Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon review for PS4, Switch, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: PC, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cart
Players: 1
Online: No

I think I owe the Atelier series an apology. For the last couple of titles in that franchise, I’ve been a little dismissive of them due to the fact that all the games are basically the same. Now that I’ve played Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon, and I’ve seen what else Gust can do…well, I’m not so sure it’s an improvement.

Interestingly, the premise of Nights of Azure 2 isn’t that far removed from an Atelier game. It’s still, at heart, a game about female friendship. It’s just that, this time out, the friendships seem a lot less wholesome and a whole lot more sexually charged. It may never be explicitly stated, but the subtext here — both in terms of the actual dialogue and in terms of the game’s yuri roots — makes it pretty clear that there’s some non-platonic feelings between many of the characters.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with a game displaying same-sex relationships. It’s just that it seems a lot less empowering and progressive, and a lot more exploitative and icky, when the characters involved in the relationship are ultra-busty vixens wearing boob armour that heaves and wobbles with every breath they take. I don’t want to dismiss the moments of surprising tenderness entirely, but it’s a lot harder to take them seriously in that broader context, you know?

Nights of Azure 2?s gameplay is also a lot more cumbersome than anything you’d find in the Atelier series, too. While I’ve always had my complaints about turn-based combat, for example, at least those games made it easy to tell who you were fighting and what you were doing. Here, by contrast, it’s mainly about mashing buttons wildly and hoping you connect with one of the multitudes of monsters surrounding you. Everything feels kind of floaty, and none of the attacks feel like they have much heft behind them. As someone who usually loves hacking and slashing my way through enemies, that’s a letdown. Similarly, the game drowns you in text from the get-go, opting for the ?info dump? method of storytelling. While this is something Atelier games do too, to some extent, they’re not as guilty of it as this game, where you can frequently trigger 10+ minutes of unskippable cutscenes and dialogues.

That said, Nights of Azure 2 isn’t all bad. It’s got a distinctive look and feel, which isn’t something that can be said 20+ games into Atelier. Setting aside the ridiculous clothing choices of many of the characters, there’s no denying that this game features some dazzling environments.

I wouldn’t say that’s enough to offset the dialogue, bad camera controls, and leering fanservice, though. Nights of Azure 2 may represent a departure from the developer’s norm, but it’s also proof that simply being different isn’t inherently a good thing.

Koei Tecmo provided us with a Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: C+