I love games that give you a reason to replay them, not only for new trophies but to observe new events and give context to things you may not have originally understood. The Quiet Man did this, despite many people criticising it due to them not understanding the concept, and you often see it in FMV adventure games where your choices change the story, making every playthrough slightly different. Scarlet Nexus requires two playthroughs in order to see the events that unfold through two distinct perspectives, a brilliant concept that works seamlessly both answering and creating questions at the same time!
Scarlet Nexus was developed and published by Bandai Namco, directed and produced by developers who have worked previously on the ‘Tales’ series. To me, it felt like a combination of the latest Ys games and the Trails of Cold Steel series, offering real-time hack-n-slash combat with bond-based RPG team building. Although the demo and initial tutorials didn’t grab my attention at first, I soon found myself addicted to the gameplay, hooked by the story, and unable to stop playing until I’d seen both stories through to the end and grabbed the platinum (which is why I’m a few days late with my review).
So, should you pick up Scarlet Nexus today if you like JRPGs, anime, and/or fantastic stories? Which version should you play first? Is the PS5 version very different to the PS4 Pro version? and Should you play the game and then transfer your save or simply play the current-gen edition? Let’s find out…
Scarlet Nexus is set within an alternative reality, a world where technology has advanced much faster than within ours. Almost all of the human population have some form of superpower, enabled through the discovery of manipulating a person’s brain hormone. For the most part, this enhanced ability is used to simply interact with everyday objects and services, such as computers, banking and medical facilities, using their minds to communicate and operate various systems. Due to this unique connection, everyone with the ability is connected to one another.
However, enhancing the brain has a downside, it’s the number one food of choice for The Others! The Others are strange mutated hostile creatures that roam the world, they appeared many years ago and are threatening the future of the human race with their unstoppable thirst for juicy brains. These hideous-looking creatures come in all shapes and sizes, yet their origin and reason for them being here are unknown – well, known by only a handful of people within New Himuka.
In order to protect the citizens within the megacities, the Other Suppression Force (OSF) was formed, a special tactical group made up of elite individuals that can harness their supernatural powers and use them effectively to take down the creatures. This is where we’re introduced to our two protagonists, two cadets taking their first step in the fight against the abominations. Both have their own agenda, loyalties, team, and opinions on what they’re being told to do – there are two sides to every story, even if you think you know who’s right and wrong.
A tale of two protagonists
As I mentioned above, Scarlet Nexus wants you to play the game twice in order to fully understand the events which are happening. Both protagonists begin their journey the same way, they join the OSF, become involved within an Other attack on the city, then become fully-fledged members of the OSF under the command of different elite officers. From here on, both stories go down very different paths, occasionally intersecting with one another as you see the same events happen from different perspectives – providing or lacking context depending on who you’re playing as.
I love this concept, not only does it make you want to play the game a second time to discover what was actually going on, but it also provides two very different stories which ultimately come together in the final chapters. Each protagonist has their own team and agenda, resulting in you taking on different missions and facing slightly different enemies, but you’ll often end up within the same locations at the same time. When you do, you’ll see events happening with thoughts, context, and dialogue from your perspective, yet when you replay the same chapter with the other protagonist, things can seem very different.
There are some drastic changes within each story as well. Without any spoilers, one of the protagonists travels through time to receive instructions on what they must do in order to change the future, yet the other further investigates the questionable acts the government have been approving behind closed doors. Simply playing through the game once will only give you a glimpse of the truth behind the events that are happening, leaving you with many questions that aren’t really answered unless you play the second time.
Scarlet Nexus is a fast-paced hack-and-slash JRPG with a big emphasis on supernatural attacks and strategy. You play as either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, yet you ‘command’ a team of three people upon the battlefield. You have a standard weapon that you use with Square and Triangle, but you also have a few tricks up your sleeve – so to speak. Both of the protagonists can use Psychokinesis, they can use their mental abilities to pick up almost anything that’s not screwed to the floor and throw it at the enemies with R2. If you’ve played Control, this ability is very similar to Jesse’s attack.
They can also take it one step further and perform a similar attack but with a mini QTE by holding L2. This time, you’ll grab bigger objects that smack the Others multiple times, as long as you do the QTEs correctly (push a direction, trigger, or spin the thumbstick).
