Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon Review

Game Title: Nights of Azure 2 – Bride of the New Moon
Developer: Gust, Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Battery Life: 3 – 4.5 hours
Download: 6.8 GB

Ever since discovering their games on the PS Vita, I’ve quickly become a fan of RPGs made by the developer Gust. Their casual-themed Atelier games are fun and cute, but when they make more serious RPGs, it also gives a really nice aura. Despite it’s technical problems, I loved the tale weaved in Ar Nosurge Plus.

I’ll admit that I was a pretty sad that when Koei Tecmo localized Nights of Azure last year, the handheld version stayed in Japan. Thankfully, its sequel did come West on handhelds last a week or two ago, and on the Nintendo Switch, allowing console and handheld gamers to enjoy the new Yuri-toned Action RPG.

So, here is my review of Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

Long ago, the great Demon known as the Nightlord was defeated and with his defeat, the world was covered with his blood, transforming all it touched into monsters known as Fiends and Demons and over the years, the agency of humans known as the Curia, have been sacrificing Priestesses to keep the constantly-resurrecting Demons from plunging the world into eternal darkness.

In what is subtly stated as “decades” after the events of the first game, the story revolves around Aluche, a Holy Knight originally tasked with sacrificing her childhood friend to seal away the powers of the new Demon Leader, the “Moon Queen”. But, after being ambushed and murdered, she re-awakens as a Half-Demon and sets off to find her missing friend and put a stop to the Moon Queen for good.

The story of Nights of Azure 2 is good at times, and off at times. The series has always had a “Yuri” theme to it, offering tones of women that are romantically attracted to one another. The base storyline is very interesting with the background story of the Nightlord and Aluche’s inner-struggles of not wanting to sacrifice her closest friend as well as resisting her thirst for her companions’ blood and it really does offer something new with character bonding.

Gameplay

Nights of Azure 2 is a hack-n-slash Action RPG with the same general feel of the original game, but with a few things changed and added here and there. But, all in all, you’ll be fighting your battles with a party of characters and slashing your way through groups of Fiends and Demons.

As you progress through the game, you will be going between a Hotel you use as your base of operations and the various dungeons in the city that’s being affected by the Moon Queen’s magic. Whenever you go out to a dungeon, you go on “Hunts”, which has you in the dungeon all day long without the ability to switch dungeons until the next day.

Now, working through days is where Gust’s iconic gameplay mechanic from Atelier comes ticking into Nights of Azure 2: Time Management. Each day of each chapter makes the Moon’s Phase wanes further towards a New Moon. If it reaches that phase, the world ends, Game Over. To restore the Moon Phases, you must find that chapter’s major boss and defeat it. Along with that, your half-demon body can only take so much stress so each dungeon raid you do is also set on a time limit (which can be increased by leveling up and learning skills).

Before you get down about having time restraints, know that they are more than generous enough for you to have lots of time in each chapter, even on the Normal and Extreme difficulty settings. Every time I played the game, I could reach the Chapter Boss in 2-3 days and would have at least 3-5 days left to do side-quests and explore hidden areas.

There is one Major Flaw in this time-based system and it’s not the timers, but the fact that you can only visit one dungeon per day. Each chapter is loaded with side-quests, from character-based quests that increases Affinity with the party members to standard killing missions that grant you special points to level up your party members.

The problem is that out of your 10-15 minutes of dungeon time, you can get each side-quest done in 2-3 minutes and have to go back to the hotel and wait until the next day before you can do any of the other side-quests in the other dungeons. It turns into 1 side quest per day unless you have multiple quests in the same dungeon, and fighting through random enemies in that dungeon just to feel like you didn’t waste the entire day for your measly 2-minute character quest.

When you’re actually out in the field, enemies spawn as you come up to them, and your party engages them in combo-based battles balanced between light and heavy attacks and feels like you’re in the middle of a Musou/Warriors game. To keep repetition from setting in, some of the party members you take with you can transform into different weapon types for you to use to change how you fight.

