Hey folks, sorry I haven’t been around in a while, life has been, uh, pretty difficult so I’ve just been trying to get back into the groove. Thanks for sticking around.
When I saw Scarlet Nexus about a year ago I expected I’d at least enjoy it. I am the kind of weirdo that thought Code Vein was a good game, after all, so it looked exactly like the kind of garbage-popcorn anime action game that's right up my alley.
What I didn’t expect was for it to be the most entertaining JRPG I’ve played in the past few years.
This is a pretty heady statement — or it would be, if I weren’t so prone to hyperbole as a writer. But you can rest assured that I mean it when I say it. Scarlet Nexus came out of nowhere to become one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this year.
There are two things that make Scarlet Nexus so engaging. The first is the combat. As one of the two playable characters, you have a multitude of combat options available to fight the Others, the mysterious enemies that plague the nation of New Himura. You start out with your basic weapon and the ability to hurl debris with your psychic powers. Your power takes the form of a bar that empties with use, but which can be filled up with basic attacks. This results in a push and pull between strikes and psychokinesis, which feels very satisfying as as base.
But it’s just the beginning. As you level up, you gain dodges, counter-attacks, extra combo hits, and more. And as the game progresses, you can connect with your party via SAS. Through it, you can borrow your friends’ powers, letting you use pyrokinesis, gain foresight, teleport, and more. From there you can start combining powers — throw an oil jar at an enemy, then light it up with fire attacks, as one example. By participating in social events with your party, you can make all of these abilities stronger, or increase the time you can use them before their cool-downs hit.
Scarlet Nexus has one of the most satisfying power curves I’ve seen in an action game that isn’t built by PlatinumGames. Each new ability adds further layers of complexity, and by the end of the game, you’ll find yourself with a symphony of powers, dancing from one to the next or combining them in pairs of three or four to defeat enemies. Each enemy has weaknesses to specific powers, and it never stops being entertaining to strip them of their advantages and crush them. The curve starts off a little slow, but it’s worth the wait by the end.
So yes, it’s Goopy Goblin Gamer Brain approved. But what about the narrative?
The thing with anime games is that if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. A well-meaning dude who everyone likes despite being kind of dopey has an incredible power and has to save the world. Generally the power of friendship is involved. This is all technically true with Scarlet Nexus, but it plays with the expectations that come with these tropes and takes them to very interesting places. Yes, Yuito is a well-meaning, dopey guy, but he’s also a good communicator and a great friend who tries to help people solve their problems. Yes, he has to save the world from the Others, but they’re genuinely interesting enemies with some shocking twists attached to them. And yes, the power of friendship is involved, but for one thing, the power of friendship is actually awesome, thank you very much, and another: the party is great!
Scarlet Nexus has an incredible ensemble cast, and getting to know them through the game’s social links is one of its most entertaining parts. I almost don’t want to talk about them in any detail so as not to spoil the interactions. But whether it’s an old guy that’s trying to experience new things, a little kid that wants to get super buff, or a girl that just really likes plants, they’re all interesting to talk to and befriend. They’re all trope-y, but have just enough depth to them that you’re not going to get annoyed chatting with them to get their stats up.
The cast is also great in the overall plot of the game as well. It’s weird to see a JRPG party actually talk about their problems in order to figure things out and get to the bottom of things. No one’s withholding information for the sake of a twist, and the one time the characters don’t communicate it actually makes sense within the context of the narrative. Again, I'm speaking broad strokes so as not to spoil things for anyone, but in summation: once the plot train starts chugging in Scarlet Nexus, the brakes come off and you'll very much want to see it through to the end.
Also, I couldn’t find a place to put this, so I’m just noting it here: the soundtrack for this game absolutely slaps. It bangalangs so hard. The tracks hit and they don’t stop hitting. Listen:
Each stage theme has a remix that the game seamlessly transitions to whenever battle starts too! Literally zero reason to go in so hard for a JRPG but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
This game is a recipient of the Goopy Goblin Gamer Brain award. The GGGB Badge is the highest honor you can receive from Mint’s Café. A game with the GGGB Badge is one that I recommend for its incredibly engaging, moment-to-moment gameplay and mechanics. It means that even if its story isn’t incredible, or it isn’t a technical marvel, it’s still worth playing based solely on the fact that it feels fantastic to play it.
It’s not all roses though. Pro-tip from someone who finished the game: skip the side-quests. Don’t do a single one. They are all completely useless and add no value to the game whatsoever. Only touch them if you plan on getting the platinum trophy. On top of that, the last two dungeons overstay their welcome to an extent, although part of that was just me wanting to see how the game actually ended. So in the end it’s not a big con. The environmental design also yo-yos between dreadfully boring to incredibly interesting, and the actual level design itself is effectively a series of corridors — although that last part doesn’t matter too much to me personally, because the combat is the meat of the game, so your own mileage may vary.
But you know, if the biggest criticism I can come away with in Scarlet Nexus is “the levels could be a little more interesting,” then we’ve definitely got a winner on our hands. Scarlet Nexus truly shocked me with its fantastic combat and a plot that goes some absolutely buckwild places. It isn’t “pretty good” or “good in a bad way” — it is absolutely excellent, and I recommend to anyone looking for a great new Action-JRPG to play.