Big things coming in small packages is an adage that applies to all facets of life. Of course, that includes video games. This is apparent in the Game Boy Color version of Azure Dreams. Initially, the thought of condensing the PlayStation’s version into something as bite sized as the Game Boy Color had me worried. Azure Dreams had a lot of interesting ideas and features. A portable version of it would have to prune some content. Indeed, there were cuts. However, if you enjoyed the rogue-like dungeon crawling nature of the original and/or games like it in general, then this Game Boy Color version is worth consideration.
The game takes place in the desert town of Monsbaiya. Just outside of the town is a massive tower called the Monster Tower (sometimes referred to as the Tower of Monstrosity). Adventurers make a living by going into the tower and selling the treasures and monster eggs they find from it. One of the town’s most famous adventurers was Guy. However, Guy hasn’t been seen for years. Now, you get to take control of Guy’s son: Koh. At the tender age of 15, Koh is old enough to enter the tower, discover the secrets within, and hopefully learn what happened to his father. The story remains mostly unchanged from the PlayStation version. Some characters receive more exposition, and there are some additional scenes that add more story to the Azure Dreams world. On the other hand, many of the game’s sub events have been cut. Monsbaiya doesn’t have as much personality as it did on the PlayStation. This is because all the town building features have been scrapped. Monsbaiya is just a place to hang your hat, save your game and view monsters you’ve acquired from the tower. There’s no town development, nor are there any girls that you can wow so that they can wake you up in the morning and send you off to work with a smooch. It’s understandable that some content had to be cut; it’s just a downer that it had to be one of the more unique parts from the original.
Another obvious change is the presentation. The music is tinny, and the sound effects/speech blips and bleeps are enough to keep the volume turned down. Conversely, the 2D graphics are adorable. I played my copy of the game on a Game Boy Color, but the game can be played on a black and white Game Boy, too. To get the full experience, I recommend the GBC route because the game is colorful and bright. The tower floors, the enemies, and the character sprites all look great despite the antiquity of the console.
You’ll be spending most of your time in Azure Dreams climbing as high as you can in the Monster Tower while battling/acquiring monsters, gathering treasures, and uncovering more secrets about what happened to Koh’s father. If you’ve played the original Azure Dreams on the PlayStation, then all of this will seem familiar. While the PlayStation version had a lot of activity available outside the tower, the GBC version adds more to the dungeon crawling gameplay. The tower floors are randomly generated and Koh always starts at level one each time he enters. Anytime Koh takes an action, all the enemies on the floor take an action. So, if Koh remains motionless then the enemies will do the same. This allows you to plan each move. Each floor is filled with new items and goodies, but also filled with traps and monsters (some of which are exclusive to this version) ready to send Koh back to the tower’s entrance. Losing all of your energy means getting sent back to town and losing all of your acquired items from the trek. If you’re at all familiar with rogue-likes, then this should sound like SOP. Unfortunately, Azure Dreams’ hardware makes for some clunky menu navigation and awkward controls. It’ll take some time to not only get decent gear to make it to the end of the tower, but to get used to actually navigating the tower. PlayStation version runs silky smooth in comparison, which is saying a lot.
Although clunky, it’s hard to be mad at Azure Dreams because it does so much right. Exploring the tower is just as addictive as it was in the PlayStation version. The tower’s 20 everchanging floors give you a sense of wonderment, curiosity, fear and worry. How far up do you want to climb before escaping back to town to keep your gear and tend to your monster eggs? Speaking of, Koh can travel through the tower with the assistance of a monster companion. With enough exploration, he’ll be able to have two monsters at his side. The monsters can be positioned and programmed to act how you like while you maneuver Koh.
Azure Dreams’ playtime is what you make of it. You can play as little as two hours or accumulate a 50-hour playtime. Reaching the top of the tower and seeing the credits roll unlocks an exclusive postgame dungeon in case you want to enjoy more rogue-like challenges. A second player can trade monsters with you if you have a link cable. Fans of dungeon crawlers will get the most enjoyment from this, but an extra dosage of enjoyment will be in store for gamers that wanted more narrative from the PlayStation version. I still prefer the PlayStation version, but this port is no slouch. If you can find it for a fair price, then consider picking it up. Konami and KCE Nagoya took a fun game from a more powerful console and, for the most part, managed to shrink it into something just as fun.
Overall, 7/10: A bite sized version of Azure Dreams sounds unfeasible, but big things come in small packages. The Game Boy Color’s RPG library is better for having it.