- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PS3, Vita
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo
- Developer: Gust
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.koeitecmoeurope.com/games/167/Nights-of-Azure/
- Game code provided by the publisher
Nights of Azure is an original IP, but in terms of story and general premise it’s essentially a sequel. Mind you, it worked for Star Wars, so why not here? Taking place on the fictional Ruswall Island (though making reference to real-world countries), the plot tells a tale that takes place after the defeat of a creature known as the Nightlord. Although the rotter was beaten and sealed away, his blood went flippin’ everywhere and turned all who came into contact with it into monsters known as ‘fiends’. Typical!
You play Arnice, a woman who came into contact with the ‘blue blood’ yet somehow retained her humanity, making her a half-demon warrior. Also central to the plot is the woman who, it soon becomes apparent, is her lover; Lilysse. Their relationship is handled with a subtlety and tenderness that their enormous, barely-covered breasts (which have a tendency to nod in agreement with what they say) do not perhaps lay the foundation for. The Nightlord is returning, a Saint must be sacrificed in order to seal him away again, and guess what? Lilysse is declared the new Saint.
It’s a great setup for a tight and emotional story… which never really happens. It’s not a bad story – there are even rare moments of humour that works – but it’s all a little ‘meh’. The backstory which is explained only patchily, the smooth yet sparse environments, the fact that spoken dialogue is available only in Japanese, and the multiple characters whose stories are never fully explained culminate in a consistently surreal atmosphere. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and people who enjoy games with a strong Japanese identity will really enjoy this; especially as the base game is solid.
It’s an RPG with combat very close to an all-out action game. Arnice can guard, dodge, lock onto enemies (imperfectly), and through levelling up gain access to a total of four different weapons. Each is distinct and will find favour with a different type of player. Then there’s a special area attack which consumes a chunk of SP, and a super-powerful form she can temporarily assume after filling the relevant gauge by squishing enough Fiends.
That’s only half the combat story, though. There are a large number of familiars known as ‘Servans’ to discover and level up, with Arnice able to have a maximum of four at a time with her on the battlefield. There are both attack and heal types and, although you can order each individually to use its SP-consuming special ability, they’ll otherwise act completely independently. This very much works, and at times they’ll even preoccupy a boss if you need to retreat to recover.
So yes, the combat works very nicely, but it’s not particularly impressive. The combos and tactics available to Arnice are very limited, meaning that things can often devolve into button-bashing. It’s also not advisable to switch your Servans around much (or, to be honest, at all) unless you’re going to do a lot of grinding. Levelling them up is a relatively slow process, meaning that if you chop up the XP earning too much, you may find that they die frustatingly easily in the final stages of the story.
If grinding is your thing, then doing so will be much less painful here than in most other games. There are a variety of optional quests that, while not providing brand new areas, do at least provide lots of new dialogue and the occasional new character model. Then there’s the Arena, and there’s a little more to it than the name suggests. You’re provided with a number of varying challenges (one of the first simply has you avoiding enemies for 60 seconds) that will likely keep your attention better than simply wading through enemies for hours until your eyes start to bleed.
There’s a decent amount of content, but there’s also a significant question mark hanging like the sword of Damocles over the number of people who won’t tire of the game before they’ve seen it all. It’s not a bad game, but it’s difficult to get hyperbolic in praising it. It’s fine, it doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, it works perfectly well, it’s… not a bad game.
There are multiple endings, but few will see the ‘best’ one. This involves completing some new post-game missions, the main problems with which are two new bosses which, unlike the main game, will require some serious levelling to get to a point where you can comfortably defeat them. You still have to beat the end-game boss again, and then there’s another ending which requires you to go back and beat the final boss again. How many people will still be playing by then?
This is a game best appreciated by those who actively seek titles which sit on the outer edges of the mainstream (and story cohesion) yet don’t do anything too radical. What it does, it does perfectly well. It does, in fact, better than many other games. But seeing something shiny in a pile of coal doesn’t automatically mean you’ve found a diamond.