Much has been made of attempts at social progress throughout the video games as both a hobby and an industry, and while I don’t think I’ll ever manage to enjoy a walking simulator, I think I’m slowly starting to turn to the view that there are some ugly elements of gaming that need a little cleanup. Maybe it was the hundredth “kys” in Overwatch Quick Play, who knows?
Anyway, it’s interesting to see games like 2016’s Nights of Azure that do a little to advance viewpoints that are less common in the industry – in this case, we had a game about a lesbian couple that was handled with a surprising level of tact given it was, indeed, a video game. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of The New Moon continues the theme; it’s not quite as tactful, but games like this coming out at all seems like a victory.
The Curia, a sort of militant church, is devoted to keeping the world safe from demons, but sometimes that involves a little more than just hacking them to bits Case in point: knight Aluche is assigned the task of leading her childhood friend (and more, as is made plain early on) Liliana to her role as a sacrifice to the demonic Moon Queen. This doesn’t go as planned, and Aluche ends up as a half-demon hybrid while Liliana ends up missing; the former needs to search for the latter while discovering the secrets behind the Curia, the anti-Curia Lourdes Order and the Moon Queen. Aluche’s status as a hybrid means that she can’t be out for too long at once, though, so she’s under some pressure from the clock as well.
Gameplay is largely similar to the original Nights of Azure, though some tweaks here and there spice things up a bit. Unlike Arnice, Aluche fights with both a party member called a Lily and her tamed demonic Servans – you’ll have one of the former and two of the latter most of the time. Effective coordination with your Lily partner generates energy that powers special attacks as well as enhancing their relationship with Aluche, unlocking bonus content. Servans, meanwhile, unlock additional areas in stages, fight enemies and serve as additional weapons. As in the original game, there’s a fair amount of depth but the difficulty level remains fairly low throughout, so while there’s a time limit it rarely poses a huge issue; if you want to see all the scenes related to Lily progression you’ll need to play through the game multiple times thanks to this, though.
While Nights of Azure 2 generally looks pretty great thanks to its lovely stylized anime aesthetic, on Switch at least the game’s performance leaves a little to be desired. Well, more than a little. While docked, it’s passable; you won’t be blown away by buttery-smooth framerates or anything, but it’s better than something like RiME. Switch to handheld mode, though, and you’re suddenly playing Powerpoint: The Game, watching as your character hacks through enemies at what feels like two or three frames per second.
Which is sad as the Switch can absolutely handle games like this at an acceptable pace in both handheld and docked modes – just look at Fire Emblem Warriors for an example of that – so the issues here smack of a lazy port job. Given plans to bring more Gust games like the Atelier series to the Switch in the future, one hopes these issues can be ironed out before too long.
As with the original Nights of Azure, this one’s interesting in some degree thanks to its unashamed take on homosexuality. While the usual anime tropes abound, as before, the fact that a game can be this open about relationships of this nature at all and still receive a Western localization suggests some level of progress is being made. That’s intriguing, even if the questionable Switch port isn’t. That said, Nights of Azure 2 is still a good choice for RPG fans – though ideally they’ll play it on PS4 or PC.