The original Nigh’s of Azure was a surprisingly entertaining title from developer Gust and publisher Koei Tecmo. An action-adventure title which you saw you collect Servans and battle monsters while protecting your best friend as she prepares to destroy the Nightlord. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon takes place in the distant future where our protagonist Aluche must protect her best friend until she is ready to destroy the Moon Queen. Sound familiar? It should, as Nights of Azure 2 doesn’t really change too much from the original game when it comes to it’s story, but does make some much needed improvements where they were needed the most.
Aluche is a young knight who is tasked by the Curia to protect her best friend Liliana and escort her to become the next sacrifice to the Moon Queen to keep her from drenching the world in eternal darkness. Conflicted in her task Aluche reluctantly agrees to escort Liliana to the Moon Queen but is stopped by another knight who believes that sacrificing Liliana would in fact give the Moon Queen enough power to accomplish her task. During the battle, the Moon Queen attacks both Aluche and the knight dealing a killing blow to Aluche.
Having clearly been struck down by the Moon Queen, Aluche awakens inside a laboratory, seemingly revived. She has in fact been turned into a half-demon by a scientist working for the Curia. Aluche, with her new found powers sets off to find Liliana who had gone missing after her encounter with the Moon Queen.
The story in Nights of Azure 2 is surprising solid. All the different moving parts create a decent mystery as to what is really going on and who Aluche can trust. It’s a more fleshed out story and deals less with personal issues characters have and more on the overall picture. That’s not to say that Aluche is a boring character or anything it’s just her personal conflictions are presented in a better way.
In Nights of Azure 2 Aluche gains a multitude of allies that she can bring along on missions. The Servans return and are more distinct this time around. Each one has their own personality and traits. Some of them can be used to open up secret passages in the various locations and some can even transform into different weapons like spears and greatswords. Upgrading Servans has also gotten an overhaul. When completing side quests and personal missions for your party, you will collect Blue Blood which can be used to level up the Servans.
Each Servan’s stats can be upgraded and have a set maximum level, when you reach that maximum level you may “Reincarnate” the Servan resetting their stats but giving them a bigger maximum level. So a Servan whose max level is forty will have their maximum level increased to sixty after they are reincarnated. For some of the Servans reincarnation can be done up to eight times until they reach their maximum form.
Servans are not the only allies you get. Aluche makes friends with demon hunters and characters interested in stopping the Moon Queen. These allies add a lot to the game’s combat and come with plenty of their own quests and side-activities to go through. Gust’s great characterization shines with Aluchie’s allies. I never actually felt any dislike for any of them. All of them brought their own strengths and weaknesses to battle and all of them had a tale to tell that had me heavily invested.
As you take your allies with you on missions you earn affinity points with them allowing them to learn new skills and abilities while opening up more side-stories to complete for them. Your allies also add some great additions to the combat.
Combat this time around has received some new additions with double team attacks and some cool looking supers. Gust has added additional weapons for you to try out. Some of the Servans can transform into different weapons adding some nice additional attacks, but it still doesn’t stop the repetition. Nights of Azure 2 can get extremely repetitive. It would’ve been nice to get some verity in the game like puzzles but there just aren’t any. Combat is all you really do and for the most part it’s not all too difficult. Enemies aren’t that smart and it’s easy to avoid their attacks taking away almost any challenge Nights of Azure 2 has.
The original game saw you with just the one hero with her Servans. This time around having an actual human partner opens combat up to some great sequences and makes it more lively. While in combat Aluche is able to use some unique abilities. If Aluche and her partner attack an enemy at the same time they fill up the Double Chase gauge. When that meter is full you can launch a devastating Double Chase attack that can clear out a massive group of enemies. By constantly tapping on the circle button you can power the attack up but you only have a little time to do so. You can also launch supportive moves with your partner, some of which will even cure you of ailments and heal you during combat.
Another devastating attack comes in the form of a powerful super that you must build up with your teammate. Unlike the Double Chase manoeuvre this is an ultimate attack and will render anything outside of bosses dead. These attacks are also accompanied by some great animation work, and look gorgeous to boot.
One of the biggest faults of the original Nights of Azure were the big empty environments you explored. Nights of Azure 2 unfortunately doesn’t fix that problem. Though there is more variety in the locations you get to visit, most of them are open and unpopulated. It’s unfortunate as the character models and art style are particularly impressive and it would have been nice to see them in a much more populated world.
The biggest knock for Nights of Azure 2 comes in the form of time. The game itself is actually quite long but it’s also a timed adventure. Aluche only has a certain amount of days to get through a chapter before it’s game over. Each chapter starts with the shadow casting over the moon as you play through the various missions the shadow will begin to eclipse the moon more and more. By defeating the boss of each chapter the darkness enveloping the moon will disappear and reset itself. But that’s just one of the timed aspects of Nights of Azure 2.
Aluche has a certain amount of time to explore and complete missions. Every time she steps out of her base camp which is a hotel. She only has a certain amount of time to complete her task before she is exhausted and has to return to the hotel. This became a major problem early on in the game as you hardly had any time to do anything. As I leveled up I was able to increase the amount of time I can stay out on missions and it actually got to the point where I would leave a mission early because I ended up killing all the enemies on the map and completed all the objectives. The biggest set back in the timed nature of the game is that every time you return to the hotel you have to pass the day moving the darkness on the moon. Even if you had time remaining you wouldn’t be able to return to the location you were at and use up that remaining time.
As I mentioned earlier, Nights of Azure 2’s art and character design is for the most part actually pretty good. The main cast has a unique design to it even though some may find the lack of clothing on some characters demoralizing especially Aluche, but mostly the costume designs are quite unique and the animation work especially in the super and Double Chase attacks are top notch. This can’t be said about the demons you face though. Most of them are as bland in their design as you can get with almost no distinct designs or detail put into them. Elsewhere, Nights of Azure 2’s soundtrack is also a standout feature, giving off some unmistakable Castlevania-flavored vibes.
I’m happy to see that Gust has improved on the concept of the original Nights of Azure. But just like the original with a little bigger budget and some better design choices Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon could have and should have been a standout sequel.