Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (Playstation 4 Review)
Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is an action/fantasy RPG dungeon crawler from the Japanese developer Gust, probably best known for their Atelier series which they’ve been publishing for well over 20 years. Bride of the New Moon is a fairly direct sequel to the original that came out in 2015, expanding and streamlining some elements of the previous game while firmly holding onto its magical anime girl aesthetic.
The story is your standard fantasy anime affair. As the Night Lord draws his final breath in 11th Century Western Europe, in a final act of desperation, he spreads his blood across the land and substitutes the plague with demons. As it is a Curian Knight’s duty to fight these monsters, Aluche is enlisted by the Pope to protect the Bride of Time – who just so happens to be Aluche’s childhood friend Illiana. From there it’s a complicated and confusing tale of life, death, companionship, swords made of blood, and resurrection.
Luckily, the story isn’t what carries Bride of the New Moon– it is the gameplay. The dungeon crawling elements sees you, an ally and up to two Servans–cutesy companions found along the way–fighting and exploring each area as a timer counts down. Aluche’s new heart means she can only go on so long fighting werewolves and sentient fungi, adding a nice element of urgency in completing whichever quests you’re attempting in this run through. When not out fighting monsters, you’re back at the hotel, which acts a a base of operations; increasing your stats, chatting with allies and getting some sleep.
Bride of the New Moon does urgency very well: not only are you fighting against the clock in the ‘dungeons’, but there is the moon to worry about. The moon has a shadow passing over it with every day that passes. If it fully eclipses, then it’s game over as the Moon Queen has won; covering the land in eternal darkness forevermore. The only way to prevent this is by defeating large fiends and completing story specific quests, forcing the player to plan ahead and carefully choose which quests to complete. Many of the non-story specific quests provide you with gold, items and the opportunity to develop bonds with your party members–further unlocking movesets and leveling up your compatriots.
The controls are very simple and impressive looking combos can be executed easily. It left me perhaps wanting something more as combat eventually grew repetitive against a tiny variation of enemies. I was never bored playing Nights of Azure 2, but I was left feeling the experience lacked a little something extra. There is plenty to level up, including equipment and party members, but the core dungeon crawling experience felt a little hollow. This being impacted further by the overall short length of the game spread over a handful of explorable areas.
The fights with enemies become very frantic; not always a bad thing as you’re basically aiming to hit as many enemies as possible to add to your attack chain, but the fixed camera and fidgety lock-on system can be very frustrating as you struggle to see something you’re trying to hit. Particular boss battles seem to be designed in apathy to the camera, as they float at the top of the screen or out of sight before swinging in for an attack. I appreciate the developers tried to add some variation to their boss battles but sometimes it ranges from hilariously easy to very difficult. Interesting set pieces or ideas are tried once and never visited again, and strangely these happen around or during boss battles which makes me think that these scenarios were designed completely separately from the core game or were, at least, an afterthought. Which is an odd sensation considering they are a crux to the overall game.
Another crux to the game is boobs. And I mean this sincerely. I watch a stupid amount of anime for an adult and I’m no stranger to Japan’s love of sexualising young girls. But this game was in a rush to give me the swimsuit outfits. As soon as I saw the hotel had a swimming pool with access to the changing room, I was like“Ah Nights of Azure 2 – I see your game”. Some of the scenes felt like they had been lifted straight out of a video from cartoonporno.xxx.
Now aside from the titillation and some humour gained from battling demons while wearing a skimpy bathing suit, there is a level of perversion that permeates throughout the game. The boob physics give every character an unnatural jiggle at the slightest movement which, is not only off-putting, but contrasts as some of the animation is wooden as a lazy tree. I like to imagine the developers that worked on the boobs of our all-female cast stressing and working overtime while the dudes given zipline animation duty called it a day after about 3 hours.
This kind of thing comes with magic girl anime territory so it isn’t really a surprise. Its detriment to the game is only really aesthetic (or if you feel particularly strongly against Yuri) and the disappointment that came with the realisation that this was the only costume I could unlock during my playtime. I know this sounds kind of petty but I was hoping to unlock more costumes as I progressed, but it seems extra costumes are only for those that pay for DLC or as part of a pre-order bonus.
This leads to the feeling that Nights of Azure 2 is undercooked despite asking for 50 of my precious Queens faces. More fleshed out experiences can be bought elsewhere but I can’t get over the simple charm of the game and it’s fun, if lacking, gameplay. My recommendation is that if this game really piques your interest wait until it’s on sale.
Editor’s Note: We are fortunate enough to have the ever enthusiastic David Quinn contribute this piece to the site. You can find him on Twitter @JDSQuinn if you wish to know more about his thoughts on Nights of Azure 2 or video games in general.