Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon

Even the fanservice can't save this one. 

A good game has an interesting and engaging story, well-conceived characters and gameplay mechanics that serve to complement the many intricate systems at play. If either of these elements gets in the way of one another, then it can upset the balance and cause the experience to be poor. Where Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon fits into this is that it has none of these things and was a struggle to sit through to the very end. 

Nights of Azure 2 is covered head to toe in fan service. This is an action RPG about a scantily clad demon hunter that is killed in battle only to be resurrected and made half-demon herself. She is joined then by several other well-endowed girls whom can all be fitted into bikini's and swimwear to join in on the adventures to stop the Moon Queen. 

You play as Aluche, however; the game almost always has her friends call her Al. She's an agent for an organization called the Curia and is unfortunately set with a mission to deliver her childhood friend, Liliana, to the Moon Queen. Turns out that should you sacrifice the Bride of Time to this Queen, then the world will be saved from being plunged into total darkness. Aluche is against this very act and attempts to set things right and protect her friend. This is how she dies. 


It's not long until you are resurrected by Camilla Alucard, a doctor that dabbles in a bit of demonology and is able to save your life by turning you into one. During the events surrounding your death, Liliana has gone missing and Aluche will join forces with a small cast to track her down. There's your childhood friend Ruenheid, who will join your side but is unsure of exactly what you've become. There's Veruschka, an artificial half-demon that is sent to kill you, as well as the protagonist from the first game, Arnice, who returns here to help you in your mission. There is even a young girl named Eleanor who is, and I'm not making this up, a chocolatier whose combat arts is through the use of chocolate. Lastly, there is Aluche's previous instructor, Muveil Folin Lou, who you'll need to battle first in order to have her join the team, which is something you'll need to do for many of these girls. 

These companions are called Lillies and have several gameplay mechanics that look to assist you in combat. A Chase Guage fills up as you and your Lily strike at enemies at the same time. Once this Guage is maxed out, a special Double Chase strike will allow you to unleash a devastating attack on the enemies all around you. These can vary in ability but require the A button to be hit repeatedly in order to maximize damage output. Lily Burst attacks are available when you fill up a flower-based meter called the Tension Guage and results in a massive screen-wide attack that is good for clearing massive waves of enemies, or in the case of certain Lily Bursts, a single enemy, which is a good attack to use on boss encounters. The only issue I have with the Lily Burst attack is that these flashy animations are not skippable and many of the attacks are rather long to sit through and watch, especially for the 80th time. 


The Chase Guage will spill into the Tension Guage if there are no enemies around and this can cause the Double Chase to be a hard thing to maintain, especially with Arnice, as I found it really hard to even fill that meter up regardless. The Double Chase will pop up and you only have a few seconds to use it, so if you should have it pop up when you've cleared a room of enemies, you may end up having all that progress on the meter go to waste should you not find another group of enemies in time. 

Each Lily still has a few more mechanics to dive into as there are still active skills and special skills to discuss. Active skills are support skills that can either enhance Aluche's attacks, defense or simply just strike down enemies around them. These are triggered by pressing A and X at the same time. Special skills are automatically used when certain conditions are met. Depending on the Lily, the area of effect and targets will differ. I had to stop using Muveil after a while as her Special skill would pop up so often that it became an annoyance as each of these skills comes with an animation that focuses on them. Having the screen swap to her viewpoint every 20-30 seconds was really breaking the flow of combat. 

While there is no direct romance system, despite the excessive flirting that goes on during many of the cutscenes, you can gain affinity with each of the cast and this can strengthen the bond between you and that companion. This affinity can level up and unlock new quests that allow you to learn more about them. The use of the new game+ is required to max out each girl, so it's best to focus on just a few during a single playthrough. Many of the conversations with the cast occur at the hotel that is your base of operations. It is here that you will unlock additional quests, level up Aluche, chat up the girls, and have awkward conversations about each other's bodies by the pool. 

Apart from choosing which Lily to join you on your quests, there are Servan's to unlock and use as well. These are partners that fight alongside Aluche. Servan have special abilities, and you activate them by consuming MP. Servan's are usually creatures like Nero, a small black cat, Froid, a small white fox, and Kaede, a Japanese talking doll. There are lots of Sevran's to choose from and discover and many of these assist characters can turn into weapons like shields and spears to use while the MP is available. Many of these assist characters can also be used to access areas of the map that are closed off from a high jump, or a mystical barrier, so choosing the right Sevran may rely on how you want to access the level. 

While it can be easy enough to figure out these systems and learn how to properly use each of the Lillies and Sevran in battle, the game floods you with tutorial prompts to such a high degree that it almost feels like the game is obsessed with teaching you something every minute of the first few hours. I don't mind detailed systems, but other games with far more intricate mechanics have found better and more efficient ways to introduce such complex systems to you. 

