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  1. #1

    [PS4/NSW] Nights Of Azure 2 (Yoru No Nai Kuni 2)

    This just came out in Japan and it'll be available in western territories next month.
    Let me start with a technological analysis.
    On both the PS4 and Switch the game runs at a constant pace, maybe it never reaches 60fps on Nintendo's hybrid but it never dips below 30, and I think it's always between 40 and 50. However the game looks absolutely basic, I think Gust took the Vita version and just translated it to the Switch with a higher resolution and framerate, maybe with better character models. Lightin, texture filtering and resolution are vastly inferior to the Switch's capabilities and effects like glow, depth of field, or motion blur are completely absent. The Switch also lacks the 5.1 mix the PS4 has, and it's kinda clear that Gust rushed it. Hopefully the new Atelier won't be a rushed job as this one.
    The 5.1 mix isn't particularly great either, during actual missions voices are almost muted and increasing their volume from the options menu won't do anything. Or better, it will improve volume of voices you can already hear clearly. During cutscenes the audio reverts back to stereo, and the rear channels are essentially left usunused.
    And that's about it.

    As for the game itself, NoA2 is loosely based on the first game, with you controlling one character and attacking enemies with combos composed by light and heavy attacks. The number of familiar that accompany Arlushe, the protagonist, has been scaled down to just two, but you always have a human NPC accompanying you.
    The familiars can now belong to two categories, spellcasters or weapon shifters. Spellcasters are used to cast some sort of spell, while weapon shifters will change Arlushe's weapon into something else. For example I've encountered one bee that changed Arlushe's standard sword with a spear.
    The human companion attacks on her own will, and striking the same enemy at the same time will increase a counter that when filled will allow the two to execute a special attack. Human companions also have their own peculiar skill (for example Camilla throws a grenade, Ruenheid boosts defence), and after enough kills Arlushe and her companion can unleash an ultimate attack. There's a heavy emphasis on these special attacks, and right now I'm not really sure how it stacks up against the first game.
    Combat is pretty much the same as in the first game, probably a tad slower. The dodge seems to work a bit different, here is a bit stiffer, and although controls feel a bit less slippery than in the first NoA, they still aren't perfectly tight.

    I didn't remember if the first game had a time limit, but here it's very prominent. This time limit ties in with the story, and is increased every time Arlushe levels up. Stages are built in small sections, at the end of each section there's a door to quickly travel between your base camp (an hotel) and different sections of a stage.
    New is also Arlushe's skill tree, that allows to focus on various proficiencies (weapons, status ailments, extra experience, and so on).

    After just two hours the story already features more secondary characters than the whole first game, and I remember that I wasn't particularly fond on how Gust used even the main characters previously, so I'm kinda scared on how NoA2's narrative will evolve.

  2. #2
    Sounds like good reason to cancel my pre-order. Thank you for the impressions!

  3. #3
    Let's continue this journey through the night with added characters.
    One thing I wasn't particularly fond of in the first game was that the link between the two main heroines, Arnice and Ruritie, was never particulary strong and that the action part didn't feel particularly well intertwined with the story. Recently I criticised Gust for dumping a large number of characters and never developing them in Blue Reflection, and I fear that Yoru No Nai Kuni 2 will inherit both narrative flaws from these two games.

    The opening hour introduces Alushe, the main character; Liliana, the pivot point of the story (I think); the main antagonist; Ruenheid, former classmate of Alushe and Lilian; Camilla, that kinda works as Alushe's mentor. Within the third hour there are two new playable characters and some other NPCs. It feels a bit too much coming from previous Gust titles and I'm afraid that none will be properly develop with the exception of Alushe, Lilian, and Ruenheid.
    It's also possible that the game favours multiple playthroughs in which you focus on one character over a single, comprehensive resolution where you max out relationship levels with all characters, but I doubt Yoru No Nai Kuni 2 will have enough staying power to warrant such feat.

    Wrinkles and cracks in the combat system are already starting to show in the first hours, and I have the feeling that the first game was more varied and more fun. It might be too early to say this, but I can't shake this feeling.
    I've already said that you always have a character with you and those can be used for a series of special attacks. I've recently added Veruschka (might eb the wrong spelling) to the party, and due to her speed she's able to quickly fill all special meters, which is good, only that a lot of those attacks are executed against menacing walls and other props. The final skill area skill is also awkward to aim, as it's always triggered in front of Alushe, and not aimed at the locked target. This attacks is not immediate in its execution and allows a few seconds to actaully trigger it if you're facing the wrong direction, but the whole process doesn't flow particularly well, especially when in tight quarters or near corners, where you have to navigate through monsters and deal with the camera. Strangely enough these camera problems are evident from almost the beginning in the PS4 version but not in the Switch version. I really wish that these developers would allow for fixed camera (as in 3D Zelda games) because you don't need to always have a free-floating camera.

