Review: Nights of Azure (PS4)

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Title: Nights of Azure
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (8.20 GB)
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd.
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
Nights of Azure is also available on PlayStation 3 (Japan) and PlayStation Vita (Japan).
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

In Nights of Azure, the world has changed drastically. Prior to the start of the game, a demon called the Nightlord rose to power. His goal was to cover the world in eternal night but he was stopped by the first Saint who managed to seal away his power. This process, however, rained blue blood on the world. Most humans caught in the blood became fiends, which make the night a dangerous place for the remaining people.

The game proper picks up with the main character, Arnice a half-demon, half-human, accepting a mission from the mysterious organization she works for. The Nightlord is again gaining in power and the Curia has selected a new Saint to seal him again. Upon beginning her assignment, Arnice discovers that the Saint is her friend, Lilysse.

This may sound like a pretty generic fantasy game setting, and it is, however the stuff with the Nightlord and fiends and whatnot is really only window dressing for telling the story of Arnice and Lilysse. As becomes apparent within the first couple chapters, Arnice and Lily are much, much more than friends. And their love for one another is somewhat at odds with their positions.

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The act of sealing the Nightlord is likely to require the Saint to sacrifice her life, an action Lily is willing to take to protect Arnice. Meanwhile, Arnice would rather attempt to fight the Nightlord head-on to protect Lily, even knowing it could put her own life in peril. What results is a very play-like story, not entirely dissimilar to a Shakespearean Tragedy.

I absolutely love the story in Nights of Azure. The main plot can definitely dip into being a little too generic however the relationships and general manner of the storytelling help set it apart from other games. This may also be because that there aren’t too many games of this type which focus on this kind of relationship.

Gameplay:
The gameplay is also a little generic on its face but it has some small and interesting twists. At its core, Nights of Azure is an action RPG. The player directly controls Arnice, with pretty typical action/action RPG controls. Square is a normal attack, Triangle is a heavy attack, Cross is a special attack and Circle is dash/dodge. As Arnice levels up, she also gets the ability to switch between four different weapons, which are selected by the D-pad.

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However, the twist in the gameplay is that Arnice can summon Servans to fight alongside her. At any given time, she can have four Servans, a single ‘deck,’ available but she can also head into battle with multiple decks and swap between them freely. Summoning a Servan is done by holding L1 and pressing one of the face buttons. Once summoned, the Servan will stay with Arnice until it dies or she changes decks.

Servan can fill several different roles too. Some are meant to be pure damage dealers, others can heal or pull enemy damage or even scrounge for items. They are AI controlled, however the player can issue a few different commands to change their behavior slightly. Plus, the player controls when Servans use their special Burst ability, some of which are good at turning the tide in a tough battle.

… an alternate ending to explore …
Besides summoning Servan, Arnice’s other ability is to transform. For the main game, she has four forms she can transform into, which depend on the types of Servan in her current deck. These different transformations make her super powerful for a short period of time.

For an RPG the main campaign is over pretty quick. I’m not entirely sure how long it took me since the game’s timer doesn’t stop when the system is in suspend mode but I’d estimate around twenty-five hours. I mostly stuck to the main story, but there are four side stories that slowly open up during the game.

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In addition, completing the game puts the player back to just before the final boss but with several more optional bosses and an alternate ending to explore. Plus Arnice gets a new transformation and some new Servans she can summon and her max level is increased from ten to eleven.

That’s right, even in the post game, Arnice can only get up to level eleven. This game has an abnormally deflated level-up system, but the tradeoff is that leveling up feels a lot more meaningful than in most games. Arnice gets several skills per level as opposed to many ‘normal’ systems where a character might get one skill every several levels.

There are a few other minor systems in the game but suffice it to say, Nights of Azure ends up with a nice balance between giving the player options and not being difficult to get into. I really enjoy the gameplay for the most part. My biggest complaint would be that the controls for Arnice occasionally feel a little loose, but since Servans are a big part of my gameplan, that’s a minor issue.

… a consistent framerate …
Visuals:
From a style standpoint, I like the graphics in Nights of Azure. The aesthetics give a bit of a Victorian era vibe which works into that play-like quality I felt. Arnice’s base of operations, a hotel, certainly feels high-class. The town the game takes place in fits into that theme and many of the enemy and boss designs do as well.

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From a technical standpoint on the other hand, Nights of Azure leaves something to be desired. Although the game is PS4 exclusive in America and Europe, in Japan the game released simultaneously on PS3 and Vita as well. It shows, especially in the animation. Arnice’s hair, for example, often acts more like a big chunk of plastic than hair. Particularly when she turns her head during cutscenes.

Still, with the style being good, I can forgive some slight shortcomings in the technical aspects. And the game runs with a consistent framerate, even when there are a decent number of fiends and Servans all attacking one another.

… built on some really good balance …
Audio:
I guess Koei Tecmo wasn’t expecting Nights of Azure to be a big game, as they have not included an English dub. Almost every scene in the game is voiced in Japanese and I feel like the actresses for Arnice and Lily especially do a good job of it.

The soundtrack is great too, in my opinion. There are some nice upbeat songs for the base and menus, some more somber tracks for when the story requires it, and of course some good boss battlin’ music as well. The music all fits well with the aesthetics in the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
Overall, Nights of Azure is a great experience built on some really good balance. The story and mechanics both blend some well-known tropes with some unique aspects. The game is a good length for the main story but it includes some side stuff and post game additions for those who want it.

However, what I like the most was how the game explores the relationship between Arnice and Lilysse. It’s rather uncommon for games to focus on a relationship like this and this one does a good job of it without overshadowing the other aspects of the game. Because of all this, Nights of Azure earns a solid recommendation for action RPG fans who want something familiar but just a little different.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • GlixelHiredDave

    Great! Fantastic! Amazing! Oh my! Just bought it today for 10.00$ Canada coins ( so, like 4.59 Usa$?). Hyped! Really so for da titty shotz!