Scarlet Nexus | Review

Scarlet Nexus | Review

The direction Bandai Namco has taken with its recent productions is undoubtedly one to keep an eye on. The years of the PS3 / Xbox 360 generation seem distant now, where multiple Japanese-style productions showed a technical sector, and a general inspiration, below the Western proposals. For some years now it seems that the Japanese developers have taken the reins in hand, unveiling a series of new IPs of undoubted value ... and Scarlet Nexus is one of them.

Since the first presentation, Scarlet Nexus for some reason reminded us of the atmosphere of the "never too appreciated" Astral Chains, either for the artistic sector, for that slightly shonen vein or for the character design inspired by what Katsura did with the exclusive for Ninteno Switch dated 2019. A closed-door test and the public demo released on 21 May last, confirmed the very high potential of the project which, net of some imperfections in its final version, turned out to be one of the surprises of these first months of 2021.

Life as a cadet

The matrix of Scarlet Nexus is purely Japanese: introductory animated cinematics, music by Oral Cigarettes, a story that sees the maturation of the two teenagers, a large group of supporting actors characterized in an almost exasperated way, some well-aimed twists and, above all, a lot of action and highly choreographic fights. What makes Scarlet Nexu's narrative framework convincing, however, is her wanting to go straight to the point.

It may have been a choice dictated by wanting to tell two slightly different stories in some aspects but, to the detriment of its multiple licenses towards the role-playing genre, the plot of Scarlet Nexus goes straight to the point without getting lost in excessive delays and showing the side exclusively in the secondary missions, which will occur here and there during the adventure, and in the final parts of the adventure.

Whether you decide to face the adventure with Yuito or with Kasane, the beating heart of the sector Scarlet Nexus narrative will be the same. What will vary will be the personal stories of the two protagonists, the reasons that led them to become cadets of the FSE and their relations with the various co-maries. It might seem little to you, especially explained to you avoiding advances of any kind, but we assure you that Bandai Namco has managed to make a really solid story full of narrative plots that will require you to complete the adventure with both characters to get a complete picture of all the events. .

For those who have not had the opportunity to read anything about Scarlet Nexus, the story deals with two FSE cadets, a chosen team of fighters who, through the use of the SAS, is endowed with paranormal powers with who defend the world population from the threat of the White Walkers, mysterious and disturbing creatures that feed on human brains. A very simple incipit but which expands into a web of events ranging from teen drama, to the desire for power up to flow into political fiction that will compose a story that, while not shining for excessive originality, will never prove trivial, succeeding to entertain the player in the approximately 40 hours required to complete everything Scarlet Nexus has to offer.

What we particularly liked about Scarlet Nexus is the simplicity with which it manages to tell the stories of Yuito's supporting actors and Kasane through some simple but effective tricks, which reminded us of the management of party members typical of JRPG, as well as remind us, albeit in a very mild way, the focus on relationships between characters seen in the Fire Emblem series. br>
With the progress of the adventure, in fact, the headquarters of the FSE will work to cover the role of a HUB where you can organize your own party of characters . In these situations, you can do your best to give gifts to your companions, increasing their affection for you and opening up to new game mechanics that we will show you shortly. Likewise, a messaging system that will be constantly present within the exploratory phases, will allow you to receive messages from all the characters linked to you and respond, or not, to these messages to learn about further aspects of their personality.

Both solutions have turned out to be very pleasant digressions to the cycle of exploration and combat with which Scarlet Nexus will envelop you, even if perhaps the messaging system at times seemed excessively intrusive. Very interesting, however, how the developers have done their utmost in attention to detail showing the real appreciation of the various characters towards your gifts, which will use them whenever it is possible.

Fra swords and telekinesis

In terms of gameplay, Scarlet Nexus proved to be really solid and convincing, offering us a combat system that is easy to learn, complex to master and varied like few other exponents of the genre. Yuito and Kasane will have at their disposal the classic range of skills composed of attacks of different power, dodging and jumping, all in the pay of creating the most varied and effective combos. The only substantial difference lies in the fact that Yuito favors melee attacks, while Kasane's style is more imporontato to offensives at medium range.

The distinctive element, however, arises from the possibility of exploiting the telekinetic powers of the protagonists who, thanks to a reasoned recharge system, graft a whole series of really interesting strategic components into the Scarlet nexus combat system. Hitting an enemy with melee attacks, in fact, will constantly charge a purple bar, which will allow you to exploit the powers of Yuito and Kasane, to throw the objects in the game areas at the enemies.

Mastering this mechanic to the fullest will allow yuito and Kisane to immediately distance themselves from their opponents by adding a defensive element that should not be underestimated. In addition to being able to hurl almost all the objects present in the game areas at the Strangers, it will be possible to interact with particular elements, generally heavier, which will trigger a short quick time event which, if completed in a positive way, will allow to inflict a large amount of damage to enemies.