    This secondary character isn't a particularly good replacement for the 8 familars of the first game (4 divided in two groups), you don't have direct control over her (yeah, no man in sight in this game either) and her contributon to fights might be very limited. So far Veruschka and Camilla have been the most effective companions for normal combat because they either are fast or have long-range attacks, creating more opportunities for double attacks and other specials. Veruschka in particular seems to have the ability to backstab/one-hit-kill.
    Alushe can bring only two familiars with her, and they are always on the field ready to unleash a special attack or transform into a weapon depending on their class. Some familiars can be used to create shortcuts or reach otherwise inaccessible places, and thankfully enough mandatory story segments don't need a particular familiar to be completed, although they might make life easier when exploring locations.
    However if you bring familiars you know you'll have to use to explore a location you'll forfeit secondary weapons, and this trade-off doesn't really impact how difficult the game is (so far it's been as easy as the first), but how varied the combat feels. In the first game you had familiars and secondary weapons, plus the ability to transform. Right now YNNK2 lacks the ability to transform (you did get it later in YNNK1) but having players sacrifice either shortcuts and secondary weapons wasn't a particularly wise move on Gust's part.

    The combat is still fast-paced and not too technical (seriously, I hit the strong attack because it feels lonely, not out of necessity), but so far there's even less variety than in the first game as long-range enemies are apparently absent and only mid-sized enemies have an easily predictable area attacks. I've faced three bosses so far and only the first was mildly interesting, the other two were defeated in minutes with minimal effort on my part.
    Again the game doesn't allow for a lot of grinding and there are multiple time limits imposed on Alushe (more on this later), and the new skill tree seems doesn't seem very well balanced, with less useful skills (like more item drops) tucked away from the more useful parts of the tree, allowing to quickly reach the final skill of one of the three skill three foci (attack, defence, miscellaneous).

    YNNK2 has two time limits in place. Just like in the first game Alushe hunts enemies only during nighttime, and how long can do that is limited by her level. She starts off at 10 minutes per sortie but can easily reach 15 minutes by level 10. Locations feature multiple teleport points to avoid retreadind old ground. When Alushe gets back to the her HQ (an hotel), either by using a teleport or by running the timer out, she won't be able to go out again until she rests.
    Resting however decreases by one unit a global timer, carried between chapters. So the amount of sorties per chapter is limited, forcing a rather tight scheduling between story and secondary missions (almost invariably set in different locations and therefore requiring multiple sorties). Should this global timer be insufficient to progress through the story you can also restart a chapter from scratch; I don't know if you keep levels, items, and relationship levels by doing so.

    Right now it's a bit too early to say how the game truly is, but I'm leaning towards saying that the first was better. We'll see.

    Both PS4 and Switch have a free costume for Alushe available, on the PS4 is from Deception (considering that characters from Deception are present in KoeiTecmo's new musou game maybe they're considering a new game in the series?), on the Switch from Fatal Frame.

  4. #4
    I really hope I'm not at the final chapter. Some part of me wishes the sixth chapter is the final one though, Yoru No Nai Kuni 2 right now is inferior to the first one, and I wasn't particularly impressed by that either.

    I've hit the final chapter and what appears to be the final boss' lair appeared, the sixth location including the world hub. The first YNNK wasn't a particularly large game but at least its locales were more varied and interesting to see. YNNK2 lacks that visual flare that gave its predecessor its style and instead approaches all locations with a rather subdued and desaturated look that makes everything look the same. It is a sharp contrast from other Gust games, and I wish it wasn't like that. The low number of locations is worsened by the fact that you'll have to retread all locations if you want to clear side missions, and so far only the first stage received some new enemies...taken from other stages.

    Secondary missions are divided in chapter- and character- specific tasks. Chapter-specific tasks always ask you to kill a certain amount of enemies for money, items, or skill points for the familiars, and once you proceed to a new chapter they're considered failed.
    Character missions can tackled whenever you want, and not only they bring someone's personal story forward, but also help in raising relationship levels so that you can then partake into "special" character missions that will increases that character's strenghts.
    Due to the time limit in each chapter I've been able to focus on two characters only (Liliana and Verushcka). Considering that I might be playing the final chapter and I don't have too much time left, I think I'll focus on one of the two trying to get the max affection level and see if this influences the story.
    Just like the first game however I don't think the game is good enough to warrant multiple playthroughs to see all characters' relationship levels maxed out.

