Nights of Azure is a Japanese Role Playing Game that uses aspects of multiple genres and games to create a strangely palatable concoction. Developed by Gust – known for the Atelier series of JRPGs – and published by Koei Tecmo, you can immediately see the influences in this game. It’s time to visit the island of Ruswal and hold back the Night.
Nights of Azure tells the story of two individuals whose paths and friendship are woven by fate. Arnice is a half-human, half-demon agent of the Curia – the organization that has kept the Night at bay for hundreds of years – and our story’s main protagonist. Lilysse is a young priestess under the protection of the Curia as she is slated to become the next “Saint” – aka sacrificial lamb to keep the Seal closed. The story is how you as Arnice deal with your friend being the next in a long line of sacrifices.
Like I said previously, Nights has a bunch of aspects of different games tied up in it, giving it a fresh change to the usual Japanese RPG of parties and turn-based battles. Everything is action-based. In fact, some of the battle elements make you think of another Koei Tecmo game – Dynasty Warriors. This hack’n’slash attack system has its moments but begins to feel stale after a short time. Square, square, square, triangle becomes as normal as breathing in this game. The game keeps your mind off of that by giving you familiars, called ‘servans’. These familiars are virtually independent. They can attack on their own with minimal orders needed to be given, though you still must tell them to use their special burst power. These creatures can be collected and strengthen, as well as level up.
Arnice, too, can level up. This is where another popular game comes in. There are two types of currency: Libra (coins) and Blood. You can use the coins to buy items from the merchant or send a ship to the far reaches of world for rarer items. The blood can be used in specialty stores and to actualize (read: birth) servans. The blood is also used to level up Arnice, ala Dark Souls. Thankfully, you do not lose all the blood you have if you die, just what you collected during the current purification run.
There are plenty of regular Japanese RPG tropes if you are looking for them, such as collections and collecting points to purchase skills and plenty of loot. One thing I really like is that the main character is a woman with a stereotypically male character outline. She’s a little overbearing and overprotective with a “I know what’s best attitude.” I don’t know if the designers were purposefully aiming for that, but I figure to give them the benefit of the doubt. I also enjoy that the servans, themselves, have personalities of their own. It’s a nice, little addition.
So, while I enjoy the characters and the story and especially the music of the game, there are a few things that fall short in Nights. While the main storyline is solid, the side quests are completely forgettable. Half the time, I forget I have them. There are not a lot of variety in terms of servans, enemies, items or area types. I don’t know if they ran out of time or just didn’t think it was important.
Overall, Nights of Azure is a game that at its core is fun to play. It is not overly complex and it won’t challenge you, but the bottom line is that when I had to stop playing, I then thought about when the next time I was going to play it again. That, to me, is a good sign for game. If you’re a fan of Japanese RPGs, I think you will enjoy this. And for those of you that feel daunted by a Japanese Role Playing Game experience, this may be one you could pick up and not feel intimidated to play.