Scarlet Nexus (Xbox, PC) interview: Talking brainpunk, anime, and cosplay with industry vets Keita Iizuka and Kenji Anabuki

Scarlet Nexus boss defeat
Scarlet Nexus boss defeat (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Cyberpunk dystopias have been the backdrop of all kinds of media for years, but Scarlet Nexus, the upcoming action RPG from Bandai Namco Studios, is hoping to create a brain punk future that RPG and anime fans alike can fall in love with. But building the futuristic world of Scarlet Nexus is an enormous undertaking, but one that the brains at Bandai Namco have dealt with before.

We got a chance to pick at the minds of Game Producer Keita Iizuka and Game Director Kenji Anabuki behind the upcoming RPG and learned a little more about how their past experiences helped inform Scarlet Nexus gameplay, some insight into the game's dual narrative, and most importantly, which character would they want to cosplay as.

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

Zackery Cuevas, Windows Central: There have been plenty of cyberpunk games and even steampunk, but Scarlet Nexus has been described as a Brain Punk game — what does Brain Punk mean, and how does it shape Scarlet Nexus' world?

Keita Iizuka, Game Producer: The world of Scarlet Nexus is indeed built around the keyword "brain". The story is set in a future world where various devices can be operated and interacted with thanks to the brain through direct connection, and information is directly reflected in the individuals' brain. In addition, the existence of the "Others", hungry for developed human brains, and the "powers" that maximizes the power of the brain and enable the user to cause supernatural events to happen, are also elements centered around this notion of "brain" in Scarlet Nexus.

Both of you have both previously worked on Code Vein and Tales series, in particular the fan-favorite Tales of Vesperia. Can you tell me how, if at all, your work on Tales informed your work on Scarlet Nexus?

Kenji Anabuki, Game Director: Both Scarlet Nexus and the Tales Of series are RPGs with action elements, so we are utilizing our previous development experience in every aspect of the development process.

There is no end to the number of details I could go into, but in terms of the major points, we developed Scarlet Nexus based on our experience in areas such as the battle system design, game and story balance, growth systems, and game cycle design.

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

Scarlet Nexus literally means a red connection or a red link. Judging from the design of the characters, and the red strings or threads seem to inform the game's look and overall theme. Could you clue us in on what the Scarlet Nexus is exactly?

Anabuki: The "red threads" are an important element in this game. The red threads you can see in each location are the infrastructure of this world. When the red cable is connected to the characters' back, they can connect their brains with allies and borrow their power. This connection is also very important in the story, and you'll learn more by playing the game!

Scarlet Nexus is set in a world where technology and society have been altered by the substances found in human brains, unlocking extrasensory superpowers in the process, what kinds of different powers will we see in the game and how will these different powers be used in throughout the game?

Iizuka: Multiple powers appear in this game, including Yuito and Kasane's psychokinesis, the powers from the party characters, and also the powers of the other characters in the story. Although only the powers of the party members can be used in gameplay, there are many variations in how they can be combined and used.

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

The beat-by-beat gameplay immediately reminded me of games like Nier Automata and Astral Chain and seems very combo-heavy. What types of inspiration did you draw from while developing Scarlet Nexus' combat?

Anabuki: In order to take advantage of my own development experiences, I wanted to inherit, to some extent, the exhilarating battles from the Tales Of series I had developed in the past, into Scarlet Nexus. In addition to that, we of course took references from other fluid and exhilarating action games. However, our main focus was on the unique elements of this game, action centered on different powers such as psychokinesis.

The Others are these deranged species of mutants that serve as the game's main enemies. They look like they're made up of things found in the world — What is the significance of these mutated monstrosities and why do want to eat brains so badly?

Anabuki: Indeed, the Others are very intriguing and hungry for human brains. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much more for now. But you'll find out pretty soon when the game releases in June!

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

Scarlet Nexus first made its appearance during Microsoft's Xbox 20/20 event back in August. How has the team been able to harness the power of the Xbox Series X?

Iizuka: The game incorporates a mix of anime style, cel-shading techniques, and also realism for characters and backgrounds. The game also features dynamic action battles and seamless transitions between action and story, making it very demanding for processing powers. However, with the high graphical performance and processing speed of the Xbox Series X, players can play the game enjoying great performances.

Scarlet Nexus features a dual narrative and tells the story of Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall, two hugely different members of the Other Suppression Force (OSF). Can you tell us about the process behind crafting these two unique characters and how they relate to the world around them?

Anabuki: We hoped that by looking at the world of Scarlet Nexus, from different angles through the perspectives of the two protagonists, the audience will be able to reveal hidden truths and experience new surprises that they could not by just seeing the story from only one point of view.

They both are very different: in many ways: male vs. female, "dropout" vs. "elite," "friendly" vs. "calm", "rational" vs. "cool," etc. To very roughly describe the two, I'd say that Yuito is the traditional protagonist, while Kasane is the sharp, slightly original hero. The fact that they have different characteristics makes the story more interesting. We also tried to make the player feels sympathy towards the protagonist of their choice, and to make them feel close to them.

In addition, we have tried to differentiate the battle styles and game experience in battle so that the player can enjoy both stories differently without being bored during their overall experience playing the game.

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

Just recently, an anime adaptation was announced. Can you tell us a little bit about how the anime ties in with the game? How involved was the team in developing the anime? Will fans of Scarlet Nexus be able to learn more about the world and its characters, or is it more of a retelling of the events of the game?

Iizuka: In the anime series, the story revolves around both Yuito and Kasane. While it follows the same storyline as the game, it includes a lot of additional descriptions and expressions of the world and characters that are not depicted in the game.

The game development staff are also involved in the production of the anime and we are working closely. As we have created a story that suits each media, we hope that you will enjoy both of them.

Throughout the game, both Yuito and Kasane are accompanied by other members of the OSF, each with their own unique abilities. Are there opportunities to strengthen the bonds between you and these characters?

Iizuka: You can deepen your bond with the party characters that accompany you. Yuito and Kasane are two very different characters, but you'll meet many different allies from both perspectives. We hope that you will enjoy playing the game while discovering out how the drama of the members unfolds inside the OSF.

There's currently a cosplay contest to promote the game's release, with the 1st prize being an Xbox Series X. Be honest, are you excited to see people dress up as characters that you've created? And who would you cosplay as?

Iizuka: Of course I'm looking forward to the entries! If I would be participating it would be as Kagero, because he has that cloak-styled hood and his usage of knives as weapons is really cool, just like an assassin.

Special thanks to Keita Iizuka and Kenji Anabuki!

Once upon a time, the Xbox would've been considered an RPG wasteland, but those days are long behind us now. The Xbox has become the home to many excellent RPGS, and Scarlet Nexus seems poised to be the next great addition. While the devs might be keeping Scarlet Nexus' plot close to their chest, be sure to check out our preview of Scarlet Nexus for more on the game's plot, gameplay, and read our first impressions after we got to experience the world of Scarlet Nexus first hand.

Players will be able to check out the game for themselves when the demo for Scarlet Nexus arrives first on the Xbox One and Xbox Series X and Series S on May 21. While you won't be able to transfer your save data to the final game, playing the demo will unlock two cosmetics for each protagonist, as well as two pieces of equipment that provide attack and defense boosts. Scarlet Nexus arrives on the Xbox family of systems on June 25th.

Zackery Cuevas

Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. I like playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.