Coming from a developer that is known for cutesy / sci-fi alchemy based RPGs, a fast paced action RPG like Nights of Azure certainly seems like a brave step into unknown territory for Gust. Look past all the demon slaying however and you’ll see a more familiar game than what you might have been expecting.
Once you’re past all the setup, Nights of Azure falls into something of a familiar structure. You’ll have your main chapter objectives, which usually boils down to head to the new area and take out the boss. Once the boss is defeated, you’ll enter into the interlude phase which makes you think that this is the time to do quests and such but really, it’s just the second half of the chapter with it’s own objectives, only they won’t be as battle oriented and have more of a story first approach, focused around the hotel that functions as your base of operations.
While Nights of Azure isn’t quite as laidback as other Gust games, it still lets you take your time and choose how you want to proceed. Aside from the main chapter objectives, some of the characters have their own objectives they’ll give you to complete, which you can do at anytime. Before you head out, make sure you take on some quests and daytime activities. Quests are randomised so there’s no long set list to repeat but it’s a decent way to earn some extra money and blood, both of which are useful to have in reserves. The daytime activities give you points to used to upgrade and learn new skills. It’s kind of annoying that you can only take on one quest and daytime activity at a time and the only way to take on more is to upgrade the relevant skills. I also would have appreciated a reminder before you head out to take on a quest/daytime activity as there’s no reason not to take one on and it’s easy to forget if you’re only quickly heading in and out of the hotel.
The biggest area, aside from the gameplay, where Nights of Azure deviates is with its soundtrack, as at least to me, it doesn’t have that usual Gust sound. Usually Gust soundtracks are chilled, upbeat affairs with a wide variety of instruments and sounds. Obviously, that wouldn’t quite fit in with the darker themes Nights of Azure is shooting for but I wasn’t expecting a soundtrack that feels like it would fit it in a Ys title. There’s lots of guitar work going on but the few vocal themes you’ll hear bring in some familiarity. While it may not sound the same, it certainly has the Gust visuals, with characters much more detailed than the environments and cutscenes longs with long pans over the scenery.
Going into Nights of Azure, I guess I was expecting a new experience from Gust and I just feel surprised it wasn’t quite as unique as I thought it was going to be. Not that it really cheapens the game in any meaningful and I’m glad to see them make something like this, especially after two trilogies back to back of the standard Atelier formula.