Azure Dreams is a little gem from Konami that seems weird and strange when you examine the box, in fact I would never have played it if it were not for my wife who picked it out on a dead saturday night at blockbuster. It appeared and went with little fanfare, and kind of like Harvest Moon, appears and disappears in quasi-obscurity developing a small following for those who venture a risk on it.
It stars you as a young lad who doesn't talk very much, seeking fame and fortune in the monster tower. Much like old computer rpgs, the actual adventuring takes place all in one tower. This may draw off some as it seems to involve the monotonous tasks of; going down, climbing out, going to where you were before - maybe making it a little further, repeat. This is actually not as dull as it sounds, the 'monster tower' is rendered on the fly, once you hit the 3rd floor, things start looking very different and steady maps are a thing of the past. Also, you can gain levels (and therefore life) in the tower, but when you leave, it's back to one. Yes, yes I know.. it's strange. It takes some getting used to. Good news is that your monsters keep their levels always, and you can make progress after securing some good armor and swords. There is also the Pokemonish aspect of raising your monsters which you find.. yes you guessed it, in the Monster Tower. It's not an imitator of the craze, but there are different monsters to 'evolve' and level up, and much like Pokemon, the monster tower and it's monsters are about all the game knows or cares about. (what life?) Money is made through the items you find and keep (you can walk in the tower with only 5 and leave with only 20) and sometimes.. just sometimes.. you'll find one of those rare eggs to take home. Your mission as the young lad is to climb the tower as your dead father did before you, and maybe help your mom get a better house.
It's all in one place, but it's always something new! The tower will always have different treasure, but the enemy types per floor can be depended on for attack strategies to be developed.
Be the toast of the town as well as the tower! The people will treat you different depending on your current success in the tower. There is also quite a bit of renovations to undertake in the city. The many buildings you create(with that hard earned gold from selling monster eggs and spare items)range from mini-gamish to helping you meet the ladies. Did I mention the ladies?
Ladies! The memory card save info seems to consider it part of the quest if you can make a girl (or all of them) fall in love with you. They all have different personalities and some are downright funny. Nothing serious, but like the town, they are there for a little diversion.
Here eggy-eggy.. They are difficult to find, but not so hard you'll be pulling your hair out. It always made it fun to see if you could walk away with an egg on your way home.
Um.. what's the point? Other than climbing the tower, this game's not much on story. Other than finding out what happened to your father, there is not much to impact (besides saving a girl's life or two).
I know what I want to renovate.. The stores in Azure Dreams are largely a joke. Only one or two are any good, and the weapon shop and monster shop never sell anything worthwhile. I know they say all the other hunters cleaned them out, but come on! If you want a good weapon or sheild, don't look to buy one - you gotta find that sucker.
A pain since losing it means finding another, hope you kept a spare at home..
Help! I need a crystal! This game has the unusual feature of only being able to exit the tower in certain ways. One is to feed your pet a fruit that will kill it and take you home. The better option is the wind crystal, which will warp you home at any time. Now here's the catch. You have to find one. This is quite a struggle to the budding young explorer, and you will want to scour the floors until you find one to keep safe. If you die, you exit the tower, and the game automatically saves it, meaning whatever good sword you took in there with you - didn't come back with you. You might want to have a backup save. However, the crystals become noticably easier the more you play, and are never really that rare.
The characters have a nice anime style to them, the opening movie shows more flash and bang than is in the actual game though. The spells you cast from your familiar monsters and from crystals are nothing to wow you. The trippy backgrounds on some of the floors is cool though.
There is a little learning curve of moving on a 8 way directional turn based comabt game. You can always use the wind crystals because the enemies won't sneak up on you since you get your turn before they do. One move for you, one move for them. It's alot faster than it sounds, and once you get used to the camera it's tolerable. Some of techniques, throwing items for instance - requires pressing two buttons, which if done incorrectly, will cause you to do the wrong thing, and if you happen to be next to a nasty monster with little life, probably dead. On the plus side, your monsters have several AI options, all work pretty well depending on which you pick (hardly any getting stuck or lost).
It has an arabian feeling to some of it, some of that tower music will stay in your head for awhile, none of it obnoxious.
Err.. well.. your dad was a great monster hunter.. and eh.. he died. Um, why not be a monster hunter and see what happened.. or at least go corpse counting.
This game takes what is does and remains pretty refreshing. The odd style of 3D turn combat and multitudes of wild items make the monster tower never boring. It may be the only place on the block, but at least you want to go back in time and time again (I wudda made it to the elevator if it were'nt for that U-Boat! Grr.. one more time..)
Once you get used to that back to square one level thing you do each time you leave, it becomes essential to realize you won't make it to the high floors without some help. There is no 'instant teleporter' back to where you were before. Those monsters you get WILL have to be used, and by building their non-wavering levels, you can make some progress. Some of the challenge comes from not just figuring out how to get to the next floor without meeting a pack of big monsters, but in finding the infrequent sand needed to upgrade your sword and sheild. Yes, those are permanent too, and woe befall you should you die and lose them.
The tower is fun! You'll spend hours watching out for hidden traps (aahh monster lair!!), getting one of the rare items and relish in getting a new egg and then trying to discover what is in it (they come unmarked, just like those *ahem* plain brown bags you get shipments in the mail from..)
Overall (Mr. T's bottom line): I pity the fool who passes up this game without a good look! It'll make a wonderful addition to an adventurer's library for months of gameplay!