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Nights of Azure Review – Aching Blue Blood

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Nights of Azure is an action-RPG developed by Gust – the team behind the Atelier series – and is their first true attempt at a full action-based title. Unfortunately, while the core of the game is strong, the lack of polish and balancing really hurts the game overall, leaving it feeling incredibly mediocre.

The story for the game follows a Holy Knight named Arnice through her time on an uncharted island in the North Sea. The setting is reminiscent of an alternate history version of the 19th century, and as far as the style and design of the setting goes, the team really hit the mark.

800 years before the events of the game, the ‘Lord of Night’ was killed by the Saint and sealed away. However, his death caused his blue blood to rain down on the inhabitants of Earth, causing corruption to spread and turning just about anything touched by it into twisted monsters. These creatures prowled at night, limiting the remaining humans to live during the day, thus the Japanese title of the game; The Land Without Night.

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Fast-forward to the start of the game, and you have the Church, which employs Holy Knights to kill the monsters and try to maintain some semblance of order. Arnice is deployed to the island and meets her childhood friend Lilysse, who had been sent as her partner for the mission. After their friendly reunion, it’s revealed that Lilysse has been selected as the next Saint – a sacrifice made so that the Lord of Night remains sealed. Arnice, in true main character fashion, resolves to find a way to save Lilysse from this fate.

Overall, the story in Nights of Azure is lackluster. The main storyline is pretty simple and straightforward – maybe even a bit stereotypical. It’s not all bad. Many of the sidequests and non-important events are far more interesting and endearing for the characters, which helps to push the story along. Nights of the Azure got attention for potentially being a game with lesbians as the leads, and while it may not be thrown in your face throughout, the relationship between Arnice and Lilysse was developed well.

The two leads felt natural together, and their relationship didn’t feel too contrived or forced, which was nice. Despite this, I would say that they certainly had the aura of very close friends moreso than lovers. But putting that aside, while the story was lacking overall, I think the characters helped it along. You’ll certainly get attached as you go along, which is the sign of good characters. Unfortunately, good characters in a ‘meh’ story aren’t enough to make it great.

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As for the gameplay, it’s best described as flat. The game has you control Arnice throughout combat portions. She is able to employ ‘Servans’, which are basically lesser demons to help her in combat. These little guys are a big focus of the game, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Arnice herself begins the game with a longsword and the ability to transform.

As a half-blood, she was touched by the blue blood but was able to prevent herself from succumbing to it. This gives her extended capabilities in battle, as well as the ability to use her blue blood to transform into a demon form. The form that she turns into when activated is based upon your team of Servans, and can vary from an attack-oriented form, to a defense or even support-oriented one. As you progress, Arnice will also gain access to a few different weapons, including dual swords, a cannon, a hammer, and more, which can change her playstyle to fit your preference.

Coming from this, there are the Servans. Arnice will start with a small team of four Servans, and you’ll collect more as you go through the game. Finding cursed relics will allow Arnice to ‘Actualize’ new Servans, expanding your range of options for your team. The max number of Servans you can bring into the field with you is four, so you’ll want to choose which ones complement your style.

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The game’s combat, unfortunately, is where things start to flop. The difficulty is just not there. The entire game is basically a stroll in the park, with very few moments of difficulty at all. Normal enemies pose basically no threat, and bosses are glorified punching bags. If you decide to use Servans at all during exploration, normal enemies tend to drop before you get to even attack them yourself. In comparison, bosses come down to mashing buttons until said boss is dead.

This is all the more frustrating due to the arena. Not long after the start of the game, you’ll be given access to the arena below the team’s base of operations (which is a really snazzy hotel). The arena was the one bastion of good gameplay in Nights of Azure, with some actual difficulty.

Arena battles had specific victory conditions, like winning without taking damage, avoiding a bullet-hell style arena for a minute without getting hit, or winning with only Servan-based damage. These battles were often fun and varied, showing what was capable, but not achieved, with the gameplay systems in the main part of the game.

Even switching weapon styles or Servans during the main game is unnecessary. It’ll help liven up the monotony a bit, but there will never be a fight which you’ll need to retry with a different strategy – you can simply power through almost every fight in the game with minimal effort and thought.

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There were also a number of smaller annoyances that really hurt the game. While playing, even just in the first 20 minutes of the game, there were some slowdowns and frame rate drops during both cutscenes and gameplay. When lots of enemies were on screen, it was particularly noticeable.

Combat also had a few quirks in the way it was designed. Controls and fighting all felt very flighty and there was little response from enemies when you hit them. The reverse was true as well, especially against weaker enemies – Arnice could take a ton of hits without reacting, which would leave her low on HP without any notice at all. The same held true for your own Servans. If you weren’t keeping a close eye on HP bars, there was no indication you were even taking damage sometimes.

