The Monster Tower has stood at the edge of Monsbaya for generations. Hunters come from far and wide to search their fortunes in its shifting floors, but few climb higher than just a few floors, and none has ever seen the top. Koh's father was the greatest hunter the land had seen, but he mysteriously disappeared in the tower when Koh was just a child. Now Koh is 16, an adult and old enough to be allowed into the tower. He journeys into the tower to searche for clues as to the fate of his father, the mystery of the tower, and for untold riches.
Azure Dreams has a core gameplay (dungeon explorer) and a few other gameplay elements that revolve around the main one (monster tamer, dating sim, and city sim).
Dungeon Explorer (Roguelike)
Azure Dreams is first and foremost a dungeon explorer, more resembling a roguelike. While inside of the main dungeon, Koh takes turns in everything he does: walking, attacking, using an item and activating a trap takes one turn. All of the monsters on the same floor also take a turn. The dungeon floor is randomly generated, along with the items, monsters and traps. When exploring the dungeon, the character can only bring in 5 items, but can take out up to 20 items. When the character enters the dungeon, he starts at the first floor, at level one. The only things that don't reset are the items (swords, magic orbs and shields) and the level of monster allies (see: monster tamer). To exit the tower the player needs to find either a wind crystal item, or die, but death destroys all held items. At Koh's house, there is a bank that can hold 40 items and a monster hut that houses monsters.
This element greatly influences how far the player can get into the dungeon, and a few other things. The only way to get a monster (besides the starting one) is to hatch the eggs found in the dungeon. Eggs can be hatched inside the tower, but they will be lost when exiting. The better idea is to bring it back home and decide what to do from there. They can either be stored and leveled up, or sold for a high price. All of the monsters have a type and a spell associated with it and base stats. The big thing is that their level doesn't reset when Koh leaves the dungeon, so the player's pets will be the big factor on how far they get into the dungeon. Later on in the game, Koh finds a second collar to control the monsters, letting him command two monsters. At this point monsters can also be fused together, merging their stats and giving them access to spells they otherwise couldn't access. The monsters also have an AI that can be set to make them aggressive, use their abilities more or less often, and even change the position they take around Koh.
Although there is lots to do in the dungeon, there is just as much to do out in the town of Monsbaiya. There are 8 ladies that have their own little story arc, and Koh can "befriend" all of them. Using the money made in the dungeon, the player can buy the girls presents like flowers or octopus balls to win them over. Some girls will only appear in the town when a particular building is built. Aside from looking at very well drawn static anime pictures of the ladies, there is not much else beneficial effect from the girls. It is possible to "romance" multiple girls and this results in more than one girl attending to the hero as he wakes up at home, fighting each other for his affection. Returning the Water Medal to the pool allows the player to see the romanced girls in their swimsuits.
In the original Japanese release it was possible to marry a girl upon completing her storyline, but this was removed from the western releases. Probably because Koh is 16 years old while his girlfriends range in age from 13 to 18 years in age.
The other big thing the player can do outside of the dungeon is interact with the town itself. There are a few ways to do this. They can buy new things for Koh's house, like rugs, lamps, a TV, refrigerators, tables, chairs, and even a blue motorcycle! The home can also be upgraded, making it more fancy (and getting a bigger bathtub in the process) and the monster hut can be expanded to hold more monsters. The player can also improve the town with new buildings, and there are two ways to get them. The really special ones require items from the dungeon (like the water medal for the pool) and the player has to go through a bit of story concerning the item and place. The other way is with cold, hard cash. The player talks to the builder, and he will build new locations, most of which have mini-game associated with it like the bowling alley and the casino.
Game Boy Color
The later Game Boy Color release of Azure Dreams is fairly similar, but with several significant changes. Romancing ladies has been removed entirely, and most of the town building has been removed as well. The player can still upgrade their house, and donate money to Nico to improve the town's overall look, but there are no individual buildings nor home furnishings that can be purchased. Instead of every floor in the dungeon being randomly generated the game instead picks from a pool of pre-made level designs, so in general the tower floors are more symmetrical and intentionally constructed. Facing directions has been reduced from 8 to just four as well.
To make up for those cuts Azure Dreams GB features double the number of obtainable monsters, including all the monsters from the PlayStation version which could only be encountered in minigames, like the ball and pin monsters from the bowling alley. The new monsters are designed on classic mythological designs, like dragons, Medusa and Odin. Their design is more typical of other JRPGs, and they clash with the cartoony designs of the original game. There are far more events inside the tower in the GBC version, including meetings with several other Hunters who were not in the original game. The tower also has a basement that is accessible after completing the game's story mode which is just as deep as the tower is tall. As well the items that Koh must find in the tower for sidequests have also changed.