Gust is a developer that most of you probably know due to its involvement in the development of the Atelier and Ar tonelico series. With Nights of Azure, the developer decided to develop something that's slightly different in terms of gameplay, more specifically, an action RPG. The result was a game that, while not revolutionary, it brings enough to the table create an entertaining ride.
Many decades before the events of the game, a demon called Nightlord cloaked the world in Eternal Night. This demon was defeated by a Saint, however, Nightlord's blue blood was scattered across the world when he was defeated, with his blood turning anything it touched into fiends. Despite being defeated, the demon returns in regular intervals and the only way to seal him once again is to sacrifice a new Saint.
Nights of Azure takes place in Rusewall, an uncharted and mysterious island just east of England, and follows the tale of two girls: Lilysse and protagonist Arnice. Lilysse is the next Saint tasked with sealing the Nightlord, while Arnice is a half-demon tasked with protecting the Saint. Half-demons are people who were infected by the Blue Blood but managed to keep their consciousness and human form. Arnice, however, doesn't want the new Saint to be sacrificed, and so it starts seeking for another way to stop the Nightlord. It's a simple and pretty straightforward plot, with the relationship between the two characters being the highlight of it. As the story progresses, you will notice that both characters struggle with the fact they want to keep each other safe, but at the same time, they need to fulfill their destiny.
Despite this compelling story between the two characters and some light-hearted moments, the plot also has its own issues. I think a better job could have been done during some dialogues scenes, as there were occasions that there was just so much going on and the game didn't make it easy for me to understand everything. In addition, there are certain aspects of the story that could have had a bit more of attention and development, such as events that felt a bit random and occurred just for plot reasons.
As for the gameplay, Nights of Azure follows the action-RPG formula with a few additions added into the mix. In typical hack-and-slash fashion, controlling Arnice is a really simple task. You attack and perform combos using the square and/or triangle buttons, perform special attacks with the X button, and dodge attack with circle. She can also temporarily transform in her Demon form, which increases her offensive power.
What adds more variety and strategy to the gameplay is the introduction of "Servans", demons that Arnice can summon to fight alongside her. Each Servan has its own abilities and combat style, which range from attacker to support types. You are allowed to call up to four different Servans in battle, but knowing which combination works the best will make things easier for you.
The levelling up system also has its own twists. While Servans level up in old fashioned way, via experience, Arnice can increase her stats by collecting blue blood from fiends in battle. Blue Blood is not only used to level up Arnice though, as it's also required to purchase certain items and create new Servans to your team. While levelling up and performing side activities, you will earn spirit, finesse, stamina and charm points, which can be used to unlock new abilities, weapons and other bonuses.
Unfortunately, activities such as levelling up Arnice, equipping your character and Servans, and changing Servans is restricted to the Ende Hotel area, which acts as a hub. In here, you can do all that that I mentioned above, purchase new items, accept sidequests and watch several events unfold. Once all is set and done, you can go outside and continue where you left off. The game also features a time limit system when you go out of the Hotel, where you can only stay outside a maximum of fifteen minutes before being teleported back to the Hotel. It's isn't particularly annoying, but in the end this system is just plain pointless.
When you want to take a break from the story, you can always try to complete sidequests or challenges in the arena. Sidequests are really simple and all come down to either collecting a certain object or defeating a set number of enemies. Arena is a lot more fun and challenging, and considering the story itself is quite easy, this is where players will put their skills to test. There's a whole variety of challenges, and while there are easy challenges, some will require precise timing and skill, and sometimes, even specific kinds of Servans in order to be completed.
In terms of presentation, the game doesn't really impress from a visual standpoint. Although the art style itself is fine and the environments are varied, these feel bland and empty, not to mention they also lack detail. This is something that's also a bit noticeable during cutscenes, as I felt like a better job could have been done in the animation. Another thing worth noticing is that framerate drops happen often when there's a lot of action going on the screen. On the good side, I can say that the soundtrack is amazing and easily one of the game's strongest points. From the combat themes that play in several locations, to the calmer theme at the hotel, this is one of those soundtracks where I can say that there was never a dull moment.
Overall, Nights of Azure delivers an enjoyable experience. The simple combat system and the Servans combine together to create a fun and entertaining gameplay. While the story isn't exactly spectacular, the interaction between the characters is probably enough for you to invest in the game. Despite its shortcomings, especially the game's visual presentation, Nights of Azure is a game that JRPG fans should consider giving a chance.
|Simple, but addictive and fun combat system.|
|Arena adds a great variety of difficult challenges.|
|Although decent, the story sometimes complicates things way too much.|
|Poor visual presentation.|
|Pointless time limit system.|