Review by Exodist
"Blue Dragon delivers on the gameplay aspect, but where else?"
The Xbox 360 definitely has more JRPGs than the original Xbox, and Blue Dragon is one of the first. Blue Dragon is the first game by Mistwalker, a company solely focused on developed RPGs, possibly just for the 360 (so far their two games, the other being the more recent Lost Odyssey, have both been 360 exclusive).
The story in Blue Dragon is fairly simple. A dark, purple cloud covers Talta every year, striking fear into the villagers hearts. Why? The Land Shark appears, destroying everything it can, the villagers can only wait it out, and can do nothing. However, this time, Shu and his friend Jiro decide to stop the land shark, finding out the truth behind the Land Shark. Some evil guy named Nene is making people all over the world suffer, for his own amusement. Shu and his friend Jiro, and Kluke who tags along, gain mysterious shadow powers. Their shadows turn into different creatures (hence the name, Shu has the dragon shadow), which they can use to fight. After barely escaping Nene, Shu, Jiro and Kluke set out to stop Nene, and save their village, and the world. There isn't much to it, personally I felt the story was a little weak. There are a few twists, but they're nothing special, its basically a bunch of kids (and one adult) setting out to defeat the evil bad guy, who is hell bent on taking over the world.
The gameplay is fairly basic, although this is exactly what I expected. Blue Dragon is basically a SNES RPG, with pretty 3D graphics etc. You have a world map, dungeons, battles with enemies (which are found walking on the field, they're not random), and turn based battles. Its the classic RPG formula, and it doesn't try much new, unlike the recent Final Fantasy games (although if this new content is good or not is questionable). Turn based battles allow all five of your characters to fight, you select a command and they perform it. When casting spells, you can charge up your attack to make it stronger, but it will take more turns to use. There isn't much else to the battle system really, its more about the class system. Each character has their own shadow, which you can customise. Forget weapons and armour (although you can equip accessories), its all about your class. Your characters and your shadows level up different, you gain EXP (for your character, gives them more HP, MP, makes their shadow stronger etc), and SP, which levels up your Shadow. However your Shadows level isn't universal, its different depending on their class, for example their warrior could be 50, but all the other classes are still 1, SP is gained toward the current class being used. Different classes allow you to use different abilities (white magic and black magic for example) and effect your stats too. There are plenty of classes, although its fairly easy to beat the game leaving your classes as their default. Apart from this, there isn't much else. The gameplay may be old, but it does what it does well, and Blue Dragon set out to deliver a game to appeal to the RPG fans, like myself.
However, Blue Dragon has its problems, which lowers the score from an 8, to a 7. I have already said that the story didn't quite deliver, and neither does the setting. The game world is definitely unique, but there isn't something quite right. The characters aren't really interesting, Shu can be kind of annoying at first, and Marumaro is terrible, his stupid dance and voice can really get on your nerves. Although its not much of a problem, Blue Dragon isn't actually that long. The game comes on 3 DVDs, surely the game must be massive? Unfortunately not, there are some wonderful cut-scenes, but you can beat the game in about 25-30 hours or so easily, and whilst it can take a while to get all of the achievements, a lot of the side-quests aren't very good. They consist of massive dungeons which can take hours to complete but are quite boring. The game is really easy too, I appreciate the fact that they designed the game with children in mind (well, apart from the swearing), but its very easy, with optional difficulties being Downloadable Content, its not much use to those without LIVE (at least its free though).
The graphics are good, you have to appreciate them for the style, not the technical side. Technically, the graphics aren't very good, they're definitely next-gen, but nothing like Final Fantasy or Lost Odyssey (since FF always seemed to have some of the best graphics around at release). However on the artistic style, the graphics suit the game perfectly. For the setting, I can't imagine the graphics being of a realistic style, the design is perfect for it. The music is pretty good too, Nobuo (the old composer for Final Fantasy, has done some great music before), has gone for a rock theme, since a lot of music contains guitars etc. The boss battle theme could well be a rock song, its pretty cool at first, although the boss theme gets a little annoying later on.
Overall, Blue Dragon is one for the RPG fans, and for new people. Its definitely a game people unfamiliar to RPGs can get into, and its one the RPG fans will like too. Its got the gameplay, although it falls short on the other aspects of the game (apart from the decent graphics). Its a massive adventure (at least doing everything, completing the main game won't take too long), and a decent one too. However there are better JRPGs on the 360, Lost Odyssey (also developed by Mistwalker) is your best bet if you're looking for an RPG. If you have played and enjoyed Lost Odyssey though, and are thinking about Blue Dragon, its worth a try. Overall the game gets a 7.0.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 02/28/08
Game Release: Blue Dragon (EU, 08/24/07)
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