Review by Alecto
"Boring, yet I keep coming back to it!"
I must applaud Konami for at least trying to be original. Azure Dreams combines elements of dungeon crawling, monster training, city-building and role-playing. Where the game falls short, in my opinion, is that not all of these elements are given equal attention. If this had been the case, Azure Dreams could have been a truly powerful and involving game instead of a mediocre effort in spite of its uniqueness.
The premise is fairly clichéd: You play a young man whose father (a monster tamer) disappeared in a tower while on a quest, and you must follow in his footsteps and prove that you are a hero. There are multiple goals in the game: 1) you must try to make it to the top of the tower 2) find, hatch and train monsters 3) build your backwater town into a metropolis and 4) interact with the townspeople and local girls and win their admiration.
As I have mentioned, the game is divided into 4 distinct elements and I will comment on and rate each one individually:
The tower 8/10
This is the combat/exploration section of the game. There are 40 levels of the tower that are randomly generated each time the character enters. The combat is turn-based using grids, similar to FF Tactics, which is easy to use once you’ve mastered all the controls. The tower took some getting used to, but I learned to appreciate it. Some of the quirky things are that your character loses all his levels when he exits the tower (in other words, he starts at level 0 each time he reenters the tower.) Seems strange, but your familiars don’t lose their levels so you can still devote level-building energy to them. Also your character can only take 5 items with him each time he enters the tower, so scavenging for items inside the tower is also a very important part of the game. Oh, and don’t die. You’ll lose all your items.
Monster training 7/10
You begin the game with the Kewne familiar and can find other monsters in the tower. (You take their eggs back to town and hatch them.) Some monsters have neat attributes and/or magic, and you can fuse two monsters together to take advantage of two sets of magic. Personally I didn’t explore this area of the game that much. I found two monsters I liked and just concentrated on leveling them. However, it can be a big part of the game if you’re interested in monster breeding.
You will be given opportunities to build expansions to your city to make it into a better place to live. It’s kind of cool to see the city grow, however those expecting a Sim City situation will be disappointed since you have almost no control over exactly what gets built and where. You build specific buildings which are all triggered by events in the game.
The RPG element in Azure Dreams is basically trying to date girls. I’m a (straight) girl myself so this wasn’t particularly thrilling for me, although some of the girls you date are…rather eccentric.
Some parts of the game are more fun than others. It is a strange combination of monotony and addiction. The tower can get quite monotonous, especially going through the lower levels which you’ve been through hundreds of times before. Yet I found myself saying “I’ll just go into the tower one more time…” Sort of like when you know something isn’t good for you but you keep doing it anyway (“I’ll just eat one more jelly bean…”) I wouldn’t call the game hard, it’s just a long, slow process of level-building before you’ll make it to the top. The city was mostly boring to me, because all the events in the city from building construction to interacting with people were so rigidly structured, and had to occur in a specific order, and only had one outcome, etc.
Downright annoying, I’m sad to say. This was one of the rare times that I actually turned the sound off. And not even to listen to a CD instead…just to have silence! The town music is just blah. The tower uses one theme that gets transformed as you move to higher floors. (I think it changes every 5 floors.) This is a very cool idea except for the fact that the theme itself is so mundane that you really don’t want to hear it for 40 floors.
The graphics are fine for a PSX game. Given the nature of the game there wasn’t really any call for mind-blowing graphics, and the graphics are more than adequate.
I haven’t beaten the game yet (by that I mean made it to the top of the tower) and I can’t really see myself playing it again when I have. As it is now, I’m playing the game more for the sake of beating it and seeing what happens at the end than because I have a burning enthusiasm for it.
Buy or Rent
This is one of those games that you can find in the used bin for 10 bucks. So I say take the plunge and buy it! Even though you may not have the patience to make it to the top of the tower, there is still more than $10 worth of gameplay here.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/13/01, Updated 05/06/03
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