Nights of Azure’s story reminds me a lot of the manga/anime Blood: The Last Vampire. Arnice the game’s protagonist is a half-blooded demon who hunts down fiends and is tasked by the secret order called Curia with protecting her lover, Lilysse. Lilysse is chosen as the new Saint who is destined to seal the Nightlord before he brings eternal night to the rest of the world. With Lilysse’s fate seemingly sealed, Arnice starts to go against the Curia’s orders and sets out to find a way of defeating the Nightlord before Lilysse sacrifices herself to seal the Nightlord away.
The story takes some twists and turns that kept me wanting to find out what happens next but I never felt that some of the plot gave reasonable explanations to certain events, and I never really got any real explanation to certain events. Other instances are just forgotten and never talked about again.
The other problem with the story is it’s presentation. Nights Of Azure could have used more cutscenes to show off some of the more important moments in game. Instead Gust decided to settle for the standard “characters standing around and just talking to each other” effect. Thankfully the game’s supporting cast makes a lot of the dull story moments exciting with some excellent banter and humor.
As Arnice you are tasked with defeating fiends who prowl the nights. Nights of Azure sports an action-RPG combat system. As you roam the streets of Ruswall Island you encounter many different enemies but many of them never really look too threatening, such as singing dolls and fairies. As with most action-RPG’s, Arnice has multiple combat moves linked to her basic, strong, and special attacks which can be linked together to create different combo variations. You later unlock different weapons that you can switch between on the fly and mix up your combos with different weapons.
One of the unique aspects of the combat is Arnice’s ability to summon Servans. Servans are fiends that you are able to acquire and use as allies on the battlefield. These Servans come with their own unique abilities and skills. The Servans are categorized into attack, support, and defense allowing you to set up the right party for the right situation. You can give them specific group commands like working together or going on a rampage and using their most powerful skills without your command.
As you explore the environments and slay fiends you acquire loot which you can equip on Arnice and her Servans. Unlike other games with loot hunting mechanics, Nights of Azure doesn’t deliver with its attempt. Loot gathering is mostly reduced to tedious item management. Scrolling through dozens and dozens of items which don’t add much of anything to your stats becomes a chore to constantly go through and select what you should keep and what you should sell.
Your base of operations is a hotel that is shelter for humans, demons, and fiends. Here you are able to converse with allies for specific events that build upon the story and world, sell your items, change your Servans, equip items, level up Arnice, and learn new skills to make Arnice more powerful. During combat you acquire blue blood from your enemies. The Blue Blood is what you use to level up Arnice. After each level the requirement of Blue Blood increases and new abilities and skills are made available.
Nights of Azure sports a great musical score which reminds me of great classics like Castlevania. The game’s characters and art designs are also stellar -Arnice along with the rest of the main cast boost the highest quality in their design. The rest of the game suffers from what I can only assume to be the game’s budget. Environments are large, empty, bland, and uninspired with almost no detail and nothing outside of combat to really do.
One of the biggest issues I found with the game is not being able to do anything besides combat outside of the hotel. Changing equipments, buying skills, and changing my Servans is all limited to the hotel forcing me to constantly return to do simple things.
Nights of Azure had all the potential to be a great action-RPG but it comes just short of achieving that mark. The team at Gust have created a great world that sounds dark but doesn’t necessarily show it in its creature design. The fun minion system allows the action combat to have some form of strategy, especially later on in the game, and the games great music sent me back to the good ol side-scrollers of years past. Nights of Azure is an example a very decent game that could have been great given more time and money.