We all need a bit of indulgence every now and then. And in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, what better time to indulge in a sickly-sweet animé romp? For that quintessential animé vibe, there’s nothing quite like a Japanese action game complete with all the expected charms of scantily clad warriors, jiggle physics in the chest area, and hairstyles we can only dream of pulling off. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon could be just the adventure you’ve been looking for with oodles of romantic undertones to keep you keen.
Playing as Aluche, a Holy Knight serving Curia, your job is to defend your people from the ongoing onslaught of Fiends (the game’s generic enemies) until called upon to escort your childhood friend, and coincidentally the Bride of Time, Liliana as a sacrifice to the Moon Queen. This is all in order to prevent the world from plunging into eternal night. It’s a simple story premise, but it’s enough to keep a player engaged through the action. Now, I’ve had fairly little experience with animé, but I do enjoy it when I make time for it. I’ve also had fairly limited experience with action games in general, but this one had me coming back for more. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon definitely captures that unique animé atmosphere and makes for a charming playthrough.
I’ll admit, I was slow to warm to it, but once I’d played through the unassuming prologue and was ambushed by the title screen, the story kicks off pretty quickly. Aside from the slow-to-grip-you intro, Nights of Azure 2 is paced fairly well. You can progress mostly at your own speed and leisure, using your time as you see fit, be it relaxing at Hotel Eterna (the game’s hub world) or taking out waves of Fiends, all while remaining aware of the ever-waxing titular ‘Azure Moon’. Some fans of the series felt as though this new mechanic puts a little too much pressure on some missions which would otherwise be more enjoyable without the time limit, but when you allocate tasks strategically, it’s satisfying to complete missions within the limit and the game gives you plenty of time to do this.
At first, it feels as though the game flits around between lots of different play styles, although this is more the game introducing all it’s different gameplay aspects. It seems turbulent to begin with, but it actually kept me on my toes and made for a nice change. The first few tutorial quests have you simply ploughing through waves of low-level enemies to get a feel for things. Later objectives have the added challenge of being on a timer, making you complete certain objectives before you run out of time. These little quests increase in difficulty, meaning your time becomes ever more precious.
The game is pleasing to look at as well! Nights of Azure 2 has an almost Sword Art Online vibe to its settings, with medieval-looking architecture all lit up in some seriously moody lighting. It’s definitely charming if a little empty, lacking in basic assets such as NPCs among other little details that would otherwise tie the world together and make it feel that bit more engaging. It’s Romantic with a capital R, full of classic animé yearnings with just enough friendly flirting to keep you engaged in its admittedly lacklustre storyline. As I mentioned before, it’s fairly generic stuff, but seeing the bonds strengthen between Aluche and her other party members is rewarding.
Nights of Azure 2 is also very endearing when it comes to little character interactions, such as when Aluche and her partner come to a river or a ravine that needs crossing. Watching her sweep her partner of their feet and carry them across a gap, arms around waist, while the partner makes bashful, ‘tsundere’ style remarks is very sweet and, once again, adds to the whole animé vibe. It’s also sweet to see little conversational bits of text appearing here and there throughout the timed missions and during combat sequences too, encouraging emotional investment in the characters and their relationships.
There were a couple of problems I found throughout my time with the Nights of Azure 2, one being the number of tutorial screens popping up in the first few missions. Reading up on button combinations for combat, button assignments for all the different party members, tutorials for various game mechanics. Not only is it time-consuming, but it’s also a chore. They’re everywhere and make for a stalling start to the game, but it’s not too off-putting in the long run and skipping past them is an option. The camera can also be a little whacky at times which is mostly due to the speed at which Aluche runs. She dashes forward with all the reckless abandon of a child at Disney land which makes her pretty difficult to control at times, but it’s definitely not game-breaking. It might make you a little motion sick though.
All in all, however, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is a well-rounded, pleasant action game. With satisfying combat, a decent storyline, good characterisation and fairly stylish graphics, it’s not one to be overlooked by fans of the genre. And for fans of animé, Nights of Azure 2 also boasts fully voiced cutscenes, adding to the overall feel that you are just playing through an animé and honestly? That sounds like a pretty great idea to me! Why not try this title out to whet your appetite for some serious seasonal romance or just to scratch your animé itch?