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Review: Blue Dragon

The man behind the immensely popular role-playing game series Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, is back and has brought with him yet another RPG. With the recent release of Blue Dragon in North America and Europe, any role-playing game lover is sure to be pondering whether or not Blue Dragon is as excellent as the Japanese say it is, or if Blue Dragon is nothing to get excited about.

Before gamers even put Blue Dragon into their Xbox 360, they will notice something that should please them. Blue Dragon is the first Xbox 360 game where the game itself is spread across three discs. After getting Disc 1 into the Xbox 360, players will be asked to start a new game, and then finally select between English, French and Japanese for the voice language. Being able to choose Japanese as a voice language is something that is relatively unheard of outside Japan, and might be interesting for gamers to hear the original character voices. Unfortunately, gamers outside of Japan can’t choose the difficulty level seeing as how the DLC containing the Hard Mode is only available in Japan at the time of writing.

Blue Dragon screenshot: Nene

After going through all that and then moving around a little, gamers will be shown a cut scene which sets up the story of the game. The storyline is that during the annual appearance of the violet clouds and Land Shark, which is a machine in the shape of a shark which has set out to destroy the village of Talta, two young boys named Shu and Jiro try to stop this monster. After being joined by Kluke while attempting to defeat the Land Shark, they are dragged along the ground before falling down a big hole into ancient ruins.

After a while, the children become privy to the fact that the annual appearance of the violet clouds and Land Shark is being caused by an evil being by the name of Nene, and they set out to try and stop him. It isn’t until at least half an hour later that the children obtain their Shadows and that gamers will be able to have some fun trying out the different types of Shadows and skills. These different types are unlocked as characters level up and the types include Sword Master, Assassin, Monk, White Magic, Black Magic, Barrier Magic and Support.

Battles in Blue Dragon work on a turn based system. This means that gamers select what they want their character to do from a list of choices including “Attack”, “Defend”, “Magic” and “Item”. When that character performs his or her attack depends upon two things. The first thing is whether or not the attack type chosen can be charged. Charging basically means having to wait longer to perform an attack, but also having a more powerful attack when it is performed. If an attack, such as the case with the Sword Master class, can’t be charged, then the attack takes place instantly. If the attack can be charged, however, as with the Monk, Black Magic and White Magic Shadows for example, when the attack is performed depends upon where the user stops a bar which moves along the top of the screen.

Blue Dragon screenshot: Battle System

There are a few things that make the battles in the game require some logical thinking. One obvious example of this is to do with the formation of the characters. A character placed in the front row of the formation will have stronger attacks, but will take more damage when attacked. A character that is placed in the back row, however, will have a stronger defence but will perform weaker attacks. Another strategy related issue is to do with charging attacks. If a gamer has the ability to charge an attack but decides against it, the power of that attack will be weakened. However, the character that just performed that attack will have their next turn sooner than they would of if the attack was charged. Basically, gamers have the choice to attack more frequently with less power, or to attack less frequently but with more power. This, of course, will force gamers to think their moves through before just attacking.

Contrary to games like Enchanted Arms, random encounters are not a part of Blue Dragon. This feature is much appreciated and makes the game less monotonous because gamers can try to avoid having to keep fighting the same monsters over and over again. As well as this, if a gamer has a character that has learnt what is called the Barrier Field Skill in Barrier Magic, the gamer can use that Field Skill to defeat a monster that they have previously defeated by simply walking into it. A Field Skill is simply a skill that can be used while not in a battle.

A nice feature in Blue Dragon is that as gamers progress, new features are unlocked. For example, after an encounter with an enemy relatively soon into the game, gamers are presented with Warp Keys. These allow gamers to activate Warp Devices and enable the ability to warp to any of the active Warp Devices. Another example of a feature which doesn’t make itself clear until gamers reach the second disc of the game is the force fields around treasure chests. It is not until gamers have actually passed by a lot of these chests that the way to open them is made clear.

Blue Dragon screenshot: Mechat

Gamers may notice that for most of the first Blue Dragon disc, there is little or no character or story development. There isn’t much known about any of the characters during the first disc other then that Shu, Jiro and Kluke come from Talta village and want to stop Nene from destroying their village yet again. However, right at the end of first disc the story does unfold a good bit more, and gamers don’t have to wait long to figure out what some of Nene’s reasons for the annual appearance of the violet clouds are.

Another good thing about Blue Dragon is that there is a lot of replayability. To finish the game itself will take a lot of time, but even after that the Achievements should keep gamers playing the game. As well as that, gamers could go back to try and fully level up the characters. The Achievements are good choices as there are a few easy enough ones, and then a lot harder ones such as completing a part of the game perfectly (such as a particularly hard task). It is always nice to see a game with a decent selection of Achievements and these are about the only thing that adds to the difficulty of the game.

