Here’s a small confession: sometimes I chose to play a game simply because the art style speaks to me. I may know absolutely nothing about the game, but if I think what I’ve seen is pretty, I’ll go for it. This was the case with Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon. Having never played the original, and knowing only that it was an action RPG, I excitedly decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, my rushed excitement was quickly dampened and then slowly turned into complete disappointment.
Made by GUST Studios, the same developers who brought us the Atelier game series, Nights of Azure 2 is set in a world where apparently there’s no such thing as men. There’s also no such thing as day, but we’ll get to that. Being as there don’t seem to be any men in the world but it’s still an RPG, there of course needs to be some sort of sexual tension/relationship weirdness.
So, within about two minutes, two of the main characters establish an awkward relationship that had me rolling my eyes and saying, “Will you two just get a room?” Ironically, I was taken to the “base camp” about ten minutes later…which just happens to be a hotel. Another annoying aspect that hit me right away was the played-out “character design” in which tattered lingerie counts as “armor.” Honestly, most women wear more clothes to the beach than some of these knights wear to go out fighting demons. Am I playing a secret Dead or Alive title?
Once I got past the overt “teenage wet dream” elements, I was pretty happy with the battle mechanics. Battles reminded me of early Devil May Cry titles, and I enjoyed stringing combos together to completely annihilate my foes. Then, to my surprise, I discovered the “tension gauge” (don’t get me started on that name) and the special double attacks that can be activated with each battle partner. Neat! Of course, after seeing the special attack animations about 125 times, I began to really resent not being able to skip them ever.
Feeling a bit better about the game, I was guided along the storyline, introduced to new characters and an increasingly-complicated web of undisclosed feelings. Insert eye roll. By the time I got to the hotel, had made peace with the character design and completely useless pool scenes I was forced to endure, and gotten a couple of little demon companions (called Servans), I was feeling pretty good and back to liking the game. That was until I was introduced to the timers.
Timers, when used judiciously, can be a really great gameplay mechanic. Stuck in a building that’s about to blow up? It makes sense to race against the clock! Fighting an ultra-boss who’s building up a world-destroying attack? You’d better beat that darn timer! But when “beat the clock” becomes the schtick for the entire game, it can get real old real fast.
Not only do you have a timer in the phases of the moon, you also have a timer for how many days you have to beat the game AND a timer for every mission you choose to do. Because you’re a half-demon, for some reason you can only operate at night and (for reasons that still make zero sense to me) can only be active for 10-15 minutes (depending on your level.) If the moon drops to the new moon phase, game over. If you run out of days, game over. If your mission timer runs out, you’ll be sent back to the hotel and will have wasted that day/night. You can buy more time here and there by beating certain bosses or gaining certain skills, but the game will never, ever, ever stop reminding you that the clock’s a-ticking.
This means that one of my favorite aspects of any RPG – free exploration – is out of the question. Sure, there are a few side missions you can choose to do (note you cannot do them all), but basically, this entire adventure has just boiled down to an exercise in time management. Now this may come as a shock to some, but by day I’m a boring adult with a boring job. And a huge part of that boring job is time management. Every. Single. Day. You know what I really DON’T want when I sit down to play a video game? To do more of the boring junk I already did all day long. Not only this, but it takes a lot of the fun of self-direction out of the game.
But fear not. If you’re worried the multiple timers means you won’t get a chance to see all of the areas the game has to offer, you can rest easy. Because the fact is, you will see all of the six map areas of the game so many times you could draw them in your sleep. And for an extra-fun bonus, the enemies will be exactly the same each and every time you go to these map areas, so you’ll probably be able to run through them all in your sleep, too.
I believe it was around the 27th time visiting an area when I thought, “I wonder if there’s anyone I can hire to go through the repetitive parts of this game for me and have them just call me if anything new or interesting happens.” But then I realized that I wasn’t just putting myself through some particularly painful level-grinding. This was not optional side-stuff I was doing…this was the game. That was when I made my final verdict in the rollercoaster of my thoughts on Nights of Azure 2 – it’s boring.
I tried. I tried real hard to like this game – for it’s art style, battle mechanics, adorable Servans, and even the main story. But for all of those positive points, overall the game suffers from chronic sameness. In the end, most all of the map areas just bleed into one colorless blob of perpetual night, and I stopped caring about the characters or side quests or anything and just wanted to “get it over with.” This is not a thought you ever want to have as a player. I’ve read there are multiple endings to the game, and the one you get depends on how you play the game, so there’s a big “replayability” factor. I find this an impossible lie, because I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to play the same six levels 312 times again.
Overall, I’d say that Nights of Azure 2 is a game that could have been good, which of course is the real tragedy. It’s easy to rag on games that are just terrible in every way, and share a good laugh at their expense. But when a game has elements that are awesome at war with elements that are awful, it’s just sad when the awful wins out.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Hope you love monotony.
Story - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Gameplay - 3/10
Nights of Azure 2 has elements of a fun RPG, but unfortunately they get buried in the annoying timers, character design, and monotony.