Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action & Platformer
Release Date: 31st of August, 2017 (JP), 24th of October, 2017 (NA) & 27th of October, 2017 (EU)
When it comes to Angels and Demons, Nintendo platforms have seen their share of both, especially thanks to the more recent Bayonetta titles that were both available on Wii U. Only while it is true there is Bayonetta game on Switch at this time, an alternative option has presented itself, even if the only English in it, is the subtitles to the Japanese only dialogue and explanatory text.
Developed by Gust and with the involvement of Koei Tecmo as its publisher, like its name suggests, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon, is the sequel to 2015’s Nights of Azure and on first impressions alone, it does appear as though it could be a decent alternative to the Bayonetta games. Granted there are some major differences between the two series’ such as the Nights of Azure games bring predominately RPG based, whereas Bayonetta is a hack-and-slash, they are still games that boast a small peculiar story, set in a gothic world and throw a strong female character into the role of the hero. There are also plenty of other similarities between the two, but we can get to those a little later on.
First we’re actually going to talk a bit about the first game in the series as the events of the second game, do refer to the first game and since it is a game not available on a Nintendo platform, so Nights of Azure 1.The story begins with a world that is threated by Eternal Night, which is caused by the sinister being known as the Nightlord, a Demon King who is the most powerful Demon to ever live. Only when challenged by Ludegert, the First Saint, the Nightlord was defeated and his essence, (Blue Blood,) rained down upon the earth and corrupted all those that was exposed to it, which includes inanimate objects as well. The infected became fiends and the fiends became a plague to humanity. 800 years later and Arnice (the female protagonist to the first game,) arrives in Ruswal, which is an uncharted island located in the North Sea. It is there she is reunited with her childhood friend Lilysse from boarding school.
Only it’s not necessarily a happy reunion as Lilysse is chosen by the Curia (a religious order,) to become the next Saint, whose sacred duty is to be sacrificed so that the remains of the Nightlord can remain sealed and for the journey she is to take, Arnice the Half-Demon is to assume the role of her Holy Knight and serve as her protector. Now I’m not going to give you the whole play by play account of what happens during their journey, but there are 5 different endings and let’s just say not everything is nicely wrapped up, because if it was, there wouldn’t be a sequel now then would there? And talking of the sequel, here is the opening premise for it and some of the events that you can look forwards to playing out, during your first half an hour of playing.
Set long after the events of the first game, the threat of Blue Bloods and fiends still loom and the Curia is still present and carrying on with the fight and this time there is a new enemy, the Moon Queen! Much like with the first game, the two main characters are childhood friends, only Arnice is replaced with Aluche Anatoria, (Al for short,) another Holy Knight serving the Curia and her childhood friend Liliana, who has become a Priestess. There is also another childhood friend by the name of Ruenheid, but we’ll come to here later. Like with the first game, Aluche and Liliana are reunited after being apart for so long and when they report in to the Curia, bad news awaits.
The Demon Malvasia (aka the Moon Queen,) has appeared and Liliana has been chosen to be the Bride of Time, who is to be offered up (sacrificed) to the Moon Queen in an effort to keep her at bay by sealing her. In addition to that, Aluche’s first mission as a Holy Knight is to see the sacrifice takes place. Suffice to say, neither Aluche nor Liliana are ecstatic about this news as they’re both filled with shock, dread and despair, but they intend to do as expected of them regardless, only things don’t go as plan and what could have been a joyous reunion with Ruenheid (aka Rue,) who has defected from the Curia and joined the Lourdes Order, is anything but as the Moon Queen appears and runs Aluche through. (Quick thing about the Lourdes Order. They stand against the Curia, as their leader believes once the Bride of Time has been sacrificed, the Demon Queen will actually go on to obtain the power she requires to bring about a never-ending night in which no one would ever wake up from.)
With no other choice but to believe Aluche dead, Liliana taps into her powers to get herself, Rue and the dying Aluche to safety before the three become separated. When Aluche awakes, she is no longer the human she once was as in a bid to save her, a new heart had to be created and she was given Blue Blood that comes from the Legendary Half-Demon Arnice (the very same Arnice from the first game.) Fortunately the experiment that does in fact allow Aluche to live, doesn’t affect her too much, as while she now possess a left eye that is a different colour, red hair as opposed to brown, a set of fangs and some vampiric urges, Aluche is still mostly human, just a whole lot more powerful. As for the person who did such a thing to you, that would be the good doctor Camilla, who you will see a lot of in the game, as not only is she an ally who goes into battle with you, but she’s also someone who will explain a lot of the game’s functions to you.