All in all, Nights of Azure is a middling game with some neat design choices that just didn’t do enough to stand out. Combat and gameplay had glimpses of a great game, especially in the arena, but the rest of it didn’t hold up. Characters were written well enough and side stories were enjoyable, but the main storyline felt flat and stereotypical. It just wasn’t enough to make it a great game, but it was far from genuinely bad.

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Nights of Azure was reviewed on PS4 using a digital copy provided by Koei Tecmo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 7

The Good:

  • Setting and overall art direction are well polished
  • Good music in some portions of the game
  • The characters were refreshing
  • The arena battles

The Bad:

  • Gameplay is way too easy
  • Minor quirks and annoyances detracted from the overall gameplay experience
  • Main storyline was weak overall
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I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.



43 comments
  1. Mir Teiwaz
    Mir Teiwaz
    May 3, 2016 at 7:56 am

    My biggest issue with the game so far is that it’s telling me to go somewhere on the world map for a quest, but since there’s no way to check an area map I have no way to know if I’m going the right way.

    You have the minimap in the corner of the screen, but that doesn’t really help outside of navigation for the immediate area you’re in. I don’t need waypoints, but at least the ability to see a full screen version of the map would be helpful.

    I want to like this game more since I’m a rabid Gust fanboy, but it’s just not sucking me in like the EXA_PICO games did.

  2. Minuteworld92
    Minuteworld92
    May 3, 2016 at 7:58 am

    definitely getting a ps4 neo for some of these games. it’s published by koei but I don’t think gust’s games ever came to pc.

  3. Cael
    Cael
    May 3, 2016 at 8:02 am

    I will never understand name changes when a game only has japanese audio.

  4. KissDisqus
    KissDisqus
    May 3, 2016 at 8:04 am

    “I would say that they certainly had the aura of very close friends moreso than lovers”
    That explicit hand holding would suggest otherwise.

  5. Smug
    Smug
    May 3, 2016 at 8:04 am

    “Despite this, I would say that they certainly had the aura of very close friends moreso than lovers.”

    LIES
    I
    E
    S

    My yuri senses are never wrong

  6. Minuteworld92
    Minuteworld92
    May 3, 2016 at 8:07 am

    I hope they mash muffs in the end.

  7. Kaleido-Ruby
    Kaleido-Ruby
    May 3, 2016 at 8:45 am

    The only two things you’ll have going for you in that capacity is if there’s a quest in an unlocked area, it will have an exclamation point (!) next to it. If it’s a locked area, then there should be a pulsing icon at the area in question. Problem is, you get to deduce how to get to said area with one of the adjacent places. There isn’t a lot of hand-holding in this game for something like that but once you figure out the system it gets a bit easier in that respect.

  8. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 3, 2016 at 9:39 am

    “The game’s combat, unfortunately, is where things start to flop. The difficulty is just not there. The entire game is basically a stroll in the park, with very few moments of difficulty at all. Normal enemies pose basically no threat, and bosses are glorified punching bags. If you decide to use Servans at all during exploration, normal enemies tend to drop before you get to even attack them yourself. In comparison, bosses come down to mashing buttons until said boss is dead.”

    Did you beat it all?

    The last 3 bosses (final and 2 extra ones) are actually damn hard

    My biggest gripe besides how short it was and small number of characters was how great the last fights are and how they dropped the ball by having the previous fights be easy AF

  9. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 3, 2016 at 9:43 am

    the game is best near the end sadly, it feels like it could have told a longer story but it just ends. I really hope they do a sequel that fixes some of these universal complaints. (length, small number of characters, tougher bosses like the ones towards the end, A PROPER AREA MAP)

  10. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 3, 2016 at 9:46 am

    They lie on the same bed but they are very clumsy, innocent with each other which made me like them rather than the stereotypical overtly sexually aggressive lesbots

    Yuri love

  11. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    May 3, 2016 at 9:58 am

    I find myself liking the side characters more. Alucard and Lloyd have some pretty funny conversations. I think Lilysse is bit bland, so I don’t particularly care about saving her.

    I’m also enjoying the day quest system and how you can utilise the different Servan, but the time limit on the night quests is annoying.

    Overall a good game with some visible lack of polish.

  12. Dewey Defeats Truman
    Dewey Defeats Truman
    May 3, 2016 at 10:35 am

    could be worse, they could be changing the japanese audio to protect our poor sensitive ears.

  13. alterku
    alterku
    May 3, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Just going to keep saying it: I love Gust character designs, I just wish their games were better.

  14. Liamv2
    Liamv2
    May 3, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I still hold that this game feels like it badly needs another game in the same universe.

  15. EinMugenTenshin
    EinMugenTenshin
    May 3, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Actually, that’s kinda common in Japan, or so I hear.

  16. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    May 3, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    FWIW Chris is a pretty dedicated grind sort of RPG player IIRC. I’ll ask him about it. Usually he’s in the comments for these reviews though..

