Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is an action role-playing title set an unspecified number of years after the first game. Foul fiends, tainted by the blue blood of the Nightlord, still roam the land and there are rumours that a dreaded Moon Queen has appeared as the new ruler of the demons. If she isn’t sealed away quickly then the whole world will fall into an eternal sleep.

This time around you’re placed in the shoes of Aluche Anatoria, a great fighter and agent of the Curia; an organisation which defends people from the fiends. Aluche is given orders to escort a priestess to the Curia’s headquarters. This priestess turns out to be Liliana, a childhood friend of Aluche, and while it’s initially a joyous reunion, that joy is sadly short lived. Liliana has been chosen as a sacrifice to seal away the Moon Queen. The idea of sacrificing a friend is not a particularly pleasant one, but before they get much time to think things over, their entourage is attacked. Aluche is slain in battle, but is resurrected as a half-demon hybrid by the Curia’s doctor. Sadly, by the time she awakens, Liliana has long since vanished, and so it’s up to Aluche to find her and come up with an alternative way of defeating the Moon Queen.

The base of operations for your adventure is the Hotel Eterna in the Ruined City of Eurulm. Ever since Aluche’s skirmish the city and surrounding area has been plunged into darkness. Similar to the first game, whenever you leave the safety of the hotel a timer starts to count down. You’ll need to explore each area, fight fiends, and complete the mission objectives before the timer runs out. This time around there are also a limited number of nights: with every night that passes, the moon shifts a phase until eventually it reaches the new moon stage, and is no longer visible. If the moon gets to this point before you complete the main story tasks in each chapter, then the world will fall to darkness and it’ll be game over.

While time limits aren’t always a popular game mechanic in RPGs, this one is fairly generous and adds an interesting element to the game. You can extend the in-dungeon timer by levelling up and learning certain abilities, whereas the only way to increase the number of days left is to defeat the end of chapter boss. Having a limited number of days means that you have to become more efficient at completing quests, but it never feels insurmountable. Instead, it encourages you to move forward through the game and not get bogged down in needless padding like in a lot of other RPGs.

Combat is of the hack-and-slash variety and is fast paced and fun. Initially the game will throw lots of new terminology at you and the in-game tutorials aren’t always very clear. But as with many things in life, sometimes it’s best just to throw yourself into the deep end and give it a go. Thankfully, once you get started the system is fairly intuitive. Aluche is able to partner up with a non-playable character as well as a couple of friendly fiends known as Servans.

You’ll be able to take one of seven ladies into battle with you, and each has different abilities and strengths. By performing cooperative attacks with them you’ll be able to build up to devastatingly powerful attacks. Each character has their own beautiful animations and behaves differently, which makes it an entertaining battle system - although combat does tend to fall a little bit on the easy side.

Hidden within the game's dungeons are many Servans which, if rescued, will become Aluche’s allies. As well as fighting by your side in battle they too have unique abilities. Some have special environmental abilities which can open up new pathways, while others are able to turn into special weapons for Aluche to equip. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really encourage you to make the most of this system. You’re limited in that you can only take two Servans into the battlefield with you, and once you leave the hotel you can’t swap them out for other Servans. This means that you’re more likely to use Servans that can unlock areas than you are ones with weapon abilities.

In every chapter you’ll get given a set of side quests to complete, and many of these will be opportunities to get to know the other ladies in the game a little better. Although most of the quests are little more than “go there, kill X” type quests, they rarely feel like a grind because of how quick it is to warp around an area and how fast paced the combat is. Getting to know the characters feels rewarding too, and will grant you access to additional titbits of story that you otherwise wouldn’t have uncovered. There’s a variety of different characters to get close to, ranging from an artificial half-demon assassin through to an enthusiastic chocolatier (who really wouldn’t look out of place in Gust’s Atelier series). The developing friendship and subtle love that blossoms between the characters is enchanting to see. Aside from some of the more revealing outfits and everyone’s giant jiggling boobs, the game mostly manages to stay tasteful rather than pervy.

There are also some really entertaining boss fights where you’ll get to do more than just hack-and-slash, such as the fight with a statue called David where you’ll have to direct energy beams towards him by using mirrors. The game is definitely at its best during moments like this, with some great battle music to get you pumped up and engaging mechanics to keep things fresh. It almost feels a shame when the game finally draws to its conclusion, but at least there’s a New Game Plus mode as well as an increased difficulty option for those who crave a little bit more action.

Conclusion

Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is quite a streamlined Japanese RPG. The time limit system will keep you constantly moving forward, and while it is a bit shorter than your typical JRPG, it rarely feels repetitive thanks to a quick and satisfying battle system. A beautiful and engaging cast of characters are the icing on the cake.