For a while now, Gust has specialized in turn-based role-playing games, namely for the Atelier and Ar tonelico franchise. Yoru nai Kuni (よるのないくに, lit: Land without Darkness) also known as Nights of Azure in the west is Gust’s first attempt at an action role-playing game. With that in mind, how will their first action role-playing game will fare?
The story involves two girls: Anasu (アーナス) who is half human and half demon who is also a knight. Her mission is to protect the new priestess and best friend, Ryuritesu (リュリーティス). Anasu reunites with Ryuritesu when she arrives at an island nation that becomes dangerous after dark as demons appeared. After not being with each other for a long time, Ryuritesu gets kidnapped by a giant demon, thus Anasu has to save her. After saving her and bringing her to a hotel, what secrets lies regarding the demon king named Your Darkness (夜の君), the force that will cause the end of the world?
The gameplay is straight forward as you move Anasu around and attack monsters using a normal or powerful attack or a special skill. There are five different weapons that Anasu can use ranging from a sword, a shooter, dual swords, long sword and a battle hammer, each having different ranges, amount of damage and special abilities. They can be changed in real-time using the directional pad. To me, I usually find myself using the swords and the shooter (which uses SP) opposed to the hammer since it’s slow. However, the hammer can be useful for large hordes of demons since it can deal more damage, especially if they are around you.
In addition, there are supporting party members or familiars called Servans (得魔) that can attack and serve as support such as healing. By holding down the right shoulder button and pressing any of the buttons, you can summon them, which consumes SP. Once summoned, you can do the same, which will activate their burst ability. This can range from a special attack, increasing defenses, healing the whole party, etc. Using a burst ability also uses SP, so you should probably use it when you need it although it recovers over time.
You can have more Servans join your party by using a special item that allows you to transform one in exchange of Blue Blood. From there, you can pick a randomly generated nickname and put them in a deck. You can have four Servans in one deck and more decks can be unlocked through skills. Also, each Servans will have an attribute, which will determine what form Anasu transforms to. You need at least 10 color marks of the same color to change her form or otherwise it will default to the demon form.
There are five forms Anasu can transform into: demon, rabbit, phantom, armor and nightmare. Each transformation has different strengths and abilities with the last one being the most powerful. While there are abilities that can prolong the time of these forms, the color markers also play a role in it along with strengthening them. In short, you should have a deck that has mostly the same marker colors so that you can change the forms when needed.
Aside from nighttime activities that involves fighting demons and such, you also have daytime activities. These daytime activities are important since they will raise points needed to unlock additional skills. The activity will determine how many skill points you will get. In addition to these activities, there are daytime requests in addition to nighttime requests which is seen in most role-playing games. They serve the same purpose, but you can earn Libra, which is the currency used on the island that can be used to buy items or on trading routes to receive various items.
Lastly, leveling up works differently in this game since you don’t gain experience, but Blue Blood. To level up, you need to go to the Yorudo (ヨルド), which is another realm which allows Anasu to offer Blue Blood to level up. Each level has a required amount of blood you need to offer. After offering the blood, you will level up along with having new skills getting revealed or mastered in addition to unlocking new weapons. After the blood offering is done, there is some dialog between Anasu and the shine maiden that looks like Ryuritesu.
As for the story, without giving out too many spoilers, I have to admit the premise is somewhat interesting to see the relationship between Anasu and Ryuritesu develop in a dark story. Although they are considered best friends, it’s apparent that they are very close, especially in some scenes with them holding hands or sleeping in bed together. Aside from that, there are also four scenarios that one can complete throughout the game. This is important to completing the game since there are two endings. Also, there is a guide that lays out all the terms the game uses so that the player can understand the story better.
Overall, Yoru nai Kuni is an enjoyable Action RPG from a company that mainly makes turn based role-playing games. Sure, it’s not perfect considering that the gameplay is not as deep compared to other roleplaying games that Gust made in the past, but it was fun to slay some demons. For those who enjoy action games or a story with female protagonists, I think most will enjoy it.
As for the Vita version of the game, which didn’t get localized, it had a lot of performance issues and overly compressed graphics. In other words, it plays like a Playstation 2 game. While the gameplay experience got better with each update, it is a slight disappointment since the plus versions of the Atelier games and even the port of Atelier Sophie plays a lot better without any performance and graphic quality issues. The only reason I got the Vita version is because I don’t own a Playstation 4, which will change soon since the next Idolmaster game is coming out on that console. Better late than never to jump on that bandwagon. In short, the Vita feels like a cash-in. This can explain why the Vita version never got released outside of Japan.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: Interesting story and characters (especially with the interactions between Anasu and Ryuritesu) along with enjoyable game play with some interesting aspects with the weapons, Servans and transformations. The production values (music and the graphics) are great for a first attempt at an Action RPG.
Weaknesses: The time limit is kind of pointless and somewhat annoying, especially when skills can extend it. Also, the Vita version had a lot of performance issues and poor graphics quality due to the textures and such being overly compressed. The after game is somewhat lacking aside from completing the extra scenario after the player clears the game once. ¶