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Blue Dragon - hands-on

That was an adventure. While we won't go so far as to assign a score just yet - hey, it's the Japanese version, and we're still waiting for an official US announcement - we've played through the entirety of Blue Dragon and have come out impressed by what Microsoft has brought to the table.

Blending the hyper-traditional gameplay of the early 1990s Final Fantasy installments with the slick, detailed graphics the 360 can produce, it's a compelling blend of old and new. That's a neat trick, given how many games use gimmicks to try and seem fresh but just end up tired. The cornerstone of the story and the gameplay in Blue Dragon - as you might guess from the title - are mythical, powerful creatures.

As the game opens, young Shu and his friends Jiro and Kluke decide to take on a monster that's been terrorizing their village for years. This decision results in a trip to a mysterious floating fortress - where they meet Nene, a wizened old megalomaniac, who's the source of the terror that's been tearing up their homes. As they escape from his clutches, a voice calls out... and gives them glowing balls of energy to drink. Once they do, their shadows take the form of a dragon, a minotaur and a phoenix - and things will never be the same for them again. Before the adventure ends, Marumaro and his sabertooth tiger, Zola and her bat will join them. Each of these creatures can learn a vast array of skills to help you defeat your foes.

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