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Blue Dragon review

The Xbox's first serious JRPG is a winner

Pros

  • Engaging story
  • Beautiful visuals
  • Addictive character-building

Cons

  • Boring battles
  • Graphical glitches
  • Ridiculous Achievements

This game has a lot of expectations riding on it. It's a new RPG, born from the talent behind the storied Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series - the two biggest names in Japanese RPGs. Thankfully, the game doesn't let either of those legacies down. At the same time, it may not deliver the gameplay or story experience you might be expecting.

The promotional art you've seen tells the basic story. Though lead character Shu is supposed to be a teen, he comes off as about 12. This isn't a deal-killer, though. He spends about zero time moping and complaining; he simply does his determined best to protect his family and friends, and stop the megalomaniacal villain Nene from destroying the world. Nene may look like an alien in a dress, but he acts more or less like Voldemort - and his casual, brutal evil gives the story a dark beating heart that's missing from most chase-the-bumbling-villain RPG tales. The story is much more satisfying than it appears at first glance. The drama-laden intro (which, for some reason, was not used as the game's demo on Xbox Live) is a good gauge for the tenor of the entire tale.

Gameplay-wise, Blue Dragon is deeply traditional, steeped in concepts that have ancestry in the SNES - particularly the fiddly micromanagement of Final Fantasy V. Each character is accompanied by a big, animalistic shadow. These shadows can learn abilities in a variety of different classes. Mixing and matching them allows you a great deal of flexibility inside and outside of battle - you can learn to attack multiple enemies, cast spells, defend yourself and even hide from roving packs of enemies on the world map. This gets really addictive later on because it allows you total freedom to build characters how you want; on the other hand, the more abilities you get, the easier the game gets - to the point where the battles are simply boring time-fillers as you approach the final confrontation. Fortunately, bonus areas bring back some of the punch if you're interested in searching for them. So will downloadable content, down the road.

You might eventually get bored with the battles, but you won't find yourself disappointed by the game's visuals. Sure, the characters look a little weird - particularly if you aren't a fan of Akira Toriyama, the Dragon Ball-creating maestro behind the designs. But the environments are gorgeous and lively, and the enemies are both hilarious and menacing. It's a neat trick. It's obvious that the developers used Pixar movies as the inspiration behind the game's visual design, and the result is colorful and full of personality - particularly when compared to the drab colors of the shooters the 360 seems to be flooded with.

This game has a lot of expectations riding on it. It's a new RPG, born from the talent behind the storied Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series - the two biggest names in Japanese RPGs. Thankfully, the game doesn't let either of those legacies down. At the same time, it may not deliver the gameplay or story experience you might be expecting.

The promotional art you've seen tells the basic story. Though lead character Shu is supposed to be a teen, he comes off as about 12. This isn't a deal-killer, though. He spends about zero time moping and complaining; he simply does his determined best to protect his family and friends, and stop the megalomaniacal villain Nene from destroying the world. Nene may look like an alien in a dress, but he acts more or less like Voldemort - and his casual, brutal evil gives the story a dark beating heart that's missing from most chase-the-bumbling-villain RPG tales. The story is much more satisfying than it appears at first glance. The drama-laden intro (which, for some reason, was not used as the game's demo on Xbox Live) is a good gauge for the tenor of the entire tale.

Gameplay-wise, Blue Dragon is deeply traditional, steeped in concepts that have ancestry in the SNES - particularly the fiddly micromanagement of Final Fantasy V. Each character is accompanied by a big, animalistic shadow. These shadows can learn abilities in a variety of different classes. Mixing and matching them allows you a great deal of flexibility inside and outside of battle - you can learn to attack multiple enemies, cast spells, defend yourself and even hide from roving packs of enemies on the world map. This gets really addictive later on because it allows you total freedom to build characters how you want; on the other hand, the more abilities you get, the easier the game gets - to the point where the battles are simply boring time-fillers as you approach the final confrontation. Fortunately, bonus areas bring back some of the punch if you're interested in searching for them. So will downloadable content, down the road.

You might eventually get bored with the battles, but you won't find yourself disappointed by the game's visuals. Sure, the characters look a little weird - particularly if you aren't a fan of Akira Toriyama, the Dragon Ball-creating maestro behind the designs. But the environments are gorgeous and lively, and the enemies are both hilarious and menacing. It's a neat trick. It's obvious that the developers used Pixar movies as the inspiration behind the game's visual design, and the result is colorful and full of personality - particularly when compared to the drab colors of the shooters the 360 seems to be flooded with.

More Info

GenreRole Playing
DescriptionA touch more evolution might have launched this traditional RPG from extremely good to indispensable.
PlatformXbox 360
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor rating12+
Release date:28 August 2007 (US), 24 August 2007 (UK)
Available platforms:Xbox 360
Genre:Role Playing
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