We got to take a look at new gameplay for Scarlet Nexus, the new Brainpunk Action-RPG by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Adding to what we first saw of the game, it looks like we’re in for an interesting time. The keynote was presented by the game’s producer, Keita Iizuka, as well as Kenji Anabuki, the game’s director and Art Director Koeta Ochiai.
A Story About Connections
According to the trio, the game’s development started around five years ago. Bandai Namco had brought the original proposal, and Anabuki was charged with making something of it.
“I have been involved with the development of the Tales of series. There is a time when me and some people in our company decided to do something new and challenging. So we organized as a new team quite suddenly, in order to deal with the project. And I think it was 5 years ago. That time in our company, we started making prototypes for R&D purposes”, he says.
The team says they played a lot with the concept of connectedness for Scarlet Nexus. “The red string of fate” is a particularly recurring piece of imagery in the game, with gameplay mechanics evoking its imagery. According to Iizuka, even the game’s name – “Scarlet Nexus”- is drawn from Scarlet, a word associated with the color red, and Nexus, a word emphasizing connection.
The result is a lot of the game’s imagery making use of the red strings, from characters to even scenery. It’s a nice visual style, especially against the world’s more mundane green hues.
The World of Scarlet Nexus
Scarlet Nexus takes place in the city of New Himuka. The game’s director and producer talk about the running theme of the game- “brainpunk” as having a huge effect on the city.
Despite the game taking place in “The near future”, the team says they weren’t going for a cyberpunk aesthetic. The buildings in the game all look contemporary at their core, with a distinct lack of the black-glass surfaces you see in a lot of mainstream games. The concrete-based aesthetic keeps the futurism subtle, only showing itself when you really start to look at it.
According to the game’s developers, New Himuka had a big technological boom after the discovery of special substances in the human brain. Now, humans exist connected to the Psynet. This borrows a lot from a real-world concept, the Internet of Things.
Hello From The Others’ Side
However, New Himuka’s technological advances come at a cost. The game’s main enemies, The Others, hunt humans to eat their brains. These creatures come from a fog cloud called the Extinction Belt, where they drop like rain. According to the game’s developers, by this point in the story they’re not exactly a world-ending event.
“You can compare them to earthquakes in Japan, which could be seen as natural disasters and could be daily occurrences “Anabuki says.
According to Anabuki, the humans’ advanced technology allows them to detect the Others, even predicting when they would appear. As a result, the Others’ Suppresion Force’s (OSF) operations are very successful against the creatures.
“Although their existence is an unsolved mystery, people have been able to have normal daily lives, rather than living in complete fear among them,” says Inuzuka.
The Others are arguably the most visually striking thing about Scarlet Nexus, with their concept that screams surreal. Ochiai says that one of the keywords they worked with designing the Others was that of “foreignness”.
“The thought of something feeling off and alien is where we want our players to start having an interest in the game,” he says.
He goes on to say that their search for this aesthetic lead them to independent artist Masakazu Yamashiro. Yamashiro’s art struck such a chord with the team that they brought him on board, despite his lack of industry experience.
“We added some grotesque elements to everyday items such as flowers and household appliances” said Ochiai.
Introducing Yuito Sumeragi, Protagonist of Scarlet Nexus
Similarly, the team also talked about the game’s protagonist. Yuito Sumeragi is the main character of Scarlet Nexus. The game starts with him wanting to join the OSF, the organization that suppresses Others.
He’s more than just some punk from the streets, however. Yuito Sumeragi is from a prestigious family, whose ancestor had a part in the building of New Himuka 2000 years ago. Him joining the OSF is a big deal, as he carries the Sumeragi name. According to the team, someone of his background would have been more likely to be a politician or bureaucrat. Instead, now he’s fighting the Others as part of the OSF.
“Yuito himself joined the OSF because of his experience of being rescued and he wants to help others. However, the truth that is buried is being uncovered bit by bit in the course of the story” says Iizuka.
Visually, they wanted him to carry the game’s “red strings of fate” motif. As a result, his design features red lines across them. However, Ochiai says it was important to think about how to make the game’s unique elements stand out.
“One of the difficult parts [of design] is that many players would like to fight flamboyantly and look cool. Yet, in order to emphasize the foreignness element in the game, we needed to make the basic things look standard and simple,” Ochiai says. “Still, we managed to achieve the current results by having Yuito wield a sword and inserting red lines and cables into the design.”
One of the coolest features we got to see was Scarlet Nexus’ SAS system. Rather than simply having party members fight alongside you, SAS allows you to link up with them mentally, enhancing your natural abilities with that of your partner.
In the demo footage they showed us, Yuito has one party member, Hanabi. Like her name implies, Hanabi’s special ability is pyrokinesis- meaning she can light things on fire.
Whats more, connecting with Hanabi gives this stylish cut-in of her as Yuito gets red cables extending from his back. In SAS mode, Hanabi can link her mind with Yuito, giving him access to her fiery arsenal. Yuito is also shown doing a flamethrower-type move while linked to Hanabi.
The footage we’ve been shown teased other potential partners for Yuito to link up with, though we weren’t shown what they could do. The game’s UI also has four slots for SAS abilities. Assuming all party members provide two SAS skills based on what we’ve seen from Hanabi, you’re probably going to be only carrying two with you at a time.
This Sword’s Not Just For Show
While Yuito can connect his mind to his partners, that doesn’t mean he’s defenseless. Quite the opposite, Yuito comes with his own sword and unique ability- psychokinesis.
The way Yuito’s Psychokinesis works is quite interesting. Rather than have light and heavy attacks, Yuito can throw objects using the ability to do big damage or stun enemies. However, using this ability can be quite costly as it a) costs meter and b) leaves Yuito vulnerable during its long start-up.
Both of these problems have a solution in Yuito’s sword. It’s much faster than the psychokinesis, and hits with it will fill up Yuito’s PK meter. Additionally, hitting the psychokinesis button at the end of his sword combo will make him follow up with a psychokinetic throw, which comes out much faster than if you’d done it from a neutral position.
However, the flow of combat also changes when Yuito’s at range from his targets. There, the game shows it’s much better to begin your assault with a psychokinesis attack, which Yuito can then follow up with a forward dash to safely close the distance.
This chain-based combat looks really interesting, as it doesn’t focus too much on heavy execution. Rather, success in Scarlet Nexus will be about using the right moves for the right situation, and remembering all the tools assigned to you.
In the gameplay demo they showed us, it looks like Scarlet Nexus’ bossfights will be arena-based. Context-sensitive items will be used to deliver powerful blows to bosses, leaving them open to Yuito and Hanabi’s rally.
Of course, if you’re looking for technical details, we’ve got those too.
Scarlet Nexus will have two releases, one for current gen and one for next-gen. Current gen consoles will get Scarlet Nexus running at 30fps, with 1080p. However, next-gen and PC versions for Scarlet Nexus will support up to 60 fps, as well as 4k. Additionally, the PC version of the game would support keyboard and mouse.
With all this new information, Scarlet Nexus is looking like an interesting new JRPG. The fluid action and interesting concepts make for a world that’s not only engaging, but hopefully immersive to be in. Though no release date has been announced,we can’t wait to get our hands on this one.