The original Nights of Azure was something of a niche hit, a title that found legs in Japan when it was released but failed to break through in the west. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is not an attempt from developer Gust and publisher Koei Tecmo to create a game with a broader appeal; however, the sequel owes a lot to its predecessor, for better or worse, and will likely do little to win over any new fans.
Combat was something that was considered one of the great failings of the first Nights of Azure, and it’s clear that Nights of Azure 2 was designed with that in mind. The game’s combat is smooth and easy to pick up, but the unfortunate trade-off is that it is also incredibly easy. While the beginning of Nights of Azure 2 tantalized me with some difficult sequences of combat, those trials were driven by narrative, and once main character Aluche gets infused with some demon blood after the tutorial chapter, nothing ever seems like much of a challenge. For a game with a genuinely engaging combat system, the relative ease paired with extremely limited skills and party combinations seems especially cruel.
Part of the problem with Nights of Azure 2 is that its gameplay mechanics seem like they are at war with each other. The game is a traditional JRPG in many ways, with maps that feature a number of secrets and hidden treasures to find if the player is so inclined. The issue is that most of the maps require multiple visits to unlock each area by virtue of the party system, which allows players to bring two Servans—Pokemon-esque minions that can be leveled up and evolve over the course of the game—and use them to interact with the environment and unlock areas. Unfortunately, I discovered quickly that it’s impossible to change them during any given visit, and it’s also impossible to guess exactly what barriers will be present in any area.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a negative if it weren’t for the game’s reliance on lunar cycles to dictate the pace of its narrative and gameplay. Players only have a set amount of time to complete a chapter in the narrative, and if they take too long, they lose the game and must hope that their most recent save gives them enough time to adjust their strategy and clear the chapter. If not, the game allows players to restart from the beginning of the chapter, an incredibly frustrating experience that can quickly make Nights of Azure 2 feel like a slog.
If that weren’t enough, however, the first three or four chapters felt like they were actively punishing me for wanting to play Nights of Azure 2 like a JRPG. Every time Aluche enters an area that isn’t the game’s main hub, the player is given a timer to complete the area. Failing to advance the chapter in the given amount of time isn’t the end of the world, but it did mean I had to go back to the same area, wasting a lunar phase. For that reason, it feels like Nights of Azure 2 is meant to be played at breakneck speed, making the treasures and hidden areas nearly impossible to get properly without the use of a guide.
There are exactly zero characters in Nights of Azure 2 that aren’t meant to be completely gorgeous. The character design ranges from cool, stylish costume to borderline yuri visual novel at any given moment, and there are no men in the narrative whatsoever. Some of the appeal of the first Nights of Azure was definitely in the fact that it was an all-female cast wearing the scantily clad fantasy armor that has thankfully become less common in mainstream gaming. If that’s something you’re into, you’ll likely enjoy the gratuitous fan service camera angles and the pool house bikini scenes, but if you’re not, it can become a huge, uncomfortable distraction. I found myself dreading the forced narrative sections that caused Aluche to enter the pool area of the hotel wearing what appears to be the world’s most uncomfortable bikini to discuss serious events. There’s something of a disconnect between discussing the potential end of days while splashing around in a pool with a half-demon and a priest.
The world of Nights of Azure 2, on the other hand, is much easier to enjoy. The environment can, at times, feel as though Aluche is wandering through the world of a well-drawn anime, and the creatures are fascinating to look at, albeit lacking in terms of variety. It’s a shame that Nights of Azure 2 demands players to rush through it, because a large part of its appeal is in taking the time to appreciate some of the small details each level possesses.
All criticisms aside, though, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon never really pretended as though it was going to be anything different than what players have gotten with its release. It’s quick and dirty, the video game equivalent of a greasy burger, and Nights of Azure 2 will leave all but the most hardcore fans of yuri tropes feeling the same kind of shame that comes after consuming fast food as well. Nights of Azure 2 isn’t a bad game, but it certainly isn’t a good one either—it’s just empty calories, with nothing having been gained or lost after a playthrough.
Nights of Azure 2 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.