Konami's dating/monster-raising (what a combo, eh?) role-playing game is coming out for the GBC this September. Like its PS older brother. Azure Dreams will have you exploring randomly generated levels in a mystical tower, trying to discover why your father disappeared so many years ago. Along the way, you can interact with town locals, love interests and monster pets, which you can raise to learn special abilities. Shown here are screens from the Japanese version of the game.
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Konami's latest RPG is a bit different from its last two PlayStation ones (Suikoden and Vandal-Hearts). Azure Dreams (abbreviated from its Japanese title, Other Life, Azure Dreams) is an interesting game that can best be described as a new-school dungeon dweller with a variety of unique and innovative twists that set it apart from anything we've seen thus far.
Azure Dreams revolves around a town called Monsbaia, which you help develop, and a huge nearby tower called the Tower of Monsters. The tower is where the bulk of the game takes place. Inside, you seek out treasure and destroy monsters to gain experience and make money. Then you use that hard-earned dinero back in town to create more structures and buy better equipment. This alone sounds rather basic, but the depth of gameplay involved with everything you do is what makes this game so enjoyable. For example, in the tower, each level is randomly generated, making for a new and different experience every time you play (similar to the Mysterious Dungeon series in Japan). Battle takes place in real time in these dungeons, and you can enlist the help of numerous kinds of monsters that you first catch (as Monster Eggs), and then breed into full-grown critters. Two monsters can travel with you at any time, and how they grow depends on how you nurture them.
Azure Dreams also offers a fairly non-linear story. Decisions you make anytime during play will directly affect the game's outcome. You might choose to help someone at one point, while at another you'll ignore a plea for assistance. You even get to work on acquiring a love interest! There are seven eligible ladies who you can try to win over. You can even save different romances to the Memory Card and play out each episode separately, which can result in completely different endings. Minigames abound, too (like bowling, monster racing and more), and we're sure there's plenty more we've yet to see.
With all its different gameplay styles, Azure Dreams could very well be the "mutt" of RPGs. One thing's for sure-it'll be hard to pass up when it hits stores in May, even if just out of curiosity.
In Azure Dreams, you live in a village on the cusp of the Monster Tower, a dangerous, sky-high labyrinth. The locals will pay well for the tower's monster eggs, which are hatched to produce "familiars" (or fighting companions), ranging from flower beasts to mini-dragons. On your 15th birthday, you must venture into the tower to help your village and to woo a love interest who's being courted by another.
Leveling and Language Blues
Each time you enter the tower, your experience, hit points, and attack and defense levels reboot to the minimum, foreing you to level," or kill enemies repeatedly to attain status. Because you don't retain these points, however, your progress hinges more on collecting randomly placed weapons, eggs, and treasure than on skill or smart fighting. This aspect, in addition to the hidden traps that can permanently handicap your weapons, makes your success or failure the frustrating result of blind luck and chance encounters.
Your biggest challenge, though, is overcoming the poor Japanese-to-English translation with its vague item descriptions and bewildering doublespeak. Insufficient instructions and complicated controls also result in a steep learning curve and confusion.
Azure Dreams' colorful, vibrant graphics never look ambitious, but they suit the overly innocent style well enough, as does the score. The cute, repetitive jingle is surprisingly unobtrusive, though it fails to create tension. Similarly, the sound effects suit their purpose, but make the entire affair seem like a Nickelodeon special.
Technically, this game is far from impressive, but the monsters do have interesting, unique attacks and abilities, which provide formidable strategic challenges to the turn-based confrontations. The villagers have depth, and it's a hoot to watch them react as you improve the town. You can even build a racetrack or casino and gamble with your fortune.
Dream or Nightmare?
Azure Dreams offers unique twists on the RPG formula, but its repetitiveness, poor translation, and frustrating luck-based evolution result in a game that fails to deliver on its potential. Nevertheless, the game is addictive, and the interesting villains and monster training are compelling. It's certainly a rent-first title, but fans of turn-based adventures like Suikoden or Vandal Hearts may find themselves having Azure Dreams (whatever that means).
- You have that warn fuzzy feeling for Nico, so take some steps to impress her.
- Hang out by the elevators at the end of each floor and take out monsters for extra experience. It's better to fight from an elevated position.
- Return your familiars to the bag. The Blume plant beastie will try to turn them against you with a Brainwash spell.
- The Diamond Shield is unaffected by Rust spells, so find one and stick with it, using every Blue Sand you find to increase its power.
- The weapon balls are generally the most valuable items in the Monster Tower. They have limited ammo and are worth more when unused, so use them only in tight jams.
In Konami's latest action/RPG, you play as a teenage "monster tamer" who must raise and train creatures to help you fight enemies and find your missing father. Just outside town, there's a monster tower (the place your father was last seen!) filled with traps, creatures, weapons, and extremely valuable monster eggs. Once you've collected an egg, you can either sell the unborn creature or incubate the new monster. It's definitely a gamble, though: even if you need the money (it's more profitable to sell unhatched eggs than raise monsters), you might end up selling the unhatched egg of a strong creature who could've helped you later in battle. Azure Dreams is already a fun and intriguing game that could hatch into a monster hit this summer.