Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is an anime-style JRPG which you could probably tell already from the nonsense title. It’s a Koei Tecmo anime hack and slash game, but that isn’t the main draw. No, the biggest draw is the cast of scantily-clad female characters. Very, very few male characters exist in the world of Nights of Azure to the point where it is almost awesome. So many women in a video game is rarely a bad thing but this just might be one of the most obvious exceptions. From their outfits to the ridiculous boob jiggle physics and inability to stand still, every single woman in Nights of Azure 2 exists solely for the sake of the male gaze. Ruenheid is perhaps the most egregious example, but the player character Aluche is also up there. Rue is one of your early companions and even while standing “still” in cutscenes, her whole body sways so you can sit there mesmerized by the rhythmic and inhuman swaying of her ample cleavage.
This game is such a perfect example of the pervasiveness of the male gaze it ought to be used in film classes as an example.
The story of the game, well. It exists which is something I wasn’t expecting. You play as a Holy Knight named Aluche, who joins up with her childhood friends Liliana and Ruenheid as part of an apocalyptic cycle of murder and sacrifice. Aluche and Ruenheid are separated from Liliana and you spend most of the game trying to get the trio back together. If you couldn’t guess, every single companion in this game comes with an “affinity” gauge which is increased every time you have a homoerotic moment with your current companion. Building up your affinity gauge is a primary source of grinding in Nights of Azure 2.
The combat’s actually not that bad and I found myself being engrossed in the story despite myself. The story really is nothing but excuse after excuse for male-gaze pandering homoeroticism, unnecessary swimsuit costume changes, and battle bikinis. But I found myself enjoying just how pathetically obvious the whole ploy ways. I got a decent amount of amusement out of the story, much like you might while watching a trainwreck. The fact that the story itself is somewhat interesting is often overshadowed by all the constant fanservice, but there is a decent story in there that could be a wonderful narrative about the power of close female friendships. But instead it’s all supplanted by boobs, because boobs are what really matters.
The gameplay is the typical hack and slash fare with insanely long chain combos that remind me of Devil May Cry without the propensity for death and dismemberment. Its a pretty easy game even when played on normal mode. You do only get two difficulty modes starting out, easy and “not easy” which is more of a normal difficulty level than anything else. The easy mode is supposed to exist for those desiring to experience the story with easier gameplay challenges, but really, by story they mean boobs. You get how that’s a running theme here right?
The special attacks are pretty easy to get a hang of, and are pretty fun to spam. Sometimes the animations are even stylish as hell despite the overemphasis on the performative lesbian overtones dripping from every aspect of the game. If you don’t get what I mean by performative lesbianism, well, it’s essentially a phrase to cover instances of lesbian romance that exist to satisfy a male viewer. You know, much like how most lesbian porn is shot to be viewed by straight men. Its part of the “gay until graduation” trope, which is harmful to the LGBTQ community in a number of ways, mostly by ridiculing female sexual exploration. But Nights of Azure 2 is a fantasy that exists to be played by men. Not one of these characters is dealing with a serious internal sexual identity crisis or stage of experimentation. In fact, performative lesbianism is considered a harmful myth by most LGBTQ persons and organizations, but in game that is the myth that sustains the game’s narrative. These characters are only gay because the player is presumed to be male.
Honestly, with all the boob jiggle physics going on – which appears to differ by character – it’s impressive that the combat is actually playable and fun, because even as you fly around with your sword or spear, the jiggling continues. It’s like watching a jello mold survive an earthquake. Or a train wreck, to keep my analogies together.
I actually hate that I would like the game a bit if it wasn’t quite so obviously a case of extreme fanservice and a bit of queerbaiting. Obviously, there are some pretty obviously romantic scenes between the player-character Aluche and her female co-stars, but Aluche is so obviously a stand in for a male player that the whole thing is a bit of a mess. Aluche’s attitude, and even her speaking voice, are so textbook JRPG sullen hero that it’s hilarious. The game plays as if Aluche were originally a male character who got bodyswapped later in development and no part of the game was altered. Your companions even call you Al. You’re character is such a stand-in, existing for the sake of immediate gratification of a male power fantasy.
As for the companion characters, well, they exist as props, lazy backgrounds for their physical attributes, and as plot devices to move the story along. You know, your usual sexist garbage storywriting except that every single character is a woman. Nights of Azure 2 is a study in misogyny.
Underneath the disgusting layers of sexism and homophobia (remember, the lesbian romance exists solely for the titillation of the player – presumably a male one) there is a game that is enjoyable to play if not at all groundbreaking or challenging. However, despite my schadenfreude enjoyment of the game, I can’t get past the excessive catering it does to the audience. And while that target audience may love Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon – the game has an overwhelmingly positive score from players especially on Steam – the blatant tone-deaf misogyny makes it an utterly garbage game.