Review by Marcus444

"Playing this game is like going back in time 15 years."

If you grew up in the 90s and had a passing interest in console RPGs, then the three figure heads of Mistwalker probably made you wet your pants. Lead by Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy… who ironically hasn't even directed an FF game since FFV) with character design by Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest) and music composed by Nobuo Uematsu, any die hard RPG fanboy would scream instantly. Unfortunately, these old timers made a game that's the pinnacle of yesteryear. In this case, Blue Dragon is like an antique car with a new coat of paint; it's still rubbish but atleast it looks good.

In the world of Blue Dragon, Talta village is surrounded by mysterious purple clouds before being decimated by a mysterious “monster” every decade. Our hero, Shu, along with his friends Kluke and Jiro, try to stop the beast once and for all. Things take a turn for the worse and they end up in a floating castle facing a mechanized army led by an evil purple man named Nene (yes… his name is Nene). After consuming mysterious orbs, our heroes gain the ability to summon massive beasts from their shadows. Using this newfound power, they go on an adventure to stop the evil man once and for all.

Not very exciting is it? Blue Dragon treads on familiar ground and makes no effort to hide the fact that it's plot isn't terribly original. The game plays out like most RPG's; travel from village to village, fight monsters and level up. Breaking up the action are numerous cinemas… almost ridiculous in their length and quantity. In between progressing the story, you trudge through massive dungeons that are so huge and open it takes atleast an hour to beat most of them.

But that's not to say that the story itself is bad nor is the gameplay breaking it up. The cinema direction is fantastic; each scene effectively portrays moments of action or peril and the fairly good voice acting helps bring out the cast of colorful characters. The graphics are equally gorgeous with huge draw distances (although enemies love to respawn) and tons of details in every object. The map design is never confusing despite it's sheer size, but the size and depth itself makes navigating them a lengthy pain considering there's nothing to do other than search random objects like discarded metal for gold and items. Standard staple of early rpg's, yes?

It's a shame the game can't be as fun as watching the excellent character interaction or cool cinemas. Battles are simple turn-based affairs with your standard attack and spell options along with the useless defend and run. Each of your characters can gain ranks in a particular class as well as learn dozens of skills. The skills from different classes can be mixed and matched allowing a bit of depth and customizability but this leads to the game's biggest flaw…

It's way too easy. I beat the game without dying… once. I don't even think a single character was even knocked unconscious. ¾ of the first disc, I never even healed. The enemies in the game are ridiculously weak or perhaps the main characters are just ridiculously overpowered. You can't even MAKE the game difficult by not equipping any items because your stat boosts between levels are so high. Fighting your first Poo Snake (yes, a spear wielding snake made out of pink crap) is the same as fighting the final boss (who has the simplest but coolest name out of any jRPG final boss). Blue Dragon offers almost no challenge, so if mashing the attack button isn't your thing then you'll just have to settle with the game's story.

There are no random battles, thank God, but enemies respawn, sometimes popping up right behind your party. You can sneak around them and gain the upper hand or use field skills that will cause various effects like paralyzing the enemies before a battle, but considering the game isn't challenging at all it's pretty useless to do this unless you're aiming to achieve the Back Attack achievement. There's also the option to face any group of enemies in a single area at once; stronger monsters will often kill the weaker ones and you get bonuses based on how many extra monsters you fight in a battle but again this is only making a simple game even simpler. It's like nailing a round peg through a massively larger round hole.

Uematsu's composition is great but it's very mellow. Even battle music or action tunes hang on the tight-rope of “Sounds Like Elevator Music” and there's nothing truly epic or groundbreaking. The sound effects, outside of the cinemas, are rather bland with your general assortment of monster growls and attack “whomps.” I already addressed the voice acting which is above average although some characters like Deathroy are so annoying you want to reach into the screen and punch them.

Overall, Blue Dragon is a culmination of the old with new technology. If that's your cup of tea, then this is the coming of a new age for you. If you left your SNES style RPG days in the early 90s, then buy something else. Blue Dragon as a game is very plain and simple and it's character based storyline does nothing to save it from mediocrity.

Pros: Excellent direction, cool cinemas, lots of customization, good character interaction, great graphics

Cons: The "game" aspect is very bare bones, nothing new or original, too easy

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/04/07

Game Release: Blue Dragon (US, 08/28/07)

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