You ever play a game where for everything cool, there is something bad attached to it? That is pretty much Scarlet Nexus and as someone that plays a lot of these weeb games, of course I had to give it a look.

Alright, let’s start with the combat. I will admit, this game has a bit of a rough start – one that might actually turn away new players. The problem is that the combat right at the start of the game is very barebones, usually just you repeating the same basic combo over and over. It is not until a couple hours later that you start getting introduced to the different mechanics and modifiers that really “unlock” the combat here. About halfway through the game, you have them all and this is when the combat really takes off.

At its core, you have your physical attacks, but also this neat psychic power mechanic that allows you to pick up objects and chuck them at enemies. This mechanic is seamlessly integrated into the combat and combos will often have you jumping between it and your physical attacks. It is very fluid and feels great to control, there’s no clunkiness here and proper attention was given to making sure your attacks have ample weight behind them.

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Then there’s the skill tree, power ups, and different combat modifiers. As you meet new characters, you get access to their unique abilities – which can be activated at any time during combat, including mid-combo. There’s one that adds a fire trait to your attacks, while another allows you to use your psychic powers at no cost. Then it gets a bit more creative with one that allows you to teleport in place of dodging and another that slows time or highlights enemies when you can’t see them. They all have their own uses and, just like your psychic powers, they are all seamlessly integrated into the combat.

For example, I would pop teleport to get the drop on an enemy, sweep it off its feet with my basic combo, then activate fire attacks for another combo, finish that combo with a psychic attack, and then do an execution as the enemy’s guard is likely broken by that point. This all feels great to do and was easily my favorite thing about the game, even if it could use some tweaking.

Enemy lock-on, for example, is not as sticky as I would like, and there were several points where my combos would miss just to the side of an enemy despite feeling like it should have been right on them. Not too major an issue, but enough of an annoyance that it’s worth noting.

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And I should also mention difficulty. I was actually surprised that the normal difficulty was as challenging as it was and I have no shame in admitting that several of the bosses had me dying multiple times. Whether that be because I got stun-locked or blasted by some move that does 80% of my HP, there’s quite the challenge there and you really have to have a lock on the different abilities and such in order to get past some of these bosses.

Fortunately, health items are plentiful and can be used mid-battle (there is an even an upgrade that removes the animation to use them). This is where most of my in-game currency went, as you want to keep not just yourself alive, but your two party members as well and they sometimes like to take unnecessary damage. Regardless, I felt like normal difficulty was a good balance. You get the challenge without ever needing to grind for levels. Still, you can swap it to another difficulty at any time – there are no difficulty-related achievements so it’s up to player preference.

Now outside of the combat, I gotta talk about the aesthetic. It’s this kind of futuristic, dystopian, anime look where all the characters look like they just dropped out of Tokyo Ghoul. It’s not a bad look by any means and the environments and characters all look great. The enemy designs in particular were very cool – they’re like these surreal demons that completely contrast with the environments and help give the game its unique look.

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As for the level design, I was actually a bit impressed at the start with how the game managed to stray away from being too blocky or repetitive. I mean, the game is mostly linear, so I guess that wasn’t too hard to do, but nice to see regardless. However, the last few story chapters kinda threw this out the window.

At that point, the game reverts to the same old blocky rooms connected by long hallways that a lot of weeb games like this tend to use. It is even worse in those chapters because the levels themselves are filled with so many enemy encounters that it felt like they were just padding the game for some additional length – length that was not necessary at that point because the story pacing was already dragging a little bit.

In fact, on that topic, I feel like it should be made absolutely clear that this is a VERY story heavy game. Like, it’s pretty much a 50-50 split between gameplay and cutscenes – and those cutscenes are done in fully-voiced manga panel style, with very little animation. This is fine for me as a visual novel fan, but is definitely something to keep in mind when considering the game’s length. It takes around 16-20 hours to clear the main story, double that if you run through it again as the other playable character (which also changes the story a little bit). There is a new game+ mode, but if you’re looking for more traditional side content – then there really isn’t a lot here.

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I mean, there are side quests, but they are 100% fetch quests and simply not worth the time. The only notable side content comes in the form of bond events, which expand on individual characters and enhance their ability as each level is completed. Other than that, it is a fairly linear experience.

As for the quality of the story – I think it can be best summed up as “VERY anime”. You’ve got the tropey characters, the completely absurd plot developments, the abundance of random sci-fi elements, and some very hit-or-miss writing. The story will go from some cool plot twist to some overly long dialogue exchange where you’re repeatedly slapped with some simple point over and over.

There are some serious elements – there’s actually some political stuff – but don’t go in expecting anything too deep. Overall, I would say it is just okay – I kinda liked how over the top it got towards the end, but I won’t deny you gotta have at least some tolerance for this level of anime storytelling.

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That said, the characters are probably the worst thing about this game. Aside from the protagonist, they are completely one-dimensional and hardly get any development outside of their short bonding scenes. I didn’t have a reason to care for any of them and of course, this leads to the more emotional story scenes not quite having that impact the writer’s were probably looking for. So while the story may be entertaining at times, it’s definitely not one that’s going to have any sort of lasting effect.

As for performance, the game does a pretty good job. It looks great and ran almost flawlessly on my 1070 Ti at 1440p. FPS can be uncapped and it hovered at around 70-100 for most of my playthrough at max settings. I played with an Xbox controller and felt that the controls were intuitive enough, but keyboard and mouse is still an option for those that want to go that route – it’s fully rebindable and is definitely playable, although I still think controller is the way to go.

I did run into a grand total of one crash during my playthrough, but this was fortunately during a cutscene after an auto-save, so I didn’t lose any progress. And really the only bug I ran into was this weird issue where my camera got locked onto a dead body and would not leave, but other than that the game is very well-polished.

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Scarlet Nexus is a fun action RPG all things considered. The combat is fluid, the aesthetic is great, and it runs almost flawlessly as well. That said, the story is a bit hit or miss and the characters are just straight garbage, but not enough to warrant passing it over. I enjoyed my time with it and would recommend it to those into similar anime action RPGs – even in spite of its problems.

Score: 7/10

Quote: Scarlet Nexus is a fun action RPG all things considered. The combat is fluid, the aesthetic is great, and it runs almost flawlessly as well. Recommended for those into similar anime action RPGs.

Scarlet Nexus retails for $60 USD on Steam, but you can get an official Steam key for 15% off through my Gamesplanet partner link. This also applies to the deluxe edition. Scarlet Nexus is also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.