The protagonist’s biggest flex though is the ability to ‘borrow’ their teammates’ supernatural powers. You’ll initially obtain four abilities, mapped to holding R1 and pushing one of the face buttons, but as the story progresses you’ll have nine powers to play with. These include the ability to turn invisible and get close to enemies without being spotted, add fire or lightning to your attacks, slowing down time, and even duplicating yourself and the items you throw with R2. Also, as you bond with the soldier whose power you’re emulating, you gain boosts, new uses of the ability, and prolonged usage time.
But, why do you need so many different attacks? Basically, the enemies have both a health and shield bar, if you chip away at the shield then you can unleash an often fatal mega-blow by pushing L2 whilst it’s dazed. This is where the different abilities come in handy – some enemies are weaker against certain elements or attacks, so you need to strategise and ensure you’re not simply pushing Square and delivering hardly any damage when you could be taking off huge chunks with an ability active. Also, once unlocked, you can activate up to four abilities at the same time, creating hybrid attacks as you slap the enemies senseless!
Scarlet Nexus doesn’t have the most in-depth progression mechanics, and some of them aren’t very obvious, but there’s enough to keep things fresh as you pimp out your team and gear up for the next chapter. At the end of each phase (chapter), you return to your hideout as you all take a breather and relax for a while. In here, you can talk to your team, buy new weapons, buy plug-ins, or exchange resources you found for better items (once unlocked). The items you can exchange or buy change every phase, but only at the end when you return as part of the story.
In terms of customisation, you can buy various accessories that change the appearance of each character and equip up to three on each person. You can have soldiers with bunny ears, bear paws, a giant mascot head mask, wings, armbands, glasses, and many more. There are a few silly ones but not as many as we see in the Trails of Cold Steel series – although, there are some ‘Hugging Baki’ accessories that remind me a lot of the mini characters you can buy in ToCS that cling to your arm.
The only downside to the game, when talking about the customisation options, is that each character only has one weapon type. This means that you can occasionally buy the same weapon that’s a little stronger, or upgrade it using resources, but you can’t deviate and try out another weapon. This wouldn’t be an ‘issue’ if you had control over all of your team, but you’re limited to only the male and female protagonist – although you can upgrade everyone else’s weapons, you can’t control them.
You can talk to your colleagues in order to find out more about them and exchange presents which you’ve without found or created using resources you find in each location. These help increase your bond with the characters, eventually triggering a bonding event where you and the other person either talk to each other or goes to another location to talk or battle The Others. As the bond increases, as does your use of their powers – as I mentioned above. One of the trophies requires you to have everyone at the sixth bond level, this took a while to figure out but having them in your active party of three will also eventually trigger their bond event.
Scarlet Nexus has a skill tree that allows you to unlock new moves and abilities as you increase your experience and level. There are unlocks for more psychic energy, the ability to activate multiple bond-based abilities at once, prolong the time you have within certain advanced moves, and a few unlockable combos for your standard attacks. You’ll need to reach level 80 in order to unlock all of these so this will probably be the last thing you’ll do within the game.
I mentioned above that you have the ability to throw large objects, crush enemies with bigger objects via mini QTEs, slap them about with standard attacks, and enhance either your attacks or perform new ones by using the skills you learn by bonding with your team. But, there are a few other mechanics you unlock as the game progresses. The main one revolves around your brain – shocker! You build up a Brain Drive bar by attacking the enemy or being attacked yourself, eventually triggering you to go all Assassin’s Creed and put on your hood (and Watch_Dogs mask) as your attacks become enhanced and a handy experience combo multiplier begins to rise.
This brain-based enhancement also enables another brain attack, you pull the enemies into another dimension within your mind as you grab massive floating objects and smash time into their faces. In this new world, you’re clearly OP, they don’t stand a chance against your supernatural powers and love for spanking them silly! However, there’s a downside. You only have a short period of time within the mode, which can be extended if your bond with your team is high enough for them to want to step in and extend it. If the counter reaches zero and you’ve not pulled out, it’s game over – so don’t do what I did and ignore the timer that counts down, it’s there for a reason!
I personally thought the variety of enemies in Scarlet Nexus was pretty good. Sure, there are bunches of enemies with very similar names that are almost identical outside of maybe a colour or differing strengths and weaknesses, but I liked that I had to change my attack styles regularly in order to efficiently take them down. Some enemies made me think I was playing Monster Hunter, as you can literally slash at them for over five minutes and barely damage them at all, but that’s why you need to experiment with the bond abilities in order to see if you have a way of hurting them more effectively.
