Microsoft featured many new games during May's Inside Xbox showcase and one of the titles to pique our interest was Bandai Namco's anime spectacle Scarlet Nexus. During the initial presentation, we saw a fast-paced action RPG set in a futuristic world that was being attacked by a strange threat. People with special abilities then fought these mysterious enemies, using their psychic powers.
These powers were made a reality due to the fact that people in the virtual distant future had discovered a "psionic hormone" in human brains. According to Game Director Kenji Anabuki, who worked as a lead designer on 2008's Tales of Vesperia, this supernatural topic runs through every key aspect of the game. The developer was kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding this fascinating world and despite the fact that a lot of the information about the overarching story is set to be revealed at a later date, he gave us a rough synopsis:
"In the story, humankind seems to be living a similar life like ours, but the technologies they use are actually dependent on the power of their brains. Moreover, the Others, who seek for developed human brains, and the OSF, who draw strong powers [...] from their brains to confront them, are all related in the centre of this focus on 'brains'."
Understandably, Anabuki did not wish to talk any further about the story at this point, but he was open to discussing the two factions of this conflict in more detail. On one side we find the dangerous beings called "Others" that seem to descend from the heavens. Normal weapons are ineffective against them, which is where we take over. Our protagonist is Yuito Sumeragi and he uses the power of thought to fight alongside the other members of the "Other Suppression Force".
"The OSF is an organization that is composed of people with powers. It also protects humankind from the Others that are horrifying entities that eat human brains", added Anabuki.
We wanted to learn more about this enemy, but the publisher is planning to make announcements regarding this threat at a later date. However, what we could talk about was the design of these otherworldly creatures and that gave us quite a few exciting insights. At first, the game's director was a little hesitant about this topic, but he eventually opened up revealing what impressions those dangerous opponents would give the players:
"Putting natural elements in the 'Others' is not related to naturalism in any way. The main reason they are constructed as such is tied to the story. Unfortunately, for now, I can't give you much more details on this symbolic though. The best way to understand it will be by playing the game!"
"That being said, to go deeper, the reason of using natural elements in the Others design is that we wanted to express that they are unusual entities you wouldn't encounter in ordinary life. Putting organic and mechanic elements in Others is a must because the intent is to create entities that are abnormal and unnatural. To accomplish that, we combined things that are originally inharmonious with one another. The natural elements are just a depiction of the organic side of the Others."
"By making the Others' unnatural and abnormal, their actions will be seen as unpredictable, causing an anxious feeling for players to be careful about them. Still, if we incorporate materials that are totally foreign to the players' perception, they wouldn't be able to imagine Others as a threat, causing the anxiety to be weakened. That's why we went for identifiable elements (eg. the 'Vase Paws' enemy which consists of easily-recognizable vases and human-like legs) in them to accomplish our goal."
After learning why we should beware of these enemies, we discussed how to defend ourselves against this plague. Scarlet Nexus shares a few aspects with other fast-paced character action games, but unlike titles like Bayonetta, the environment plays a bigger role in Scarlet Nexus because we can use parts of it to our advantage in battle. At the same time, it looks like Yuito is able to shape his own thoughts to fight off the enemies in the game. Because this sounds pretty complicated, we asked the developer for a more detailed description of Scarlet Nexus' combat system.
"In battles, players can directly interact with objects scattered in the field and use them to interfere with enemies by swinging items at them", Anabuki explained to Gamereactor. "As various objects have different sizes and weights, there is also a difference in how influencing they are to the Others. You do not only deal damage to enemies, but you can also make use of the advantages of different objects, for example, putting enemies under special effects by using specific objects or crushing a certain enemy with a specific object at the right time."
"For instance, you can use utility poles by bending them and attacking enemies. You can synchronize the movement of the pole by using the D-Pad, providing a very realistic experience to the player. Moreover, by cancelling weapon attacks and switching to psychokinesis you could do special attack combinations, but do make sure you are ready for the [enemies] attacks between actions! The way of combining your power and weapons is the biggest key factor of defeating enemies and progressing in Scarlet Nexus."
While on the topic of fighting, the game's producer Keita Iizuka was the producer from last year's soulsesque Code Vein in which players had to make crucial moment-to-moment decisions based on their current situations to battle blood-thirsty revenants and other monsters. Based on the explanations of Anabuki, Scarlet Nexus has an evenly quick combat system, but an overall more strategic focus. How do the two games differ from each other?
"In Code Vein we aimed to provide a thrilling battle experience to players. However, in Scarlet Nexus (though developed also as an action RPG) we seek to give players a different experience. To be specific, we want our players to have a hands-on experience on the bond between characters, their existence and the story development, through exploring the world and overcoming dangers in the game."
"We will be presenting Scarlet Nexus as an action RPG, in which players experience both action battles and storytelling."
Anabuki and his team helped develop multiple 'Tales of' games and after talking about the battles so extensively, we wanted to shed some light on this background too. Thus, we wanted to know what kind of impact these Tales of-roots might have on Scarlet Nexus' production in terms of RPG elements:
"Both games are RPGs with action elements, which enabled us to use our game development experience on Tales of series into Scarlet Nexus", the director answered. "For instance, it has an impact on the way we envision the battle system, the character traits development, the progression or the balance between the story and the gameplay."
Scarlet Nexus will also release on next-gen platforms, and to conclude our chat, we wanted to hear, directly from the developer, what advantages players can expect to find on these modern systems. Of course, high resolution, as well as high frame-rates, were highlighted in Anabuki's answer, but we also got another reason as to what the additional computing power will be used for:
"Thanks to the high processing powers of the hardware on next generation, the game will feature high frame-rates, while having very demanding processes related to character representation we wanted to achieve. Moreover, the shortening of loading times will definitely give the player a more immersive game experience than ever before."
"Regarding Scarlet Nexus set-up, this won't be an open-world but a true action RPG game. We will focus on delivering the best experience possible with a progression around the storyline and action battles."
We want to thank Kenji Anabuki, his team and publisher Bandai Namco for the interview and we look forward to receiving further information about Scarlet Nexus in the coming weeks.