One mechanic that I wish would die in a fire is the timers placed on you during the game. While Dr. Camilla was able to save you, your body cannot handle massive amounts of stress. This then places a short timer that is forced upon you to complete the level before you need to rest. During the first 4-5 hours, this timer forces you to fly through the levels as fast as you can, running past enemies until you get to zones where barriers are in place until you vanquish all nearby foes. This timer can make the levels feel huge, which they are not, but it forces you to fly through them because you don't know how much time you'll need to complete a certain mission.

To make matters worse, each time you rest, another timer, in the form of a moon, will use up a segment of that timer. If the moon is fully used up, it is game over and you'll need to restart the chapter or load up a previous save. The only way to add more segments to the moon is by completing certain missions or by killing a stage boss, which are only available once. This meter also prevents you from taking part in many of the side quests because you won't know if you want to save a segment of the moon for the main quest missions or not. This is made even more frustrating when additional side quests open up after you complete the level, forcing you to use up a segment of the moon to go back and complete them. You'll need to do this numerous times as each Lily will usually have a quest to complete in the same level and since you cannot change your party during a mission, you'll need to swap out party members back at the hotel and use up another segment of the moon to go back. 

As you collect Blue Blood from the various enemies around you, you can use that blood to level up Aluche and put points into a skill tree. This will allow you to invest in making the timer longer, having more HP, or increasing your attack power. Due to the timer being such a pain in the ass early on, you'll want to focus solely on the path that grants additional time to the timer. Eventually, you'll have enough time allocated that you can start working on the remaining skill paths to make Aluche more effective in combat. 

You will also gain gold during missions to buy items you can equip to you and your Lillies, but frankly, I never really bothered. I would buy a few items, but I ended up finding so many in the few locations you visit that I didn't see a need. You can enhance and combine items, but it was yet another system that I just found poorly implemented and I just chose to ignore it most of the time. You can also enhance your Sevran companions as well as there is yet another currency for doing that too.

The overall combat is your standard hack and slash built around combo attacks and special moves. There is a targeting system, but it tends to get the camera in the way when you are in tight spaces. There is a boss encounter towards the end of the game where you need to fight on a pillar and should you have the targeting system on said boss when they move towards you, then the camera will drop below the pillar blocking the entire fight. The only times that I found the targeting to be needed was in dark areas when I needed a few more enemies to kill to lower the barrier to progress and I would use the targeting system to find them. 

Visually, Nights 2 is all over the place. There are some fantastic characters designs like Vallderossa, who is probably one of my favorite characters in the game, but the inconsistency of the character models can even make her look flat out plain. There are cutscene models, in-game models, and then lower res models as well. I noticed this quite often and it can really make the game appear dated, despite being a current year release. Nights 2 shares the same design qualities of any Japanese made PSVITA game in the simple environments and oversimplified character models. It's not a horrible looking game in any real respect, but it looks like a port of a much older game. Another visual blemish is that Aluche's sword is a 2D sprite and this is so incredibly noticeable in cutscenes as you can even see the faded white lines around, despite your enemies and companions having actual 3D modeled weapons. 

As for the docked or portable nature of what the Switch allows, this is pretty much a direct port of the Japanese only PSVITA version, complete with the same visual issues that plague that handheld as well. The game suffers from some framerate drops when played handheld, but I did find the aliasing to be far better handheld than when docked, however; the docked play featured no framerate issues at all, no matter how busy the screen got. The game is available on a variety of systems and while the PS4 and PC users have cleaner lines, better textures, and a slightly better framerate, this is the type of game that I feel works better on a handheld due to how simple the game can feel. That being said, Nights of Azure 2, at full price is something I cannot recommend. 

One of my biggest issues with the title isn't gameplay or graphics or the complex and somewhat pointless combat systems, but rather with the use of the A and B button. These operate mostly in reverse to what you expect a game to use. A is used to enter into a menu with B to confirm, but A is also used to back out, meaning that should you press the button too many times to back out, it will enter back in again. This reverse to the button placement is typical of Japanese games and if you are not used to them, it can become a pain in the ass trying to navigate system to select, confirm, or back out of a menu. 

Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is not a good game at all. It has far too many systems for how simple the combat is and the repetitive nature of the missions, levels, and enemy encounters don't impress in the slightest. The two forms of timers, one of which is not present during a second playthrough, causes you to feel far too pressured to take in everything the game has to offer. The main story is boring, repeats a lot of its narrative and just isn't satisfying at any point during the 15-20 hours it should take you to reach the credits. The game features a ton of fanservice material but sadly just doesn't craft an enjoyable experience around it and no amount of cleavage shots or half-naked demon hunters can save it.