GAME REVIEW | Gust Drops the Ball on Progress in "Nights of Azure" Sequel
When a game gets a sequel, one would think that it would get improvements over he first. After all when the first game obviously sell well enough to warrant its existence, you'd best not want to screw that up. Unfortunately Gust has completely dropped the ball with Nights of Azure 2: The Bride of the New Moon. What could have been a chance to make a better game leads to one that fails in nearly every category that it did well in, while not fixing some of the issues the first game had.
Nights of Azure 2 already starts being a disappointment once you learn that the setting is a millennia later, but the Eternal Night once again threatens the world, and that the Curia are going to try to sacrifice a maiden priestess with a Curian Knight escorting her to the ritual site. Of course like the first game, the agent and priestess are friends, so they'll want to find an alternative solution to saving the world. It's almost the exact same setup as the first game, except now you'll receive help from other characters who will be AI partners called Lilies.
Lilies can do combo attacks to a group or single enemy for huge damage, or they can give you temporary boosts, but they are mainly AI driven. Because of this, the game now only has room for two Servans, which are monster familiars that used to help you exclusively in the first game. The Servans also now are completely AI driven rather than being used more like extra attacks, although you can still use them that way, albeit more limited. Some Servans now come in types, and can be used as weapons. However choosing Servans can be annoying, since you never know if you'll need one to clear one of the game's many obstacles like setting fire to a patch of thorns to get access to a new area.
This becomes a problem since the game still has a time limit for how long you can be out doing missions or quests. Even furthering the issue is the fact that combat is not only more sluggish now despite no longer being in 60 frames even on the PS4, but it's just a slower pace than the last game in general. Strangely the PC port runs at 60 frames on decent rigs, but performs the worst on the PS4 and Vita. While the Vita version wasn't localized, there was a port for the Switch, which I played for this review. The port seems to be a straight port of the Vita version but with generally a better framerate at the cost of some visual impairments. There are times when it chugs, but those aren't game breaking. It mostly stays at a constant 30 frames and doesn't hinder the gameplay, despite how much more sluggish it's gotten.
In addition to the returning time limit -- which was always kind of just a minor annoyance -- the game actually puts you on a strict time limit of its own, and involves the phases of the moon. If the new moon finally hits before you complete a chapter, it's game over. Any progress made is erased and the game rolls you back to either an earlier save, or restarts the whole chapter. This is a problem not only because the things I just mentioned above, but also since even if you have time remaining, it's not saved and you are forced to end the night before you go out again. Not even the time you saved is carried over to the next night.
Restricting the player like this is just obnoxious, as it basically forces you to maximize the time you spent outside, and to use it wisely, but the terrible and tedious combat changes will make it a slog to go through, especially when character specific quests are involved. The last issues with the game involve how much of the story is a rehash. While the introduction of new AI partners offers more interaction and development, these scenes aren't that interesting. Also Gust seems to be more heavily pushing the fan-service for males players than make a nice story between the romance from the two lead characters. All in all, Nights of Azure 2 is just an embarrassing disappointment from the first game. It might have had its flaws, but at least it was more interesting.
The Good: There's more interaction with party members than the first game.
The Bad: Combat is just sluggish in general due to the changes made to the gameplay.
The Ugly: The game's framerate is disappointing even on the PS4 version.
SUMMARY: What could have been an enjoyable sequel to the first game ends up making too many bad changes, and Nights of Azure 2: The Bride of the New Moon becomes worse as a result.
Promotional consideration provided by KOEI TECMO. Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Eric Kelly is a co-host to the RPGrinders podcast and has a Patreon if you'd like to support him here.