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Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch)

With the help of new friends and old, Aluche will do battle with the Moon Queen to save the world and her friends! Nights of Azure 2 is an anime action RPG with an all female cast, complete with relationship building, demon collecting, and frantic combat.

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch)

Introduction

A waning moon casts an ominous shadow across the land, basking the world in eternal night. Demons lurk the streets, forcing people from their homes as entire cities become nests for the wicked. The threat of eternal slumber looms on the horizon, and the only salvation is the sacrifice of the Bride of Time – your best friend. But what if not all is as it appears to be?

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch) - Camila is my personal favorite, as her AI is great for helping you out.

Nights of Azure 2 is developed by Gust Co. Ltd (Alteir series) and published by Koei Tecmo (Dead or Alive series, Warriors series). It takes place an undisclosed amount of time after the first, following new characters, though some familiar faces pop up. Many of the same systems carry over from the inaugural title, though they have been seemingly trimmed in favor of making room for other combat features, for better or worse. Typical ecchi hijinks and demon-slaying abound in this all-female adventure to bring the sun back to the world and seal away the Moon Queen forever.

Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is available on Steam, PS4, and Switch for $59.99.

Screenshots are taken from the PS4 version of the game.

Writing

Though I haven't played the first title in the two-title series, some wiki research tells me that doing so is not necessary to understand the plot of the sequel. The back story of the world is summarized for the players, setting enough of the stage that motivations are clear, at least on the surface. Generations ago, a lord of demons was slain, showering the world in blue blood. Everything this blood touched turned into a Fiend. Human, animals, even inanimate objects became crazed demonic creatures that stalked the night.

Since then the Curia have worked to keep the monsters at bay, sacrificing a Bride of Time in order to seal away the Moon Queen temporarily. While the main character, Aluche, is a devote knight of the order, when it's revealed that her best friend, Liliana, is the aforementioned Bride of Time, her interests become conflicted. Add in her long-lost friend, now a member of a rival order, seeking to prevent Liliana's sacrifice, and Aluche has a lot to think about it.

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch) - Either Servan can be mapped to ZL and ZR to execute powerful attacks or weapon changes.

As expected from a game cast exclusively with busty women in revealing outfits, many interactions between them are shy and/or naive flirtations. While the cast is varied, the personalities are pulled straight from an ecchi anime checklist. You have the protagonist, the childhood best friend, the cold and scientific older woman, the mentor, the emotionless girl who doesn't understand what "happy" means, the chipper and naive child, etc. Since so many of these personalities are somewhat unexcitable, a somber mood plays out through a lot of interactions, even when they are blushing at the sight of their barely-there bikinis.

Though commendable that Aluche has to call into question her allegiances, the very nature of her world being called out for being a lie, she's very quick to switch sides. It helps that one doesn't want to see her best friend killed for a prophecy, but a little more resistance would have made more sense. Overall the plot is generic and predictable, moving along the usual beats you can expect from an action RPG. Being so inoffensive (at least in its plot) means it's not bad, but it's not great either.

Gameplay

Similar to Musou games, Nights of Azure 2's combat comprises of a mix of special attacks and combos executed with X and Y buttons. Light and heavy attacks combine to execute stronger finishers, either launching enemies into the air or letting out a flurry of sword swipes that hit all nearby fiends in a wide arc. Two special attacks act as your board clearers/big bad topplers. The first is the Double Chase, which charges up as you and your accompanying partner attack the same enemies. This makes setting them to "Focus" the ideal choice, so they're always attacking fiends you are locked onto. Then there is the Lily Burst, which takes much longer to charge up, but at least keeps its charge between bouts (unlike the Chase). This can either hit many enemies or just one, depending on your partner.

Servans can be brought along, too, serving as additional damage, spells, abilities, and/or weapons. Found hidden throughout the levels, Servans join your party in groups of two. While some Servans can transform into new weapons for Aluche to use, the most useful are those who can interact with blocked off areas. Some hidden locations are walled off and need a specific Servan to open them up. Given your limited time, it's best to bring along these Servans so you maximize your time, though you'll be returning to levels so often than it's not a big deal if you forget now and then.

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch) - Mash A to build up the power and duration of your Double Chase.
Speaking of the time limit, Nights of Azure 2 has two time limits. The first comes in the levels, counting down in real time before Aluche collapses from exhaustion. Though the game says this fails the mission, I collapsed once and still got to keep all my progress, items, exp, etc. from that level, so take that warning as what you will. You start with an allotment of 10 minutes, but each level Aluche gains gives you 10 more seconds, and some skills in her tree gives even more time. The second time limit is the moon phase. If the moon fully wanes and you get a new moon, you will receive a game over. While the limit may seem harsh, defeating a boss both progresses the plot and adds a large chunk to the moon, pushing back that deadline.

