It takes a really special and brave person/company to put a sequel out before you put out the original. I mean, it stands that, with enough of a fan base or at least enough notoriety, anything could land anywhere. Kingdom Hearts 3 will land on the XBox One without the previous two being published (though I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s a future announcement), but the name is well known enough that it isn’t necessary. So if I said “The Last of Us 2 is coming to the Switch,” people would lose their damn minds. The fact that Wolfenstein II is coming to the Switch is crazy, even if the initial reviews are a bit lukewarm. But the average player would be easily forgiven if they had no idea what Nights of Azure was, or why the sequel, Bride of the New Moon, was coming over. Thankfully, this second game has very little to do with the first, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still get overlooked without some proper positing.
Let’s take the story. In this land, some evil dude called the Night Lord got killed and his blood made a bunch of Fiends that harass the countryside and kill everyone. There’s also a bad woman named the Moon Queen who’s crazy powerful and coming back to murder everyone. One group, the Curia (which is totally the Catholic Church), believes that sacrificing The Bride of Time is going to seal the Moon Queen away. Another group, the Lourdes Order, thinks this is a bad idea and will make the Moon Queen super powerful. You, a Holy Knight of the Curia, aren’t interested in the whole thing because the Bride of Time they selected is your best friend from childhood, and, oh yea, you get killed five minutes into the game. But don’t worry, you get brought back to life with demon blood, and now you’re kind of a vampire, and you’re ready to kick ass, talk to flaming cats and save your girlfriend best friend.
One thing that I love about Japan is their ability to take something that could be easily construed and used in a mundane way and completely make it way, way outside of an average person’s comfort zone. For one, they could have balanced out the cast of characters with a few men to show a bit of fairness, but they went whole hog on buxom females who are warriors, mages, priestesses and every other class. Also, they continue this weird JRPG idea of “wearing less clothing means better defense,” so you’d be forgiven for mistaking our heroine, Aluche, for Tifa Lockhart, especially with the suspenders and barely contained jiggle. But even with all this, they didn’t need to imply a romantic subplot everywhere, yet here we are, with barely contained emotions and sexual frustration just exploding over every avenue of the game. Plus GUST managed to make our female protagonist able to follow the exact same “missing all the signals” that a boy in a harem situation would miss. This is not a dating sim. This isn’t even something like Persona 5 where relationships just happen incidentally. This is an action RPG with some decent fighting mechanics and a TON of implication. If you’re uncomfortable, much like the same set of people who couldn’t handle Moero Chronicles, abandon ship, this is not your game.
Boobs and butts aside, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon does several things well in terms of an action RPG implementation. For one, the voice acting is pretty damn spot on, and GUST didn’t bother getting English actors to try and convey the same nuance. If you don’t like reading subtitles, either learn Japanese or become lost. GUST also understood that a large number of players are here for both the plot and the “plot,” so the difficulty can scale on the fly and ranges from “mildly difficult” to “hilariously easy.” I actually thought I had forgotten to toggle the game to normal at one point until I checked and realized I was already there, and putting it on easy was borderline insulting. The action is a good vehicle to bring you to different places, but it’s not the bread and butter of the game.
Weirdly, the fighting is better here than it has been in several previous games. Fire Emblem Warriors did the musou approach well, but it could get a bit monotonous in the ridiculous number of enemies. Bride of the New Moon gives you a ton of enemies but each is working on it’s own entry point and you have to handle them all. You never fight alone, usually pairing up with a partner (referred to as a Lily) and often have a companion animal/beast that can add different effects to the fight. Hit someone at the same time as a Lily, get a double attack bonus. Smack a Fiend who just hit your sister, deal Revenge damage. You can use magic to power up your allies with HP and MP, activate skills to affect everyone’s fighting condition, and eventually use eyebrow-raising dual attacks where you hold hands, pose and do several other things with your Lily to inflict maximum damage. It may not be subtle, but Bride of the New Moon really does a ton to build attachment and showcase the power of good relationships with your allies.
Sadly, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon does fail a little on the technical level. Firstly, you need to really, really want to get through the opening. You have a good half hour of play that offers no save points and, if you quit, you’ll have to do it all over again. It’s the longest cold opening in a while for a game, and it’s honestly a little boring. After Aluche gets killed, her personality kicks in and the game really starts, but you gotta slog through the beginning first. After that, you have to deal with the game sometimes chugging when it’s in handheld mode. I saw frame drops occur during a lot of fights, and even during dialogue that wasn’t pre-rendered. It wasn’t enough that it became unplayable, but this is a game that is meant to grab fans of a very particular nature, and they will care a ton if their game isn’t smooth and silky. Lastly, I had a massive bug right at the beginning where I did a double attack with Lilliana and got thrown halfway across the map when I came out of it. I had to redo some sequences and panicked because I now was supposed to fight enemies who were on the other side of a fence that hadn’t been removed due to the glitching. I had to run around and finally bug out the game again before I could move on. If I can experience a huge mixup so early, I can’t imagine what would happen if something threw me around during a massive fight in chapter three or anything.
In the end, there’s a lot to like, even love, about Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon. GUST took some time to really flush out the characters, give some over-the-top fan service (a pool in the hotel?) and still put solid combat into a relatively decent sized JRPG. Far from being the sprawling killer of Final Fantasy length, most players could dedicate a long weekend to finding all of the game’s side missions and bonus scenes, and then replay is entirely dependent on your connection to the characters. Sadly, unlike the Vita, I would recommend to play this new Switch title mostly in docked mode to best utilize the full screen and also cut down on frame drops. And the potential for bugs to ruin so much play time hung heavy after the initial incident and really loomed just off the screen. Had Nights of Azure 2 been released anytime but when it was, I’m sure it’d get more attention. But, being sandwiched between two Nintendo juggernauts means less exposure than it deserves, and that’s a shame, because this has an audience I can easily imagine. If you’re looking for a engrossing and sometimes humorous adventure that you wouldn’t want to show your mother, then this is the quest that will leave you with questions and a great deal of satisfaction.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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