With every sequel, people hope for something better. After all, it is a second chance. If a game was good, it could be a an opportunity to be even better. Should the original have faltered, the next installment could right those wrongs. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon does its best to fix the problems with the original and make the sequel a stronger game, but in the process ends up making things feel a little more generic and less unique.
Aluche is a knight for the Curia. It is a religious organization fighting against the Moon Queen, a demon who wants to spread an endless and eternal night throughout the world, and her mindless, violent fiends. She’s just been assigned the task of delivering her childhood friend, the priestess Liliana, to the Moon Queen to act as a Bride of Time sacrifice. Except things don’t go as planned. They encounter their other friend, Ruenhild, who has joined the opposing Lourdes Order and is against the sacrifice, and the Moon Queen herself. After an uneven fight, Aluche is killed.
Nights of Azure 2 takes things a step further with its fanservice; it can be so over-the-top, it makes the original’s clothing designs and interactions seem tame.
She doesn’t actually die after this first encounter, of course; Nights of Azure 2 would be a very short game if she did. Instead, a Curia scientist named Dr. Camilla Alucard uses blood from Arnice, the previous game’s heroine, to revive Aluche and turn her into a half-demon. She heads to Eurulm, her hometown, to find the now missing Liliana with Ruenhild, Camilla, and other allies and a way to defeat the Moon Queen and stave off an endless night that doesn’t involve sacrificing a loved one.
People who played Nights of Azure will find this setup very familiar, as the premise is nearly identical. A half-demon has to save her childhood best friend from becoming a sacrificial lamb. She does everything she can to fight back. There are various twists and turns that show some things aren’t as they seem. While there is something to be said for continuity, having so many similar plot points is a bit of a letdown. (Even the primary heroines’ names are similar.) It can feel like Nights of Azure 2 is trying to piggyback on the original’s emotional impact, instead of developing its own meaningful storyline.
Nights of Azure 2 takes things a step further with its fanservice; it can be so over-the-top, it makes the original’s clothing designs and interactions seem tame. As indicated by the Lily system, most of the female characters in the game seem interested in Aluche to some degree. Throughout the story, there are misunderstandings, people hitting on her, vampiric elements moments that can seem more like makeout sessions and outfits that are absolutely impractical and inappropriate for the activities these women are engaging in. Even leveling up is subject to such elements, as Aluche has to put on a scanty outfit and head into a coffin for purification purposes. It goes so far that it cheapens the genuinely touching relationship segments between certain characters.
While the story may include some deja vu moments and make it hard to take the bonds between Aluche and some of her friends seriously, the gameplay takes a step forward in multiple areas. Nights of Azure 2 is a beat’em up, which means stringing together normal and strong attacks into combos, as well as dodging and guarding when necessary. (Anyone accustomed to Koei Tecmo’s Musou games will know exactly what to do here.) The formula works well and it is very easy to fight your way through indistinct enemies as you attempt to complete objectives each night before Aluche’s time runs out. Especially since, as Aluche levels up, the amount of time she can spend outside of the hotel increases and you can customize her innate abilities to make her more formidable.
There are a lot of women who can’t keep away from Aluche, and you can set one of them as a partner for each outing.
It’s the Lily system that makes a big difference in battle, making things more enjoyable. There are a lot of women who can’t keep away from Aluche, and you can set one of them as a partner for each outing. This character’s actions can be directed, giving you support as you fight through waves of fiends. Fighting well together can cause the other heroine to automatically use a special ability when you are in need or perform a special joint attack with Aluche. Each one of these women has her own specialties. Ruenhild, for example, is another strong attacker like Aluche. Camilla fights with guns from a distance and can heal status effects. Liliana is a supportive mage. Working with them increases their strength. They’re really helpful allies, and you will definitely find situations where a swift attacker like Muveil would be more useful than someone with a heavier weapon like Eleanor.
Servans work much differently, which might frustrate people who preferred Nights of Azure’s system. Aluche can only have two with her at a time, where Arnice could equip four. While these extra allies were equipped to the action buttons for various attacks last time around, you now use the triggers to call upon someone for an alternate weapon, different attack or special ability. I actually preferred this system; I can’t imagine trying to keep track of four Servans while also working with a Lily. Like the Lilies, these Servans wander around with you, doing your thing, and again allow access to different areas if they have special abilities that let you burn things to the ground or leap. It is still possible to level them up and evolve them, letting you perfect your crew.
Even the flow of time has been altered. The previous game was divided into chapters, while Nights of Azure 2 flows more like an Atelier game. Aluche’s body can’t handle too much activity, due to everything that has happened to her, which means she only gets a certain amount of time outside of the hotel to complete tasks. You need to unlock various Gates of Distortion to allow you to fast travel, making it possible to accomplish more during each outing. This is important, as every time Aluche sleeps, time advances forward one day. You need to complete your goals before the New Moon to win. While this can make the game feel longer and add atmosphere, it does mean more pressure.
There one more discrepancy between Nights of Azure and Nights of Azure 2. The original game was quite pretty, with striking use of color. The sequel doesn’t have that same artistic sense and design. The characters look great. Attention has been paid to Aluche, the Lilies and Servans. It just feels like other areas are lacking. Most enemies can look rather generic and unremarkable, with bosses being the exception to the rule. Environments are blurry and lack in detail. It can look like they’re covered in a coat of Vaseline, which makes these highly accentuated characters look odd and out of place when they are set against it.
The fights are more satisfying, as is improving Aluche, the Lilies and the Servans, but don’t be surprised if you don’t care about her relationship with these heroines the way you did about Arnice’s with Lilysse.
Still, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon makes some serious strides forward. The gameplay is solid, with allies that grow as you get to know them. You get fewer Servans at once, but the two you get to have on hand can be quite helpful. It is just disappointing how similar some story elements can be and the way fanservice can overpower certain situations. The fights are more satisfying, as is improving Aluche, the Lilies and the Servans, but don’t be surprised if you don’t care about her relationship with these heroines the way you did about Arnice’s with Lilysse.