Yoru no Nai Kuni or Nights of Azure as it's known over here is an Action RPG hybrid developed by Gust and published by Koei Tecmo for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. In it you take on the role of Arnice, a hunter of the beasts and protector of your friend Lilysse...
You know, I was going to get to this later, but I really can't. This needs to be addressed right now. This game is yuri as fuckall. This game is so sickenly sweet yuri that was actually getting cavities at points. Yes, Lilysse and Arnice are gay as gay could get for each other. They cross the yuri line really early in the game. They go MUCH further than I expected later. I mean there is literally no way they weren't boffing each other given what was shown. Granted, it's PG-13 rated, but it was there.
So yeah, Nights of Azure, is above all, a love story between Arnice and Lilysse. In fact, the whole thing is extremely story driven often to the point that it interferes with the game play itself. If the story weren't so compelling the game interference would have had me sending this game to my archives well before I finished. What I mean by interfereing with the game play is that often you'll run into a cut scene you weren't expecting that'll actually transport you to places you don't want to go, such as right back to the hotel, which is your home base. This is especially maddening when you're trying to map out a new area. Also the story tends to get in your way when you're attempting to just go someplace. It could be cut scene after cut scene before you can finally LEAVE the goddamn hotel to get anywhere. That said, the story itself is exceptional work, told in a place and with a visual style that is quite dreamlike, which is quite fitting for the story itself which is all about dreams and night time. And the things you do in the night time. Yes, those things. Honestly, if it wasn't for the male side characters, I'd think this is one of those strange tales over on that side of the pond that deny the male of the species even exists or has purpose. I'm not a fan of yuri by any stretch for that reason, as it often gives off the vibe of 'ewwwe...men!' or 'men don't need to exist' and by all that proxy *I* am 'ewwe', *I* don't need to exist, *I* have no purpose. Some guys don't mind it, but I tend to take that sort of thing a little personally, so I get turned off by it. This story doesn't have any of that, so I'm perfectly fine by what I saw. Though I do wonder where the fuck the male fighting force is, since through history, it's been men by the billions that have fought and died in such conflicts, but given the nature of the story, it's again, not something that's really annoying so much as a curiosity.
Gameplay is very simple and unthreatening. It keeps its move set and combo system to only a few moves and chains; the most complex thing you'll do is switch between weapons for chain attacks, if that's even something you attempt to do. Most fights, even with the boss monsters are really no threat to you, so long as you keep leveling. That said, it takes some time before you can level, and taking a page from Bloodbourne you level using blue blood you collect through the game, though you won't lose it if you die. If you die...outside of a few monsters that can instakill you, you'll likely never die. Especially if you outfit your party of servans (fetish idols you bring to live by sacrificing some of the blue blood you collect) with enough power ups and items. You can play some of the mini games, go on quests and whatnot for blood, gold, and items, but to be honest...you'll almost never NEED to. You'll almost never use money in this game, in fact you could conceivably never use it. Items, even rare ones, drop constantly, so you'll find yourself selling most to get them out of your inventory. Your servans are basically automated drones that attack and heal at your command, and though you can lose them for a time if they take too much damage, this will almost never happen if you're paying attention (or run into a monster that can seal them, but those are usually bosses). Honestly, there's not much challenge in the game play. They set it up as something you do to drive the story, and that's about it really. It's serviceable, but nothing noteworthy on its own merits...in fact borderline insulting, but that might be the Bloodbourne player in me talking. And don't even get me started on your transformed states...as if the game wasn't easy enough, they give you a time limited GOD mode.
Visuals lend itself well to the dreamlike quality of the game, which again, lends itself well to the dreamlike nature of the story. Characters tend to move well except for the sudden stops and starts of motion when characters start and stop walking. Though the motion capture was fairly good, the animators forgot that one little detail, which often makes one blink before the illusion sets back in. Motion in people flows; we're never truly still even when we are motionless. That said, once you get into the action of the game play, you never notice this at all. Despite the easy nature of the battle, everything in it is visually appealing and a fantastic thing to behold. The only real problem I think I had is that the subtitles actually cut out at points at the very end of the game, which I see as a QA issue. It's annoying, but nothing that's a deal killer.
Music is...holy shit, the music is quite literally one of the best parts of this game. The background music is something I'd love to pick up a CD (yes, a CD) of one day, and the vocal tracks that are scattered around the game's scenes and pertient areas are breathtaking. Often the VAs of Lilysse and Arnice lend their vocal talents to the songs if I read the credits correctly, and those girls can sing like angels. Though admittedly, while running through the opera house, I was wondering if I was going to run into a certain One-Winged Angel with that background music playing. I don't think these guys could have taken him on right then, heh.
Overall, I'd have to say this game is a good visual novel to play through. It has five endings so you'll need to pay attention in the dream world when you're talking to Lilysse concerning how you answer her questions, but that and making sure you finish everyone's quests are about the only things you need to worry about if you want to get one of the best endings. Or not, depending on how you answer and/or do/don't finish the quests. There's not really much to this game, it's...restful. I'd been hard grinding my sanity to dirt playing through Bloodbourne and I really needed something like this to take the edge off. It has excelent visuals, excelent story, FANTASTIC music, and game play the experienced player could do with their eyes closed (well...if it wasn't such a joy to watch anyway, heh). There's a lot to recommend the game, but as a game in and of itself, it's pretty light fare. It's not challenging, so if you're looking for that, you'll not find it here. Like I said at the beginning, this is a playable light novel, nothing more or less. I think it gave me what I needed when I needed it. If you want a pleasant distraction...you'll find it here.