Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is an Anime, Action, Hack and Slash, RPG from Koei Tecmo Games that loosely follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, Nights of Azure.
Developer: KOEI TECMO
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release Date: 24 Oct, 2017
Previously on Save or Quit
Nights of Azure (NoA1) was previously reviewed on Save or Quit so we were more than happy to review its sequel once it was announced. Typically, sequels build on what made the previous game good and generally improves on most aspects of the game. Rather than going ahead and doing just that, Nights of Azure 2 (NoA2) takes things in a little different direction than the original. If this new direction is a good thing or a bad thing, I will leave up to you to determine for yourself.
Comparison between the Nights of Azure titles
The first thing I think we should discuss is what is new and different in Nights of Azure 2. First and foremost there are less Servans which you need to collect. You will remember in NoA1, Servans are friendly demons that will help you out in combat. In the first game you would find some early Servans and then later in the game find better versions of those same Servans. Usually they were slightly different than their weaker counterpart but still were meant to replace them. There were also multiple options to fill some roles as well, each one offering something a little different than the others serving in the same role. Now in NoA2, each Servan fills a specific roll almost exclusively without there being a stronger counterpart to find later on. In the previous game, you could build decks out of your Servans before heading out into the field, and then swap between those decks while out in the field without the need to return to the Hotel. In Nights of Azure 2, you are now limited to just two Servans out in the field at any given time (rather than four like in the previous game). If you want a different Servan you need to head back to the Hotel and advance the doomsday clock one day before heading back out into the field. Why you would want to swap out your Servan will be covered a little later. You also do not have your Demon transformation forms to play around with in NoA2. I have to say turning into various demons and wreaking havoc was quite fun in NoA1. To make up for the loss of two Servans and Demon Forms, you are joined by a Lily, that is to say another person like the heroine who isn’t a Servan. This other person impacts what kind of special moves are available for the heroine to make use of unlike in NoA1 where the Servan choices impacted that.
The way the zones are connected is also different in NoA2 as compared to NoA1. In NoA1, you could start out in one area and walk through the gate to the next zone and end up leaving to return to the Hotel from yet another zone entirely. In NoA2, the only way to move between zones is to return to the Hotel and advance to the next day. Even if you only spent five minutes out in the one zone, the remaining play time for that day is discarded if you want to move to the next zone over. This means that even if you completed your mission quickly it is advisable to hang around the area and beat things up until you are almost out of playtime. Doing so would be in order to gain you extra blue blood and money. Items also seem to be far less prevalent in NoA2. I know in NoA1 I was constantly swimming in tons of items, each one a little different than the last even if it was physically the same item at its core.
The subquest system is also completely different in NoA2. Instead of having daytime activities you can set the heroine to do that and unlock potential in the field subquests as well as skill points for the heroine. All subquests are granted to you automatically as they become available. Additionally, skill points are now generated by leveling up without any ties to activities you are partaking in. In NoA1 you could only have a limited number of subquests active at once so you had to choose which ones you wanted to do at that time in comparison to haaving all of them active all the time in NoA2. I have to say I do like the way NoA2 does it better than NoA1 in this regard.
The last bit I want to talk about before getting into the review proper is that the heroine of NoA2 doesn’t have access to the same cool weapon that her predecessor in NoA1 had. Instead of modifying her weapon to suit her needs, she will grab a Servan and start beating enemies to death with it. This is assuming it’s a Servan that has the ability to morph into a weapon!
Impressions of Nights of Azure 2
Stepping out of the shadow of Nights of Azure 1, let’s move on to the review of Nights of Azure 2. You could pick up Nights of Azure 2 and play it and completely understand the story without having played the original. The game does make references back to the original game but if you didn’t recognize them as that, you likely wouldn’t think twice about it. Depending on your motivation in the game, you will likely find yourself revisiting areas in the game repeatedly as you grind through the subquests and to visit areas previously blocked off. The game is designed to force you to throw away a day to revisit an area again due to how the gates in the game work. Certain Servans have the ability to remove certain obstacles. If you do not have that Servan with you, you cannot access the area behind the obstacle. These obstacles just block off items and other Servan so technically you could simply ignore them and make it through the game just fine. If you are a completionist, you will want to revisit the levels with a different combination of Servans in order to unlock everything. For example, the first Servan you encounter can burn overgrowth away to allow you to access what is behind it. Unless that Servan is always in your party, you will lose the ability to remove that obstacle until you return it to your party. Since you are limited to just two Servan and do not have the ability to swap on the fly, this means you will always have to leave the area and return with the correct corresponding Servans on your next visit in order to visit all blocked areas. Due to the Doomsday clock, you need to be careful not to waste too much time doing subquests at the expense of failing the main quest for that chapter. Fortunately, you will find yourself revisiting areas frequently as it is, due to how the subquest system works. If you complete a subquest and turn it in (happens only when you return to the Hotel), you might unlock another one. This one might send you back to the area you just left, so it is a good time to swap out your Servans and potentially your Lily (if you also have a specific Lily requiring quest in that area). Even the main quest line will have you revisit places, so the whole notion of having to revisit an area with a different set of Servans to see what is hidden behind an obstacle really isn’t that much of a problem.