As well as informing Aluche of what she had to do to her though, when Aluche awakens, she also informs her that the Curia still wish for her to proceed with her mission, which at first requires you to track down the missing Liliana before you can carry on with the task of sacrificing her. Afterwards the two leave the lab, Aluche gets a lesson in how to unleash the power within her, to summon the Blood Sword and use it by cutting down fiends. They then proceed with their walk, come across Aluche’s friend Nero, which is actually a fiend due to Blue Blood exposure, but is unaffected by it in a negative way. Only now because Aluche is Half-Demon, she can actually converse with Nero and that’s where we’re going to stick a pin in it, because I’m starting to give you a play by play thing and neither of us want that. What I will say before I move on though, is that like with the first game, there is more than one ending for Nights of Azure 2 as there are two and depending on if you meet a certain requirement, there’s some additional scenes post-credits, but more on that later.
With regards to actual performance and gameplay, since this is a game about Demons, fiends and a world going to Hell, there is lots hack-and-slash going on, only if you’ve played Fire Emblem Warriors (also by Koei Tecmo,) let’s just say the two are not the same. The fighting isn’t that bad in Nights of Azure 2, but the moves and available combos aren’t anywhere near as fanciful in Fire Emblem Warriors and as for graphics, while the cut-scenes and backgrounds and main characters look great, everything else, like the enemies, look like they could have done with a bit more time to flash them out. Then to make matters worse, when playing on Handheld, let’s just say it doesn’t do Nights of Azure 2 any favours.
Everything as you would expect, is scaled down to fit on a smaller screen and the writing which isn’t all that large when the game is in TV mode is now even smaller, with some like the words being uttered by a certain character, whilst out in the field is very hard to read and make out, so while you can take the game out on the go and play it wherever you want on the Switch, your best bet is to only ever play it when docked. Just like in Fire Emblem Warriors though, although Nights of Azure 2 does not let you go into battle alone as there is always someone to accompany you, be it a Servan, or a Lily. A Lily is any other main character in the game that isn’t Aluche, who can act as a party and by working together to execute Double Attacks (the two of you attack the same enemy,) or Revenge Attacks (attacking the enemy who attack your partner,) you can fill up your Tension Gauge and let loose with a devastating Ultimate Attack known as a Lily Burst.
Lily Bursts vary due to the fact that each Lily has their own skillset and attack style. One example of character differences is Liliana is a weak character and doesn’t use weapons, but she can attack with her divine magical talents, whereas Camilla uses a gun. Something else you can do with your Lily is a Double Chase, a Double Chase is another kind of special attack, which when used with Liliana, is activated by 4 Double Attacks and sees her and Aluche join hands, say a prayer and then sunlight blasts the surrounding enemies. In addition to Special Attacks that players can prompt like the Lily Burst, there are also Special Skills, but these are triggered automatically and each have their own fulfilment conditions that are easy enough to fulfil.
As for Servans, your other battle compatriots, they are like Aluche. Beings that have been affected by Blue Blood, except instead of becoming fiends or Demons, they retain much of who they once were and as such, are willing to add you in your efforts, provided you can find them all of course. Like with your Lilies, the Servan possess special abilities and while some abilities solely consist of certain Servan becoming more powerful weapons for Aluche to wield (Strikers,), others (Trickers,) can be used to burn down giant thorns, freeze mystical purple gates and even lift Aluche high off the ground to secret places that are hard to get to, but they’re also really handy in battle as well as who doesn’t like a kitty that can set an oil spill on fire and burn lots of baddies?
But just because you aren’t alone, it doesn’t mean you can avoid pulling your own weight. Each of your Servans and Lilies (you can only travel with 1 Lily and 2 Servan at one time during a level, so always choose wisely before starting,) do have a life bar and are only of use to you, whilst you are alive, so fight, kill and don’t be afraid to use commands. Commands are a great way of getting your companions to all attack the same enemy, split up and fight different ones, guard you, or even do whatever the hell you want, but there are also Leader Skills. Granted this one uses MP, but it can be used to increase your allies Aggression, Defence, Heal them or just support them, but as long as you take care of them, they will take care of you. You also won’t have to worry too much about keeping your MP gauge full as out of the assortment of power-ups enemies can drop, there is of course an item that can top you up, just like Chocolate can restore your health, Wing Boots can increase Speed and Couple Juice can help increase Tension.
Aside from all that, battling really is a straight forward affair and you can focus on playing through the levels, of which there are 6 to play through in total, only do expect to see a lot of them, because while there is a main quest that would have you go from A to B, as quickly as you possibly want to progress through it, there are LOTS of side-quests and kill challenges for players to try their hand out, if they wish to get the full experience of Nights of Azure 2. Only I must warn you, to get the full experience of the game, one proper playthrough of the game will take you at least 20 hours and once you’re done and got the bad end, you will need to play through it again.
