One of the issues with having a lot of games in your back catalog is that you have a lot of games in your back catalog. As such, some of them can get pushed back time and time again. If you take this into consideration, one might be forgiven for not getting to a game a solid decade and a half after first purchasing it. As is the case with PS1 RPG Azure Dreams, which I was finally able to sit down and play for the first time this past week.
And my initial thoughts?
Not the greatest game, that’s for sure. But it definitely has some cool things going for it, and I can easily see why some folks really praised it all those years back.
Azure Dreams is an action RPG developed by Konami, released exclusively for the original Playstation back in 1998. Releasing in the middle of the RPG boom of the mid to late 90s, Konami’s little title did its best against other heavy hitters of the time, including Square’s Brave Fencer Musashi, Parasite Eve, and *ahem* Xenogears, along with other names like Thousand Arms, Fallout 2, Dragon Warriors Monsters, and Baldur’s Gate. Considering each of these could be called out as someone’s favorite RPG of the era, it’s no wonder Azure Dreams fell into somewhat obscurity.
(Side note, 1998 apparently had a boatload of incredible RPGs! The above list alone doesn’t even capture the immensity of it all. But I digress…)
One of the immediate aspects of Azure Dreams you’ll notice is that the game is a roguelike! Every time you enter the monster tower, the layout is different. In fact, I would most closely relate it to the Mystery Dungeon games, which I actually had to look up to make sure this wasn’t related to that series. It isn’t, but you can easily some the comparisons. If you like those types of games, which I think I do for the most part, then there’s something to enjoy here at AD.
The other main gameplay mechanic on show is monster taming, which is achieved by hatching eggs and attaching collars to said monsters for them to join you in the tower. They act as your familiar, aiding you in battle and exploration. Kind of like the dungeon crawling roguelike aspect, this is fine here in Azure Dreams, but nowadays I feel like it’s just been done better elsewhere.
Lastly, and something I did not yet get to see before putting the game down, but knowing of it from reading about the game over the years, you have the ability to woo some women throughout the game world. By talking with them and performing certain actions (again maybe borrowing from a game like Harvest Moon), you can eventually have one of these women fall in love with you. I’m not sure what this nets you in terms of gameplay, but it is there nonetheless for you to enjoy.
The game is bright and colorful, and though it is a PS1 game, it still feels pretty good to look at to this day. Sprites are big, the monster designs are unique, and there’s a bit of detail given to the character animations and portraits moving rather than being static fixtures. My only real complaint aside from the game just being kinda meh all around are the somewhat wonky controls. They are better with the analog sticks for sure, but moving main character Koh around in an isometric environment with a Dpad is tedious. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning the floaty physics of the game when you’re not in a dungeon: it’s like you’re constantly on a bit of ice as you try to move and stop. Not game breaking, just… I don’t know, weird?
Azure Dreams is stupidly expensive today. For a game that isn’t all that good by current standards (and arguably by the standards of 1998) I have a hard time justifying the purchase to anyone other than the hardcore RPG fan or collector. I don’t believe the game saw any kind of digital re-release though, so playing it on the PS1 is, as far as I know, the only way you can actually enjoy this game. There was a Game Boy Color conversion made, that is apparently supposed to be better than this PS1 game, but I don’t have that one and it is even more expensive if you can believe it!
Getting through the backlog of games is something I’m very much determined to do. But with literally thousands of games to go through, I cannot justify playing through one for more than a couple hours when it just doesn’t hold my attention. Thanks for the fun evening, Azure Dreams, but I think I’ll be moving on to something a bit more substantial.