Gust may be best known for their fantastic Atelier series but it's great that they're branching out to new franchises. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is a sequel to last year's gothic tale so let's see how haunting it is.
To be honest, I never played the original Nights of Azure. It's one of those games that I kept looking at with curious eyes but never quite took the plunge. Now that I've played this sequel, I can see that I've been missing out. As far as I know, the story involves friends Aluche and Liliana being attacked and Aluche dies in the process. However, she's then revived with the help of a demon power that now resides within her. So, she takes it upon herself to find Liliana and ensure that she's not sacrificed in a mysterious ritual. The game world is very dark and gothic which I enjoyed. It comes across as a Castlevania-style anime RPG but with scantily-clad ladies as opposed to buff dudes.
Although the world is intriguing, I found the story to be quite flat (unlike the female cast). After playing for about five hours, I started skipping story and dialogue scenes because they began to be predictable and downright boring. The cast of characters are mostly stereotypical although I did enjoy watching Eleanor's antics. She's a chocolatier and her attacks even result in melted chocolate everywhere. It's quite unique to watch that sort of thing in the heat of battle. That being said, almost everyone else seemed cookie cutter and lacked depth of character.
The gameplay is where Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon shines brightest. Basically, every time you enter a dungeon, a timer will start counting down. Therefore, you have to maximize your efficiency for each trip in order to get the most out of your efforts. The dungeons are set up in a way that you can permanently unlock doors so there's a Metroidvania twist as you utilize abilities such as burning down blockades and jumping to high-up cliffs with the help of a butterfly-like beast. I found this system to be incredibly addictive and rewarding as you don't usually have much incentive to be efficient in action RPGs yet you're constantly pushed to give it your all here. There's nothing more satisfying than collecting a ton of treasures and progressing the story significantly before returning home.
Of course, you'll find yourself beating on hordes of enemy demons as you traverse the dungeons. The combat is reminiscent of a Dynasty Warriors game in that you hack and slash through crowds of monsters while unleashing the odd special move although there's a more action-oriented system in play here as you must guard and dodge with precision if you want to survive the tougher intimate one-on-one boss battles. Speaking of which, the bosses can be super-fun to fight. Sometimes, you'll have to use your environment to take them down such as one where you rotate mirrors to point lasers at the boss and another where you have to prevent a massive tunneling beast from ascending a column. It's cool stuff that'll make your hands tense up as you try to emerge victorious.
The character growth system is a lot like Bloodborne where you collect enemy blood then use it to level up. Upon doing so, you can allocate Ability Points to acquire specific boosts. As you explore, you'll discover various monsters to recruit known as Servans. These not only assist you in battle, they're also necessary in order to break down certain barriers. You can level them up with Servan Points, watch them evolve, and reincarnate them back to level 1 but with an increased level cap. Finally, you can purchase and strengthen pieces of equipment that offer even more stat boosts. These systems work beautifully together and make progression even more addictive.
All of that being said, every trip to the dungeon makes the moon darker and once it's completely dark, you have to begin that chapter all over from the beginning again which can be devastating. It happened to me once and I assumed that I would carry some things over to make my second attempt a bit easier. However, nothing did carry over so you can imagine how annoying it was having to redo a couple hours of the campaign all over again. Although this provides incentive to play smarter, it's so disheartening that I can't help but fault the game in general for implementing this system as harshly as it does.
My only other complaint is that the environments in Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon are very dull and unmemorable. A lot of them feature darkened areas that are frankly difficult to traverse. I found myself squinting through a lot of the campaign and that's not cool. I don't know how games like Dark Souls implement this style so well but clearly the developers of this still have a lot to learn.
Simply put, if you're a fan of action RPGs and are looking for something unique and surprisingly addictive then Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon may have what it takes to be your next genre obsession.
- + Addictive Metroidvania-like timed dungeons that thoroughly test your efficiency
- + Action-packed battles with cool bosses
- + Rewarding character growth
- - Dull environments can be so dark that you have to squint to traverse them
- - Uninteresting story and characters
- - Failing a chapter is too devastating