Time limits in games are hard to balance, and Nights of Azure 2 doesn't exactly meet this tricky balance well. At first you will feel rushed with the timer in levels, though once you learn you'll be revisiting levels over and over and over, the pressure lessens considerably. It's the moon phase that feels tenser. At chapter 2, you begin to get side quests, both from the Curia and from your companions.  They have missions spread out throughout all the different levels, the companion missions always requiring you to bring along that specific one, so you can't tackle missions for two different allies. Thus begins a game of time management, seeing which areas have other side quests you can tackle while taking care of your companions' desires.

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch) - Regardless of difficulty, enemies never posed much of a threat.

Bringing your companions into fights and doing their quests raises their affinity toward you, unlocking more of their story and increasing their abilities. Due to the moon phase limit, you won't be able to maximize your affinity with all companions in one playthrough, but new game + does help in that regard. Despite the interactions implying heavily that you're building a romance with these women, that doesn't appear to be the case (though it's possible I missed some requirement I wasn't aware of that kept me from romancing my top-heavy doctor).

As mentioned a few times, you'll be revisiting former levels a lot in this game, constantly going back either to find those missing Servans for your collection or fulfill side quests. The monsters in each level never change their positioning, numbers, or strength, so this becomes a tedious chore very quickly. While the combat is functional, it's not exactly complex, so a feeling of repetitiveness soon sets in.

Presentation

Graphically the game is quite presentable, though hardly next-gen levels. While playing on the big screen, there were no frame drops, but playing in handheld mode, the FPS takes a severe dip, falling below 20 or even 15 in some cases. It's not a graphically intensive game, so there should be no reason for this kind of failing. The Switch is showing off some powerful graphics with little to no problems, so it's curious why Nights of Azure 2 feels like a last gen title in too many ways.

Locations are drab and dull, everything covered in perpetual night and all civilians having evacuated or died long ago. While finding Servans is an incentive to explore, they aren't terribly hard to find, and because of the time limit it's ill advised to wander beyond the goal of finding them. Character designs are at least interesting, with more skin being covered on most characters than one might expect. Each ally looks unique and their outfit matches their personality, ensuring that everyone will have an easy favorite or two.

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch) - Bosses were either a fair challenge or stupidly easy.

The audio is all Japanese, so it's hard to comment on the voice acting. It was never annoyingly loud or whiny, so at the very least I can say they did a good job there. The music is forgettable, though not terrible. It simply is. Sound effects would oddly be missing in some areas, especially Double Chase attacks. For situations in which characters are letting loose a veritable laser blast from space, things were awfully quiet.

Due to the characters being so wonderfully designed, everything else seems to be done as an afterthought, exposing the lack of detail further. There's sadly just not much to say about the visual presentation beyond the characters. Considering this is a game that is sold, somewhat, on the eye-candy of its cast, it's not too surprising most of the attention went into their, ahem, assets.

Conclusion

Though I have not played the first game, research into it, and what others had to say about it, tells me that the sequel is something of a step down from the first installment. Though I cannot let this influence my final score, since I can't say, from my own experience, whether this game falls back in many regards, given the frequency of this argument, it felt worth mentioning; especially considering its $60 price tag.

The game functions exactly as it promises to, but doesn't rise above the most basic of expectations. Light attacks, hard attacks, special attacks, it all works but it's all expected. I wish there had been more to do with the affinity system, building relationships and possibly romances. Being able to hook up your chesty ladies with each other would certainly be a selling point from a particular audience of fans.

Nights of Azure 2 Review (Switch) - As charming as she is, it's not enough to elevate this game.
Some technical hiccups prevent this game from being, at the very least, a smooth experience. Frame rate drops on handheld mode means the selling feature of the Switch is not the ideal way to play Nights of Azure 2. It's functional, but too noticeable in its stumbles. It's surprising the level of hiccups there are given how bare bones the settings and creatures are. The main characters are certainly detailed, but not so much that they should be causing this many frames to drop. The PC version reportedly runs at 60 FPS, so consider that when considering this title.

If eye candy is a selling point when adding to your video game library, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon certainly has that in spades, especially if you like a curvy woman. However, Steam itself has become more welcoming of such entries, so your options aren't exactly limited when it comes to busty-lesbian combat-party games. It's an almost respectable entry in the niche genre of ecchi action games, but it feels too much like a loveless sequel to be note worthy. Maybe when it's on sale.

PROSCONS
 + Great character designs. – Frame drops in combat.
 + Functional (but simple) combat. – An exhausting amount of level revisiting.
 – Writing is just okay.

5.3
Average

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