Review by Billysan

"Dragon Quest Sakaguchi style!"

Blue Dragon was developed by both Mistwalker studios (Final Fantasy creator's company) and Artoon (which happens to be Sonic the Hedegehogs's creator's company). From media or by just starting the game instantly you'll notice Blue Dragon looks like Dragon Ball or Dragon Quest this is Akira Toriyama's art and design your seeing. Not only that but Nomura Umatesu the man who composed Final Fantasy Soundtracks up to X has done this games music score. So right off the bat we have an all star line up of super developers behind this game which instantly get's any JRPG ( Japanese Role Playing Game) fan extremely excited.

But I recommend not over hyping the game I don't know if Microsoft was rushing the developers or what but the game lacks the grand polish of Final Fantasy and or Dragon Quest I'm not saying the game is bad though just read the review and you'll understand why this game is still a must play for RPG fans.

Story is what draws many people to JRPGs so how is the story of Blue Dragon is it worth it? Well that's a hard question over all the story seems lacking in areas and doesn't feature many mature themes. It also features a few cliché's save the villages, jail scene, Mr. Evil guy. But despite this the game's world and characters really draw you in it's a very well constructed world full of great locations and strange and interesting people. Over all I grew attached enough to the world and characters that I couldn't wait to see how it all unfolds. Just don't come in expecting some grand, deep, mature, tale.

Gameplay wise this is a very traditional turn based JRPG but it contains enough new or interesting little gimmicks that really spice the traditional gameplay formula. Before I get into the battle system lets talk a little about the gameplay outside of combat. The game uses a free 3rd person camera view which really brings you into the world it's fairly basic stuff such has the classic discovering new towns they can contain literally 100 background objects to examine. Some produced the useless 1 Gil money while other provide some useful items it can become a rather addicting habit that turns every new town into a pot full of unpredictable goodies. The game is rather linear near the beginning but close to the end you get the respective air ship which you can fly across the over world and freely explore to your hearts content.

Speaking of the over world well for one there is one it's there from the start but rather linier there is still a lot of room to explore for treasure and more though so don't worry. There are a two gripes I have about the overworld one being the camera is locked above you meaning you can rarely see what's coming up in front of you but you can at least turn it left or right. And the second is the frame rate on the over world is very unsteady the high camera may actually be the teams way of fixing major slow down that may have been present with a more free lower camera. But it's wonderful to see a overworld here since many JRPGs seem to be steering away from traditional overworlds.

The game's leveling system is also rather traditional it's fairly similar to the job systems in Final Fantasy games. Each character can be assigned a job class from which they can level up with SP points after battle. Various new levels teach new skills to characters which they can permanently use even when you switch a class. So basically by the end of the game if you played your cards right you'll have amassed a huge verity of skills like black magic, white magic, berserk, counter attacks, and many many more on each character. Jobs also boost your current stats with each level they gain to, in reality this is where you'll get your majority of stat growth from. Each Job well boost stats that benefit there skills so black magic well boost your magic attack more while a Sword class will boost your melee attacks points.

Now for the battle system the meat of any RPG. Like nearly all aspects of Blue Dragon the battle system is very traditional. The biggest gimmick here is charging attacks. At first you'll only be able to charge magic but by the end of the game you can charge just about all attack/help types of moves. It provides a great deal of strategy and it's very easy to grasp and understand which is nice.

So how does this all work well let's say you choose the Water spell after choosing you'll see a bar above this bar is a row of your character heads and enemies' head this is the turn order. Now once you choose the spell and target the charge bar which is located right below the turn order well have a bar moving erratically up and down across the charge bar if you stop it say before the boss face which well be attacking in the next 2 turns on the turn order then that spell would activate before the boss but it would be weak since it's still low on the charge bar. But say you stop it at the end of the charge bar long after every ones turns then the spell would be much stronger but of course every one including the boss well take there respected turns. The one other element to this is the sweet spot which is located some where on the charge part it's usually a small gray space stop the bar on this sweet spot and the spell well be really strong while usually using the lesser time. It's a rather nice system that is all presented very well.