Unfortunately, Blue Dragon possesses three quite annoying problems. The first of these is, as previously mentioned, the difficulty level of the game. It will be noticed that little effort is required to win the majority of boss fights, and that by simply killing the enemies along the way to the next boss, gamers will be able to defeat the upcoming boss without much of a strategy or repeated levelling up. The second problem comes in the form of framerate issues. Quite a lot of the time, gamers will notice that when a character’s Shadow attacks, the framerate starts to slow down. The framerate can be so bad at times that even when monsters appear in front of the characters, the framerate will drop. These problems, especially the latter, are very irritating.

The only other major annoyance, which isn’t as annoying as the previous two, in Blue Dragon is the localisation of the voice acting. Sometimes the script doesn’t make the conversation flow very well, if at all. For example, at a certain point one character said “Right, let’s go”, and another character responded to this statement by saying “Yes”. While this may not seem too bad, it can get pretty annoying fairly quickly.

Blue Dragon screenshot: Marumaro, Zola, Kluke, Shu and Jiro

Even though Blue Dragon has some flaws, does this mean it’s not a good game? The answer is simply no, the game is still very enjoyable. While it certainly isn’t perfect, great features like an excellent story and quite a strategic battle system make it hard to put the game down at times, and will appeal to RPG fans. So yes, it is nearly as good as it is made out to be in Japan, but falls just short in too many areas for Western gamers.

Final Score: 7 out of 10 - Above Average (How do we rate games?)

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34 comments on 'Review: Blue Dragon'

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-05 20:14:53

create a silver account w/ the location set to Hong Kong SARS, downlaod the Hard Mod… play the game, and it’s awesome. That eliminates 1 of your 3 flaws, and ups the game from a 7 to a 8.5 based on your review.

The framerate thing is annoying, but oh well, it could be a lot worse. It only rears its ugly head a few times a night in a 5-6 hour gameing session.

Comment by Ross Hayward on 2007-09-05 20:22:08

The game is judged based on what content is provided in the sole package. Considering this isn’t available in the European region, it’d be ridiculous to judge it on that.

This is the EU version, not everyone is hooked up to Live and so the content on the discs is discussed ONLY, DLC is irrelevant, free or not.

Comment by Paul Tancred on 2007-09-06 13:21:49

Yes, and using that workaround is against Xbox Live ToS ;)

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-06 14:26:10

i didn’t know :(. hopefully there will be no repercussions from that… but then again, i’ve been looking for a reason to get an elite…

Comment by Orenthol James Simpson on 2007-09-05 20:54:06

Excellent story my ass. Maybe if you also think the Dragon Quest games have “Excellent” stories, then I can see why this would appeal!

Comment by Niels Keurentjes on 2007-09-06 10:36:24

Always judge within context :) Sure, it’s no Bioshock or anything, but that’s an entirely different kind of game. For a JRPG the Blue Dragon storyline is quite refreshing and interesting judged from the few hours I’ve played it.

Comment by eric on 2007-09-05 21:42:45

gay, I’ll wait for mass effect

Comment by donkeynaysedonkeydonkeydonkey on 2007-09-06 05:42:09

uber gay, why do people like playing this shit?

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-06 13:03:20

Blue Dragon or mass gay?
Because blue dragon is sweet, the first ‘RPG’ on a next gen console (screw Oblivion. oblivion is a FPS, like Hexen.)

Mass Gay? I’m not sure. I guess people just don’t know what books are anymore.

Comment by Doug on 2007-09-06 16:02:03

Oblivion is not an FPS. Oblivion is a western RPG. Blue Dragon is a JRPG, and it’s not even the first of those. Enchanted Arms came first and then Phantasy Star Universe. (Which had a reglar RPG in addition to the MMORPG; neither one was very good.)

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-06 17:01:33

Enchanted Arms was more gay than one of the main characters.
Phantasy Star, while badass, was half a game, half an anime. Seriously, it took me i think 13 hours to beat? 6 of which were watching a cartoon. I loved it don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t Blue Dragon. And i don’t remember 100%, but i think the comabat in that was real time?

Whereas Blue Dragon is the typical, amazing rpg style of Fight / Magic / Item / Flee.

Oblivion was not an RPG. Oblivion was an FPS with magic. Anyone who says otherwise is a retard in my book.

Comment by xYouGot0wnedx on 2007-09-05 23:38:45

I kinda want this, because it’ll be a distraction until CoD4, Halo 3, and Mass Effect comes out.(I know there are more, but those are the 3 that I want)
Maybe when I get a job, I’ll get this.

Comment by Jasonic on 2007-09-06 00:16:31

I forced myself thru the first 4 or 5 hours at a friends recommendation. It was worth it. It’s much more fun to play once you get all five players together.
Not a bad game, But no the greatest either.

Comment by Gaz-DanaWalker on 2007-09-06 06:41:50

Just started playing this yesterday and I quite enjoy it. I like pickn and choosin who you fight and sneaking up to them to get a back attack.
ok, its no FFVII but i can see myself playing this all night. Dependin if gears get in the way or not.

good review.

