Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) Review: Duels in the Dusk

Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) Review: Duels in the Dusk

Anime, and the media surrounding it, tends to stick to some very specific tropes that would make absolutely no sense elsewhere. Other genres in media have similar predilections, the common guilt of butlers or that whole hero with a thousand faces thing, but anime really cranks up the crazy in their tropes to a ridiculous degree, and it can be pretty distracting. People can have all varieties of animal features—cat ears being the most common—and no one seems to understand how clothing works at all. Needless to say, I’m not confident that any of the characters in Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon really know how to dress themselves.

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Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) – gameplay images via Koei Tecmo

Nights of Azure 2 is combo driven anime action game, with stunning visuals, cool music, and some concerning issues. One of the first things the game tells you is that if you are unfamiliar with action games, you should set the difficulty to easy. When I first saw this warning, I didn’t give it a second thought. I set the difficulty to normal, hoping for a light challenge, and continued through my day, unaware of how I would look back at this time in my life with humour. Crank the difficulty on this sucker, because even normal difficulty is repetitive and simple. Mash buttons until you can mash other buttons, maybe dash once or twice, all will fall before you and your friends.

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Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) – gameplay images via Koei Tecmo

The visuals here truly are stunning. The whole game is presented in a 3D anime art style, that that’s clearly where most of the work went. Every character is interesting to look at, despite their clothing conundrums, and it’s not just the copious fanservice dripping from every inch of this game. The accompanying soundtrack of rock riffs compliments the look and action of everything pretty well.

Story-wise, Nights of Azure 2 is a mess, and the shoddy localization doesn’t help. In fact, the poor translation seeps in everywhere, occasionally confronting the player with weird, nonsensical sentences and inconsistently explained ideas. There is no English voice acting to be found, so I hope you enjoy reading subtitles because Nights of Azure 2 is all Japanese, all the time.

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Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) – gameplay images via Koei Tecmo

So, the player plays as Aluche, a knight representing Curia, a religious sect headed up by three figures as the Pope. Aluche escorts and protects Liliana, a childhood friend with some funky time powers, who is proclaimed the bride of time, destined to be sacrificed to the Moon Queen. The pair are quickly ambushed by another old friend from a rival sect, and the aforementioned Moon Queen. Aluche gets stabbed in the heart, Liliana disappears, and the lunar ruler goes about her business trying to put all of humanity to sleep for ever. Aluche is revived as a half-demon, with a fancy new hairdo—red with purple tips!—and learns that demons are plunging the world into eternal night, which is not something people are particularly keen on. Aluche and crew must find Liliana and stop the encroaching darkness under an ever-looming time limit, or all hope is lost.

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Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) – gameplay images via Koei Tecmo

When not running through zones laying waste to the baddies of the land, our coterie lounges in a lavish hotel—tended to my ornate magical dolls—and do a lot of flirting. This is done in the most clichéd anime way possible, with well-endowed anime girls saying something suggestive, then blushing and calling the other character stupid and running off. You won’t be surprised to know that almost the entire cast is made up of well-endowed anime girls.

This is my biggest problem with Nights of Azure 2, its treatment of women. The constant fan service, ridiculous costumes, even the names of game mechanics go toward turning these characters into objects rather than the powerful women that they should be. Liliana has the power to stop time, but is still merely a damsel to be saved. Other characters are occasionally referred to as partners, but the game prefers to refer to them as lilies, and, just like the flower, are mostly useful as whichever flower the player thinks is prettiest. There is not much difference between lilies, aside from set dressing and player preference. These are issues common within anime in general, but it doesn’t excuse it, especially in this day and age. At times, Nights of Azure feels like a harem anime, a genre that is already problematic enough as it is. It’s important that fans call out these sorts of depictions in media, or else nothing will ever change.

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Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4) – gameplay images via Koei Tecmo

Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon packs a little bit of gameplay in a very pretty package. The story is insane, the game isn’t challenging, and the themes are concerning, to say the least, just like your favourite anime.

A retail version of the game reviewed was provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more reviews by Lane Martain, such as Blood Bowl 2 – Legendary Edition for PC and Kingsway for PC!

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Crunchyroll Announces Mobile Game Publishing Deal

Crunchyroll Announces Mobile Game Publishing Deal

Crunchyroll, the world’s leading legal anime streaming website, has been dabbling in other services lately. They’ve tried selling merchandise, manga scans, and running their own convention, which just so happens to be going on now. They’ve made a few announcements as the weekend has gone on, but the most interesting one so far has been plans to localize anime mobile games, starting with Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? MEMORIA FREESE.

