Once again it’s no surprise that I find myself reviewing yet another Japanese RPG game. It’s actually somewhat of an addiction that I’ve grown over the past 10 years of my life. Remember a few months ago when everyone was addicted to catching Pokemon and walked miles and miles every day to get that Charmander they were desperately seeking? Well imagine that, but with Japanese RPG games. Unfortunately, it’s my curse but fortunately for me Invision Community gets their hands on a lot of Japanese RPG games, so I don’t have to go cold turkey… just yet.
If you’re a regular within the world of PlayStation Japanese RPG’s then you’ll likely know that Nights of Azure was released back in 2016 (or 2015 if you’re in Japan) across the various PlayStation consoles, however as part of an initiative to give PC users a chance to get their hands on some new games, developers Gust and publishers Koei Tecmo are porting across two of their most recent games; Atelier Sophie, and of course Nights of Azure, both of which be available on Steam as of 7th February 2017.
The game begins with an opening narrative from the games main protagonist. She tells the story of an unchartered land by the name of Ruswal Island and the blue blooded monsters that dwell on it. The story proceeds to explain how the land was under attack by The Nightlord, and after the humans emerged victorious and vanquished the evil Nightlord, her blood rained down upon all of Ruswal, transforming many of the population into monsters that attack the inhabitants of the island during darkness, and so the Island became known as ‘The Land Without Knight’.
Luckily though, you’re quickly introduced to the two main characters of the game. Arnice, a bad ass knight with a big, big sword who has the ability to drink the blood of her foes and conjure up demons, known as Servan, to help her win over battles with the demons and Lilysse, a cheerful and happy go lucky young lady who has been chosen to become the next Saint, and will be the ultimate sacrifice in order to seal the remains of The Nightlord and banish the evil from Ruswal.
Together they’ll come across many characters, fellow fighters, decisions and lots of information that will ultimately provide an epic tale for the gamers experience, at times it’s a difficult one to watch, and at other times it’s extremely entertaining, but in all honesty the story and plot that Nights of Azure offers towards it’s gamers is one that can’t be missed and needs to be experienced all the way through for full impact.
Nights of Azure implements a battle system which can be somewhat familiar to some, but it’s not often the norm when it comes to Japanese RPG games. Each stage will have a different map, as you run through the map to reach your next objective, you’ll be ambushed by various monsters and demons that will attack you in full force. You have controls and abilities which will help you turn the tide of battle in your favour, and as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, you have a weak, medium and strong attack which you’ll be able to chain together into combos. Nights of Azure is based around an active battle system, so you’ll never have a moment to spare, and whilst you can run around a little bit to buy time, you’ll do so at the expense of having your Servans destroyed by the attacking monsters.
One minor disadvantage to the beginning of the game, and frankly it’s probably because I’m playing a beta pre-release version of the game is that the tutorial on the PC is based around a controller based system. Therefore the tutorial was telling me to hold RB and press X to summon a Servan, which in all honesty I had no idea what I was pressing, so it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to summon one before the game would let me proceed. This little issue will likely be fixed before pre-release, or it’s possible that I just didn’t set the game up correctly, but don’t let that discourage you from playing, it doesn’t take long to figure it out and after a while you’ll be slashing heads off monsters with the best of them.
You’ve probably heard the word ‘Servans’ being used quite a bit, and that’s because they really are the keys towards victory. As you progress through the maps and quests you’ll come across new Servans, which are your demon pets which will aid you in battle. Servans range in their abilities and helpfulness, some will heal you, some will attack, some will provide massive amounts of HP to keep your enemies hitting them for hours on end. Naturally it goes without saying that as you level up and gain experience, you’ll also gain more abilities and higher stats for your Servans, so training them and keeping them healthy and happy is the key to strength.
What’s more, as you continue to fight you’ll increase your transformation gauge, and depending on the Servans within your care, you’ll be able to perform a ‘demonic transformation’ which will allow you to perform a multitude of different abilities and techniques to vanquish your foes. Consider it an almost trump card for if battles aren’t going your way, although on boss fights it will come in especially handy to turning the tides of battle.
Nights of Azure has a very strong emphasis on its battle system, and it’s very welcome at that. Not only will you gain experience, equip new weapons and clothing to make yourself stronger, gain more health and SP to increase your powers and other things, there’s also a very strong emphasis on tactics. As you’re fighting you’ll be able to issue commands towards your Servans to make them fight in particular ways, you’ll be able to change your weapons to better suit the flow of combat and give yourself an advantage and you’ll also be able to set up and change loadouts of Servans to switch to a more offensive, defensive or support load out at will. There’s a lot of emphasis on battling and frankly it’s incredibly refreshing and fast paced atmosphere really does bolster what is already a great game.
Whilst the graphics aren’t really the best, they aren’t by any means bad. The environments are well designed and the characters are pretty detailed. Cutscenes aren’t too shabby at all, and you’ll be able to play a game with an enjoyable story whilst not being derailed by bad graphics. The story cutscenes are actually quite beautiful, and definitely very well presented to add an additional sense of atmosphere to a game that frankly is packed to the brim with atmosphere. I’ve got absolutely no quarrels with the graphics, and I believe that the game ports well.
The sound is, well just wow. That’s all I can really describe it as. The opening cutscene music is absolutely beautiful and is likely within the top 10 opening songs that I’ve heard from a Japanese RPG of all time. Each piece of music from the game is incredibly well designed and crafted to ensure that it adds to the whole idea of darkness and night, but also adding the sense of hope and faith that our heroines can overcome the task they have been set. Sound effects are very well designed, combat sound is great and character voices are crystal clear, so it’s a clear 10 out of 10 from a sound perspective.
Overall, Nights of Azure was definitely a fun game to play. Whilst I have to say that I would rather play it on a console, there’s no lost value on playing on a PC (providing the tutorial buttons get fixed) and the game as a whole is definitely one worthy of time and money.
The story and plot are strong, emotional and offer the gamer hours of entertainment and suspense, the battle system is thorough and offers lots of different aspects to fine tune your demonic and angelic abilities to vanquish many a demon, the graphics may not be the best, but definitely not the worst and the sound is absolutely incredible, I would definitely say that this is one of the strongest JRPGs that I have played in a while now and I would strongly suggest that any fans of the JRPG at least give it a try.
Nights of Azure blasts onto PC with Demonic Transformations and Kick Ass Music
Nights of Azure was reviewed on PC Via Steam, this game is also available on PlayStation 4