  17. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Eh, the game was good and so was the review but this seemed off. Most reviews don’t seem to mention the extra bosses like mine did or I haven’t read that many. Floaty combat is a thing and there is no feedback between hits tho

  18. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    To clarify I had to actually learn how to play the game properly by then. (same can be said for the later arena challenges) Use buffs and debuffs and change between decks of Servans on top of dodging like mad and transforming to stay alive. (cheese even) To be fair I was at level 8 when I fought the “final” boss and then “x” gave me a beating until I found a better way of dealing with her debuffing me/ charming my servants to heal her and avoiding her high damage attacks then there is the second extra boss…

  19. Master Bating
    Master Bating
    May 3, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Ill just wait for the PS4 Trinity that will come 3 years later.

  20. JohnnyCageFan2
    JohnnyCageFan2
    May 3, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    “Gameplay is way too easy”

    Good thing, I like my girls like a like my video games, cheap and easy. I’ll be getting it when it cheapens a bit.

  21. Minuteworld92
    Minuteworld92
    May 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    everything’s better when you put real world degeneracy, change it up alittle bit, make it cute and put it in an anime.

    edit: I don’t have a problem with real life lesbians, just butch dyke lesbians.

  22. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    As a male butch lesbian asexual I am offended

  23. Cats736
    Cats736
    May 3, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    “I hope they mash muffins in the end.” is what I read.

  24. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    May 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Hey! Sorry for my reply coming so late, I’ve been at work all day – wish I could’ve gotten here sooner.

    As for your original question, yes I did get through the extra bosses, and yes, they were quite a bit harder than the rest of the game. While I still didn’t think they were incredibly hard or anything, they definitely were a hell of a lot more challenging then the rest of the game. That said, I wrote the review before going to challenge the extra bosses, so…yeah, they weren’t included in the review.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding, though!

  25. scemar
    scemar
    May 3, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    how about that PC port tho
    when is GUST gonna jump on the PC train come on bums make it happen already I want my alchemy shop and yuri stuff on the PC too

  26. Feniks
    Feniks
    May 4, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Ah yes nobody does cute girls like Japan!

    I always bitch and whine about how annoying it is nobody speaks English there but maybe it is for the best. They would be steamrolled by the wonderful American culture.

  27. Feniks
    Feniks
    May 4, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Lesbians do come in cute packages. Ofcourse cute lesbians are worse because they’ll never have sex with you :( only time I wish I was a girl.

  28. C4
    C4
    May 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    I think the pace and feedback during combat itself is actually quite good. I mean the arena (which as you said has some nice challenges) kinda proves it. Kinda wish you would get bonus stuff like better drops when you don’t summon servants which would make things a bit more challenging.

  29. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 4, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Game’s a passable action RPG. Just passable. I was shocked as hell that the minion AI is actually not bad.

  30. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 4, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    The girls are ironically the most boring characters.

  31. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Not really. Walk next to them, activate transformation mode, spam attack, and that’s pretty much it.

    With an SP leech accessory or two you can even infinite spam the Bunny form special attack for massive damage and wipe out anything.

    Once you unlock the final form a boomerang utterly obliterates any enemy so hard the game can’t even keep up with all the projectiles.

    The only really challenging things are some of the arena fights.

  32. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 4, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    The mapping is pretty bad, yes. Some locations needed for quests are in between checkpoints with no way to tell what each screen is named without randomly walking around to see.

  33. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    May 4, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    I tend to agree.

  34. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    At that point you have maxed things out doe

    same can be said of any rpg with max stats

    also you don’t just easily activate transformation mode you

    have to build up for it, dodge their shit and debuffs

    hrm…also the bunny is a glass cannon so I didn’t use it much

    so

    I can’t really comment on that one

  35. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 7, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Eh, difficulty differ for ppl in general in different games but saying you could just spam buttons seemed off.

    Bit of a shame the “new game+” was the best part of the game.

  36. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 8, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    This was not end game. All you need are a couple of the 20% chance to get 5 SP items and you’re good. You use the ranged weapon to build up hits quickly. You’re immune to being hit during special attack animations so the bunny should never be touched.

  37. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 8, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    so you are saying they just stand there and take it
    that the ranged weapon is accurate from affar? (it isn’t)

    ok

  38. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 9, 2016 at 10:46 am

    You can range pretty much any enemy in the game infinitely by just staying back. Problem is the ranged weapon barely does any damage.

  39. Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    Luka ?( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀?)
    May 9, 2016 at 11:02 am

    the aim is pretty bad if you aren’t moderately close

  40. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    May 9, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    It’s completely straight. You often will only hit one of the two split shots, but that’s fine, keep mashing the button.

  41. KaiserTrigger
    KaiserTrigger
    September 16, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Yuri senses tend to be less than 100% correct.

  42. KaiserTrigger
    KaiserTrigger
    September 16, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    The idea the company had was probably…

    “BECAUSE THEY’RE GIRLS, BLAND PERSONALITIES STOP BEING BLAND RIGHT?”