Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Windows
Nights of Azure is a game that's been on my shelf since it came out in America a year and a half ago, but I hadn't gotten around to playing it until I read about the announcement that Nights of Azure 2 would be coming to Switch. Loving any opportunity to support third party games - especially RPGs - on Nintendo platforms, I figured I should play the first game and decide if I wanted to buy its sequel on Switch. I'd read the rather lukewarm reviews that it got critically before playing, so I went in somewhat skeptical but trying to keep an open mind. While I don't really disagree with a lot of the criticisms that the game garnered, it does have some redeeming aspects.
Nights of Azure is an action RPG of the most mediocre quality. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that it's a Koei Tecmo game, it plays a bit like a musou game (think Dynasty Warriors) but on a much smaller scale. You play as a half-demon hunter, Arnice, tasked with protecting the newest "Saint," Lilysse, as she sacrifices herself to the Nightlord to prevent a never-ending night from damning the world. It's pretty much the plot of the series primer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic but with a human sacrifice instead of a weaponized friendship laser. The game is broken into seven chapters, but there are a number of side quests that you can do as well. As for combat, the only playable character is the main chick, but she can equip up to four familiars to summon to help her in combat. These summons can be focused towards attacking, tanking, healing, or buffing/debuffing, and the type of the familiar you have set as your "leader" will largely determine what form your transformation takes.
While nothing about the game really screams "Wow, this is garbage," it doesn't really excel at anything. The combat is alright, but it's nothing special; it feels like Dynasty Warriors on training wheels with 1/100 of the enemies. The soundtrack is nice, but that's about the only part of the game that I'd rate as solidly "pretty good." The visuals don't look like they've had much polish from the PS3 release aside from rendering at 1080p instead of 720p. The story is okay, but it doesn't really do much to keep me hooked. There's a lot of potential with the world and the lore, but they don't really explore it enough to use that potential. The actual world map and nations' names are used, but the backstory of how the world got to the way it is in the game is completely neglected until the very end, and even then, it's only barely touched on at all. The levels themselves - an important part of the game - feel really empty. They serve the purpose, but they feel uninspired and like a house full of blank, white walls. There's not a lot of embellishment, no accents or anything. It feels like a place for action to happen rather than a world of which you're a part.
One of the most unexpected aspects of the game is how extraordinarily easy it is. Up until the last boss, your options are pretty much "Do I use familiars and win easily?" or "Do I not use my familiars and win?" Losing never really factors in there. Keep in mind, though, that that situation is up until the final boss; the final boss is like a difficulty cliff. I was level 8 (max is 10) getting to the final boss and steamrolled my way through everything - enemies in the dungeon, boss rush, whatever it threw at me - on my way to the finale. I get there and get stomped like a bug. I grind up to level 9, and I still get beaten pretty badly. I grind my way up to the max level 10, and while I manage to beat the final boss, I have to keep an eye on my energy, my health, and my familiars' energy and health. I never had to do that with any of the previous bosses. It's not unheard of for an action RPG to require you, more or less, to reach max level - Ys games are famous for it - but it is much less common, at least in my experience, for the game to have so sudden a difficult spike right at the end.
All in all, Nights of Azure is a decent action RPG, and if you can find it for less than $15 or $20, I'd definitely say give it a shot if you're into that genre, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. The visuals show that it's a port from a last-gen system, the story is just so-so, the environments feel uninspired, and the combat isn't anything special. It's a competent game, but it's definitely not exemplary. Even after finishing this one, I'm still undecided on whether or not I'll get the sequel on Switch. I'll have to wait until closer to its October launch and see what critics are saying with regards to improvements over the shortcomings of the original.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.