The aforementioned title is created by GREE, a large game creator with headquarters in Japan. Said game is massively popular in Japan, with over three million downloads since its release in June. DanMemo, as it’s called, due to the Japanese title of the anime, is a spin off of popular anime Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, starring characters from the show and is fully voice acted by the original cast.

DanMemo‘s gameplay consists of RPG battles with characters to recieve through random draws or “gacha” rolls, where the game bestows random characters to you through lottery. Certain numbers of draws are allowed per day or week, with more draws purchasable with real money. Many of these games draw in their funds this way, and DanMemo seems to be the same, free to play but with microtransactions for more loot and longer play sessions.

It’s unknown how many more mobile games Crunchyroll will publish, or how well this game will go over with Americans. DanMachi was popular with anime fans, but it wasn’t a mainstream success. Gacha games are extremely popular these days, with games such as Granblue Fantasy and Fate/Grand Order making millions daily, so DanMemo is seemingly set up for at least a small amount of success so long as it brings something relatively new to the table. Memoria Freese will launch outside of Japan sometime in 2018.

Netflix’s Death Note Review – 80s Style Anime Insanity

Netflix's Death Note Review - 80s Style Anime Insanity

Here’s a weird sentence that’ll soon become a new normal: the biggest movie opening this week debuts on Netflix. Adapted from a popular manga (which has already spawned an anime series and live action film franchise in Japan), Death Note should hit screens as a nerd culture wet dream. It’s a project too deranged for the studio system that’s been given a glossy production through Netflix with cult filmmaker Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) at the helm. Unfortunately, the story was also localized to America, so like the long awaited Ghost In The Shell blockbuster, Death Note stumbles into release hop-scotching through accusations of white-washing.

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Death Note images via Netflix

To deal with that icky controversy up front: yes, this is undeniably quite a Japanese story told in an American setting and that’s a bit awkward. However, for the sake of not letting that overwhelm everything else about Netflix’s Death Note feature, I’m going to leave that criticism there and move onto judging the movie on its own terms. There’s certainly plenty to like about what has been done with Death Note. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it is a wild genre romp well worth taking in with reasonable expectations. Plus it’s not as if more faithful adaptations of the movie exist if that’s what you want.

Condensing much of the source material into a single film, Death Note U.S.A. stumbles a bit from convoluted plotting in an attempt to cram in as many popular story beats and characters as possible. The basics are the same. There’s a troubled high school kid named Light (Nat Wolff) who stumbles upon notebook called Death Note connected to a death god named Ryuk (Willem Dafoe, perfect casting). If Light writes a name in the book, that person dies. Light soon teams up with a classmate named Mira (Margaret Qually) and together they use the book to murder warlords and criminals under the name Kira. At first, Kira is considered somewhat of a controversial hero by the media thrilled by the bizarre vigilante heroism. Unfortunately, the whole murder thing is a sticky wicket for masked detective L (Lakeith Stanfield), who relentlessly hunts down this mysterious Kira figure and is determined to stop the madness. It goes without saying that this isn’t exactly a story that will end well.

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Death Note images via Netflix

As you may have gathered, Death Note bites off far more than it can chew story-wise. The script either seems to race by at an impossible clip or waste time inching along through minor details. Still, Winguard is embracing momentum and mood over logic. So, at least things are never dull. The man who previously specialized in clever and fairly small horror projects embraces his sudden influx of resources to deliver a film that is—if nothing else—a wild ride. The deaths caused by the notebook are reinvented into Final Destination-style Rube Goldberg death traps delivered with a brand of heightened gruesomeness that should please any horror fan. It’s certainly a gory and unpredictable romp laced with shades of dark humour and a soundtrack designed to feel like a lost 80’s genre epic. At its best, the movie is an almost surrealist explosion of twisted entertainment. It’s clearly been designed with an eye to appealing to the cult audience who have adored the Death Note series for years. They likely would have held a soft spot for the flick in their hearts as well, were it not for the fact that the movie comes from such popular source material and not only rewrites mythology (such as making it so that the Death Note will return to Ryuk’s power if not used every seven days), but also downplays the themes of the series.