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-06 13:07:22

FF VII sucks. It’s like Halo. It’s the first game of the type that many noob children played, having missed countless greats before their time.

FF IV was better, cecil is the epitome of a hero in a RPG. Kaine was the original Sephiroth.

FF VI was better, has there ever been a choice within a rpg (i guess suikoden probably has some) quite like the choice in waiting for Shadow?

FF VII was a CG fest and many kids first RPG, that’s why it’s often claimed to be the best, even though it’s clearly not.

FF X was better than vii too.

Comment by Zan Toplisek on 2007-09-06 13:43:16

Though I haven’t played FF VII, I think FF X is the best game in the series. I loved it! So much that it remains to be my favorite game of all time.

Comment by dyke on 2007-09-06 14:39:22

how can you say ffx is the best? its a bought a gay dude on his period, fighting his dad. big fucking deal give me spyro riptos rage nigga

Comment by Zan Toplisek on 2007-09-06 16:51:35
Comment by Gaz-DanaWalker on 2007-09-07 06:41:18

AugustusBot-Never played FFiv before.
Av got FFvi and enjoyed it but not as much as vii. Never played FFx either but heard some good stuff bout it and couldnt find it second hand when i was after it. in my opinion FFvii is the best game iv played as i have some good memories playing it still and its got replayability as in all the FF series.
Sure its a bit over rated but its still a great game.

Comment by Thryon on 2007-09-06 12:32:04

I purchased the game, but did not start to play yet (stupid renovations). But I have a friend that is playing and loves the game.

Comment by Doug on 2007-09-06 12:42:46

Based on demos, Eternal Sonata beats this one by a mile. Couldn’t get into the cast and the VA was bugging me, here.

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-06 13:10:32

i skipped both demos, knowing i’d enjoy both games. but i’ve seen a lot of people on the blue dragon forums talk about how the demo sucked and it gave the game a bad name.

the reviews sucked too, and i’ve seen people claim that “it’s like having a vegetarian review a steak house”… saying that reviewers aren’t down w/ a old skool JRPG, that they want a bioshock / halo type game in order to give it a 9+.

Comment by Paul Tancred on 2007-09-06 13:21:20

Judging Blue Dragon by that demo is a bad idea. The demo dumps you literally hours upon hours into the game, and you’re supposed to just pick it up in under an hour.

Comment by Doug on 2007-09-06 16:14:48

I mean I don’t really like any designs other than Shu’s. The point of the demos is to help me decide which games to spend money on. I decided. Maybe when the price drops. :)

Comment by dyke on 2007-09-06 14:41:12

halo best game ever? rot in hell you fucking flamer

Comment by rol on 2007-09-06 15:50:15

Doctor! More meds!

Comment by Doug on 2007-09-06 23:24:34

Who…said that Halo was the best game ever?

Comment by dyke on 2007-09-07 13:28:25

the comment was deleted

Comment by AN angry H0BO on 2007-09-07 01:38:32

AugustusBot…you are a newb
-oblivion by all accounts is the truest definition of an RPG…..Role Playing Game…the original role playing games were text based,and based off D&D rules, In oblivion you create a character, and begin a quest or many quests whatever you want, in Blue Dragon you assume the role of a pre-determined character, thus negating actually playing a role you created, this makes blue dragon not a RPG, but a turn based action adventure game. People quickly forget were RPG’s really originated from, games like mage and D&D. And Mass effect will win RPG of the year dueche bag, not gay dragon…fool.

Comment by augustusbot on 2007-09-07 04:52:53

mass effect is nothing more than a childrens choose your own adventure book, with pictures.

oblivion is hexen 2006. whoopdie fricking doo.

Comment by Doug on 2007-09-08 11:10:24

With pictures, gore, and nudity amirite?

Comment by AN angry H0BO on 2007-09-07 10:55:05

I’m a fan of RPG’s as long as they stick to a real time combat system, and you can create your own character, and you don’t have some annoying fluffy animal with an equally annoying voice following you around. But I get it augustusbot, your limp wristed, so these gay turn based action adventure games appeal to you. Juding by many of your posts I’d say you take offence to the fact that american developers are making better games then the our japanese friends, but to each his own….fool.

Comment by Doug on 2007-09-08 11:13:22

Okay, the fact that Augustus likes to misidentify game genres aside, you can stop insulting him now. He doesn’t care for western RPGs. Good for him.

Comment by krimsonomen on 2007-09-10 20:18:21

After playing it completely through I thought it was a pretty good RPG especially considering this is the Xbox brands first classic style JRPG, it wasnt the best ever but I am going to play it again once the download comes out for new game+ and hard mode. I will put money on Lost Odyssey being alot more to peoples liking but for now I have no problems playing this and Stranglehold, that game is good too.

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