I also found that you encounter different enemies based on which character you play as – you’ll find that you face Others which your abilities are strong against as each protagonist has their own team with different abilities.
There are a few boss battles within the game, these also differ based upon who you pick until the stories come together later on. I enjoyed playing these as they weren’t too hard yet you often had to, once again, use the various bond abilities to overcome the various stages. For example, one boss has a stage where there are multiple objects on the battlefield and you have to use clairvoyance to discover which is the real object to destroy.
Side missions and trophies
Aside from the main story within Scarlet Nexus, you can also take on a number of side mission once they become available within the various social areas (the hospital and town centres). The sad news is, I didn’t find completing these that enjoyable. They were all very similar, collect a certain number of an item, kill a number of a certain enemy, or kill enemies by delivering the final blow with a certain attack or ability. The rewards you get for completing them is often trivial as well, with the main reason for completing them being to grab a trophy – although end-game quests reward you with unique items that can be traded in for the best weapons for each character.
This brings me on to the trophies themselves and the grind required to obtain them all. There are no missable trophies within Scarlet Nexus, if you didn’t initiate a bond event within a cool-down phase then you can do so next time, you can also return to all the various locations in order to farm for resources required for trading whenever you’re not locked into a story event. However, as mentioned above, you need to play the game twice through to the end in order to fully understand everything that’s going on and in order to obtain all the trophies, this means a 20-30 hour game soon becomes at least 50 hours if going for the platinum.
Personally, the game took me around 85 hours to grab the platinum, more than the 50 hours which someone else quoted over on PSN Profiles, this is due to me watching every bonding and story event, completing all the side missions, and taking my time as I fought my way through each location. You will find yourself having to grind post-game to get yourself to level 80 and the bond with everyone to six, but that’s the only thing you really need to put yourself out of your way to achieve. Every other trophy came naturally, apart from buying 100 accessories – I simply grabbed the 200k ‘kins’ trophy then spent it all on fashion items.
I know this may sound silly but I really loved the way that Scarlet Nexus organised all the various logs within the game. If you take a look at the character logs, it details all the information you know about each person, you can look at their model, and you can even see which presents you’ve gifted to them if they’re in your team – which I didn’t realise until a few minutes ago! The enemies give you a big list of all the potential items you can get by slaying them and it also tells you where you’ve spotted them (it won’t say a location if you’ve not seen them there yet).
But, the one thing I found the most useful is the wishlist function. When you’re in the shop and looking at exchanging your resources for something, you’ll often find you don’t have the items needed. At this point, you can press Square and click on the item and the game will tell you which creatures you need to kill in order to obtain the drop, and/or you can wishlist it. Items wishlisted will appear at the top of the list until removed from the wishlist and the game will issue a pop-up on the screen when you’ve found the item needed to trade for the item. This is so convenient and saves having to keep checking if you’ve picked up a certain object as the list of items you acquire moves quite fast.
Also, if you lack concentration, like me, the game provides a full breakdown of each phase, as you progress through it, as well as info on all of the bonding events that have taken place – this means you can always refer back to them if something doesn’t make sense or you’ve forgotten what you were doing. Similarly, throughout the game, various people will text you as a follow up to various events or conversations you have with them, you can reply to these but it’s a pre-defined reply and not a choice-based system (which is a shame). This text-based messaging service also includes data logs you’ll find in certain places, further expanding on the lore and giving you the background to things that are happening.
PS4 Pro vs PS5
I am incredibly upset. My PS5 broke the day before I got my Scarlet Nexus review code, so I was only able to play a few hours on it before I sent it off to Sony for a repair. So, having experienced it on there first, playing it on the PS4 Pro felt horrible. Okay, horrible is a strong word, but it was not the same experience I initially had on the PlayStation 5, here’s why…
The first difference lies in the performance and quality. The PS5 is a solid 60fps at a native 4K, delivering a super sharp image and fluid combat throughout. The PS4 Pro, unfortunately, is locked to 30fp and (what appears to be) around 1080-1260p. I could be wrong on this, I have asked for confirmation from Bandai Namco but didn’t hear anything back, but the game is very fuzzy at times on my 4K TV. I’m not too fussed about the resolution, but the framerate almost had me giving up and waiting for my PS5 to return, it’s a stable 30fps but the controls felt really slow, heavy, and unresponsive at times – this’ll be due to the 30fps and not the game in general – I was ‘spoilt’ by playing it on the PS5 first.