But the biggest aspect of combat is the Lily/Partner system. While you can just mash buttons to fight enemies, you can activate special moves with your partner by performing Double Attacks/Revenge Attacks, where you strike the same enemy as your partner at the same time. This lets you use special cinematic attacks and give you huge amounts of energy to charge your Ultimate Attacks, which are also different depending on your Party Configuration.

These attacks increase your partner’s Affinity Level with you which unlocks new skills for them and special Quests for their backstories and feelings towards Aluche. These are important not just because of that backstory, but because Affinity Levels determine whether you get the True Ending when you beat the game.

We’ve talked a lot about Time Management, but how long is the actual game? Nights of Azure 2 was only around 15-18 hours, very short for a JRPG. Nights of Azure 2 is quite a bit longer. With doing steady Story Progression and mostly focusing on the character-based side-quests, I beat the game with the True Ending in around 27 hours. I didn’t have to stop to grind but for an hour or two for Affinity in the late-game, so I’d put an average run at around 25 hours.

Beating the game also opens a few things up for replayability. You can obtain the True Ending in a single run, but you must max every playable character’s Affinity Ranks to get the Secret Epilogue. It’s also worth noting that there’s an update/patch that should be coming to US/EU later on that will remove the Moon Phase Time Limitation from New Game Plus, allowing you to have free roam for grinding out and doing all side-quests and unlocking the Epilogue in your 2nd run.

Controls

The control configuration for Nights of Azure 2 will be a bit confusing if you are not a PlayStation or Xbox gamer as it uses the same configuration as the PS4 version of the game. Bear that in mind as I explain the scheme below.

Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and you can move the camera with the Right Analog Stick. The D-Pad / Arrow Buttons are used to issue AI Commands or activate Buffs for the party. The triggers are all used as well. L is used for Guarding and R for Dodging/Dashing. ZL and ZR are used for Party Member skills, like Weapon Transformations.

The face buttons are where things get confusing. X and Y are used for Heavy and Light attacks, and A and B are used for jumping and partner skills. But outside of combat, A is used to confirm options and B is used to cancel them. But when you open menus, B becomes confirm and A becomes cancel. Since only the combat/dungeon controls can be modified, I had to swap A and B in Settings, which still gives the game a PlayStation-orientation, which may throw some of you off.

Presentation

Graphically, the game looks pretty nice. The renders and models all look nice and smooth, and the CG scenes look outright perfect. You will see some jagged edges in Handheld Mode, but for a portable Gust game, it looks worlds better than any of the PS Vita games Gust has made.

The technical problems of this game don’t come from the graphics, but from the stability of the frame-rate. When you are exploring dungeons, watching scenes, or customizing at your base, the frame-rate stays at a steady and stable 30 fps.

But when you enter combat with enemies, it starts to drop the moment the enemies spawn in front of you. This is also where performance changes in TV Mode and Handheld Mode. When you’re in TV Mode, the fps will drop and stay in the mid-20s most of the time, so things still stay decently-stable as you slash your way through the Fiends.

In Handheld Mode, it gets significantly worse. When it drops to the 20s in TV Mode, it can easily drop a little under 20 fps in handheld Mode, similar to some of the major drops from some of Gust’s more recent PS Vita titles. It is playable this way, but it’s pretty rough and clear that Gust is still learning how to optimize Switch games.

Battery Life

I was hopeful for Battery Life. Although we do have some nice visuals, this is also a Warriors-like RPG, so I expected it to be like Fate/Extella and be in the 3-4 hour range. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 07 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 33 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 37 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 32 minutes

I found this pretty acceptable. If you want your Yuri Adventures on the go, you can expect 3-4.5 hours per charge.

Summary

In conclusion, Nights of Azure 2 is a decent RPG that feels a little Atelier and a little Warriors with a Yuri-toned Gothic Setting. The game is definitely flawed, with the One-Dungeon-a-Day making your progress feel repetitive and some pretty significant frame-drops in handheld mode. But if you can take the drops or just stick to TV Mode, it has a unique story that is definitely worth experiencing.

7.5/10

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