the side of some sudden and, why not, artificial difficulty peaks. To this is then added an allied AI that often seemed to us to be subdued, unable or almost incapable of being dangerous or in any case decisive in one sense or another. Enemy creatures have also highlighted problems, linked in particular once again to a sort of desire to make battles more difficult in an unnatural way. Do you want an example? You will often notice that the enemies will always attack the protagonist, preventing him from healing or dodging, almost always ignoring the other members of the party for no logical reason.

Unique skills for very interesting mechanics

Returning to the discourse on the use of the unique skills of battle companions, it is good to emphasize that these are not limited to just use during clashes. This means that their usefulness also extends outside of armed clashes, in a rather interesting way but substantially exploited on a few occasions. In some areas of the game it is in fact necessary to be able to count on one or another skill in order to continue, an element certainly not to be underestimated although in the end understanding what to do is always very simple and immediate. In any case, it is clear how much the mechanics of the SAS have given the game an intriguing and layered combat system, a far cry from the simple button mashing typical of many such products, which, however, is limited by a role that is certainly less inspired and on the whole marginal. Throughout the duration of the campaign we never really felt the need to take a look at the equipable items or weapons of our heroes on the field (and if we wanted to do so they are always very few and with very few variables), thus making the progression and leveling of Yuito or Kasane something related almost exclusively to obtaining Neural Points (PN) to spend in the appropriate Skill tree of each of the two protagonists.

And, to be honest, even the latter was much less successful than other aspects of the gameplay. There Neural map, this is the name of the skill tree of the title, of one or the other alter ego, is divided into five different branches, each of which develops in an all in all articulated way with the possibility of unlocking different enhancements according to your needs. Unfortunately we didn't get the feeling that by completing the various branches of skills, decisive and effective advantages in battle are obtained, which has increased our conviction regarding the fundamentally more marginal role of the role-playing aspect, which leaves the field to different but still functional elements.

Furthermore, Yuito and Kasane can draw on a sort of temporary enhancement of their abilities through the activation of a power up called Brain Drive. As the name itself implies, the two protagonists enter a sort of advanced mental state, in which they are able to control many more objects simultaneously and, in a more "small" way, are stronger and more resistant in bodily attacks.

This phase clearly has a specific duration, since keeping the Brain Drive activated brings psychophysical discomfort to the users themselves, forced to "close" the connection after a certain period of time, clearly linked to the amount of points spent in the specific branch.

As much as it may seem like an unbalanced machine, this one has never really seemed so to us, quite the contrary. It is, in fact, more than anything else, a way to break the most difficult battles and somehow take breath, especially in clashes with multiple opponents from which it is really difficult to defend oneself also due to the problems related to the AI ​​we were talking about a little while ago. 'rather.

Finally, we want to say a few words on the dynamics of trade. Exploring the game's maps, however basically empty, makes sense thanks to the Exchanges, mechanics available at the various supply points, where you can also find the NPC used for rescue (actually too numerous and too frequent). Isn't the money for the new weapon or refueling enough for you? No problem! Through the exchange of specific objects, divided by type and grade, it is in fact possible to buy the aforementioned objects without spending a penny, which will surely make many players happy, especially completists.

Technique and artistic direction

Un po 'Astral Chain un po' CODE Vein, passing through that unmistakable anime style typical of the designer who gave the connotations to a series like Tales of, Scarlet Nexus turned out to be an artistically very solid product. Leading is undoubtedly the character design, which although strongly linked to the aesthetic stereotypes of the genre is certainly of the highest value, as well as one of the most successful elements of the production. The anime style mixed with a post apocalyptic world in ruins, seasoned with a splash of "cyberpunk" elements here and there give Scarlet Nexus a very particular and refined style, although the influences from the aforementioned productions, in some passages, appear quite evident . Even the design of the "White Walkers" should definitely be mentioned in the list of achievements achieved by Scarlet Nexus. The bestiary of the work is in fact very well cared for and layered, and reveals the desire of the development team to strike the player by immersing him in a world in which the human being lives in terror and in the oppression of perverse and aseptic creatures, which they treat the survivors as nothing but food. And just look at them, from the smallest to the largest, to understand how much energy has been put into their conception, which seems to refer a little in this respect to products such as the Persona series or more evidently to the unforgettable Catherine: Full Body. To conclude, however, for the "vastness" factor. In the long run, in fact, the number of creatures is increasingly small, with the title that is limited to offering more than anything else variants of the enemies already faced previously, although in any case the quality level always remains on average calibrated upwards.

If from a point of view of realization both of the numerous "human beings" and of the enemy creatures the title shows great security, to show the side is the creation of elements such as maps and in general the environments in which the story moves. In addition to being sparse and linear, the game areas also appeared to us almost always anonymous and basically recycled, except for some areas characterized instead by an original design, in strong detachment from those which, however, represented the majority of explorable areas. Overall, however, the world of New Himuka was still fitting and coincidental, although from a similar product and with a similar care for the cast and for the aesthetic aspects in general we would certainly have expected a little more.

The aspect on which it is impossible (or almost) to find weak points is the most technical one. Numbers in hand, in fact, Scarlet Nexus turned out to be a solid and well cared for product, especially on next-gen. The version we tested, the PS5, turned out to be solid both in terms of resolution and and above all in terms of frame-rate, undoubtedly the aspect with the greatest specific weight considering the production. Scarlet Nexus runs firmly on 60 FPS even in the most excited sections, without smudging, with a graphic rendering that settles without too much effort on 2160p. We tested the game both on a 4K TV with a 75 Hz refresh rate and on a gaming monitor with a Full HD resolution but with frequencies up to 165 Hz and, in both cases, the fluidity and spectacularity of the title were able to capture us. without much effort.

Final comment on the audio sector and on the most bitter enemy of titles in the genre: the camera. In the first case, we were thrilled by the dubbing both in the original language and in English, but we would have expected a little more from the OST, in some ways too anonymous and uninspired. Finally, the camera is excellent.

Although subject to the usual problems typical of themed productions, it has still been able to withstand the impact, even in the most difficult conditions, making the gaming experience certainly appreciable even under this delicate aspect.

Scarlet Nexus has been able to satisfy our gaming palate, although some elements have convinced us only in part. A fun and layered combat system, a rich cast and above all a strong and well-curated narration are the main elements in a very interesting and in some ways surprising production, which does not aspire to perfection but which at the same time is a valid exponent. of his kind of belonging. The long campaign brings with it many points of interest, although in some moments the dialogues seemed a little verbose to us, which is actually quite common for products of this type. Too bad for a too anonymous typology of game maps and for a too small and contour role-playing vein: two factors that have certainly limited a product that could have done even better with a few small tricks. Overall, however, we are satisfied with what we have seen and we are convinced that Scarlet Nexus will be able to make the happiness of many fans, especially in a time lacking in alternatives like the current one.

► Scarlet Nexus is an RPG-Adventure game developed and published by Bandai Namco for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, the video game was released on 25/06/2021

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