Ah but not everything is traditional in Blue Dragon and by far the most appealing aspect of this game is no random encounters. Oh you say you've seen this before well not like this. It truly takes steps in evolving the on field enemy encounters from say Chrono Cross. See many types of monsters are natural predators to other enemy crawling about and by luring these predator and prey together you'll cause a monster fight which means the predator well eat all of it's natural prey with in the battle. In order to activate this you most hold down the R Trigger which pauses the on screen action and brings up a giant ring called the encounter ring around you all enemies in this ring well be put into a battle line up defeating a huge mass of enemies together provides a chain link which gives you bonus SP for Job leveling. This is where the predator and prey come in if any of the enemies in the line up are mortal enemies then Monster Fights well be activated which is rather handy in finishing fights fast and effortlessly. Beyond that you can use field skills on the field which can either propel enemies or lure them to you. The best and coolest of these skills is field barrier which destroys weaker enemies by just touching them on the field while you don't get EXP you still get SP meaning all those worthless weak enemies in earlier areas are not put to waste by the end of the game…NICE!

The only thing about this game that may hold JRPG fans back is how easy it is or can be. It's not overly bad though and I wouldn't say it a total cake walk especially if you avoid leveling to much. And by the 3rd disc yes 3 disc…you can fight the game's super bosses which are a challenge provided that you are not above level 50 and a Job skill master. But if you hate the thought of breezing through the game then you can go over to X-Box live and download the free Hard Mode DLC. Mainly it forces you to level grind more just like a good old Dragon Quest game. The DLC also provides a new game+ and Ultra Hard mode one which recommends you use a new game+ and to be at level 50 before starting...yikes!

Graphics would be one of the games main highlights the game is outrageously colorful and well polish. The graphics come close to capturing the feel of a stop motion movie and seeing a low polygonal object or low-res texture is rather rare heck I don't think there are any. Akira Toroyama's charming character and monster designs are brought to life exceptionally well, there models are well render and well animated. Yes the animation is very cartoony but don't let it mislead you everything moves with such thought out and amusing animations. The environments are also very beautiful and every time you come to a new area you'll be eager to explore each and every inch. The only low point to the graphics would be the environmental real time shadowing see the shadows are amazing but distant areas lack this shadowing until you come closer. Many games do this but the shadow draw distant here is pretty close to your character and you'll more often than not see a well light area have shadows drawn into them the closer you get. It's disappointing that the draw distant wasn't further or that strongly shaded areas were made dark so the shadowing drawing was less obvious. But the pretty distant lens blurring helps hide this underwhelming effect. Over all though the game's graphics are colorful and polished.

You expect a great deal from legendary composer like Umatesu. How does this games soundtrack live up to his legacy? Rather well I say it may not be has diverse or large in number has his past works but quality wise it's above and beyond Final Fantasy 9. The overall music reminds me of Dragon Quest bit it's still purely Umatasu. Many people well have a hissy fit over the boss theme. So what's so bad about it well among the legendary game developers involved with this game you can also add the lead singer of Deep Purple to the list. Yes Ian Gillan sings the boss theme it's very over the top and cheesy and it's very much a love or hate kind of thing. I personally liked the song it's very catchy and builds up a boss fights nicely but I well say that another main boss theme was needed because the song becomes repetitive due to how often boss fights come up.

Sound effect wise the game sticks to a traditional flavor. Yes sound effects usually sound like RPGs of old but there still some cool detailed sound effects. Voice wise they all work well and feel highly appropriate to the games style. You can always switch to the Japanese voices though when ever you want so every one is happen right.

Hornobu Sakaguchi is name well respected among JRPG fans. And just his name alone will sell this game while the same holds true for Akira Toriyama. But while the game isn't the best RPG ever it's still one that should not be messed. Remember the Gold Poo Snake offers great reward.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/06/09

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

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