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SummaryBecome the Master Hunter of Monsbaiya, and get the ladies too!
The GoodI picked this game up when I was just a kid, and I was hooked almost instantly. While seeming unimpressive at first glance, the game is oddly addicting once you start playing. The 2D sprites work nicely with the fully panoramic 3D environments. The monster tower is always different each time you go up it, so you'll always have a new challenge to face. There are traps, hidden treasures, and secret monsters on almost every level, so be prepared for surprises!
The battles are all turn-based and take place right on the dungeon map. You can either attack directly, do a 'Brid' based attack (combining physical attacks with your familiar's skills), or have your familiar attack at your side. This allows the player to incorporate a degree of strategy to their battles. Familiars gain levels as you go up, making a high-level familiar a good asset to your travels.
The real-life aspects are impressive for the age. Working your way up the tower becomes more worthwhile as you find more rare treasure and monsters, and likewise you gain more respect from the people of Monsbaiya. You can build, expand, and add on to certain buildings in the town, furthering your good name to everyone around. You can't complete the game fully without completing tasks within the town. It makes for a good change of pace when you're tired of dungeon crawling.
The BadOne thing that always bugged me was that when you start a new adventure through the tower, you're at level one. It makes getting to the upper levels of the tower take a great deal of strategy so you're not running out of items or having your familiars faint before you make it to your goal. This makes speed runs through the tower virtually impossible without having a high-level familiar, and even then it's difficult.
Another thing is that you cannot exit the tower without the use of certain items. While choosing to "quit" gives you the option to save and return to the main menu, loading up this game save lands you back in your home without all the treasure you collected. Because of this, I hoard wind crystals :)
The Bottom LineThe game follows a young boy named Koh in his journey to make a name for himself in the town of Monsbaiya. Your duty is to go to the Monster Tower, collect treasure, monster eggs, and raise your 'familiars'. The feat is harder than it sounds. The tower has 40 levels with more powerful monsters as you go up. The higher you go, the more valuable the treasure and the more powerful the enemies you'll face. The ultimate goal is to conquer all 40 levels the Monster Tower, but that's not all you have to do to 'complete' Azure Dreams.
The town itself is run-down, and with your house being called a 'dirty hovel' even by your familiars. With the money you make selling treasure and monster eggs, you can expand and buy new decorations for your house, upgrade existing places, or erect new buildings for the people of Monsbaiya to go to (like a theater and a casino). Building certain things will open up new tasks for you to complete, as well as several mini-games to pass the time.
Another major aspect of Azure Dreams is the girls. There are a total of seven women in the game to woo, and some you can only meet after completing certain tasks in Monsbaiya. Each one has their own tastes and you'll have to work accordingly to win them over. Once you do, they'll date you and frequent your house to give you goodbye smooches. Don't worry about jealousy here, you can date all seven at once!
While out-dated by today's standards, Azure Dreams continues to be one of my favorite games. It's in-depth game play remains interesting enough to hold my interest, while simple so that it doesn't become needlessly complicated. A definite classic!