Scarlet Nexus Hands-On Preview – Tales of Brain Punk
In the past few years, publisher Bandai Namco has almost become synonymous with Japanese anime gaming experiences. Outside of publishing titles based on the most popular anime shows of all times, including Dragon Ball and Naruto, the company also releases games that, while not based on any specific series, do carry that Japanese flavor that fans all over the world cannot seem to be getting enough. With games like the Tales series and Code Vein, just to name a few, there is very little doubt that the publisher will continue down this road in the immediate future.
Like Code Vein, which has been labeled from the get-go as anime Dark Souls, Scarlet Nexus, the publisher's next big title launching this June on PC and consoles, is not exactly trying to reinvent the wheel. Developed by the team that created Tales of Vesperia, this action role-playing game takes and twists features and mechanics from other Bandai Namco titles, to offer a markedly Japanese experience that has quite a bit of potential.
Set in the distant future where humanity's very existence is threatened by mysterious otherworldy mutants known as the Others, players will take control of Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall, both members of the OSF, a special military force that is made up of particularly talented individuals known as psionics who possess special powers that can kill the Others. The two characters joined the OSF for very different reasons, and, as such, the two campaigns are mostly separate, only intertwining when the two main characters meet while on duty. The first three hours or so of both campaigns aren't radically different, but they provide a different enough perspective on the story so there is no doubt that both will have to be played for players to understand the story fully.
Right from the very beginning, Scarlet Nexus feels like the player is experiencing a proper anime show and not a video game. The story is presented via a mix of beautifully animated cutscenes and static sequences created with in-game graphics that further highlight the manga and anime feel the developers were clearly going for. While fully-animated dialogue sequences would have been welcome, this approach to storytelling does feel appropriate, as the static sequences do a much better job at highlighting the characters' emotions than the classic dialogue bubbles that have been featured in the Tales series for years.
Where the influence of the Tales series is massive is in the combat, which isn't surprising as the Scarlet Nexus development team also worked on Tales of Vesperia, but that isn't the only big Japanese franchise that has influenced the Scarlet Nexus combat, as there are elements lifted from the God Eater and Monster Hunter series. Controlling either Yuito or Kasane, players are able to unleash a variety of regular weapon attacks, psychokinesis attacks that lift objects lying around to deal massive amounts of damage, connect with other party members via the SAS to gain varied new abilities temporarily, and even combine all these maneuvers into an unrelenting assault. The SAS abilities can be further expanded by deepening the bond with the related character via optional story events.
While not exactly original, combat does feel good, especially after more skills have been unlocked via the Brain Map, Scarlet Nexus' skill tree, also thanks to what seems like decent enemy variety. The smallest enemies don't require a particular strategy, and can also be lifted in the air for some cool-looking aerial combos, while the biggest Others and bosses require players to break shells to uncover weak points and deal more damage. During these battles, players often also have access to another type of psychokinesis attack that involves the completion of simple quick-time events which, surprisingly enough, do not break the flow of combat too much. On the contrary, they feel satisfying to pull off and add more variety to combat.
With its distinct Japanese anime feel, interesting setting, and characters, and intense combat, Scarlet Nexus has the makings of a great action role-playing game, although the lack of any truly innovative feature will inevitably turn some players off. I, for one, cannot wait to spend more time with Scarlet Nexus once it releases next month, as the first three hours of the game did manage to get me hooked and left me hungering for more.
Scarlet Nexus launches on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Xbox One on June 25th worldwide.
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