Loading times are also a pain on last-gen machines. You’ll find yourself waiting around 30+ seconds as you ‘fast travel’ to a new location, move to a new area, or even go to a cafe as part of a bonding event. It quickly adds up, forcing you to wait as it loads the next part of the game painfully slow – again, on the PS5 this is much quicker and felt a lot better to play.
But, the biggest difference, by far, was the controller. I honestly have sympathy for Xbox gamers as their experience of the game will be the same as mine playing it on the PS4 Pro, bland, dull, and without impact. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I’m not talking about the game, just the experience with the controller. The DualSense on the PS5 is fully used, providing resistance on the triggers, unique rumble under the triggers for each ability as you pull them off, and haptic feedback to enhance the overall gameplay. It feels truly incredible. the DS4 controller felt empty and lifeless in comparison.
Basically, if you have a PS5, that’s the console to play Scarlet Nexus on. It delivers the best experience, performance, and visual quality, whilst fully immersing you with the controller. I wouldn’t even recommend playing it on the PS4 then importing your save to get a double platinum, just skip the PS4 version and play the definitive edition on the PS5 (if you have one, otherwise, the PS4 is fine, just not as magical).
Import your save?
Let’s reverse a little – yes, you can import your save from the PS4 version of the game into the PS5 version. However, this process doesn’t currently work. Version 1.01 of the PS4 copy included the option on the main menu to upload your save (as we’ve seen in many cross-gen games), but picking this option results in the game throwing an error at you. The save is being uploaded to Bandai Namco‘s server, so there’s an issue on their end which I’ve made them aware of (not fixed as of the 25th of June).
So, as of right now, we don’t know if importing your save will unlock all the trophies for you or not, because nobody is able to try it out.
If you enjoyed the game, reaching the end credits (twice) and obtaining the platinum isn’t the end. There’s an anime launching on Funimation and Wakanim in July this year. I’m not sure if this’ll follow the game 1:1, as Danganronpa and Ace Attorney did, or if it’ll expand on the universe and provide more context and backstory to the events within the game. Whichever path it takes, I’ll certainly be watching it as the entire game felt like I was watching an anime, only I was providing the elaborate combat sequences before sitting back and watching the story continue playing out.
The ‘Deluxe Edition’
We were luckily sent the Deluxe Edition of the game for review, which included the game, a few DLC packs and the ‘Brain Punk’ bundle. Do I recommend this edition of the game… no. Okay, let me explain why. The DLC packs you get are good, giving you some new cosmetic options and a few ‘plug-ins’ that boost things like your experience gain by 5%, but the star of the show is the artbook and digital soundtrack. But, this isn’t as good as it sounds as you CAN’T export the music from the soundtrack app to USB (like you can in almost every other Digital Soundtrack, bar the Koei Tecmo ones).
As such, you can only listen within the app – this isn’t a ‘Digital Soundtrack’, I feel it’s very misleading – it’s more like a soundtrack and artbook application. I get that it probably doesn’t have an export feature because you can’t do that on the Xbox or the Nintendo Switch, but the PS4 and PS5 have the ability to export music to a USB drive so you can play them on other devices you own or in the background of other games. When a game advertises that if you pay more money then you get access to the soundtrack, I expect you to be able to export it for use elsewhere. As I said, Koei Tecmo has also started doing this and I’m not happy with it – it instantly devalues the ‘Digital Deluxe’ editions and I can’t recommend paying extra for them.
On a side note, Little Nightmares II also came with an artbook and soundtrack if you picked up the Digital Deluxe edition. However, the soundtrack in that game allows you to simply export the music to a USB drive by pushing Triangle on the main screen. So, if that game is advertised with a Digital Soundtrack and it lets you export it, which does Scarlet Nexus advertise as having a Digital Soundtrack yet you can’t export it? Maybe it’s a licensing issue? I’m not sure, but I hope this isn’t what we’re going to get for other games moving forward.
