Blue Dragon - hands-on

The difficulty options are preserved from the Japanese version of the game - which we found a little easy, as experienced RPG gamers. However, the downloadable content packages Microsoft is preparing for the game should help add some meat to the game. A new difficulty level, "impossible," becomes available (after you've beaten the game) in the first download pack - which also contains optional boss battles against foes tougher than the last boss (shades of Final Fantasy, there.) The second download content pack will contain six new items, including the "Nothing Glasses" which allow you to see the hidden hotspots on the field map that you can examine. Since you're rewarded for uncovering spots that contain "nothing," this is a pretty useful item. Finally, the third content pack will contain a dungeon with 8 different random patterns to conquer. The first pack will come out about a month after the game's release in August; the last will be released by Thanksgiving. Microsoft has yet to decide on pricing.

From what we've seen, the US version of Blue Dragon is shaping up to be well worth buying, particularly for hardcore fans of console RPGs from years gone by. We had a blast playing through the import, and the new translation brings everyone who speaks English into the fold, while avoiding the pitfalls that could have befallen a company not well known for publishing Japanese games in the west. The US voices do a good job of meshing with the game's style, while the Japanese acting is as charming as ever it was. In fact, just playing the game again six months after completing it actually resulted in unexpected waves of nostalgia. Despite the game being eight months old by the time it will hit the US, the Pixar-like sheen of the graphics hasn't worn out and still looks extremely striking and fresh. We know this is a solid, enjoyable quest, so we're hard-pressed to tell you anything but "buy it" right now.