Review by Bkstunt_31
"Blue Dragon: Light on the story with fun game play."
Boy I love RPG's, don't you? I don't like overly-complicated battle systems though, although I do like playing with stats and customizing abilities. Blue Dragon gets that, but they take simplicity a bit further by adding in your standard turn-based action system and a few RPG cliche's.
The story begins by introducing you to the protagonist, Shu, who is a young boy living in a village with a strong "never give up" personality, which I'm sure you've never seen in a protagonist before, right? You'll also meet his friends Kluke and Jiro, who also live in the village. It seems that every so often a purple mist will descend on the village and strange land sharks will terrorize the village, killing people and destroying houses, so Shu has decided he's had enough of it and tries to take the land sharks down.
Without giving away the plot, overall the story isn't bad, but not fantastic, it just is. You'll travel to around 20-plus unique locations, including several dungeons and towns that each has their own unique problems, some of which are inventive and entertaining. I didn't think the characters had a whole lot of personality (they were rather bland, in my opinion), and you'll only get two more party members outside your initial friends, for a total of five playable characters. Their dragon's are silent the whole game, and NPC's play a very limited role in the story to the point where you can pretty much ignore them all, except maybe one king that you need to interact with. The main bad guy was a little interesting, mostly due to the untold story that you know he must have went through as you see glimpses of it throughout the game, but in the end he was bland and uninteresting too.
The game play of the game is nice and simple, as you'll take turns attacking based on your agility. You're team will line up on one side and only the team members in the front lines can be hit by physical attacks. As you play, you will level up after receiving gold and experience from battles, but you will also level up your shadow as it takes on one of several different jobs, such as warrior or black mage. As you gain skill points, you will level up that job and gain new abilities at certain pre-determined levels. You start out with a certain number of jobs you can freely switch between, but you will also get to pick a new job every ten levels. You can only use so many skills at one time, though, so it's very important to level up the "generalist" job class, as it will let you use more skills at once. I think I had somewhere around a dozen different skill slots once I got all the skill slot upgrades, which allows for a huge amount of customization. The customization you get by combining skill slots and various abilities is probably the best part of the game, as you can make your characters extremely powerful.
You don't really have to worry about equipping armor or weapons, as your shadow's basically punch things for your basic "attack" command, so you'll only have four different accessory slots you can buy items for. Of course, leveling up the "generalist" job class will let you add up to three special accessories, for a total of seven. In general, the basic accessory slots enhance your attack, defense, magic attack, and magic defense stats while the special ones usually enhance HP, MP, or add some special resistance or benefit. Before you get into fights, you will see your opponent on the field, where you can try to get in a back attack. You can also use the trigger button to draw a radius around your character, and if you have multiple enemies in that radius you can choose to fight them all in a row (battle after battle) with special rewards in between fights. Sometimes the enemies will fight each other, greatly easing your fights as you can pick who to target. You can also use special abilities in the field, such as stealth and barrier magic, which affect how the enemy reacts to you.
Overall, the game play itself is enjoyable enough. The customization potential and field abilities are both high points in the game. The barrier magic is awesome, as it basically rewards you sill points by having you run into previously defeated enemies. You don't even have to battle them, you just touch them and they die, giving you skill points. The basic game play is fairly standard. I also liked the ability to battle several enemies in a row, as you can really rack up the experience and skill points without having to run around as much. I didn't even really grind or try to become powerful until the middle of the second disc (the game has three discs), when I found a prime grinding spot. I had a few good boss fights in the first disc, but the challenge wasn't extremely hard. After you do grind a bit and gain some essential skills, the rest of the game is child's play.
The graphics in the game were designed by famed Dragon ball creator Akira Toriyama, if you couldn't tell by any of the art you've seen. His touch is very obvious throughout the game, as many of the enemy deigns look like they could come straight out of the Dragon Quest series (especially the dragon enemies). There are a few unique looking enemies scattered throughout the game though, and the character designs are pretty good. The environments are fairly varied throughout the world, and the game looks good overall, with plenty of detail. The designers did seem to reuse certain parts of the world, though, as I saw the same hallway in more than one dungeon as I played. They also re-use enemy designs, as they are guilty of the old palate-swap sin as well.
The music in the game is kind of unique, and once you encounter your first boss I'm sure you'll agree. For the most part the melodies are nice piano tunes or soft string pieces, used in the opening screen and when you're exploring, that become kind of catchy when you hear them enough. Normal fights pick up the pace a little bit, but boss fights give you a fast paced, guitar heavy, Japanese singer belting out a memorable song about "fear and awe" and "eternity" (to quote a few words used a lot). It's quite memorable, I guarantee you won't forget it. Sound effects are pretty standard, with the exception of a robotic female voice that always lets you know if you can move your character by saying "playable", or if inspecting some random piece of scenery will reward you with an "item" or "nothing". That voice is also kind of a unique approach to take.
At first, I wasn't too impressed with what the game had to offer in the way of side-quests. I mean, you are pretty limited on where to go for most of the game, and side-quests are virtually unheard of for quite awhile. But towards the end of the game, a TON of different, optional quests become available, with many new areas to explore, better equipment to nab, and more bosses to fight. The game's extras only come into play near the end of the game, but they are there in number if you look. There are also plenty of barrier-guarded treasure chests for you to find as well.
Overall, Blue Dragon is a solid and enjoyable RPG. High points include the customization that you can build up (with enough work) as well as field and battle options. Low point would have to be the fairly mild story and character personalities as well as the lack of side quests until the very end of the game. If you like RPG's and don't mind playing a story that isn't ground-breaking, I would recommend it, and as a plus it is super cheap as well (we're talking like around ten dollars for a three disk game). Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/20/10
Game Release: Blue Dragon (US, 08/28/07)
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