Nights Of Azure was developed by Gust Studios and published by Koei Tecmo. It was released for PlayStation 4 on March 29th, 2016 at a price of $59.99. A press review copy was provided to The Hidden Levels.
Nights Of Azure is the new risque JRPG that has come to North America and Europe. It features Arnice, a half-demon Holy Knight that fights against the Blue Blooded demons and the Nightlord on behalf of the Curia, an organization that battles on behalf of the light. Complex enough for you? Well not only is there care put into the story but there are also a plethora of game play elements in order to pique the interest of hack ‘n’ slash players out there. While initially giving off a Kingdom Hearts vibe it soon became a game of its own but there are still reservations about it.
What I enjoyed:
Interesting plot: The overall lore of Nights Of Azure (NoA) surprises you with how much detail was put into it and creating the different characters. Going into the creation of the Curia, the guild that protects the land from Eternal Night, and the different demons throughout the adventure is expansive. Arnice also has the ability to talk to her Servans, making conversations with them that even hint at their own backgrounds and where exactly they come from. Even during a lot of the side-quests many of the demons explain a certain location where humans and demons used to live in harmony, piquing the player’s curiosity into this tidbit of information. You know that a writer for a story is good when they draw the player in and make them get absorbed into the world. This makes me wish that they even expanded on the world by creating comics and/or an anime from it.
Lots of different game play elements: Just when you come to a certain point where being able to level up Arnice/Servans, transform into scantily clad demons, and collect blood for rituals, NoA surprises you by adding in a lot more activities to do to keep the player’s interest up. Arnice doesn’t just go out for a hearty night of slaying fiends and demons, she also likes to do things during the day including training, writing in her diary and more; doing these different “Daytime Activities” accumulates points in Finesse, Stamina, Charm and Spirit in order to acquire more Skills. You spend the points in each category according to what requirements a Skill needs to buy it to improve Arnice’s combat experience or increase limits in activities and inventory. There’s also an Arena that simulates battles with a range of enemies, different Servan decks, and battle conditions; this mode is good to test yourself and add more entertainment instead of just going out in the night to complete missions.
Large variety of Servans: Though certain Servans are just pallet-swapped versions of the others, there’s still a wide variety of demons to utilize as your personal servants. Most of them have their own unique abilities and attack in special ways that offer interesting party combinations, making you rethink about who you want to have and what specific type of element to use. The neat thing about them is that they aren’t just for battling, you can also include a Servan that specializes in simply collecting items during battle or offering support for you and the others by shielding or applying effects. After upgrading Arnice later on, the player will be open to creating more than one party and people able to freely switch during battle between the decks, which can really help in a bind as long as there is sufficient SP in Arnice’s meter.
Character/creature designs are intricate: Although risque, the costumes that many of the characters wear usually represents their character well and suits their personality. Arnice’s costume shows that she’s elegantly powerful while Lilysse’s represents a more reserved and homely person. Arnice also has different transformations depending on which creature is her party leader, which is amazing because a lot of details were put into the design of the forms to make them unique in their own way. More demonic beings that become the leader transform her into the Demon Form which grants her horns and fire abilities while having a more animal It’s not only Arnice’s and Lilysse’s designs that are unique, but also that of additional characters later on and the creatures of the game. Throughout the game you’re constantly wondering what could be next while fighting your way to different areas and encountering different bosses. It simply brings the cool factor up for the game significantly.
Color motifs and menus are beautiful: Great care was taken into choosing the color coordination throughout the game, representing the overall theme of “night” but by making it feel calming rather than brooding. As you navigate to a new area in the map, you’ll try to look up at the sky or the scenery in order to take in the beautiful looking world that the developers put in. The menus are aesthetically appealing and well designed, as well, with easy navigation that lets the player find what they want with minimal searching. Everything is neatly organized so that searching for more information into the background of the world can be found in a compendium called the Encyclopedia for those that want to know more. This mesmerizes the player into accepting and being absorbed into the world, learning of its history in the process, which makes it an even more enjoyable experience.
What I disliked:
No difficulty choices: This has a large impact on the overall enjoyment of the game and also creates a drop in replayability for the more hardcore hack ‘n’ slash players out there. This is a simple feature that hasn’t been included into the game that could have really increased the tension during gameplay instead of making the title an easy breeze. As it’s easy to level up your Servans and Arnice, it only takes a little time to grind out some experience points then tackle the next bosses like they’re nothing. Whether this was intended to make the title easier for younger audiences or inexperienced players or not, they developers should have still considered a hardcore option with some additional circumstances to increase the tensity for the veteran RPG players out there.
No need to spend the mulla: Throughout the entire game items, blue blood, and Libra (in-game currency) are collected by defeating enemies, looting chests, or having certain Servans find them but it never once felt like it was important to spend on items in the store. Players will find that they’ll only collect blue blood to spend on leveling up Arnice rather than using it to Actualize more Servans or buy items at demon stores. This should have been made more balanced in order to give players an ultimatum, so that cash could actually help progress the player further instead of just being available.
Timed sessions aren’t tense: Even if you die and restart the entire night around the end of the area that you’re clearing, a player can still do it three times over. Players will not only be able to casually fight their way through the horde of monsters but also explore and collect items along the way without any care. Later on, after acquiring a skill to increase that time limit, it becomes an extremely minor concern that’s not even important anymore.
Awkward animations/music cues: This continuously occurs throughout the entire title with Arnice not having a walking animation, overly-jiggly-fan-service breasts, awkward facial expressions during inappropriate times, sloppy cut scene animations and more. On top of that, it’s like the music cues are living beings that can’t read situations and play at really awkward times. Jaunty music could be playing during a certain serious situation or vice versa.
No skipping: The player is unable to skip many of the cut scenes, making an extra play through tedious and only being able to skip through certain dialogue. If there’s animation then it’s mandatory for the player to watch it, and a lot of the cut scenes include dialogue or information that has already been repeated continuously throughout the story. There’s only so many times that the fact that the Saint killed the Nightlord a thousand years ago can be choked down the player’s throat.
Altogether, Nights Of Azure is a decent JRPG that offers a lot in the way of upgrading/collecting Servans, satisfyingly destroying monsters, and getting a good plot across to the player. Other than that it’s nothing that stands out among hack ‘n’ slash titles. There’s a lack of complexity when it comes to fighting and spending your currency, as well as very awkward moments throughout the entire game that more development time could have mopped up. It absorbs the player into its world with its history into the land and creatures but also breaks that focus at the laughably weird animations and music cues. Ultimately it seems like something you might want to wait for a reduced price point on if you’d like to play.
Verdict: Wait for a sale