The good news however is that certain things transfer over to your next playthrough, so while you do lose things like items, need to replay the quests and lose your Ultimate Evolved Servans, you do get to keep things like the abilities you learned, costumes you and your Lilies get, and keep the affiliation you had with each of the game’s Lilies. Worst news though, you will need to do all of their Quests again to properly bond with each one of them, but since they’re Rue and Veruschka, two of the game’s funniest and best characters, you will get to relive some of their utmost best moments.
When not battling, exploring levels, defeating Guardians in specific location on each map, as a way of opening useful portals (Gates of Distortion) and taking down bosses to advance the story, there’s a Hotel for you to grow fond of and used to. The Hotel is the Hotel Eterna, a place run by Camilla and it’s used as the base of operations for the entirety of Nights of Azure 2. It is a safe dwelling where Aluche can lay her head to go to sleep, purchase and upgrade new weaponry, or just the weapons she’s already obtained from all your time on the battlefield. You can also save your game, drink chocolate milk, go to the Swimming Pool and use the Changing Room to change the outfits of characters of whom you have a secondary outfit for and have a lot of fun. For a game that has no important male character whatsoever, there is no shortage of flirting, exclamations of each other’s beauty and downright bizarre dialogue that you will either laugh at because it’s funny, or because you’re a tad perverted, but in all honesty, to play and properly enjoy all that Nights of Azure 2 has to offer, being perverted is something of a must.
The funny thing is though, given all that is said and goes on, it did actually surprise me as Nights of Azure 2 is a 12, and yet it felt more like a 15 and I’m glad it is what it is, because if it was anything more, I think my cheeks would have been more red than Santa Claus’ suit. My sister on the other hand couldn’t get enough of it all and actually wishes the game could be an 18. But while my instincts tell me to skip some of the naughtiness you can expect, here’s a couple of spoilers, everyone has a swimsuit that is almost more revealing than the last. Each of the Lilies has a special pool scene with Aluche and despite the fact Rue, Aluche and Liliana are all childhood friends, there is not anything they won’t do for each other and while Aluche and Liliana clearly only have eyes and hearts for each other, Camilla and Rue harbour a great deal of feelings and love for Aluche and their dialogue often reflects this. There’s also girl on girl action in the form of Aluche sucking blood out of her fair share of girls. (She does have vampiric urges after all now that she’s a Half-demon.)
Something else you can do at the Hotel though, is go to the Maintenance Room, which will always see Aluche dressed in this weird revealing/body-hugging bride’s dress type of attire that is a necessity? Why? Well, the costume can help her, when inside a coffin, to suck out the Blue Blood she gathers when killing monsters, in a bid to purify her and allow her to level up, boost her stats and gain Ability Points that can be used to learn new skills, become more powerful and get more time on the clock, which is crucial.
You see, whilst Nights of Azure 2 will let you do as you please and go off on many sub-quests if you wish to do so, ultimately there is a ticking clock and not just a timer (called a Time Limit) on each level that can be increased, but should the Azure Moon (which can only be seen by those with Blue Blood in their veins,) lose its luminance and become a new moon, the world will be engulfed in darkness and eternal night will begin. Every time you set forth on a mission and return to the hotel and sleep, one day will pass and the Azure Moon wanes, it becomes closer to becoming a new moon. Luckily though, you can give yourself more time and earn more days, by defeating the bosses who are encounterable as part of the main quest, so while it is in your best interests at time to do as many side-quests as you can, it pays to pay attention to how much Moon you have left and know when to make your move against the next boss to buy yourself some time.
Oh and because I didn’t have time to mention it earlier, another thing you can do in the Maintenance Room is take full advantage of the game’s Growth system, because not only can Aluche and her Lilies be powered up, but your Servan can be improved too. You can level them up with Servan Points, boost their stats, evolve them with Evolution Gems and even Reincarnate them, so as to increase their final stats even more so. But yeah, this game does have a whole “The Edge of Tomorrow” vibe going on as there is a whole lot of repetitive action going on. Only instead of Live, Die, Repeat, it’s more Decide which Busty anime Babe you want to fight with, Go on a Mission, Mess about in the Hotel/Pool, Sleep, Repeat and I’m okay with that. Just like how I’m okay with what comes next!
Without a doubt, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is one of the strangest games I have played this year. It has all the makings of being a great game, but with too many dark scenes that would have benefited by some light, terrible framerate drops and shoddy camera angles, this game has almost as many things going against it, as it does things going for it. But you know what, I liked it. I liked it a lot, it’s different to most games available on Switch and until a Bayonetta game comes to Switch, it is certainly a game I can see myself coming back to quite a bit in the coming weeks, since I am just nowhere near being done with it just yet!
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Physical Review Copy Provided by Koei Tecmo