As stated above, Scarlet Nexus is great on the PS5 and good on the PS4 Pro. I had no issues with the game on either platform, but the 60fps and much higher 4K resolution put the PS4 Pro build to shame, making me dislike the performance at only 30fps even though there was nothing particularly ‘wrong’ with it. I do feel that the Pro should have had a 60fps option, maybe at 1080p with a dynamic resolution, as the game is clearly enhanced with the higher framerate during the combat segments.
The music within the game is great, which is why I was very disappointed with the Digital Soundtrack being non-exportable. Also, the game provides fully voiced characters in both Japanese and English, with the English cast doing a great job throughout. I played the game first with Japanese enabled and then swapped to English for my second playthrough.
I found it a little odd that they decided to call one of the male characters Gemma and another Karen, but they do have accents to their names when you pronounce them, so they’re not like the female names we use – although Karen is a bit of a ‘Karen’.
The only other thing which annoyed me with Scarlet Nexus (again, due to the PS5 spoiling me) were the loading times on the PS4 Pro. They’re not super long, but they do get a bit annoying when you’re forced to sit through one every time you go to a new area or a bonding event just happens to take place in another building. This isn’t really anything that could be helped as it’s all down to last-gen hardware, but it distracted me enough to annoy me at times, so I thought I’d mention it. The PS5 was fine from what I can recall.
Despite knowing nothing about the game before I got my hands on it, Scarlet Nexus has quickly become one of my favourite games of the year. It has very satisfying combat, a wide variety of abilities to play with, and an interesting narrative that brilliantly weaves two perspectives together in order to create two campaigns with one underlying story. I highly recommend you play the game on either the PS5, Xbox Series, or PC, so you can enable the higher framerates, but if you’re happy with 30fps then the game also runs really well on last-gen systems. If you have a spare 50+ hours, and a love for anime, you should already have Scarlet Nexus – it’s that good.
If you want to ‘try before you buy’, there’s a demo for Scarlet Nexus on all platforms. Unfortunately, any progress you make within the demo isn’t carried over into the full game, but you can unlock a few bonus items if you play the demo on the same platform. What I did was play the demo until it saved, as one of the protagonists, then loaded up the full game. This allowed me to accept the first bonus package via the shop. Then, I played the demo as the other character and saved it again, allowing me to obtain the second package within the full game.
Scarlet Nexus allows you to convert (upload/download) your save files from the PS4 and then import them into the PS5 version, a one-way process that doesn’t remove the save from your PS4 but allows you to carry on should you find an elusive PS5 in the wild. However, up until today, all I’ve been getting is Error-10009 whenever I tried to convert the save on my PS4.
I reached out to Bandai Namco on social Media and through the PR I talk to in regards to review codes, but I never got a response and it seemed nobody on Twitter were talking about this issue – literally nobody. Today, thanks to a user on PSN Profiles, I found out what the issue is – the manual save files are too big!
Unlike most games, Scarlet Nexus stores all manual saves in one file, a file that’s around 54MB in size, this is too big to upload as Bandai Namco have implemented a file size cap, despite the devs knowing exactly how big that save file is?!
• Ensure you have an autosave at the point you wish to transfer (Simply load up your save and fast travel to any location, that’ll create an autosave file).
• Now, back up your saves to the cloud or USB (just in case) then delete the file that’s over 50MB via the PS4 system settings (DO NOT TOUCH the system settings and autosave files).
• Finally, when you go back into Scarlet Nexus on the PS4, you’ll be able to convert the save with no issues, followed by ‘converting’ it on the PS5 to download the file and continue.
All trophies you’ve earned on the PS4 will auto-pop, including the Platinum if you’ve grabbed it on the last-gen machine – but personally, if you have a PS5, I’d advise playing the game on there as the PS4 version is very jarring and slow in comparison, it also looks much fuzzier and provides a lower-quality experience.
- - Brilliant story which weaves two perspectives together seamlessly
- - Great voice acting and soundtrack
- - Runs at a flawless 4K and 60fps on the PS5
- - The adaptive triggers and haptic feedback immerse you completely on the PS5
- - Every battle is satisfying and fun to control
- - The PS4 Pro resolution is quite low, with a fuzzy image, and only gives you 30fps (I would have liked a 60fps mode or a higher resolution)
- - The Deluxe Edition's 'Soundtrack' is locked to the app, you can't export it to USB
- - There is a bit of grind for the final few trophies, but it's not too bad
- - The side missions are mostly pointless unless you're going for the platinum