It also doesn’t help that the lead actors Nat Wolff and Margaret Qually are the embodiment of a dull and bland Hollywood leads. Both are decent performers and magazine cover pretty, but they don’t have the script or the talent to deliver particularly memorable or distinct protagonists. They are just pretty, mildly troubled heroes that the film’s insanity happens around rather than active and intriguing driving forces. Thankfully, the supporting roles are better cast. Lakeith Stanfield is amusing and intimidating as the determined super detective K and best of all Willem Dafoe was cast perfectly as the demonic Ryuk. Dafoe’s slithering voice perfectly sends chills down the spine and the effects team beautifully recreate the character’s original look, while cleverly concealing Ryuk in shadows so that only the light from his beady  eyes pops out from the darkness. The character is as horrifying as fans could hope for, and if Netflix decides to continue produce Death Note movies; at least Ryuk is strong enough to withstand another chapter.

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Death Note images via Netflix

Ultimately Death Note is a mildly disappointing if hardly disastrous adaptation of the popular manga. That won’t be enough for fans, but the uninitiated should get a kick out of the ideas and stylistic excess. Personally, I’m not a huge Death Note fan, so the changes didn’t bother me. I am, however, a huge fan of Adam Wingard’s filmmaking, and it was a blast to see the director cut loose with a decent budget and deliver horror set pieces that would inspire laughs, cheers, and gags in a theater were it not for the Netflix debut. Death Note is certainly nasty, insane, and relentlessly paced enough to keep those who like Hard-R entertainment happy. There are extraordinary set pieces throughout, including a lovingly ludicrous climax on a Ferris wheel that probably helped Wingard land his next job directing Godzilla Vs. King Kong. This isn’t a perfect movie, and it is certainly one destined to be used as an example of Hollywood getting manga adaptations wrong. However, if you can distance yourself enough from the original Death Note to take it on its own terms, Wingard has delivered a pleasing mixture between anime insanity and 80’s genre movie romps. That’s a pretty damn entertaining concoction, even if it’s a disappointing adaptation of Death Note.

Funimation Being Eyed By Sony, Universal

Funimation Being Eyed By Sony, Universal

In 2006, the North American anime industry burned to the ground. Standing on the ashes was Funimation, the stalwart distributor best known for bringing for bringing perennial hit Dragon Ball Z to the West. Fast-forward eleven years, and anime is doing better in America that it arguably ever has. Funimation still sits at the top, with staying power far greater than ever anticipated. That staying power is starting to attract a number of high-profile companies – chiefly Universal and Sony.

As per Bloomberg, Funimation has received several acquisition offers from a number of large media companies. In an official statement, however, it appears that the company isn’t currently interested in being acquired.

“The Funimation management team is more immediately focused on continuing to create compelling experiences for anime fans through physical, digital/streaming and theatrical efforts with goals of continuing to expand globally and maximizing shareholder value,” the statement read.

The intent behind this statement is pretty clear. Funimation is focused first and foremost on the industry they’re sitting at the top of, and don’t want to put that at risk by being taken into a large company.

But why, exactly, would Sony and Universal have an interest in Funimation? The answer’s simpler than one might imagine, and it basically boils down to brand loyalty. The home video market is hemorrhaging money, in many capacities, but don’t tell Funimation. Since 2013, they’ve experienced double-digit growth in both their digital and physical sales. That growth has happened at a rate of ten percent per year since then, with an annual gross of around $100 million. They know how to offer something that other, bigger companies don’t and can’t. On paper, this expertise looks like a valuable asset.

That said, there’s something a company like Sony or Universal would be ignoring when looking at just the numbers. Funimation is in the anime business, and in the anime business, selling overpriced trinkets is the name of the game. Anime fandom is practically built around selling expensive collector’s sets and ludicrously expensive hunks of plastic. There’s a kind of slavish devotion to the medium that doesn’t really exist outside of anime fandom, with the exception of perhaps American comics. This kind of dedication doesn’t translate to selling copies of large Hollywood blockbusters. At least, not yet.

Still, one does wonder if Funimation will take a company up on the offer. After all, they owe part of their current success to Universal – the media giant has home video distribution rights to Funimation’s output, and even relied on them to get licenses for shows like Serial Experiments Lain and Tenchi Muyo!. They’re still an anomaly in an industry that’s had to make a lot of changes to maintain relevance, and this writer suspects that alone is enough reason for interested parties to keep an eye on the house that Dragon Ball built.