Nights of Azure Review

JRPGs, or Japanese role playing games, have evolved from the top down, isometric style we have grown to know and love throughout the years. Although it still remains to keep grasp of the timeless, age old mechanics of turn based fighting, magic spells and of course, random battles, JRPG games have gone towards the more real time action style of gameplay. A lot of these old fundamentals still remain in modern day JRPGs but there is one aspect that is the main reason the ‘J’ is in JRPG. That is the art style which generally adopts the anime form which is ridiculously popular nowadays.

Publisher Tecmo Koei certainly are no stranger to JRPGs brimming with action. Nights of Azure is set to carry on the trend. Taking a JRPG form whilst sticking to a more traditional third person action formula, developers Gust Co. Ltd, best known for their Atelier series, has created quite a unique game in terms of plot. Nights of Azure is set in the uncharted location of Rusewall Island where nobody sleeps at night. This is because the battle between the Ruler of the Night and the last saint ended with the Ruler’s demise which caused his corrupted “blue blood” to spread across the whole island. It turns anyone it touches to decrepit demons called Jayou who roam at night. Nowhere is safe. The Ruler’s return is imminent and if his legion manage to turn the moon crimson red, he can once again….ahem….rule.

You play as Arnice, who is mysteriously incapable of transforming into Jayou ,and is soon tasked with protecting her best friend Lilysse who begrudgingly becomes the next saint. Arnice is a compassionate and caring person who will stop at nothing to keep Lilysse safe, and when it comes down to it, she can kick some serious ass. Lilysse, on the other hand, is naive and considerably weaker than Arnice. It’s hard not to like her. She is ditsy and strange, yet cute. The story is quite an intriguing one. Unique and very anime. The dialogue is cheesy at times giving off the fact that Arnice and Lilysse are both young with some excruciatingly cringey spiel.

Playing as Arnice is fun. She is fast and deadly, able to dispose of enemies using a variety of combos which players can utilize by varying the light and heavy attack buttons in an assortment of different ways. They are satisfyingly flashy as whips of light escape whatever weapon Arnice is brandishing which range from a good variety of swords. During manic, enemy filled sections, the light display is a beautiful assault on the senses. To top her impressive move set off though, the tap of the ‘X’ button unleashes Arnice’s special attack. This is her flashiest move which triggers the camera to zoom in, in a cinematic fashion before Arnice deals out her strongest attack at the expense of ‘SP’ or Special Points. Attacking enemies fills up a special meter which, when full, allows her to transform into her demonic form which grants her access to a different yet more powerful move set. The combat is fantastic and surprisingly deep once you begin to level up and spend ‘blue blood’ droplets collected from defeated enemies to earn new moves.

What is unique about Nights of Azure‘s gameplay is that Arnice can collect Servan, Pokémon-like creatures who can assist her in battle, as well as provide some amusing dialogue in between quests. They range from a little deadly imp with a sword to a huge gargoyle monstrosity. In battle, they have different uses and you can summon four at once. Your starting three can heal you and your other Servans unleash powerful attacks or area of effect moves. Some can even grant temporary buffs to you or hinder enemies. You can instruct how they behave whether it be all out attack or work as a team or hang back and defend, but they essentially act on their own. It’s up to you though to activate each Servan’s special ability by pressing R1 plus the button corresponding to a particular Servan. Fundamentally, Servan bring a unique spin on the real time fighting system. You truly feel part of a team, but what bugged me about them was that it is hard to set them apart from the enemies as there is no visual difference apart from your guys having blue icons floating above their heads.

The main story is separated into missions which occur in different areas of the island with a hotel acting as your base as such. In between missions which consist mainly of go-here and kill-that quests, Arnice is free to explore the different areas of the island that have been unlocked. Or if you wish, go into the hotel’s basement to compete in the Arena which is just a variety of survival missions and kill everything tasks with all kinds of completion criteria. In terms of actual mission types, there’s not much meat and the constant timer keeps the tension up.

There are loads of loot to find. Weapons, armour, and pickups such as health and SP supplements are aplenty, which can be found from downed enemies and treasure boxes. Unwanted items can be sold to Simon, the hotel manager. I was impressed at the amount of pickups spread all over. Never once did I worry about being low on health as I knew an enemy would drop some healing potions soon. Managing my SP was more of a challenge. It’s too easy to trip the ‘X’ button and get carried away with your Servan’s abilities which often left me short. Without SP, you don’t stand a chance against tougher enemies and bosses are a no go.

Nights of Azure has an interesting location that has been poorly executed. Street levels, the underground subway, and amusement park, pretty much all areas feel empty and lifeless. Acting nothing more than corridors to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’. Some areas branch to encourage some form of exploration but there is never any satisfaction in doing so. Thankfully, the next batch of enemies was never far away to keep me distracted from the terrible level design. It’s clear that the main visual focus on Nights of Azure was spent on the main characters. Arnice and Lilysse are impressively designed with even some of their assets hyper sexualised for the male audience.

Score: 75%

Second Opinion

GR Writer Will Worrall Says…

Where to start with a game like Nights of Azure? Well, I suppose I should start with the first thing I noticed about the game before I even started the download for it: the fan service.

For those of you not familiar with the term, it basically means something that is done to please fans, usually to the detriment of the work as a whole, or at the very least adding nothing to the experience. Nights of Azure is full head to toe with fan service, it’s oozing out of every nook and cranny that can be found, which is a shame really because if the game were more terrible it wouldn’t matter. As it stands, currently the amount of heavy cleavage, impossible breast physics, and suggestive moaning from the two female lead characters do tend to ruin some of the game’s more entertaining moments.

Getting away from the fan service to the actual gameplay, it is really solid and has a bit of a strange combination going for it. The combat primarily focuses on rapid action with a sword that is able to change its form, meaning it can be switched from a heavy slashing blade into two smaller daggers and so on, changing the fighting style mid-combat. You have a heavy attack, a light attack, a dodge, and a special move, and combined with the switching of fighting styles this leaves the game with a decent amount of possible combos without feeling overly sluggish or bloated. On top of the regular combat you also have 4 spaces to equip small creatures to help you, much in the same style as Pokémon or Ni No Kuni, and you can summon them to help you out in different ways. Some of them heal you, some of theme defend you, and a fair number of them attack the enemy with either swords or magic, on top of that equipping the right combination of pet monsters changes the form you can take when you enter your special ‘demon’ mode.

Speaking of which the story of the game concerns a half-demon who is trying to destroy a demonic king so that her friend won’t try to sacrifice herself to keep him trapped. The plot also concerns a town that never sleeps and blue blood that can turn people into monsters, as well as several ‘wacky’ characters and suspiciously human looking demons. Honestly the plot is not one of the games strong points and you’re better off just letting most of it wash past you as you enjoy the fighting.

The leveling system is very strange, and concerns you collecting the blood of your enemies which you can use in a variety of ways. You can use it to summon or power up your creatures, feed it to your sword to give it new forms and abilities, or you can spend it on items at special shops. There was also talk of a way of using it on yourself, but by the time I had got to this feature it still hadn’t made an appearance.

The one major downfall of the game, other than the gratuitous sexualisation, is the levels which tend to just consist of straight corridors, at least in the city/town portions of the game. Things do brighten up a little in certain places like the fair ground or the manor gardens, but other than that everything is just too big and empty, and just takes too long to navigate around.

Overall, as enjoyable as the game is, don’t be surprised if the heavy sexualisation of the main characters keeps dropping you out of the experience, especially during the dream sequences.

Score: 70

Developers: Gust Co. Ltd

Publishers: Tecmo Koei

Platforms: PS4

Release Date: 1st April 2016