Every now and then one might get a feeling that everything in gaming has already been seen and done. At times like that, it’s always a nice surprise to see how simply mixing and matching old ideas can turn into something fresh. Nights of Azure, a joint project between Koei Tecmo and Gust combines Dynasty Warriors and a JRPG, and at least based on its first few hours, it’s a union that works wonders! The adventure focuses on two young maidens; the able half-demon knight Arnice, and the virtuous saint Lilysse. They’ve been friends since boarding school days, and reunite after a couple of years of roaming around the world. It’s not a particularly joyous occasion, given that they meet in a town whose streets are overrun by minions of an ancient demon king. He was banished hundreds of years ago but is now showing worrisome signs of making a comeback. What’s worse, a human sacrifice is required to keep him at bay. Sadly, that honor is planned for Lilysse while Arnice is tasked to keep her safe until the ceremony can take place. It sure sucks having to pit the fate of the entire world against the life of your best friend.
Despite its gloomy premise, Nights of Azure is a dashing action-JRPG that is not afraid to brighten the dreary mood with a bit of comedy and unrestrained tomfoolery. During action-packed missions Arnice careers through the town’s streets and alleyways, slaughtering tons of small fry with abundant sword combos. To keep her company, Arnice can summon up to four Servans to her aid. They are utterly adorable, rather Pokémon-esque demons that use their own unique skills to pummel or hamper adversaries. These sidekicks are controlled by AI, but they can also use special attacks activated by Arnice. She, in turn, is capable of blocking, dodging, and delivering three kinds of blows; light, heavy, and one that consumes limited skill points for even bigger damage. With enough fighting, she can even briefly transform into a demon herself, unleashing punishment of massive proportions. As one can probably imagine, the fights are often unadulterated chaos where strategy easily gives way to mindless button mashing but damn if it isn’t loads of fun!
In-between story and side missions, Arnice takes frequent breaks in the town’s hotel where Lilysse has enlisted as a maid. You have to do something while waiting for your bleak fate, I suppose. At home base, demon blood acquired from fights can be used to resurrect new Servans found from the field, and they sure have that “gotta catch ’em all” feel to them. Time between story missions is also spent by witnessing plenty of amusing events ranging from hilariously overblown girls’ love parody to dialogue so crass and camp that it genuinely works. As expected, the hotel soon becomes a central hub for many new acquaintances, some of who might eventually be of help when trying to figure out an alternative to sacrificing Lilysse. Time will tell what will happen but for now, I’m having the greatest of time since The Witch and the Hundred Knight, and that’s saying a lot!
Amidst demon slaying, I’ve been making steady progress in Everybody’s Golf. I’m still hunting for my very first hole-in-one in the entire series but after 23 hours I’ve at least managed to beat all the versus professionals of single player rank six. That’s also when the game decided to roll its closing credits. I can’t really get my head around the way Japanese developers use end credits, as this was another case where the game simply continues after them with new challenges and whatnot. I’m slightly worried that just like with The Idolm@ster: Platinum Stars, this is the point where the average Joe is almost encouraged to consider the game beaten. Still, as the seventh rank is clearly a thing, I can’t help but chin up and see just how hard it gets. Thankfully it also feels like I’m slowly improving with strokes more and more often working out roughly as I planned. I still get a thorough trashing online but always find time to complete the daily challenge round. After all, every leaderboard needs people to make up the bottom half.