Bandai Namco’s latest original game aims high – this is an action-RPG hybrid festooned with Devil May Cry-like swordplay and Monster Hunter weak spot targeting, bottled up in an epic narrative that seems to explore a new high-concept sci-fi theme with every chapter. In the margins, you’ll find a Persona-ish relationship system, an interlocking network of psionic powers, and a boatload of frilly, cosmetic customization options. It’s a wonder how close it comes to pulling all of that off at once.
You take control of either Yuito Sumeragi or Kasane Randall, two young members of a paramilitary fighting force called the OSF. They’re tasked with exterminating horrific, eldritch beings known only as The Others who are laying siege to our futuristic, mysterious, and slightly uncanny society. Both characters have their own full campaigns that crisscross at certain junkets, giving players a lot of content to chew through once they finish their initial trip through the plot. (Like many other games that have used this trick, such as Nier: Automata and, um, Sonic Adventure 2, there are plenty of lore-bombs hiding out in each of those crusades.)
Regardless of what perspective you choose, you’ll start out by following orders and clearing out teeming pods of Others on the outskirts of human civilization, before the story takes a darker, increasingly cryptic turn. Who exactly are these creatures we’re killing? What’s in those shipments that keep leaving the metropolis?
You will complete this investigation on a level-by-level basis. Yes, Yuito and Kasane can traipse around the map to loot overlooked corridors and uncover a few sidequests, but for the most part, your time in Scarlet Nexus will be spent zoning into an area, killing a ton of bad guys, and enjoying the grave cutscenes that split up the setpieces. This isn’t a problem, because Namco has generated an excellent combat system here. Both protagonists are psychokinetic, and by holding the right trigger you’ll send whatever piece of debris is nearby hurling towards an enemy’s face. Mix that in with your melee strikes, and you have an elementally satisfying mixture of acrobatics and violence that rivals Ninja Gaiden, God of War, or any other mid-2000s button-mash classic. Scarlet Nexus never approaches the savant technique displayed by true Bayonetta lifers – there are hardly any combos to memorise or weapons to master – but it was flashy enough to sustain me till the final chapters.
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