The Monster Tower has stood at the edge of Monsbaya for generations. Hunters come from far and wide to find their fortunes in its shifting floors, but few climb higher than just a few floors, and none have 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 admitted to the tower. He journeys into the tower to search for clues as to the fate of his father, the mystery of the tower, and for untold riches.
Azure Dreams is, at it's core, a Dungeon Explorer but also incorporates elements of Dating sims, City Sims and Monster Tamers.
Dungeon Explorer (Roguelike)
Azure Dreams is first and foremost a roguelike Dungeon Explorer. While inside of the main dungeon, Koh's actions are turn-based: walking, attacking, using items and activating traps all take one turn. All of the monsters on the floor also take a turn. The dungeon floor, along with it's items, traps and monsters, is randomly generated. When exploring the dungeon, the character can only bring in 5 items, but can leave with 20. On entering the dungeon the player always begins on the first floor. Between runs everything resets, only items (swords, magic orbs and shields) and the level of monster allies (see: monster tamer) persist. To exit the tower the player needs to find either a wind crystal item, or die, though 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. The only way to get new monsters 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, an associated spell, and base stats. Importantly, pet level doesn't reset when Koh leaves the dungeon, so the player's pets will factor heavily in dungeon progression. Later on in the game Koh finds a second collar to control monsters, allowing him to 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 change their positions around Koh.
Although there is lots to do in the dungeon, there is just as much to do out in the town of Monsbaya. There are 8 ladies with their own story arcs, 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. The romance aspect of the game offers no gameplay benefits, the only reward for successfully winning favor is static are of the girls. It is possible to "romance" multiple people 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 from 13 to 18 years of age.
The third non dungeon pillar of gameplay is interaction with the town of Monsbaya. There are a few ways to do this. New decoration can be bought 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. The special buildings require items from the dungeon (like the water medal for the pool) and a brief story concerning the item and place. The other buildings are simply bought, the player talks to the builder, and he will build new locations, opening up mini-games associated with them; 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 to 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 are reduced from 8 to just four.
To make up for those cuts Azure Dreams GB features double the number of collectable 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 design 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 and the items that Koh must find for sidequests have also changed.. 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.