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  1. #1

    [PS4] Yoru No Nai Kuni

    Yoru no Nai Kuni, or The Land Without Night, is an action game by Gust Corporation. Gust is best known for the Atelier games and its many spin-offs, and IIRC this is their first action game. YNNK is delightfully Gust, in both good and bad ways.
    Good include attention to detail and a refined, subtly complex but not overwhelming upgrade system; the game also benefits of a good pacing, unlike some of the Atelier games. The bad include floaty controls (though they are tighter than usual) and the fact that Gust's inexperience with action games shows even during the first moments of the game.

    The story develops around humans battling demons. Humans were able to defeat the Ruler of the Night, but his blue blood rained upon hapless people, turning them into monsters able to steal night-time from others. Players take control of Arnas, a hunter for the church. Arnas cae in contact with the Ruler's blood, but rather than turning into a monster, she gained the power to enslave and summon monsters and the ability to suck hostile monsters' blood to grow in strength.
    The monsters Arnas is able to summon are called Servans; she starts off with two of them, a small dragon and a fairy, but quickly gains two others Servans. Servans will help Arnas in battle until their death, and essentially act as an AI-controlled party; Servans can't be ordered around individually but there are four tactics to give them some direction.
    Arnas herself is a competent fighter; she starts off with a very basic set of attacks (normal, lunge, area attack that consumes SPs) but her repertoire grows larger as she collects blood and spends it on new moves. As the game goes on, Arnas also gains the ability to change into different forms; right now I only have unlocked her fire-based demonic form, and based on menu structure there are at least three other alternate forms.

    Combat is fast, but not particularly good. Arnas' and the enemies' attacks lack weight, making difficult to judge if something hits you or you hit something. The lock-on helps in minimising camera movement, but it doesn't lock on new enemies once one is defeated; this is not a big deal against bosses, that usually act alone, but it is a problem against mid-bosses, that usually bring along a good number of cannon fodder enemies. In these situations, targeting what you want is particularly difficult, as the lock-on seemingly jumps to random enemies, rather to what's on front of you or toward what you're pointing the right analog stick at. The right analog works for camera control, but once locked onto something (R3), you can switch targets by flicking it.
    There is no jump or guard button, but you can dodge attacks with a roll.

    From the first two hours, I'd say that the combat does its job, but there's a lot of room for improvement. Maybe things will become more interestng when alternate forms and more advanced techniques are unlocked. What I can say, it's not bad, it's just shallow.

    The game graphics scream "Gust!" all over the place. Character models and animations are very well crafted, as enemies are. Attention has gone into those alone, however, environments are very bland. Few locations, like the Hotel where Arnas lives and serves as a world hub, are finely detailed, but locations where missions take place are devoid of all but the most basic details; the few details that are there are indestructible and have some nasty pop-ups. On the plus side, the game runs at 60fps (at least on the PS4), although there are few hicchups when particle-based effects (like cut bushes) are involved.
    Music is somewhat unsual for a Gust title, featuring a lot of electric guitars and a rockey feeling to it; Gust is not new to rock tracks, but those are usually short intermissions for special attacks; the BGMs work in the game's favour, but are overpowered by effects and voices.


  2. #2
    I abandoned every other game to complete this as soon as possible, and I've just attempted the last boss a couple of times. I decided to do this because YNNK didn't scream quality from the moment I started it, but because it felt like the easiest and least complex game to go on with.
    And I was right.

    Gust knows how to make systems, but their inexperience with action games is felt through YNNK. Up until the final boss the game does nor present any kind of trouble, and even the last boss falls to one particular cheap tactic involving one of the secondary weapons and one of Arnas' transformations.

    Arnas is able to transform into four different alternate forms; the form is determined by which Servants you have in a group of four and who is the leader of that group. The most common form is the fire-based Demon; there's the slow and hard-hitting Armour, the long-range Phantom, and the fast Moon Rabbit. While these forms play differently from each other and from Arnas, their role is essentially that of quickly wither down health bars; alternate forms last only for half a minute (give or take), and their contribution to battles is very low.
    Standard Arnas can equip up to four weapons: the longsword, twin daggers, hammer, and gun. Each weapon has its own features and can even be swapped mid-combo for some nice combinations, but the reality of combat is you can just hammer square for the standard attack and win any fight. The only weapon offering a bit of technicalities is the hammer, but due to its long wind-up times, it's better to stick with the swords. Or the gun, which also allows for incredibly quick recharges of the transformation gauge to happy spam transformations. And again, while transformed you still mash the poor square button.
    In the whole game there are only two interesting bosses, barring any optional bosses I haven't seen. Both have the ability of sealing your Servants for some time, forcing you to rely on dodges and...well, to run until your Servants can be summoned again, because Arnas is fragile, bosses cannot be stunned, and arnas will end up diying. As an action game, YNNK is easy, combat is basic, and doesn't feel right, with no hit stuns or weight to blows.
    As Arnas levels up, she can also gain extra abilities, but honestly...I don't really know what they do, other than unlocking item slots or new weapons. Combos remain basic, and even with four weapons, four transformations, and a large number of Servants, the combat never really gets interesting.
    Assembling a Servant team is not that of a big deal, I've rolled the whole game with essentially one team. During the last dungeon Arnas can buy the most powerful Servants (like demons and direwolves) but they cost a lot and they'll be stuck at level 1 for the final boss, unless you grind...and grinding is done in the same locations as ever, with the same boring combat. You can try your hand in one of the many arena tasks, but those don't give Servant experience.

    The systems in place are nice in theory, but they serve an action game that doesn't make any use of them.

    The story, on the other side, is decent, though not even the main characters are fully developed. The supporting cast is there...I don't really know why they are there other than serving as shops...or at least two serve as a shop, the third is there to offer some comic relief and cutscenes that don't really feel connected to the story.
    Arnas and Lylytius, the two main characters, share some nice story moments, and their relationship has highs and downs, but they don't feel like they are connected to your actions. Things happen, you witness them, and move forward. I can't deny that it might be due to the language barrier, but I felt more engage in games like Stella Glow and Kinki no Magna.

    Technically the game looks good...sometimes. Character models are finely crafted, but there isn't much attention to detail: for example incredibly complex costumes compenetrate themselves, and some skirts just won't obey the laws of gravity and will remain rigid even when characters are lying on a bed. Animations are stiff, and in some occasions you can see "wild" vertexes when character rigs are pushed to their limits. Environments are downright barren with some glaring flaws, like textures not properly aligned. And this is a pity, because the art direction is exquiste: the technical side can't just keep up with it, cheapening the whole game down.
    On the PS4, the game runs at a constant 60fps unless the current area is particularly large, which happens very rarely.

    It's a nice first attempt by Gust in action games, but ultimately flawed and not really worth your time.

  3. #3
    Quick note: the game will be ported to western markets as Nights of Azure. America will get it on March 29, Europe on April 1. Unlike in Japan, where the game was available on PS3, PS4, and PSV, the western version will be on PS4 only.

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