Short Version: It’s a good game, and I love it the more I keep playing it. It’s a little slow and a bit boring at the beginning, but as soon as everything is laid out for you, you’ll be addicted to it’s gameplay loop and cool characters before you even start to realize it. I like it so much that I’ll keep playing it after this review is over just so that I can see how the story ends. Both PS Vita and PS4 versions of the game are great.
Long Version: Nights of Azure is most definitely the embodiment of the phrase, “patience is a virtue.” When I first started playing the game, I only had a few trailers and the attractive art style to make me want to try it out, but aside from that, I had no idea what I was about to get into. Within my excitement, I was met with a rather dull and drab introduction to our two main characters and an equally boring, long and drawn out tutorial. At this point, that excitement turned into concern that the entire game might be like this, but I’m happy to say that I’m wrong. As soon as all the introductions are out of the way, Nights of Azure turns into an addicting, cyclical experience that becomes more fun and interesting the more you play.
The Land of No Night
The majority of the game focuses around trying to stop a villain known as the Nightlord from destroying the world and shrouding it in eternal darkness and demons. Our protagonist Arnice is an agent working for a shady organization known as the Curia, where she is tasked with protecting her best friend Lillysse, who was chosen to be sacrificed in order to seal the Nightlord and prevent the world’s impending doom. Though this sounds like the setup to some sort of action movie, my experience showed that it is actually more of a love story than anything else, with many scenes and character events based around demonstrating how dedicated Arnice and Lillysse are to protecting and caring for each other. Though there are a few other characters that are very likable in their own right, it is very obvious that these two ladies are the driving force of the game to the point where I kept playing late into the night just to see what happens between them next.
Whenever we’re not seeing Arnice and Lillysse being all lovey-dovey with each other, we see other side characters like Simon the butler, Professor Alucard and Lloyd the merchant who have their own little quirks and side stories that make them more likable over time. Granted, there are many occasions where their dialogue comes off as cliche and predictable, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t excited every single time I saw the word “Event” on the top of their heads after finishing a chapter. Most of these characters start off as templates, but their involvement, along with the solid voice acting and writing, grew on me very quickly.
A Not-So Vicious Circle
Speaking of things that grew on me quickly, the gameplay is something I thoroughly enjoyed after I gave it some patience and time to get comfortable with it. As I said at the beginning, patience is a virtue. After going through all of the tutorials and meeting all the characters, the game immediately lets you loose and allows you to take various quests from people that will then put you in a gameplay loop that’s difficult to escape from.
It usually starts with you pushing the main story forward, which then activates special events and quests to choose from, to which then you take a quest and go out into the world and kill a bunch of stuff. After that, you come back to your hub, receive rewards, sell your loot, upgrade yourself and your summonable Pokemon-esque companions with everything you don’t sell. After that, you can check if you have collected enough “Blue Blood,” which can be used as currency to either buy rare items or leveling up Arnice, which then grants you access to many more abilities and perks in the long run. After doing all of that, you rinse and repeat. Take quest, do quest, get paid, sell loot, upgrade, level up and do it all over again. Though it is fun most of the time, it doesn’t come without it’s flaws.
Though there are many quests available for you to take, most of them will lack variety, with missions consisting of either going out to kill something or visiting an area that you most likely already visited. It also doesn’t help that the rewards don’t feel worth it after a while, especially after reaching a point into the game where I could pretty much sneeze and gain double the amount of money or blood I would get than by doing the quest. Add that with the absence of urgency or punishment from not taking the quests that brings into question why there wasn’t much done to make them more varied or interesting.
Speaking of which, the daytime activities are also pretty disappointing, with all of them just consisting of choosing something out of a menu and being met with a small strand of text of Arnice talking about what she did during the day without any of the player’s involvement or participation, which feels like a missed opportunity for further character development and fun dialogue. There is already a ton of stuff to do in the game as it is, so maybe that would’ve been a little much, but I still expected something a bit more meaty than just a couple sentences and a small stat boost. Even with that said, I feel those are relatively minor issues that don’t make or break the experience, considering how the main story and likable characters will most likely push you forward if the side quests don’t.
Solid as a Stone Golem Servan
Overall, I thought the first hour or so was a slow start, but after jumping that hurdle, I enjoyed this game a significant amount. Just as much as how Arnice and Lillysse are in love with each other, I’m falling in love with this game the more I play it. While the story is nothing to write home about, the quests leave something to be desired and the soundtrack never stuck out to me, the characters involved in it along with the addicting gameplay, charming characters, solid writing and voice acting made me want to continue playing until the very end.
Though a rather drastic change for developer Koei Tecmo, who are more well known for making stuff like Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors, I’m happy to say that Nights of Azure hits all the right marks for me, creating an interesting and charming world that I would be more than happy to explore further in some sort of sequel or spin-off. If you are willing to be a little patient, I recommend it.