If all this were not enough, Scarlet Nexus expands its combat system further when a party with the other characters is formed. In fact, Yuito and Kasane will be able to temporarily absorb the powers of the various companions present in the team, obtaining the most disparate effects. Whether it is the acquisition of elemental attacks of various kinds, the possibility of becoming invisible for a short time or identifying the enemies hidden in the area. Furthermore, by increasing the affinity between the characters, you can further expand the number of abilities offered by your allies, up to spectacular combined attacks with enormous power.

The possibility of using or absorbing the powers of the companions, opens the doors to the more role-playing component of Scarlet Nexus which, as the adventure progresses, will require you to form heterogeneous parties that have within them the elements and skills necessary to hit the different weaknesses of the opponents that you they will face each other.

Finally we find the canonical skill tree, which will allow Yuito and Kasane to expand their potential through three different branches (defensive, offensive and the one dedicated to psychokinetic power) that will further expand the moveset of the protagonists and their efficiency in battle, and the classic management of the equipment, with all that following of objects and clothes suitable for customize the protagonists and provide them with specific bonuses. The Scarlet Nexus combat system, net of being the most convincing element of the entire experience, is however difficult to evaluate perfectly.

On the one hand, in fact, it seems to be inspired by multiple elements of the Action / Rpg world , with all its corollary of strengths, weaknesses, resistances and weaknesses, while on the other hand it seems not to be able to fully exploit all the components of its combat system, risking to falter under the weight of an excessive number of combinations that could lead to opting the player in using only a few, making the gaming experience slightly flatter.

This slight imbalance of the Scarlet Nexus combat system collides with another of the weak points of Bandai Namco's work: the redundancy of fighting. Wanting to create a more linear gaming experience that incorporates multiple aspects of the JRPG genre, requires a proper amalgamation between the grind phases and the distinctly narrative ones, where dynamism is king. Unfortunately the developers have not been able to perfectly balance these two elements, significantly increasing the number of battles to be faced in the second half of the adventure.

If in the first hours this element does not get boring, as it is concentrated in gaining experience to upgrade Yuito and Kasane or want to experiment with the various powers of teammates, once you pass the half of the adventure, you will tend to avoid every possible clash in order not to run into the tedium of having to constantly confront enemies of low level, diluting both the general pace of the narrative and the final experience.

Don't get us wrong we're not saying that Scarlet Nexus turns out to be a markedly unbalanced title, only that the developers could better balance the elements taken from the two genres of belonging to make the gaming experience in its entirety smoother. These are mostly “first time” smudges which, rather than concretely affect the final result, only make it less satisfying in some respects. However, it remains a solid and stable starting point for a series that certainly deserves a sequel that expands its multiple strengths.

Scarlet Nexus on PlayStation 5

Technically speaking, at net of an excellent graphic sector rendered in cel shading that returns a remarkable glance, the “cross-gen” nature of Scarlet Nexus is constantly perceived. The environments are rich in details, pleasant to walk through but at the same time excessively bare in terms of population, as well as very small in size. All the areas are connected to each other by a World Map that allows you to move quickly between them, compensating for the absence of a real Open World structure with a functional but at the same time too anachronistic stratagem.

The areas, moreover, they often accuse the pop-up of the accessory elements, as well as the animations of the NPCs will be unnatural and redundant. The level design, moreover, turns out to be perhaps the least successful point of the entire experience with areas recycled in several stages of the adventure and architectures that change aesthetically are very similar to each other.

Diametrically opposite speech for the animations of the main characters and the antagonists, all very accurate and convincing. On the other hand, we found the choice of leaving the management of almost all the cutscenes to a system of static images accompanied by a small number of facial animations of the characters and an infinite number of lines of dialogue to be excessively anachronistic.

The Italian translation was done with care, even if we noticed some licenses too many and some sentences transposed in an inaccurate way. On the other hand, the sound sector fully convinced us, with a well-acted dubbing (in English or Japanese) and a soundtrack, as per tradition, full of distorted guitars, sharp riffs, electronic sounds and songs with a clear Japanese matrix. >
In terms of performance, the PlayStation 5 version of Scarlet Nexus behaves like all the cross gen titles seen to date, maintaining a frame rate anchored at 60fps, dynamic resolution at 4k and the implementation of the features offered by the Dualsense from Sony. Precisely with regard to the use of the latter we find the usual, timid, additions already seen in other multi-platform productions: triggers that return resistance when using telekinetic powers and haptic feedback that tries to best reproduce all the situations offered by Scarlet Nexus.

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