Tag Archives: Nights of Azure

Please Concentrate, Sir

Not the way to manage but he does such a fine job!

Sure… Any game can feel challenging, especially when not paying attention. Last time, I sneered at the seemingly sudden difficulty spike of Nights of Azure without considering Arnice’s demon sword. After a bit of slipshod grinding, it had already reached a whole new level. For quite some time, I thought it merely got automatically stronger but it actually took an innocent press of a d-pad button to unleash its true potential. Oh well, no biggie; once this trusty demon hunter utensil turned twice as long and powerful as its wielder, that once-bothersome extra boss swiftly got what was coming. So did the one that followed, as well as all the familiar acquaintances from the first run. All this was rewarded with an ending quite a bit more pleasant than the first one, so I can finally consider the game beat in good conscience.

Or maybe not quite, as I’m still hesitating whether to do a bit of cleaning up by going for all of the game’s trophies or not. Sadly, when it comes to those, Nights of Azure is rather unimaginative. I’m mostly left with a bunch of “do X of this” baits that, at this point in the game, only raise questions of why they’re still even there. Arena trophies might go in the same wastebasket as well. There are a few dozen challenges that pit Arnice and her Servans against slightly puzzle-esque scenarios with time limits. In a way, I suppose they demonstrate the designer’s perception of how the game was meant to be approached from the very beginning but as I’m already pretty much done with everything, such lessons in strategy no longer hold any value whatsoever.

Given how positive I’ve been about Nights of Azure in general (well, it really is rather good!), I feel almost obliged to whine a wee bit more. First, it certainly isn’t much of a looker, even if that’s probably more due to awkward timing and a small budget. The game was released as-is on PS3, PS4, and Vita, so even those of us on PS4 won’t witness any additional graphical fireworks. Still, that’s a minor niggle in comparison to the sorriest localization effort ever. The translated script is chock-full of typos and missing words, and while Arnice is Arnice in the game, she’s Anders in the trophy descriptions, and apparently Aluche in the sequel that is just a few weeks away by now. Seriously, come on!

That’s all the naysay I can think of, though, as I’ll forever remember Nights of Azure as a game that was pleasant in length, pleasant in humor, and pleasant in being a bit of an odd bird. Sure, it might be pure B-class but at least it’s B-class that works!

Hackety Slash

Somehow I feel Mr. Professor isn’t much of an artist :D

After retiring from my less-than-stellar golfing career, I have resumed kicking some good old demon butt. After only about 20 hours, Nights of Azure pitted me against a really feisty final boss followed by a short and slightly confusing epilogue and then the closing credits. For the third time in a row, I came to the conclusion that this game, too, coaxes its player to dig a little deeper. Even NG+ whisked me straight to the point before the final showdown, and as there are now new side quests and additional bosses all over the place, I’m once again forced to see just how punishing it is going to be to reach a proper ending.

At least until now, Nights of Azure has been pleasantly level-headed. It has been all about frenetic and mindless hacking and slashing throughout the entire game but at least it remains fun and well-paced. Unleashing wild combos and flashy special moves on hapless mobs is therapeutically relaxing, and the puny hordes frequently give way to tougher, appropriately big and nasty bosses. Should Arnice fall in battle, it’s not a game over as the game simply returns her and her Servans back to the hotel with all the experience gained on the way. That is a most welcome gesture, making even the occasional need to grind a breeze.

The cast is delightfully compact. There are only about half a dozen central characters, each given ample time to shine in the numerous cutscenes. Despite mild stereotypes and some repetition, character chemistry works well and is always silly. That’s definitely a plus, given how unimaginative brooding in a gloomy world overshadowed by a blood moon would be. Even if Arnice has to deal with incurable idiots, the comedy is still bad in a good way rather than just plain tired.

It was a bit surprising that only after about a dozen unique Servans, the game stated their collection to be already half done. Then again, it’s almost refreshing that there aren’t loads of them, especially as it’s deceptively easy to always fall back on the same four Servans. Arnice is eventually able to carry four such four-Servan groups, though, and that’s where the game is once again awfully considerate. Even unused Servans get the same amount of experience as the active ones, so leveling up frail newcomers into fighting shape is no bother at all.

