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Nights of Azure 2: Bridge of the New Moon (PlayStation 4) artwork

Nights of Azure 2: Bridge of the New Moon (PlayStation 4) review


"Finding love on the graveyard shift."


Nights of Azure was one of my favorite games of 2016, thanks in no small part to a sincere and focused love story that was central to the experience. When talk of a sequel surfaced, I was worried. I felt the game didnít really need one. My concerns were overblown, though; Nights of Azure 2 may lack the original's narrative focus, but it offers a much more enjoyable overall experience as compensation.

Instead of picking up where the original ended, Nights of Azure 2 takes place many years later in the timeline. The game makes a clean break, and features a new cast of characters. There are only minor references to the events depicted in the first game, and those exist only to explain the current state of the world. The new cast centers on Aluche, a knight for the church. She is joined by Liliana and Ruenheid, her two childhood friends. Near the start, Aluche falls in battle against the Moon Queen, a demon striving to plunge the world into eternal night. The heroine is soon revived as a half-demon, though, and now must work to save her friends and stop the Moon Queen.

Nights of Azure 2: Bridge of the New Moon (PlayStation 4) image

If youíve played the first Nights of Azure, you'll notice the sequel hitting many of the same beats. The most significant differences come from the addition of multiple companions. While the first game focused on a central love story, Nights of Azure 2 allows Aluche to cultivate relationships with not only her two childhood friends, but with other characters who join her fight against the Moon Queen over the course of the 20-hour story.

Nights of Azure was successful because it spent its entire story exploring the romantic relationship between the two leads, but the sequel divides its narrative coverage among six characters. I was impressed by how the sequel explored not only romantic love between Aluche and Liliana, but also the other ways love can manifest itself. For example, Veruschka is another half-demon who has never experienced friendship, let alone love, and Aluche helps her navigate feelings that are foreign to her. As I said, the narrative treatment isn't as focused, but the exploration of what love means to different people works similarly well.

As far as general gameplay goes, not much has changed. Nights of Azure 2 is still an action-RPG, and sees Aluche traveling to locations around the city and slaying a variety of demons with basic weak and strong attack combos. The big change from the first game is that one of Alucheís companions can now accompany her into battle and assist in a variety of ways.

Nights of Azure 2: Bridge of the New Moon (PlayStation 4) image

The companions, called ďLilies,Ē offer a variety of combat advantages. At their most basic level they will attack enemies on the field, but they can also work in tandem with Aluche to unleash powerful attacks and buffs. Every companion has a skill that grants a short buff to the party, but the real power comes in the form of Lily Burst and Double Chase abilities. The Lily Burst is activated after filling the tension gauge. It's a screen clearing attack that wipes out most enemies in one hit. The Double Chase can be activated after Aluche and her companion attack the same enemy a few times, and allows the two of them to combine their attacks into one united front for a short while. The companions, especially with their special abilities, do make Nights of Azure 2 an easier game, one that is also far more dynamic.

The servans (companion monsters with a variety of abilties) also make a return, but in a far superior fashion. Servans had different elemental alignments and attacks in the first game, but they all served a similar purpose. In the sequel, servans are more unique. Some offer attacks and buffs, some turn into weapons and some permit traversal through special doors. Another change is that there is only one of each servan this time around, and you must find the various servans purposefully, through exploration (rather than waiting for them to spawn when items drop).

Character progression sees a few tweaks in the sequel, as well. Aluche not only levels up, but gains ability points she can spend on a variety of permanent buffs. Companions also level up as they join Aluche in battle, but only gain new abilities as their relationship with Aluche deepens. After battle, the relationship level slowly fills, and a new side quest becomes available at each milestone. Completing these side quests unlocks new abilities that make companions much more useful in battle.

Nights of Azure 2: Bridge of the New Moon (PlayStation 4) image

Nights of Azure took place across a single interconnected town, but the sequel has seven distinct areas for you to explore. The maps arenít complex and donít offer much challenge, but they do encourage repeated exploration because many of them contain gates you can only open using a specific servanís power. Irritatingly, the game gates away areas of each map until all the enemies in a particular zone are defeated. Later areas have an obnoxious amount of enemies you must slay, so that mechanic quickly becomes grating. Thankfully, these gates donít respawn when you visit a familiar area again, but it doesnít excuse how much of a slog later areas become on their initial run.

Nights of Azure 2 also brings back the controversial timed exploration. As in the first game, the player is on a timer each time they explore an area. It starts out at 11 minutes, but can be increased as you level up. Players who stay out past their allotted time will be forced back to the hotel hub area. In the first game, this wasnít a problem because players could just head right back out. In Nights of Azure 2, players are forced to rest every time they return, and the moon moves one phase closer to a new moon. If the moon reaches this stage, the game is over and the player must load a save or restart from the beginning of the chapter. The moon can be refilled by defeating bosses, and it never moves fast enough to cause a panic. It does, however, create a healthy sense of urgency (though diligent players will always have enough time to fulfill side quests while chipping away at the main story).

I adore Nights of Azure, and itís always difficult to properly size up a sequel to a story in which I was so emotionally invested. Although it doesnít quite hit the same highs, Nights of Azure 2 does do an admirable job of filling some mighty big shoes. It mostly does this through improved combat and exploration, but the story is no slouch, either. The game has certainly earned its existence, and fans of action-RPGs with sincere narratives are almost certain to find something to love.

4/5

Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (November 05, 2017)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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