The combat in the game is quite similar to the previous game. You have your basic quick attack and your heavier but slower attack. Depending on your difficulty setting, you can usually get by just by stringing together basic combos. Even the more complicated combos are not difficult to pull off so that is always a welcome and refreshing achievement. Typically, in games such as Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni-, when combos get too complicated or require too precise of timing, I generally end up getting frustrated. I may start forgetting which combo requires what button presses and in which order so I end up just relying on a few simple ones to get by. Due to the fact you have to make the choice between being able to remove obstacles or having alternate weapons, I found myself mostly relying on the trusty one-handed sword I started with unless I knew for a fact I had unlocked everything I could in the area I was visiting. Even then I usually ended up just using the default one-handed sword because I kept forgetting that I wasn’t just dragging along a pair of obstacle obliterators with me this time. When using the alternate weapon options, the way combat flows does feel different but as far as I could tell, there was no compelling reason to actually use them other than for variety or novelty. They did make for a nice change of pace, but it would have been handier if you didn’t have to sacrifice the utility of the obstacle removing in order to utilize a different weapon.
Something that Nights of Azure 2 does better than its predecessor is the fact the non-player characters hanging around the Hotel are not just there for their banter. Once you have progressed enough to unlock them, you can choose one of them to bring with you into the field. The one you choose to go exploring with will gather experience and your friendship will grow stronger. As you reach milestones in your friendship, you will unlock special quests that will lead to them unlocking more of their potential, enhancing their usefulness even more. I’m still sad that they replaced two of my Servan in the field, but since they are generally much better in combat than the Servans are in general this time around, it’s arguably for the better. If you find yourself using certain Servans more than others, you have the ability to level them up to enhance them, making them a little more useful in combat.
The story has the same concept and tone as the original. Two childhood friends are walking together on similar paths, one of them is there to protect the other, and the other is destined to be sacrificed to prevent the end of the world. It’s not really an option that sits well with the protagonist in either game. The protagonist naturally prefers to find an alternate solution to sacrificing her friend. The main story is delivered via cutscenes between chapters with additional story elements being mixed in. The cutscenes enhance the overall feel and tone of the story as you complete specially marked quests. Each of the characters in the game has their own unique personality and a voice that suitably matches it. You can glean elements of their past that makes them all feel like they are not just another random NPC, but are compelling characters themselves. Each of them has their own unique combat style that links to their way of life.
The character models in this game, like in the predecessor, all have a high level of detail. Each character wears a unique outfit which appears well suited to her personality. A great deal of attention to detail obviously went into the individual designs. The protagonist has several outfits she tends to wear depending on which room of the Hotel she is in. If she is near the pool, she is wearing a swimsuit. If she is in the maintenance room, where excess blue blood is drained from her and turned into experience points to level her, she is wearing what appears to be a PVC catsuit with suggestive lights. This is quite similar to how it was in Nights of Azure 1 when the protagonist visited the area where she leveled, she wore a fairly revealing lingerie outfit.
Each area you visit, be it inside the Hotel or out in the field, looks different. It doesn’t feel like an area was just copy-pasted from a different zone and a new tile-set laid over it. There are six zones in the game. Each zone is comprised of corridor-like areas where you enter at one end, battle your way through it, and leave at the other with some open areas mixed in for good measure. Each zone has its own unique theme, although some of the monsters are shared between them. To make your life easier, there is also a fast travel system that lets you travel either back to the Hotel or to any previously unlocked fast travel point in that zone. It’s quite useful for when you are running back to open up an obstacle you were unable to on your last visit. On the other hand, if you plan to make the most of your day, odds are you will likely just run through the level again killing everything in your path and using the furthest away fast travel point to return to the Hotel to turn in your work. There is a mini-map available that will help you find the exits for each area.
The game is voiced in Japanese with subtitles being available for those of us who can’t understand Japanese. Each character’s voice was well cast for this game, each actress being able to deliver a clear voiceover that seemed to perfectly match the personality of the character. The music in the game helps with the atmosphere the game is trying to portray but it sometimes gets lost in the heat of combat against the standard combat sounds.
The controls in Nights of Azure 2 are interesting. I had issues with the default controls in the original game so I can say they are an improvement over what I experienced in Nights of Azure 1. The default controls work quite well in Nights of Azure 2 once you get used to them. A menu being tied to the cancel button felt a bit awkward at first, but I quickly got over that and it doesn’t really bother me anymore. Even the button mashing parts as you and your Lily pull off a limit-break style move is easy to perform successfully. All of the commands seem to flow fluidly in combat and the characters always seem to do what I am trying to get them to do.
