No Ateliers Allowed.
The developers at Gust are famously known for their long running Atelier series with more than a dozen entries to the franchise.
So when I heard that they were hard at work with Nights of Azure, an ARPG quite different from the Atelier titles, I was curious how things would turn out.
Voice Acting: JPN only with subtitles
Length: 15-20 Hours, includes multiple endings
Nights of Azure is primarily a love story between two women. Sure, there are monsters to kill and an impending apocalypse to stop but it largely revolves around the relationship between Arnice and her more than just a best friend, Lilysse.
Unfortunately, the story telling in NoA felt disjointed due to its rather odd presentation.
The various story arcs are played out in small events that would be triggered in the main hub area but many story arcs would unfold over several chapters, starting and ending with little to no fanfare.
At the very least, the colorful art style shines through well on the characters as they look great and animate quite well. It’s just unfortunate that the story portrayed through the interaction of said characters lacked a certain punch to leave a lasting impression.
As for the combat, unlike the Atelier titles, NoA is most decidedly an Action RPG with an abundance of hack & slash action.
There’s a light, heavy and special attack along with a dedicated dodge maneuver which is all pretty standard for the genre but it also includes some additions of its own.
Arnice can build a deck of familiars and summon them in battle to help her. These aren’t the standard pushover helpers as they can really rack up the damage, heal and even crowd control a large group of enemies.
She can summon up to four helpers at once and given their effectiveness, it’s advised to always have a few out at all times to keep some pressure off of Arnice during the larger battle encounters.
There’s a decent number of familiars to find and summon during the course of the game and which ones the player decides to bring together also determines Arnice’s ultimate form which allows her to transform for a short time and blow up anything in her path.
While certainly serviceable, I felt the combat was a bit too shallow, allowing me to mindlessly hack away with complete abandon with little to no challenge.
There’s a few more RPG elements like leveling up and “activities” that allow Arnice to gain some skill points while she’s out in the night hunting monsters but it didn’t really amount to much in terms of customization or strategy.
Even though mashing on the same two buttons over and over got tedious rather fast, the soundtrack in NoA offered some of Gust’s best work in recent years.
From solemn piano solos to rocking guitar riffs, I found myself entering new areas more to hear the next track rather than what new enemies/bosses I would be facing.
Overall, Nights of Azure is a rather unremarkable ARPG that just happens to have a gorgeous art style and a fantastic soundtrack. Even though it’s not likely to become the new flagship franchise for the developers at Gust, it’s a solid attempt at a new genre and a good distraction until the next Atelier title releases later this year.
Fun Tidbit – Nights of Azure also received a PS3 and PSV version in Japan but is only available on PS4 in the States.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.