With Scarlet Nexus, Bandai Namco is introducing us all to something new - the brainpunk genre - and the idea behind it is rooted in the fantasy of being able to do almost anything with the power of your mind. In an alternate timeline, mankind has discovered a psychological hormone in peoples' brains and that leads to an exponential increase of their intellectual abilities. Some learned to give their thoughts a physical form while others were able to lift objects from far away using the power of one's spirit.
On top of that, new technologies such as the Psynet were invented; a giant network which you access simply by thinking about it. That quickly revolutionised how people process and share information and as a result, humans geared up all of their technology around these newfound abilities. However, while you'll find many subtle changes in this world that contrast our own, the brainpunk world isn't entirely different from what we know. Everything is slightly more advanced, after all, and Scarlet Nexus is a modern action-adventure that plays out in the near future, but people still have to deal with similar problems, at least to some extent.
Scarlet Nexus asks philosophical questions such as: "What does loneliness mean when your own thoughts are constantly connected to those of others?". That said, related questions about privacy and the protection of the individual are not the tonal focus of this new action-adventure from Bandai Namco, although they will play a role in Scarlet Nexus, producer Keita Iizuka and game director Kenji Anabuki recently told us during a video interview.
That all sounds well and good, however, sometime after this version of humanity reaches its new level of evolution, terrible beings started to emerge from the heavens and even the evolved people of the future cannot fully grasp their nature. These creatures - the Others - are only following their instincts but it leads them straight to our most sophisticated brains. The developers describe the Others as a natural disaster, comparable to a tsunami or an earthquake. Apparently, conventional weapons have little effect against this plague, but humanity has once again learned to adapt.
The human race is able to pinpoint, with relative accuracy, where this threat will come from next. This is also the reason why the people of the metropolis New Himuka do not live in complete fear, constantly fighting for survival, rather than going about their daily business with a certain degree of normalcy. If an endangered region is identified and evacuated at an early stage, the so-called OSF, an elite military unit that specialises in fighting the Others, steps in.
"Actually what we wanted to emphasise in the Scarlet Nexus world is that Others have existed a long time already alongside with the humans, so it has become natural [...] that the Others do exist with them together," producer Keita Iizuka told us. "Of course, they do feel afraid of them and fear them in a way but it has become a natural coexistence where it's already been a long, long time that the Others have entered the humans' world. [It's] kind of a long term relationship where it's also become a part of their natural life that the OSF protects humanity from the Others."
Our young hero Yuito Sumeragi is at the centre of it all. As a descendant of the noble founding family of a powerful empire - which, according to the team, breaks the boundaries our old-fashioned understanding of traditional states and borders - he was expected to pursue a career in the civil service, but a significant event in his past sparked a desire within Yuito to protect people from the dangers from above.
"One point that is really central in the storytelling is that Yuito was rescued in the past by the OSF," Iizuka adds. "And another point that will be very central is not only the OSF's existence as some battle team that fights against the Others but also how the relationships among the members within the OSF, how that relationship may change or change not and how that may change the OSF."
Fighting the Others does remind me of the combat in Bayonetta and the Devil May Cry games (although I expect the action to be more focused on ground combat for now). With the help of some supernatural powers, Yuito uses telekinesis to lift heavy objects within the environment and uses them in battle, unleashing devastating long-range combat abilities. With enough concentration, he can swing street lamps and cars at his enemies, until his GP bar is empty. This energy system will slowly regenerate over time but you can always switch to hand-to-hand combat and quickly replenish GP with successful hits.
With his mentally-amplified katana, Yuito might not have tons of range, but he certainly has the dexterity necessary to drive the Others back. If done correctly, an almost rhythmic combat dynamic arises where close-range and long-range combos with flashy animations and bursts of light from exploding objects flow into one another. Over the course of the game, you will level up and unlock skills on a classic skill tree in order to strengthen these combos, benefit from additional effects, or improve the stats of your hero. You'll also receive support from your comrades because Yuito does not have to fight this dangerous threat on his own.
"Originally we were inspired by tales like Cyborg 009 where a group of people team up with each member having their own special ability or special power," game director Kenji Anabuki told Gamereactor. "Each one of them has their own power but they join in as a team and because of the expertise of each member of the team, they become very successful. That was our idea, to use this image for a game. At that time things like Akira or Gantz have a certain danger to the person who uses that power. We also liked the idea of the danger of the power being used by the person who owns it. That was the idea that we thought would be fun for the players to enjoy, to have this kind of psychokinesis superpowers that gamers can choose from and use."
The comrade system takes inspiration from the Tales of series, which is Anabuki's field of expertise after working on more than one game in that series. Yuito's comrades at the OSF lend their powers in combat, and that grants access to unique fighting abilities. One of your first companions is Hanabi Ichiko, who is able to flame up her blade with the power of her thoughts. Yuito can borrow these skills from his active party members, but there is a small cooldown attached to them. Unfortunately, we haven't found out if this mechanic comes with any noticeable drawback, but as the game progresses you will gain more allies and additional powers. Of course, nurturing these bonds between Yuito and his allies will determine how much potential is realised from these connections.
"Basically it starts off that you can only use one and borrow the power of one of your comrades but as the game goes along you can, for example, use two powers at the same time," Iizuka explains. "So also the other person would then be able to use two powers. And even further in the game, you will be able to use, for example, four powers at the same time. That really adds to the experience - the variety of powers that you will be able to use becomes wider and wider."
Right now, Scarlet Nexus' battles are the most advanced part of the on-going production, according to Kenji Anabuki. Although the initial concept work started all the way back in 2015, the other systems still need more refinement. In the end, as explained by producer Keita Iizuka, this should result in a comprehensive action-RPG that will last 40 to 50 hours. It is also noteworthy that New Himuka does not offer an open world, rather it should be a relatively linear experience. Nevertheless, the project shouldn't lack anything in terms of content, since classic side quests, character progress, and deepening the connections to our comrades should keep you busy.
Scarlet Nexus is set to be released on old and new-gen systems, as well as on PC, although we're still not exactly sure when. The old-gen platforms will offer full HD at 30 frames per second, while the next-gen hardware is targeting 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (with the PC able to deliver a similar experience, if the recommended specs are met).
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