by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Ties which bind
The concept of 'Red Strings of Fate' has been around for a long time, typically depicted as a romantic bond that connects two people as lovers no matter the events surrounding them. It would never break, regardless of how far it stretches or twists. Red strings appear to be central to the new Bandai Namco game Scarlet Nexus, though just how closely they align to those of myth are up to the player to discover.
Upon start-up, gamers can decide whether they want to take on the role of either Yuito or Kasane, psionic fighters that face off against monstrous beings known only as 'Others'. This is done through combined use of a weapon (Yuito wields a katana that excels in close combat,
while Kasane makes use of multiple throwing knives that are more technical but keep a distance from foes) and their psychokinesis, powerful telekinetic abilities that turn terrain itself into their weapons. The stories of Yuito and Kasane are interconnected, so the best way to experience the story of Scarlet Nexus is by playing with both characters.
The world of Scarlet Nexus is called ‘brain punk’ by the developers, which is very similar to the concept of cyberpunk, but there is a certain… oddness to the world that comes from the advanced use of brains, both in psionic energies for combat as well as the sheer amount of mentality that comes from it. In-game messages between characters are done in brain chats, popups stop characters from running into streets, it’s a very interesting take on the advancement of technology and the human mind and one that allows gamers to think that something may not be entirely right in this society.
The sound design in Scarlet Nexus does a good job of matching the aesthetic of the world, with gloriously deep thrums and pulse pounding beats, particularly within combat and during the opening, which is performed by the Oral Cigarettes, a Japanese alternative rock group that is most commonly associated with anime openings. The sound mixing itself needs kudos as well, this is because as well as the music, the desolate areas of the world feel empty but with a strange… threat to them as well. This is because the Others seem able to appear from nowhere, even in the middle of safe areas like the central city, so the ruined environments are full of opportunities to be ambushed. For example, this reviewer was very careful when exploring these areas, moving much slower than the full speed dashing that the game allows, not wanting to run headlong into a group of Others and be caught unaware.
Another interesting design choice is the ‘VN’ style that cutscenes appear in, with images and avatars that have specific expressions based on the conversation at hand, not entirely unlike the ‘skit’ system that the Tales Of series makes use of when characters interact with eachother and have a chance to bond, but the real point of interest in these cutscenes is definitely the sheer amount of ‘Red Strings’ surrounding the images. This may hint at some further meaning to red strings than one would expect through even just the mythological context, but what that meaning is will be a secret until players discover it.
Mind over matter
When out on missions with the psionic soldiers, Yuito and Kasane are joined by teammates with specific powers of their own that all rely on their powers of the brain. This can enhance the powers of the protagonist or cast an attack of their own that allows for more crowd control against Others. This is probably best shown in Yuito’s path, where the first new teammate has pyrokinesis that can enchant Yuito's blade with flames that deal enhanced damage and can even build up a burned status effect to further create efficiency against the Others. This is especially prevalent in areas with slick oil that can slip up Others as well as the human psy-ops, which are just as flammable as they sounds, so be wary of using this power unless you know you can turn the oil and flames against foes. Other elements and effects are surely prevalent that will allow diversity in strategy and playstyle, all dependent on the party members that Yuito and Kasane are joined by as well as their own level-ups, deciding what powers they will grow into as time passes and experience is gained.
Unfortunately, while this game has a lot of potential, there are a few things that bring it down. For example, the menu system is rather complicated and it can be hard to find what you’re looking for. For example, exiting the game to the main menu is hidden in a submenu beneath a submenu. While this isn’t that big of an issue, it does emphasize that on occasion Scarlet Nexus will make decisions based on style rather than function. Not necessarily a huge complaint, but one that should be noted.
With how important the story is to the depth of Scarlet Nexus, this reviewer is reluctant to say too much other than that there is more than meets the eye in this strange brain-punk world, both in regards to characters motivations and the way the world became how it is. The powers people wield, the monstrous Others, the mysteries of Red Strings and the deep motivations behind Yuito and Kasane choosing to join the psy-ops in the first place, all these and more await players within Scarlet Nexus.
Deep World, Intuitive Combat
Complex Menu System