When I reviewed Nights of Azure a couple of years ago, I didn’t have high hopes going in. While it largely met my expectations, I was surprised by the depth of the combat and in particular the music. Part of me hoped that if the game did get a sequel that they’d take some of the criticisms on board while keeping the stuff that worked. Sadly in Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon, it seems Gust have ignored all of that and created a sequel that’s notably worse.
Firstly, the story in the first game was awful, but it at the very least had an uncommonly seen trope, even if it was handled terribly. Nights of Azure 2 takes place in the same universe, several hundred years later and yet the game has the same rough plot of girl meets up with childhood friend who is chosen to be sacrificed to a great evil to stop it, only this time there’s a third wheel who now works for a separate organisation who don’t want to sacrifice the chosen.
Similarities don’t end there as Aluche – the main protagonist in this game, shares a similar fate to Arnice – the protagonist from the first game: She’s a half-demon. In fact the only major difference in the plot is that somehow the main character has an infuriatingly aloof personality, meaning she doesn’t see certain advances from her other childhood friend. It’s somehow a worse depiction of same-sex relationships than the first game and exists solely for titillation.
Oh, and the dialogue that was awful in the previous game is made worse by a huge amount of repetition. In one early scene, Aluche and her friend are talking about Aluche’s chosen career, in which she proclaims that she is a Knight to protect her twice, before the friend chuckles before saying something to the effect of “you’re a Knight now”. It’s far from the only instance, making the script frankly the worst bit of fan fiction I’ve heard or read.
The first game had two comic-relief male characters that didn’t add anything to the story. Nights of Azure 2’s solution to this issue is to eliminate men entirely from the plot, a choice that’s different, but is not handled well. Instead, everyone is either an improbably busty female with severe hypopnea, or a monster – none have any personality beyond expectation thanks to awfully generic dialogue, poor narrative, and somehow even worse Japanese voice acting even to English ears.
To say any more about the plot and characterisation would be a moot point at this juncture. It’s clear now that Gust don’t want to make this a series that has an interesting plot, diverse characters, or make an iota of sense to anyone not fixated on the improbable boobs. Part of me feels foolish for even thinking that the developers would be able to learn from their mistakes in this regard.
Also returning, much to my distain, are the various performance issues, and boy are they back in force! From the first fight, there were severe framerate issues throughout, occasionally struggling to maintain even double digits in moments even the first game would cope with. Not to mention the multitude of times the game crashed on me and that there are reused assets in various locations, and even the hotel that the team rest in; it all points to the fact this is a rush job.
At this point, none of the things mentioned so far are things that were “good” in the first game, just things that didn’t get better. What definitely coloured my opinion on this game were the things Gust managed to screw up spectacularly.
Music in the original, while it wasn’t to everyone’s taste, was at the very least catchy rock that suited the areas ventured into. Nights of Azure 2 attempts to emulate the style but comes off as generic at best and dreadful otherwise. In fact, in writing this review I’m still humming the first game’s soundtrack rather than recalling anything in the sequel.
And yet, if the combat is able to somehow come through and expand in meaningful ways, I could forgive a lot of the game’s transgressions. Regrettably, it’s worse. Aluche has a time limit in each zone, but there’s actually now a Game Over state if the moon becomes a New Moon. Since each day constitutes as a phase in the moon’s cycle, this puts unnecessary pressure and as such limited grinding opportunity. You can reduce the moon’s progress by defeating bosses, but frankly it’s frustrating.
Nights of Azure 2’s combat system’s big sin though is cutting in half a key thing that sort of worked in the first game – the Servans, meaning that Aluche can only control two at one time. Those that liked the transformations will be equally disappointed as they’re nowhere to be seen here. In its place is yet another reminder of the direction the developers wanted to take the game.
Aluche can be accompanied by one of the other patrons of the hotel, including the owner. All of them have a relationship meter, meaning that certain actions such as traversing obstacles in the world, completing their side-quests, and having them accompany Aluche in the first place increases their bond, thus unlocking attacks for them to use to assist her in battle. Aside from the obvious issue, the mechanic is just frankly boring.
In order to trigger the special moves, you’ll need to time attacks to coincide with the partner’s attacks. This is troublesome normally as in order to do this, you’ll need to find them and time it very carefully. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the mechanics involved, but it lacks creativity as similar mechanics have been used better elsewhere.
If there’s one nice thing I can say about the game is that there is still a lot of side-quests to do on top of the main campaign. Sure it’s just heading to point X on a map and beating up the monsters there, but there’s a mild bit of diversity in what completing that side-quest does. Completing them was a mere diversion on the main path most times, rather than requiring me to go out of my way to achieve them.
Compared to the original, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is an utter disgrace. For me, it took all the good stuff out and amplified the things that didn’t work. Performance is notably worse, and don’t get me started again about how bad the dialogue is in this cookie cutter excuse for a sequel. Even if you like this kind of titillation, this is a remarkably poor example of it. Avoid at all costs.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4