I’ve been here before. Searching for my place amongst the JRPG masses, seeking out the countless hours of joy that players worldwide adore. To be in the ranks of the dedicated community that keep this genre alive in the west. Nights of Azure was my hopeful inaugural title into the fold. Regrettably I am still yearning for that enrapturing experience. Nights of Azure I’m sure is something fans of the genre can mold themselves right into, and I’m sure legendary developer Koei Tecmo has brought forth another worthy entry diehard fans will find captivating. For me, it was just another notch in the tree of JRPGs consisting of indistinguishable features and a convoluted narrative.
The story centers around two main heroines, Arnice and Lilysse, and their battle to destroy the demons that take over the streets at night in the mysterious land of Ruswal. You see in this universe, when the sun sets, no one is safe. The villainous Nightlord relinquishes creatures to the city. Arnice, a half demon/ half human hunter is sent to hunt them down, while Lilysse is granted Sainthood. Which means she possesses the power to eliminate the Nightlord, but at the cost of ultimately sacrificing herself as well. One of the first things I noticed was the awkwardly close relationship between Arnice and Lilysse. It’s their extremely over sexualized interactions through the entire game that really makes me question if someone was too afraid to push the envelope. In such a modern thinking society and acceptance of everyone’s sexual orientations and cultural beliefs, it would have served the story better to just have committed to the characters lesbian relationship. Dancing around the concept and treating it like giggly schoolgirls only lacked substance between the two.
Nights of Azure concept is cool. It’s the stuff that is made of childhood horror stories to keep kids home at night. The problem is that Nights of Azure too often falls into the typical anime stereotypes and annoying cliche dialogue. Additionally, it has its moments where situations occur without being fully explained why or its relevance to the overall story. Maybe it’s just me not understanding this genre, but I always find myself wishing the writing would stay on task. There’s a solid foundation that becomes diluted with nonsensical affairs.
Part of me thinks Nights of Azure struggles with its identify. It feels like certain design choices show that it wanted to be an open world RPG, but too many barriers within the world give the archaic feel. There are countless large locations in Ruswal you can travel to at any time, but once you get there you are literally given a time limit to complete your objectives/quests/ and explore, before you are sent back to the home base. I found myself with the dumbfounded moments of trying to follow the extremely unclear clues that are supposed to lead you to current objectives and missions. Which means I spent too much time aimlessly wandering around slashing down repetitive foe waiting for that moment of sheer luck, or time to run out. Nights of Azure is an unusual blend of a 2016 game that feels like it’s mixed with a 1996 game.
The combat system in Nights of Azure approaches the player with the simpler side of things. This was very welcomed for a JRPG. Even if you became lost or disinterested in the plot, the combat was something that always remained in control. It revolved around a lot of single button mashing attacks, a special meter attack, and a dodge. It never became overwhelming and constantly made me feel like a badass. I kind of wish it was expanded on a little bit more in the realm of combos and powers, but it stands as a working system.
A major part of Nights of Azure’s combat consists of its summons, or Servans as they call them. You are allowed 4 Servans at any given time. Servans add a effortless layer of depth to the combat and is quite fun to use. You can even equip them with individual skills and items to further their assistance in the field. The fact that they auto level also means a lot less menu time for the player. You can customize which Servans you bring to the battle too by swapping them with the constantly changing rosters you acquire.
Nights of Azure presentation reminds me of a PS2 game remastered for 2016. There are no jaw dropping landscapes or character models , but I really enjoyed the cel-shaded stylistic animations. The world and environments are there, but the colors don’t pop or enhance the setting, and nothing really feels like it has much life. The textures are dull and the lighting dynamics never gave me any reason to capture my attention. I’m willing to bet that not too many resources were put into differentiating the PS3 and PS4 versions when developing.
As for sound, well there’s not really much you can say when it comes to dialogue. Nights of Azure is English subtitled, so get ready to have your reading glasses on. The combat’s shrieks and screams seem to replicate the usual button mashing action titles alike. I can say that I did enjoy the soundtrack. It kept the blood pumping while hunting down items and quests, especially when you need to really book it in those limited time limits.
Nights of Azure did not bring home the JRPG experience I still long to find. With that said, you still get a decent action RPG that undoubtedly will appeal to the genre’s existing fan base. The story of Arnice and Lilysse is filled with a somber tone of death and love, and make you wish the developers would have committed to some clearly implied intentions between the two. There’s an accessible combat system and gameplay perk to the game, but sadly doesn’t seem to equal out when compared to the ever drifting story and confusing plot points. Nights of Azure has potential, but unfortunately falls into too many tropes of the JRPG world.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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