Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game
The original Nights of Azure, which released in the west in March of last year, marked a departure for Gust, the development studio best known for the Atelier RPG series. A hack-and-slash action RPG, it made its name on the PS4 outside of Japan.
Its sequel, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon, however, expands its reach to new hardware and is Gust’s first title to appear on the Nintendo Switch.
Set decades after the first game, the set-up for the sequel requires no knowledge of the original to understand. Nights of Azure 2 is set in the same world overrun by demons infected by the Blue Blood, but the characters and circumstances are different. The protagonist 'Aluche' -- a young knight of the Curia tasked with fighting the demons -- is ordered to escort the Curia’s chosen Bride of Time to a place of sacrifice, where her death will seal away the Moon Queen. To Aluche’s dismay, the Bride of Time is her childhood friend Liliana, but she goes ahead with her mission.
From that point, things quickly go sideways. On their way to the sacrifice site, Aluche is killed in a surprise premature encounter with the Moon Queen, only to be resurrected by a Curia scientist that infuses her with some of the Blue Blood of the legendary Arnice (the first game’s protagonist), turning the once human Aluche into a half-demon. Armed with new powers, Aluche makes it her mission to find the now-missing Liliana, as well as a way to stop the Moon Queen that won’t require her friend’s sacrifice.
The story and characters in Nights of Azure 2 are among the game’s high points.
With a cast that grows over time, Aluche meets a ragtag collection of allies along her journey, all of whom are beautiful young women like herself. The game isn’t shy about this fact at all, and in some ways, feels like a Japanese lesbian romance in the form of an action game. In fact, the game’s lighter interludes feature plenty of sexual humor, and at times it’s a little surprising that the game managed to avoid an M rating despite the lack of red blood or sexual content beyond some slinky costumes and innuendo.
The core gameplay in Nights of Azure 2 is hack-and-slash action that’s simple to learn.
By default, Aluche uses a sword she can swing for combos of light and heavy attacks, and she can jump, guard, and perform a quick dash as a dodge. However, she’s not alone in combat; she leads a party consisting of one CPU-controlled partner (of a number that the player can choose from), and two Servan, who act independently, or can be ordered to act with the shoulder triggers.
For Aluche’s CPU partners (or “Lilies” as they’re called in-game), each partner has her own set of strengths and skills, including special attacks they can perform with Aluche once proper requirements are met, in addition to passive skills that will automatically trigger under the right conditions. On the Normal difficulty, they’re competent and aren’t a burden when acting on their own, but there are commands that let the player dictate their basic behavior.
Servan, on the other hand, are little benevolent fiends Aluche can befriend after rescuing them from flower traps. There are several varieties, including those that can turn into alternative weapon types for Aluche to wield, those that protect the party, or that inflict elemental damage. A few key Servan also have the ability to clear away or surpass obstacles on maps that lead to shortcuts, treasure chests, or additional Servan. There’s no requirement that the player find them all, but each one has its own distinct personality and history, whether that be helpful, tragic, imposing, or eccentric. Collectively, they’re a delight.
If there’s one big area in which Nights of Azure 2 falls short in its gameplay, it’s really in giving the Lilies and Servan enough to do. The Lilies all have side-stories with their own quest chains to accomplish, but these quests have the player visiting the same maps over and over, with little variation save for where a target enemy or objective is on a map. And while there are plenty of Servan to befriend and bring into the party, there were many that I simply never took into battle, and at least on the Normal difficulty, I never felt penalized for sticking with the same three or four for most of the game.
There are also time limits to consider. Aluche’s half-demon body doesn’t have the stamina to fight forever, and each excursion, which represents one night, has a set time limit. This limit starts at a flat ten minutes, but grows gradually as she levels up, and as points are spent on skill tree nodes to give her more time. The other time limit has to do with a magical azure moon. With each passing night, the moon wanes more and more, and the player must defeat the boss at the end of each chapter before it wanes completely, or its game over. The game does offer an emergency option to restart from the beginning of the current chapter in a worst-case scenario, but I never needed to use it. In fact, the moon time limit was never an issue for me, and I never felt pressed by the threat of a new moon.
The game’s boss fights are a mixed bag. Most them are well done and offer a decent challenge relative to the rest of the game’s difficulty.
But then there are the outliers. One of them was comically easy in a way that, combined with his absurd presentation, I can only imagine was intentional. And one boss fight toward the end was marred by a second phase that was nothing but tedious and seemed designed only to eat away at the timer.
There are some odd quirks in the Switch version that need to be noted. One is that the game is inconsistent with its use of the A and B buttons. The A button is used for environment interaction and talking to characters, while B is used as the confirmation button in the game’s menus. This leads to unintuitive moments like pressing A to open the Save menu, and once in the menu pressing B to select a file and save the game. There were many times when I accidentally backed out of menus I had just opened because the A button is also “cancel” when in a menu.
On two occasions in the twenty-plus hours of playing prior to writing this review, the game crashed and returned to the Switch home menu. However, both times it occurred were just seconds after I had saved the game, and so no progress was lost. Hopefully, Koei Tecmo will release a patch to address this issue, but the crashes were, fortunately, minor inconveniences at best.
Complaints about repetition, boss fights, and technical quirks aside, I feel the game is still worth playing.
The characters and world of Nights of Azure 2 are consistently entertaining, and the combat is fun. While the game lacks elements of polish, the core of the experience still manages to shine. It’s recommended if you’re looking for a fun action RPG, but don’t expect the smoothest experience.
+ Entertaining characters and story with multiple endings
+ Fun hack-and-slash gameplay
+ Full Japanese voice acting
+ Beautiful character designs and models
- Technical and design issues
- Sidequests require visiting the same maps repeatedly
- Inconsistent boss fight quality
- The game offers no hints on how to earn the better endings
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Nights of Azure 2 is recommended if you’re looking for a fun action RPG, but don’t expect the smoothest experience.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher