As a fan of Gust’s RPG catalog, Nights of Azure stood out to me as being a unique action-oriented game unlike any of Gust’s normal offerings. While the original game didn’t exactly hit every mark it meant to, I admired the gothic, darker style that Gust was attempting. Luckily, Gust and Koei Tecmo have brought the Nights of Azure sequel, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon to PC, carrying on the unique elements of the original with a few updates and additions.
In Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon, you find yourself in the role of Curia agent Aluche, who is given orders to guide (and protect) her close friend Lilliana. This journey leads to (strangely) a mortally wounded Aluche, who is subsequently revived upon death, being given powers tied to a darkness she does not understand. Aluche’s journey truly begins here, a journey to save her friend Lilliana, and understand the darkness growing within her.
One thing I should mention before we dive into the full review is that Nights of Azure 2 (like the original) does not have English Voice Acting. I do not understand why Gust’s recent releases (such as Blue Reflection) aren’t getting the English voiceover treatment, but if you like subtitled anime or foreign films with subtitles then you probably won’t be too bothered by it. Personally, I find the Japanese voice acting distracting since it clashes with the subtitles, but that’s my personal preference and doesn’t really impact my perception on how the game itself plays. I will say though that I have a harder time connecting with characters and storylines when I can’t understand the inflection and emotion of the voice actors, but even so, it is still enjoyable for me to play games like this even without being able to understand the voice acting.
Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon provides multiple difficulty levels. Easy mode is recommended for players new to the game or new to action games as a whole, while experienced players might want to go with a more difficult setting. In Easy Mode, enemies deal significantly less damage, while normal mode provides a normal amount of enemy damage, and Extreme mode leads them to deal much more damage than normal.
From the start of Nights of Azure 2, Aluche can perform light and heavy attacks to execute combos. Aluche is also able to utilize a guard and dodge. Guarding and dodging can help you mitigate damage, and are just as important as using combos and offense. Like other games in Gust’s catalog, there is a system called Lily. The Lily system involves Aluche fighting alongside a variety of partner characters that accompany her over the course of the game. Through fighting with the same partner, the tension gauge will increase, deepening the bond between Aluche and her partner.
The Lily system allows you to use double and revenge attacks. Double attacks build the tension gauge as you do damage to the same enemy as Aluche’s partner, while revenge attacks allow you to counter-attack an enemy attacking Aluche’s partner, building the tension gauge. You can issue orders to your partner using the command system, telling them whether to target your same enemy, act freely, protect themselves, disengage from enemies, or a variety of other commands. Each of Aluche’s partners also has a “Double charge” ability, which is a powerful special attack that becomes available when certain conditions are met. These abilities are meant for use when you find yourself overwhelmed by enemies, and can wipe out enemies quickly.
You are also able to lock onto enemies and focus your attacks on them to eliminate them more quickly. In large groups, it is probably more advisable to attack multiple enemies, while if there are only a few (or there are strong enemies in the group) it may be wise to focus in and pick them off one by one.
During the main quest, you are able to explore quest environments using movement, jumps, and dashing. While exploring and attempting to reach various objectives, you may encounter enemies, allies, bosses, and items that you might find useful.
Servan mechanics have made a return in Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon. They are important, though a bit different than they were in the original game. In Nights of Azure, servan are creatures that assist you in combat, however this time around, they aren’t controlled by the d-pad (if you are using a controller) and their purpose has slightly shifted.
While servan serve the same purpose as a partner, they have special abilities that use MP which regenerates over time. Unlike your human partners, if a servan’s HP depletes, they will die, only to revive after a certain period of time. Servan also serve a purpose during exploration, offering Tricker abilities. Nero (your first servan) is a fire elemental cat, and allows you to burn thorny walls in your path. Other servan elements will allow you to do other things, such as freezing things, jumping higher, etc.
You can free new servan from things called blood lilies. Blood lilies ensnare servan, and are scattered through the world. By freeing the servan, you can recruit them into your party. Unlike in the first Nights of Azure, you can only carry two servan at a time, as the third slot in your party is taken up by a partner character. Some servan are merely combat partners, but others have Striker abilities, transforming into unique weapons that can change how Aluche fights.
The Hotel Eterna is the base of operations (yet again) in Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon, and provides a variety of services including a changing room to change costumes, a store to buy equipment, and a bedroom to rest and pass the time. In Nights of Azure 2, as you progress through the game, time changes each time you sleep at the hotel. As time passes you get closer to the new moon, which spells doom for you and your allies. If you reach the new moon before your quest is done, it is a game over, so working efficiently is important.
Time also plays a role in a more visible way. At the start of the game, Aluche can only be out in the main world for a certain amount of time before her body gives out. This timer starts out small, but as you progress can be extended through the blood offering mechanic. At the Hotel Eterna, you can utilize the blood offering mechanic to strengthen Aluche. By offering the blue blood obtained from destroyed enemies, you can enhance Aluche’s body and strengthen her.
You can also use Ability Points to learn new abilities, giving Aluche new skills. This is done through the blood offering mechanic as well, but Ability points are obtained differently. Ability points are largely obtained through quest completion and leveling up. As with upgrading Aluche, you can also use the maintenance room of the Hotel Eterna to upgrade your servan. Servan growth allows you to strengthen them using servan points up to level 30, at which point they will evolve into a new more powerful servan. If you entirely max a servan, you can reincarnate them, which increases their level cap but reverts them to their original state.
In terms of gameplay, Nights of Azure 2 is a well-polished action-RPG. As with most Gust titles though, there is a healthy amount of fan-service involved. Scantily-clad female characters, obvious girl on girl subtext and a variety of other things make it obvious that Gust clearly keeps fan-service alive. With that being said, Nights of Azure 2 fills a very interesting niche in Gust’s storytelling that should not be ignored. Where franchises like the Atelier series focus on more lighthearted elements, Nights of Azure 2 focuses on something darker, more adult and mature. While there is still humor involved, the elements of death, sacrifice, and mature violence are present in a big way.
As a fan of vampires in fiction, I have to also comment on the fact that this is the closest I’ve seen to an action JRPG that focuses on some semblance of the vampire mythos. While it isn’t a faithful comparison, and it is really only mentioned in dialogue and subtext, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon does an excellent job of bending the vampire tropes into a new format.
If you enjoyed Nights of Azure, then the sequel has a lot to offer you. Characters from the original return in both big and small ways and Nights of Azure 2 is a beautifully crafted visual experience. The graphics are similarly done to Blue Reflection, taking the anime art style and giving it a pseudo-photorealistic finish. Characters have a depth to them that visually looks fitting for a next-gen title, and combat is a visual treat.
While Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon isn’t perfect by any standard (namely in the time limit imposed on exploration, the lack of English voice acting, and the focus on fan-service) you really can’t go wrong picking it up if you want to enjoy a solid action-RPG title.
A PC Review Copy of Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon was provided by Koei Tecmo for the purpose of this review