Scarlet Nexus Hands-on Preview: From under the radar to counting down the days
I’m going to be completely honest here and say that Scarlet Nexus wasn’t initially on my radar, despite ticking all of the boxes for a game that I would be interested in. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t drawing my attention much, and I wasn’t initially planning on playing at all, let alone previewing. After being given the chance to take an early look at the game though, I’m incredibly glad I did, because Scarlet Nexus has a ton of potential and is one to keep an eye on. I wasn’t before, but I certainly am now.
I got to go hands-on with the game’s first few hours, which gives a pretty good introduction to the world of Scarlet Nexus. Scarlet Nexus takes place in a neon-lit, near-future city where humanity has started to develop psychic abilities. Those with psychic abilities become OSF soldiers in order to fight against brain-eating monsters known as “Others”. You can choose between two playable characters, Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, both of whom are new members of the OSF and coming to terms with their powers. Both Yuito and Kasane have telekinetic abilities and can lift things with their minds, but they have different weapons and different story scenes. For this preview, I looked at Yuito’s path, which opens on his first day with the OSF as a volunteer soldier.
One of the most impressive things about Scarlet Nexus to me is just how realised the world feels. I didn’t feel like I’d been dropped into a world just beginning as I pressed start, I felt like this was a fully developed place with real characters, which is impressive considering this is a brand new IP. Each part of the game’s lore was not only interesting but also felt fleshed out even in the few hours that I got to play. The core concept of a world that allows instant brain messages but also talks about the potential challenges of instantly being in contact with someone is an interesting one, and I hope that the game works with those themes in the full release.
The world itself and how the OSF works is really interesting, and discovering more about them was my personal highlight from the preview. A lot of it involves the brain-link that each of the characters has installed when they join the OSF, which lets them immediately communicate with one another. One of my favourite scenes showed how these so-called brain links censor things like the deaths of civilians, with a censor blur appearing over someone who just had their brain eaten. Other scenes show that even members of the OSF can’t enter restricted zones without filing paperwork, and other Orwellian authoritarian themes throughout.. Admittedly, there are also a few moments of obvious and awkward exposition to explain the world’s mechanics (does Yuito really need to be reminded who his family is so many times?), but I was generally very hooked by the world here.
I was equally impressed by the characterisation on display here. When the game allowed me a choice between two characters, I instantly assumed that Yuito and Kasane would be interchangeable blank slates but they’re very different characters with different motivations, and seemingly completely different campaigns. Yuito, my chosen protagonist, is the son of a politician and part of a renowned family, but he’s surprisingly humble and fun-loving. Over the course of the preview, I really grew to like and connect with him in a way that surprised me. One of the first conversations in the game is between Yuito and Nagi, where they thoughtfully discuss their induction and their expectations for the OSF, before more casually bantering about what girls they find cute and running off to get their fortunes told. It felt incredibly natural, and it was great to see when it would have been all too easy to make Yuito a brooding anime protagonist.
Speaking of anime, that’s exactly what Scarlet Nexus feels like at times. From its beautifully animated, anime-inspired opening to its well-defined characters and world, Scarlet Nexus truly feels like a gaming adaptation of a well-established anime that people have been telling me to watch for years that I’ve only just started to watch, which is funny when you consider the upcoming anime adaptation. That comes down to its presentation as well, with some awesome designs and characters that really pop and animate well. If I had one complaint, it’d be that the environments aren’t all that interesting, with most of what I saw relegated to abandoned train stations and an abandoned part of the city. The theming helped that a bit, with neon and virtual police tapes covering the area, but it still felt a little boring compared to how well the world is set up.
It didn’t take me long at all to warm up to the world of Scarlet Nexus, but it did take me a bit longer to get into the combat and gameplay. I had fun with it, but it’s the only part of the game so far that hasn’t completely sold me just yet. That’s not to say that it’s poor by any means, just that I feel like I was only starting to scratch the surface of what it can do.
Yuito’s main attacks are done with the square button, with the triangle button acting as a slash that can recharge the psychic ability meter. That psychic meter is what you’ll be using to lift objects up around you and slam them towards enemies, creating combos of sword strikes and telekinetically-thrown bins hitting enemies out of nowhere. That makes combat a balance of trying to attack up close and personal, using your environment as a projectile, and then trying to close the distance once more to regain that meter. It has a good flow to it, even if it’s a little simplistic.
My first worry out of the gate was that my movement options were pretty limited and generally felt sluggish at first, but the game’s skill tree has a good range of upgrades from what I saw, including some important movement ones. As soon as I’d unlocked the double jump and air dash, the whole game felt much more like character-action in its combat, even resembling Devil May Cry 5 at some points. This skill tree is arguably the most RPG-esque element of the game I was able to preview, with equipment and levelling not really playing a role in the first few hours. What I’ve seen so far is a good sign though, and having more combat options made things a lot more fun. When the game started to play with its main mechanic that’s when things started to kick up a notch.
An hour or so into my preview, I was introduced to a gameplay mechanic that allowed me to share the powers of my teammates, which would apparently get stronger as Yuito forms bonds with them. A few of the powers I tried included being able to electrify & heat up my weapons, going invisible, and being able to slow down time. They’re all great fun to experiment with, but by far the coolest of these was when I teamed up with Kasane had even stronger telekinesis that could decimate my enemies. It was so overpowered that I doubt they’ll team up much.
Scarlet Nexus’ big gameplay mechanic that sets it apart from other titles is its psychic powers, so the fact that I walked away wanting to see more is a good sign. I hope the game lets you mix them up and really experiment with them, but only time will tell on that part, as they’re tied to your partners from what I played. Hopefully, the game will allow a good level of customisation and player choice to keep things interesting.
I think how well Scarlet Nexus lands will be dependent on how much it opens up its mechanics, how freeform it gets with its psychic abilities, and how much the skill tree and party system end up changing things. Right now it’s fun and has some satisfying combat, but I hope it manages to keep things feeling fresh for the whole adventure, especially across two different characters.
At the end of the preview, I was genuinely sad to be walking away from the game unable to play more until its official release, especially with how the story looks to be going. I’d say that’s a pretty good sign considering my previously indifferent attitude towards it. There are some smaller things that I didn’t like, such as objective markers being a bit of a pain, but I was impressed with what I saw and wanted to keep diving in. I can’t speak to the rest of the game’s depth right now, but things are looking good for Scarlet Nexus to be a great action RPG when it launches in June.