I just spent a couple hours with the Scarlet Nexus demo version on the Xbox Series X|S and I gotta say, I really enjoyed my time with this slick, stylish action RPG, so let’s talk about it.
The demo opens with a simple choice: Would you like to see sword-wielding, close combat Yuito Sumeragi’s story, or knife-wielding, long-range combat Kasane Randall’s story? Their personalities can be summed up as Cheerful, Naive Dude, and Cold, Calculating Lady. We are not treading new ground with these tropes, but as this is only a demo version and not the full game, I’m hoping both protagonists will see a bit of growth. Admittedly, I don’t have as big an issue with the Cheerful, Naive Dude trope as I do the Cold, Calculating Lady one, and I recently had the same reservations about the lead of Altdeus. I was pleasantly surprised by her character growth and would love to see something similar here with Kasane specifically. Regardless, no matter which protagonist you go with, the story plays out almost exactly the same with a different cast of characters and one or two bits of world building differing between them. You’re a member of an elite group of warriors tasked with taking out Others, mutant plant-like creatures that have apparently destroyed most of civilization in their hunger for human brains. Humanity itself has evolved to have psychokinetic abilities, granting them extra-sensory powers. Big events, like the training scenario, learning about OSF, being found by reporters, and needing to defeat a surprise big bad at the end of an otherwise low-level area are all word-for-word. What you’re here for by choosing a different protag is the change in scenery, the different crew, and having a taste for the SAS system’s capabilities.
First off, the game is visually stunning. Character animations are fluid, and I love the way cutscenes are a combination of still images and talking headshots. Each character has really great expressions, and I overall love the designs, especially for Arashi Spring, whose profile gives her the distinct appearance of a rabbit. She’s adorable. She also has the ability to basically slow down time, and through the SAS system, Kasane can use Arashi’s skills to take down quick enemies that would otherwise dodge her attacks. I’ll go more in depth with the SAS system later. The environments in Scarlet Nexus are also lovely. Kasane admittedly gets the more mundane location – a defunct construction site – with lots of reds and browns and greys. I played as her first, so expected both scenarios to take place here, but was pleasantly surprised when Yuito’s scenario took place in an abandoned city. These two locations could not be further apart aesthetically, and while I definitely preferred the look of the city, having two different locations made the world feel a lot bigger, and provided some world building fodder for character chatter. It also gave me more to play with when using telekinesis attacks.
Each protag can use telekinesis. During combat, if there is an object that can be moved, Yuito or Kasane can move it with their mind by pressing the RT button. Doing so grabs the object and lobs it at an enemy with the most satisfying weight. By pressing X immediately after using telekinesis, you perform a gap closer, and can then use your regular melee attack by continuing to press X. Combining X and A gives you an aerial attack, and using Y launches you away from enemies and restores your psychokinesis bar, which allows you to do telekinesis attacks. You can also weave in RT attacks immediately after using either X or Y attacks to increase your combo and deal massive damage to enemies. Some items in an area can also be moved with telekinesis, but these objects have special properties. Using LT, you can, for instance, grab a light pole and take out multiple enemies at once before bending the pole around an unlucky mob to kill it. These attacks also help whittle down an enemy’s Break bar, which when depleted allows you to perform a super flashy finishing move using LT. Combining all these moves together makes for frenetic, almost chaotic combat that is incredibly fun and satisfying.
The SAS system allows either Yuito or Kasane to use their teammates’ abilities. As mentioned above, Arashi can slow down time, Shiden uses electric attacks, Kyoka can duplicate items, Kagero has invisibility, Hanabi uses fire, Tsugumi has clairvoyance, Luka can teleport, and Gemma has a shield. Using your teammates’ abilities is paramount to defeating certain enemies that have specific weaknesses, as well as navigating the map. For instance, you cannot advance through Yuito’s scenario without using Luka’s teleport to move through mesh fencing. It’s a cool system that encourages experimentation and actually gives your party members a sense of importance. After the dismal use of your AI partners in Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin, having teammates who actually contributed to combat was a nice change of pace.
You can also unlock Drive mode by using your abilities. While in Drive, you move faster and deal more damage, and it just looks stylish as shit. Most of the time, I ended up triggering Drive mode while fighting weak mobs or right before ending a battle, which felt a bit anticlimactic. If would be nice if I had more control over how to activate it, but thankfully the Drive gauge depletes slower when out of battle, so I usually had it available at the beginning of the next fight.
There’s a lot of other little things to the Scarlet Nexus demo, too. You can customize your character’s look by picking up items on the map for glamour, and there’s of course the requisite skill tree to learn new abilities or level up your stats. You can review conversations you’ve had with your teammates, which is nice since they like to chatter during battle, and if you’re like me and play with Japanese voice overs, it can be hard to follow along when things get frenetic. Overall, this game has a lot of polish and panache and was a hell of a lot of fun to play even for just the couple hours the demo provides. If you like action RPGs, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out.
Scarlet Nexus is available on the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.