    I've also discovered you can fuse items together to create more powerful items. Well, I knew that already but to be honest I never saw any use for that or in fact items in general. Everyone starts with 2 item slots; Arlushe unlocks more if you select the appropriate skill, other girls by completing "special" character missions.
    I've been gathering items through chests and mission rewards, and only recently I've took some time to go through them, but other than HP and attack buffs I haven't seen anything particularly useful. There are items that increase attack power after 100-hit combos but it's hard to hit that number because enemies are pitifully weak and wander around in smallish groups.

    Familiars can be upgraded by spending points. All familiars max out at level 40 and once reached they can be reset at level 1 with enhanced stats. This whole process can be done for a number of times depending on the familiar. However familiars don't really do much, maybe they kill an enemy or two, but between the girl always accompanying you (and some of them are quite deadly) and of course you controlling Arlushe, ther actual help comes down to their usefulness in clearing shortcuts.
    The basic sword is a very versatile weapon and in different ways every other secondary weapon is inferior to that, being it damage of a single hit, how fast it hits, recovery times, or overall damage in a combo. Not to mention that some weapons (like the shield/mirror) are locked behind side missions you might not clear, just like a lot of things in this game.

    I'm not against having rewards locked behind secondary missions or secrets, but the amount of impact they have on the game is risible, if any at all. Weapon balance wasn't perfect in YNNK1 either, but you always had those (in addition to familiars, special attacks, and transformations) and each had its own peculiarity. YNNK2 for example has two types of greatswords, but they are very similar to each other and at first I struggled to even see a visual difference between the two. Some weapons might have special effects (freeze to slow down movement, burn and poison for constant damage, shock to block some actions) but enemies die so quickly that they're essentially useless.

    And again, the game is too easy, bosses included. And unfortunately YNNK2 reuses some bosses or has bosses share very similar patterns. Standard enemies aren't menacing at all and the constant recolours make for a very uninteresting bestiary. And again, everything looks absolutely devoid of any colour, especially when compared to the first game. There are more pre-rendered cutscenes or cutscenes with in-game graphics using motion capture thatdo enhance some moments, but overall I preferred YNNK1's graphical style better.

    Let's see of this is really the final chapter...

  5. #5
    Chapter 6 wasn't the last chapter, the seventh was...or was it? There are multiple endings and through a clear savefile you can bring most of your progress to a new game attempting to get the best ending possible, which I think entails maxing out everyone's relationship level. In the first playthrough I was able to max out one girl and get someone else almost halfway through (I was close to max out a second but wasn't particularly compelled to do so). By playing as many secondary missions as possible (with the exception of the last stretch in chapter 7) going through Yoru No Nai Kuni 2 took slightly more than 15 hours and I don't really think the game is good enough to warrant multiple playthroughs (you can be done in two with good planning I guess) to see the true ending.

    I was of the same impression about the first game, and I think that was better. You had four secondary weapons always available, stages were more interesting in both visual and structural design, enemies were more varied, the were more familiars with more varied abilities, and bosses at least tried to be interesting. The final confrontation in Yoru No Nai Kuni 2 is the only interesting battle I can think of and the game desperately needs more battles like that.

    Characters are better developed here, and since you learn about them as you play with them more, the development feels linked to your actions rather than just being thrown out there for story purposes.
    The main story on the other hand is spread rather thin, you're introduced to it in the first chapter and then reminded you have a bad girl to beat during the last two. there's a nice twist at the very end, but a lot of elements are added to the narrative and not properly used, and if it wasn't for how characters are developed, all chapters would have felt like stand-alone stories with little to no overarching narrative.

    Despite me criticising the game, I won't say that Yoru No Nai Kuni 2 is a bad game, it's the kind of game that if you're asked about you would reply by shrugging and saying "eh". All elements work well together but they don't really impact the game's strucure on how you play, combat is fluid but uninteresting, stages are nice in conception but boringly executed, there's a lot of repetition but most of it comes if you want to complete secondary missions (that maybe aren't so secondary because are needed to unlock the true ending). It's very easy in normal mode, I've died once while trying to trigger revenge attacks during an optional mission, and enemies are considered strong due to their HP instead of their attacks. Completing the game unlocks extreme mode, but to be honest if I had to go through this game one more time I'd want it to be as smooth as possible because there isn't much to experiment with or alternate paths to take.

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