As a game standing on its own, Nights of Azure 2 is pretty decent. It did get a bit dull grinding the optional time-limited (must be completed before chapter changes) versions of the subquests in order to get some points to level up my favoured Servans, but really, you could skip over that if you wanted to and not impact the game that much. The Servans, unlike the first game, I found are more there for moral support and to let use their special ability (clear an obstacle/become a weapon) than to carry you in combat since you have a Lily there to fill that role now. The Servans are, of course, not something you should dismiss entirely in combat. They are still able to hold their own quite well if you spend time leveling them up, but if you don’t put the effort in to maintain them, they will quickly become ineffective. Nights of Azure 2 only boasts six visit-able zones outside of the Hotel and you are forced to visit them a lot to help pad out the gameplay. There are the obstacles to help ensure that your first few revisits will always have a treasure for you to find to motivate you to explore around. Once all of that is out of the way it can be sometimes tedious to go back there just to kill a few monsters to fulfill a subquest especially now that you can’t run through to another zone to finish another quest during that trip. What would be nice is that rather than advancing the day every time you return to the Hotel, would be that it let you fast travel to other zones in the fast travel network. That way you wouldn’t be faced with the choice of grinding in an area for 10-20 extra minutes in order to maximize your blue blood/experience/money gains, or to just let the days in the chapter fly by as you quickly rush through the more interesting, non-grindy elements, of the gameplay. Another element that could improve this quibble is if you could swap out your Servans/Lilys at the Fast Travel network stations, that way if you have multiple Lilys that want to go to that same area, or if you encounter an obstacle, you could swap out rather than heading back to the Hotel then running all the way back to where you were moments ago.
When Nights of Azure 2 is compared to its predecessor, NoA2 feels a bit weaker. Some of the elements that made Nights of Azure 1 fun were removed in NoA2. The Daytime activities was an enjoyable system that let you tailor your character based on the activities you chose for her to do while not out in the field fighting fiends. You needed to strategically choose what she did in order to earn the various point types needed to unlock her abilities as different abilities required different combinations of point types. In NoA2, this system was scrapped and replaced with generic spendable points earned at level up. You spend these points as you progress down any of the three skill trees. The Servan level system was also overhauled in NoA2, eliminating the need to put Servans that didn’t suit your current plans into a deck slot in order for them to gain experience. Now you are given Servan points you can spend to upgrade your choice of Servan. If you don’t spend anything on a Servan, even if you use it constantly, it will never level. The ability to modify your weapon to suit your needs or preference in NoA1 simply by pressing a button I believe was a better system than having to use one of your two Servan slots to equip a Servan that could morph into a single other type of weapon. With all the weapon types available in NoA2, it seemed like a waste to have them gated behind the need to carry specific Servan to access them, especially when you were already limited to just two Servans and no longer have the ability to swap between Servan decks. In NoA2, you can jump, something you couldn’t do in NoA1, and the game makes decent use of it. With having fewer places to visit, and not being able to run freely between zones, NoA2 felt more primitive, like it was the earlier made game and NoA1 was its successor. I’m assuming the ability to run between zones was eliminated because it solved a problem that some players may have found while playing NoA1, and that was getting lost and ending up in the completely wrong place while trying to find the exit to the next zone. Having the ability to just warp to the next zone as soon as it is available does seem better, but having to go back to the Hotel and then having to go to your bedroom to sleep and then going back to the lobby, after having left only two minutes earlier to quickly complete a quest is kind of annoying. If I have worked hard enough in the game that I have nearly 20 minutes that I am able to explore per day, then I should be allowed to spend that entire 20 minutes jumping between zones, rather than having to fast forward a day each time I set foot outside. That or give me a faster way to advance the day than having to go to the lobby, fast traveling to the bedroom, walking to the bed on the opposite end of the large palatial room, sleeping, watching the moon animation progress the shadow, fast traveling to the lobby again and walking back to the door to do my next quest 2-3-minute-long quest. It’s a bit of a nitpick I realize, but it does waste a lot of time! One thing that NoA2 does better than NoA1 is the fact, as mentioned earlier, the NPCs hanging around the Hotel actually join you in the field as an ally. Sure, the banter between the characters in the Hotel was fun in NoA1, and perhaps even arguably better than the banter in NoA2, but having those characters take a more active role in the game makes the game feel more alive and, to be honest, fairer! Why should I be the only one trying to save the world! What gives them the right to rest on their laurels drinking tea and eating cake while I am out risking my life!
Overall, should you consider picking up Nights of Azure 2? If you played the first one, and are interested to see how the world you saved is fairing, then I would say yes. While the story isn’t directly related to the previous game, certain characters from the original game do show up. The story itself is on par with the previous game, having a few awkward bits here and there but otherwise containing a compelling narrative. I know I was interested enough in the main story to feel compelled to finish it before writing this review. If you have not played the first one, I’d strongly suggest you play it first. You don’t need to for the story sake but it felt like a richer, fuller and overall more enjoyable game than the sequel. That isn’t to say the sequel isn’t worth playing, far from it in fact. NoA2 has enough going for it to make it an interesting play if you are into the genre in general. It’s just that the first one is arguably better than the second one. Would I consider playing a third entry in the series? Certainly I would. Even with its detractors, for its fun and playability, Nights of Azure 2 outdoes a lot of similar games and is still a pretty decent game in the genre.