Japanese developer Gust is well known for their Atelier series so Nights of Azure as a new IP has been a nice change of pace from them. While the original Nights of Azure suffered in the gameplay department, it had its own charm with the story and character interaction that carried out between the two main protagonists. The sequel appears to be a more iterative take on the gameplay design and the story from the first game. Combat has now taken a full action based approach with a lot more variety in term of the mechanics. The story now offers more clarity with cutscenes and some of the characters also make their return, but the game still attempts to stand out on its own instead of relying on its predecessor.
The story is set after an unspecified period from the first game and there are references in the story to the events that happen in the original Nights of Azure. The two leads are briefly mentioned but other than that, you can safely play this game without having to deal with its prequel. The main threat this time is the Moon Queen while the two leads are completely different. You will take control of Aluche who is an agent of the Curia. She is on a mission to safely deliver Liliana – a priestess who is also childhood friend of Aluche – to the Curia. It is later told that Liliana will need to be sacrificed to the Moon Queen in order to save the world as a “Bride of Time” however along the way, Aluche is attacked by an unknown evil force and barely survives her fatal wounds losing Liliana in this process. She is then imbued with the demon powers of Arnice – a demon hunter and main protagonist from the prequel – which also gives her new demonic powers in this process.
The main hub for the sequel is again a hotel. You are pretty limited in term of what you can do here. The new addition to the hotel is a swimming pool for the female characters which can also offer some nice fan service if you prefer it. Exploration outside the hotel is unfortunately limited thanks to the lunar cycle that forces you to perform missions quickly. You are usually given a set amount of time to advance the story which is divided in chapters. Once you go out to explore the town, you will get a timer to go with it and have to make sure to trigger some of the important story related events in order to progress further in the story. If you to fail to progress in the story and a lot of time has passed, you can get a game over screen.
The restricted time has its ups and downs. It makes you attempt to speed your way through the game but it also adds to the challenge. However in the grand scheme of things, it is perhaps not suitable for a typical RPG as Nights of Azure 2. The worst thing to happen here is that if you fail to continue in the story within the time limit of the lunar cycle, you have a good chance of getting yourself stuck in the game. Thankfully you do get a choice to restart the chapter in this case, but this is obviously not the solution to this problem. It is rather unfortunate considering the main game can prove to be a fun experience.
Servan system makes a return for the sequel and they appear to be handled differently here. You can equip two Servan at a time and their powers are mapped to the controller triggers and limited by a power meter that gets charged over time. They are also needed to clear some of the blockades that you will encounter when you explore around the town, however it is always tricky to figure out which Servan will remove which blockade because the game never makes it clear to the player. You will have to figure this out on your own and since the time is limited, repeated travels to the same location for exploration has to be avoided. It is generally a case of trial and error for the most part.
Party based combat is perhaps the biggest improvement here. You can perform some fancy moves and special attacks if you team up with a partner. You can also order your party members through a restricted set of commands. If you team up and coordinate with them, it is possible to execute some special moves which can make short work of a large group of enemies. Sadly as good as some of the combat can look here, it tends to get repetitive rather quickly if you pair it up with the moves and combos. The lack of enemy variety doesn’t exactly help the situation here.
Overall, I found Nights of Azure 2 a lot better in the gameplay department, but some of the new changes make it hard to think of it as an improved sequel. Combat is vastly improved and the story is better paced now, even if it feels incoherent and nonsensical at times – but the lunar cycle can spoil a lot of the good experience especially if you accidentally get stuck in the story and are forced to restart the chapter losing your progress.
Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon Review (PS4)
Game description: Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is a fantasy genre action role-playing game developed by Gust and published by Tecmo Koei for the PS4, PlayStation Vita and Microsoft Windows.
Sequels typically improve on their predecessors and Nights of Azure 2 is no exception here. Some of the flaws from the original game are now fixed but at the expense of creating new problems along the way.