Nights of Azure takes place in an alternate Earth where demons and magic are real. Arnice, a knight, travels to the Kingdom of Ruswal for a mission whereupon she reunites with her friend, Lilysse. She soon learns that Lilysse is destined to be a sacrifice to the Nightlord, purveyor of darkness, who is trying to engulf the world in night. The plot rolls out slowly, assisted by characters Arnice finds in her travels. It’s mainly about the two girls trying to cope with each other’s goals in the trials before them. It has its moments of tension and heart, but at its core, Azure is quite dull.
Unlike Gust’s previous games of turn-based RPGs, this is more of an action RPG. Arnice has fifteen minutes to explore a dungeon, fight monsters, and collect loot, before she has to escape. It’s a basic hack and slash with various weapons to switch from, a special attack for each, and demon transformations that act like limit breaks. Arnice also has the ability to summon up to four creatures, Servans, in battle. They act on their own, but a quick button press will give them attack patterns, or issue special attacks like a web to slow enemies, or a party-healing spell.
The game may be a RPG, but it handles leveling up in a complicated manor. Servans gain experience in battle, which is pretty straightforward. Arnice, on the other hand, has several systems to make her stronger. First, blue blood spilled by demons can be used to level her up on a dreamlike altar at home base. This will also grant her a new weapon periodically. Blue blood is also used to create Servans. In order to learn passive skills, Arnice needs to gain Charm, Finesse, Spirit, and Stamina points acquired through random daily tasks like cleaning, or reading. Finally, blue blood can also be used in shops, along with normal money.
It may not be hard to understand, but the system is needlessly complicated. On top of that, when blood is the only method to truly level up Arnice, which can be scarce early on, it seems like a waste to use it on Servan creation especially when the beginning four are pretty useful. The balance is off when it comes to loot as well. Servans can only equip one piece of armor and while Arnice can have up to four eventually, she starts off with one and unlocking the other slots takes awhile. With the accumulation of goods, it feels needlessly excessive.
While the cel-shaded characters and monsters look decent, the world they inhabit is sparse and dead as if it came from the previous generation of consoles. The dungeons are fairly repetitive, but there is a good variety to them. Unfortunately it takes forever to get to them due to the game’s excessive padding. Players will repeat dungeons numerous times in order to unlock the next chapter in the story. Voice work is good, but falls flat thanks to the aforementioned dull narrative. And on a final note of pure mechanics, the game runs fine with loads being miraculously fast.
Nights of Azure was a gamble for Gust that simply went bust. Everything about the game is average, but with the excessive padding of the dungeons and overcomplicated system of leveling mechanics, it falls even lower. To be blunt NoA is messy, dull, and overall tedious. It’s not without value, however. A sequel definitely could fix some issues, but as of now, a follow-up is far from what this writer desires.
Score: 2/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review copy. This article was originally published on March 29, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.