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Azure Dreams - Review

It's A Man's World.

By: Cortney Stone


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 9
   Plot 6
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete 25-40 hours  
Overall
number
Criteria
Azure Dreams Logo
 

   James Brown used to sing, "It's a Man's Man's Man's Man's World." This is definitely true about Konami's Azure Dreams. This action RPG centers around raising monsters, battling through a tower, building up a town, and chasing women. Released back in 1998 for the Sony Playstation, this single disk contains a great adventure. 

   When aggressive monsters are afoot, Azure Dreams' battle system makes eliminating them easy. The action takes place right on your path (no transitions to battle screens), and you can even walk away from a monster if you see it coming (this is easier said than done though!). Using a cross between real-time and turn-based action, you can take as little or as much time as you need to finish the monster off. If you make a move, the monster makes a move. This is great, because you can hesitate and think things through if you need to without a monster chewing on your backside. A text box pops up when an attack occurs, and it lists the type of attack, how much damage was done, and any other event details. You are assisted in attacks by a familiar, which is a tamed monster that battles by your side. Both you and your familiar gain experience, but only your familiar keeps the levels it gains. You have to start at level one every time you enter the tower. This seems frustrating, but once you get a powerful weapon and stout shield, leveling yourself up is not that much of a concern. In addition, the tower randomly generates floor plans each time you enter, so it is never the same tower twice and you don't get bored with the same old rooms.

   Just as in battle, the overall pace of the game is determined by the player.  You can build up the town, talk to the women, and raise the monsters whenever you please. Sometimes action is forced upon you and you have to respond, but this is never a big deal. The menus are easy to navigate, and options are not confusing. 

Monster Bashing!
Burn up your foes with the help of your fiery familiar.  

   Spurring you on in your endeavors is excellent music. The opening title music has a unique flair with guitar, flute, and violin music. Each girl that you pursue has her own special theme music to suit her personality. Even your nemesis carries the air of an arrogant tune when he comes into the scene to poke fun at you or hit on your latest hottie. The most interesting music is in the tower. The central recurring tune found in the opening title and elsewhere in the game is used here. However, every few floors the style of music changes. Instead of the same exact music for every floor, the thematic tune is altered as you go. Lower and easier floors use the tune in smooth violin music. More difficult and later floors use a scary dungeon-sounding version of the same tune, or even a kooky mad-scientist style of music. Sound effects are easy on the ears. Your sword makes lovely metallic clangs, and enemies disappear with a mild "poof!" It's fairly likely that you won't scramble to hit the mute button on your remote while playing Azure Dreams.

   This game tends to borrow concepts from other RPGs, so it may not seem original. However, the combination of the concepts is original in itself. There aren't really any other games where you can raise monsters, pick up chicks, and build up your own town all in one. A few of the characters are a bit stereotypical, such as the nemesis and the mother of the hero, but the girls of Azure Dreams are unique with personalities that can stand on their own.

   There is really not much of a plot or story line in Azure Dreams. The actions of the girls depend on the things you say to them, so a girl will completely blow you off if you don't treat her as you should. In addition, you select the buildings you want constructed, so some of them may not get built and their part in the story will never come about. The only solid story line is at the beginning of the game and at the completion of the tower quest. Everything in between is totally up to you as the player. This makes a pieced-together yet flowing story line where things simply occur when you want them to. You'll enjoy walking around and making your own decisions independent of a restricting scheduled story.

   The game has been localized fairly well. As far as I could tell, there were no terribly glaring errors in grammar or spelling. However, some of the responses were a bit vague. You might have to stop and read a few lines carefully and decide if it is really the response that the girl wants to hear or if it is the one that will create a verbal slip that will leave her steaming. But overall, the fuzziness of language didn't hinder game play too much.

Uhh...don't answer this question.
"Does this outfit make me look fat?"  

    The game can continue to be played even after you have accomplished your in-game goal. This is nice because you can continue to seek girlfriends or improve the town instead of being stuck at a save point near the last boss. Unless you just enjoy winning the girls' hearts again and again, starting a new game isn't necessary. Expand your house, buy new furniture, go back into the tower and find new monsters, weapons, and treasures. 

  Color splashes everywhere in the graphics of the game. While the graphics are not as advanced as those today, the richness of color makes up for them. General graphics are not too grainy, but rather well rounded. Dialog boxes are usually accompanied by beautiful anime-style character pictures. The facial expressions, which are animated with blinking eyes, change according to what the characters are saying and where they are when they are being spoken to. For example, when conversing in town a girl is shown in her standard outfit, but when you talk to her by the pool she is shown in her swimsuit. I guess this would be a bigger deal for a guy than it was for me, a 100% heterosexual woman. In any case, the visuals can be appreciated by almost anyone regardless of gender.

   Azure Dreams is not that difficult to play. The battle system can be easily grasped, and figuring out how to please the girls takes minimal social skills. The independence and self-set pace also contributes to the ease of the game. However, I found myself seething in frustration during my first few tower trips because I didn't have a decent weapon and my familiar had low levels.  Once I strengthened my equipment and my familiar, I was able to climb the tower a little farther each time. It took me around 40 hours to beat, but I tend to be a slower than some players. The average gamer may race to the top in 25 hours.

Adventure Ahead!
"Enter the Dream..."  

   In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed Azure Dreams. It's hard for me to like chasing women, but decorating the house, improving the town, raising monsters, and battling through a dungeon were things I could have fun with. The game should appeal to almost anyone because of the diverse pursuits available to each player. It's easy on the eyes and ears, and it will make you groan or laugh every now and then. If you are fortunate to come across a copy, don't hesitate to purchase or borrow it. You won't regret entering the dream.


 



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