At this particular moment I’m banging my head against the first, awfully temperamental extra boss but even if the “post”-game difficulty spike is rather noticeable, I still find myself smiling even when getting thoroughly beaten.

As well as Servans, past week was also about collecting games. The most unexpected surprise was the SNES Classic Mini, which I swore to get only if it would be absolutely effortless and not subject to price gouging. In the end, I picked up mine from the local supermarket during Friday evening grocery shopping, so it couldn’t have been easier. Looks like living in a small town has its benefits. PS1 JRPG Koudelka and the bargain bin PS4 trio of Abzû, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair, and Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star complemented the backlog that only seems to be growing as time goes by. Oh well, such is game otaku life.

Mashup Magnificence

Eat demonish hellfire, foul dragon!

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!

Could this be the coveted hole-in-one? (Nope, wasn’t)

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.

Groundhog Century

So nice, if only it would end :'(

If my gaming is in a slump due to everyday drudge once more replacing glorious vacation days, The Idolm@ster: Platinum Stars does its damnedest to keep it that way. As surmised, I’ve now given it around 58 hours but pretty much nothing of any interest has happened. Going through horribly monotonic motions increases the idols’ experience and number of fans, but progress is so laughably slow that the game has regressed into nothing more than a weary battle of attrition. Should a new gig show up, you can rest assured that it’s something that won’t be even remotely beatable until 10-20 hours later. Perfect performances mean jack shit as if your characters aren’t on a high enough level, the required score limit is just plain impossible to reach. End of discussion. So, I’ve entertained myself playing through the same challenge over and over again for a couple of hundred of times, grinding slow and steady. Such wow. Much joy. Surely a few paid helper items from the store would do the trick, eh? F**k you, Project iM@S.

In a rueful fashion, the game follows a virtual year cycle advancing on a weekly basis. Skipping every possible cutscene, it’s possible to truncate one in-game year into a three hour real-time marathon covering 48 ordinary shows and four specials involving the entire cast of idols. If this cycle was realistic, these 13-21-year-old heroines would be at the peak of their careers around the ripe age of 90, and even that might take an incarnation or two. Thankfully, they’re effectively ageless. Still, at this point minor observations like that are crucial to endure the whole ordeal. You could, for example, set a daily goal of going through one in-game year (even if a quarter is already starting to feel repulsive). On Valentine’s Day, the chosen leader gives out complimentary chocolate, so that’s another potential goal to spend 39 hours or so. The pitiful selection of songs can also be raised to Legend status, which requires them to be completed 200 times each. The biggest reward of doing so is most likely that you’re never ever going to choose them again. Still, repeatedly playing the same song over and over again means that you quickly figure out that exact note when your current crew hits maximum audience zeal. Since missed notes carry no penalty, that’s when the song can be left to play itself while the player can just as well go to the fridge, take a piss, have a smoke, or spend a serious moment contemplating why they’re voluntarily submitting to this level of self-inflicted torture. Oh, and those 20 songs featured in the game? One is still locked. It’ll probably become available after 60-70 hours or something. Jesus.

All this is especially maddening as Platinum Stars is a proper rhythm game, even if awfully lightweight in content. If it would’ve rolled its ending credits after 15-20 hours and shown all that it genuinely has by 30-50 hours, it would’ve left the stage as a celebrated winner. Now it has turned into that person. You know, the one you meet by chance and who’s awfully jovial and remarkably pleasant for a while until you realize that they’re nothing more than an absolute asshole and you’re inadvertently stuck with them for life with the only way of escape probably involving a sharp ax and a manslaughter charge. I’ll continue my rhythmical journey, although it has already turned into a macabre social study of what it actually takes to finish a game that has obviously been designed around nothing else than skimming its players off hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Bloody cynical.

Moving on would be a trigger pull away…

Ditching a game once started is always la petite mort of sorts but should that (once again) happen, at least intensive care would be close by. Mind-numbing repetition could easily be replaced either by the backlog or the five new JRPGs joining the fray; Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Nights of Azure, Yo-Kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits, Yo-Kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls (dual releases be forever damned), but especially Stella Glow. That one might actually feature that strategic role-playing bliss I was expecting from Utawarerumono, which kind of failed to deliver.