Well known for their Atelier games, it is great to see Gust taking on a new IP and a different style of game. At its heart, Nights of Azure is still a role-playing game, but it has an action-oriented combat system that makes it something different than other Gust games. There is a lot going on here, and by and large I enjoyed what Nights of Azure had to offer, though there were a handful of things that could have been done better as well.
The kingdom of Ruswal has become one that fears the azure nights where demons walk the streets and hunt for prey. Our story focuses on a woman named Arnice - a half-demon who is quite skillful on her own but can also summon and command demons (called Servans) to aid her in combat. Early in the story Arnice is paired up with an old friend of hers named Lilysse. Despite some uneven storytelling in the beginning of the game, the world is effectively established and a convincing relationship between these two characters is soon illustrated for us.
The relationship between Lilysse and Arnice takes center stage throughout the narrative, and while the story itself is in many ways unspectacular, the plight of our central protagonists was interesting enough to keep me invested in their story, if not perhaps the greater one being told around them. While hardly new territory, Lilysse falls into a sort of 'chosen one' category where she as a priestess has an opportunity to become a Saint and potentially rid the world of the evil plaguing it (creating some similar notes to stories like the one of Yuna from Final Fantasy X, though with a less impressive overall narrative). Arnice is the physically stronger of the two girls, but both show plenty of willpower and have their own moments to allow their personalities to shine through, as well as their genuine affection for one another. This romantic affection helps to fuel much of what Arnice is doing as she attempt to protect her from and try to protect Lilysse from what she considers her fate.
None of this feels like altogether new material, but the characters have enough charm to them to move the plot along. While Gust has shown in their other games that they are capable of crafting a bunch of different systems and meshing them into a single game, where Nights of Azure is different is in the combat. Fighting is in and of itself a simple thing, with a light and hard attack assigned to different face buttons, a supper attack and a dodge/roll move. As Arnice continues to battle, she can take on different demonic forms that give her a significant boost in combat. However, Arnice is aided heavily by her summonable demons as well, and these work well as a combat mechanic and one of the game's primary systems.
You have SP that you can use for your special attacks, but you can also use this to summon creatures. Early on, I did not realize you could have multiple critters out at once, but once I did, that made things a lot easier. They have different functions on the battlefield, such as attacking, serving as tanks or even offering up support spells and skills. For those inclined to collect lots of little critters and improve them via equipment and leveling systems, there is a lot to like here and developing my demons was one of the high points of the game. The arena is a nice touch as well, giving you an opportunity to test your skills and to unlock new rewards for better levels of completion.
Another notable system is the blood collection. You can use this in a variety of ways, such as leveling up your character or purchasing rare items from vendors encountered out in the real world. There is also a coin currency as well, but the blood management system was easily the more interesting one because it has such high powered implications. There is however, lots to do and exploring the game is fun more often than not. The hub of the game is a hotel that is connected to other zones on a map that you can select as they become unlocked. There is no true overworld to travel, but areas are all interconnected in one way or another, and the map serves as a sort of quick travel to the start of specific zones.
As you wander the areas in a third person perspective, enemies will spawn and that is when combat commences. While I certainly enjoyed the action combat and found the system and use of summons as a nice twist, there is a level of repetition here that does go from exciting to somewhat dulled by the end of the game. There is just enough strategy here to keep Nights of Azure from becoming a mind numbing hack and slash fest, but by the end of the game the system proves to be somewhat shallow compared to other action titles. It is still enjoyable, but worth noting all the same.
In terms of the aesthetics, the visuals certainly have a strong anime feel to them and the girls find themselves to be generally well drawn in skimpy outfits. Sure, the characters are sexualized, but never to the point of becoming really offensive or distracting from the game itself. Character models are somewhat stiff in action (clothing in particular, when they're wearing larger garments of clothing that is), but the colors are vibrant and the soundtrack is just about spot on. There were several memorable tunes while I played the game, and they were skillfully woven between the softer, more peaceful tones used in the hotel to some of the more frantically paced songs that suited the combat and exploration of the outer world and boss fights.
Nights of Azure is a good action RPG that has enough main story and side quests to keep you busy for a while. In addition to that, there are several systems in place for growing and developing your characters and Servans. The presentation is strong, and while the story and eventually even the combat never really quite reached levels of excellence, the heart of the game is the relationship between Arnice and Lilysse. To that end these two characters help to prop the overall material up and make Nights of the Azure a good, memorable experience.
Koei Tecmo Games
Article by Nick