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    Scarlet Nexus review



    Need to know

    What is it? An action RPG featuring psionic powers and a whole lot of dating sim trappings.
    Expect to pay: $60/£40
    Developer: Bandai Namco
    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Reviewed on: Windows 10, GeForce GTX 1070, Intel Core i7-9700 CPU, 16GB RAM
    Multiplayer? No
    Link: Official site

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    Scarlet Nexus is a little too big for its britches. Bandai Namco’s latest original game aims high—this is an action RPG hybrid festooned with Devil May Cry-like swordplay and Monster Hunter weak spot targeting, bottled up in an epic narrative that seems to explore a new high-concept sci-fi theme with every chapter. (There’s time travel, neural implants, totalitarian governments, the basic question of consciousness.) In the margins you’ll find a Persona-ish relationship system, an interlocking network of psionic powers, and a boatload of frilly, cosmetic customization options. It’s a wonder how close it comes to pulling all of that off at once.

    You take control of either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, two young members of a paramilitary fighting force called the OSF. They’re tasked with exterminating these horrific, eldritch beings known only as “The Others” who are laying siege to our futuristic, mysterious, and slightly uncanny society. Both characters have their own full campaigns that crisscross at certain junkets, giving players a lot to chew through once they finish their initial trip through the plot. (Like many other games that have used this trick, such as Nier:Automata and, um, Sonic Adventure 2, there are plenty of lore-bombs hiding out in each of those crusades independently.) Regardless of what perspective you choose, you’ll start out by following orders and clearing out teeming pods of Others on the outskirts of human civilization, before the story takes a darker, increasingly cryptic turn. Who exactly are these creatures we’re killing? What’s in those shipments that keep leaving the metropolis?

    (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

    The same goes for Scarlet Nexus’ overworld, which is beautifully rendered in fineline anime cartooning, and is equipped with a sublime J-Pop jingle. (The music, across the board, is fantastic.) Unfortunately, the downtown hub is a couple of blocks, and the game has a frustrating desire to reuse old level layouts for new missions. A cardinal sin! The sidequests are also laughable; you basically talk to a random bystander on the street and they ask you to go kill an Other archetype in a specific way. Your reward is rarely anything more than a health potion. Scarlet Nexus creative team were clearly out to establish a bold new franchise, but the scale they were working with let them down.

    But frankly, that gives me hope for the future. If Scarlet Nexus earns a sequel—if the next time I traipse down a Comic-Con hall I see dozens of teens dressed for cybernetic warfare—then I think the team at Namco will really iron out the kinks in the second go around. A larger, more interactive universe, some juicer off-the-main-path content, maybe a few new environments for our languid, afternoon friendship outings. It’s all so easy to imagine. For now, Scarlet Nexus is a great promise and a good game.

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