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Blue Dragon

 

Blue Dragon

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: RPG
 
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7.25
 
Author:

Developer – Mistwalker
Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Features

In-Game Dolby Digital
456 KB to Save Game
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p
Content Download

If there is one thing that the Xbox 360 seems to be missing in its library of games, it is a selection of RPGs. But things seem to be a changin’ down in Redmond as Microsoft Studios has committed to bring RPG gamers some choice in this genre. This was quite evident when Microsoft announced they were going to publish two Japanese made RPGs made exclusively for the Xbox 360. To further entice RPG fans, Microsoft also announced that these games were being developed by Mistwalker, who is headed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, a man synonymous with the Final Fantasy series. So with much anticipation, fans have waited long enough and the first game to be released is Blue Dragon.

Graphics

Blue Dragon’s visuals are pretty solid overall. The game’s graphics during actual gameplay are nice-looking and they have a Japanese look to them. The colors are bright and vibrant as well and many of the scenes manage to jump off the screen. Mistwalker also utilized the use of blur effects in Blue Dragon. This is something that I have not really seen used in a game like this. This effect is produced by having objects in the distance appear somewhat fuzzy when the camera is focused on objects or people in the foreground. It really makes things in the foreground much sharper and punchier. It is a visual style that does work, but some may think it is a little overplayed.

Although they visuals do have an eye pleasing style they are not without any issues. There is some slowdown that rears its ugly head more then once. I was somewhat taken by surprise by this as the game has been in development for quite sometime. As well there was some screen tearing during the battles where magic spells with some pretty neat effects are displayed. This was quite constant and actually took a little away from the enjoyment of the on-screen action.

As the game comes on multiple DVDs this allows for plenty of FMV sequences. And I have to say that they are quite stunning to look at.
They are very stylish and fluid and they can sometimes seem like a computer animated movie. I liked watching these FMV sequences as I am a real computer animation fan. For those who like this kind of visual treat they should enjoy it just as much as I did.

Sound

The audio in Blue Dragon is a mixed affair overall with some high and low points to be found. The voice acting is pretty solid and you can choose between Japanese, French and English voice dubs. There are also subtitles that are displayed during dialog. I found that the English was somewhat enjoyable, although there are some voices that just seemed to grate me. Purists will most likely want to play the game with the original Japanese voice dub with the English subtitle though.

The soundtrack that accompanies Blue Dragon is something that I was really looking forward to as the game is a JRPG developed by some pretty big names in the RPG genre. I guess the best way to describe the music is average being that there are some good tracks, and some bad tracks, and when taken together the result is average overall. In terms of the selection of music I found that beyond the odd track really sticking out, and I do mean odd, that the rest of the music just melded into the background of the gameplay. The fact that nothing stood out and it blended in so much really made for an average musical fair and this didn’t make for a more engrossing experience.
Maybe my expectations were too high, but the music just didn’t add enough.

Finally the rest of the sound effects, from the individual enemies to the blue dragon’s magical spells, all sounded solid and help make this a true RPG experience.

Gameplay

Blue Dragon is somewhat of a breath of fresh air on the Xbox 360. But take this statement with a grain of salt as there are just not a lot of RPGs on the 360 for this game to really be compared too. Sure you have your Oblivion IV: Elder Scrolls, and your Two Worlds and Overlord, but that is really about it when thinking of major RPGs on Microsoft’s uber-system. So for Blue Dragon to be that breath of fresh air is not really saying a lot. Blue Dragon is your traditional turn-based combat RPG. The game really screams Japanese RPG in terms of all that is included on the discs. Japanese RPGs have done many of the features found in Blue Dragon before, and that is not particularly a bad thing, it is just that the game really doesn’t bring anything brand new to the table. That being said, it is a new and somewhat different RPG from those listed earlier in this paragraph and that is where this game really benefits, there is nothing like it on the 360 to date.

The story of Blue Dragon has the main characters, Shu, Kluke and Jiro, surviving their village being destroyed by a mechanical landshark. This sets up the tale where all those involved are basically chasing the villain, here known as Nene, across various lands in the game. Blue Dragon comes on three DVDs, yes, I said three DVDs. All in all there is about 50 hours of quest time in this game, something that many will find good dollar value.

Blue Dragon is a turn based RPG. There are no weapons in your party either, instead you have shadows that are called, as the title of the game aptly suggests, blue dragons. They do all of the fighting and spell casting on your character’s behalf. It is very entertaining to watch your shadows do your bidding for you, be it though a standard attack or by a magical spell. There are a decent number of skills to experiment with during your enemy encounters and, as a relative rookie of RPG’s (I have played a few, but not a lot), I enjoyed the battles that I had to endure.

During my gameplay there were definitely some things that stuck out for me as I ventured through the lands of Blue Dragon. First off was the class system. Each character starts off with a set of available classes and as they level up so does the equipped class. As the game progresses you will open up more classes which can be switched at any time as long as you are not engaged in battle. This system was not only easy to understand, but it was flexible as well as most spells and skills that you earn for one specific class can be transferred to others. In many ways Blue Dragon encourages you to do this as you earn better abilities and earn more difficult achievements by switching out of class all the time.

Something else that I enjoyed was the fact that you were not forced to endure an endless stream of random battles as you can pick and choose your fights. Mistwalker made this even more interesting by adding what is known as field skills, which are used outside of combat. Field skills can range from the ability to stun enemies, making surprise attacks somewhat effective, to the ability to wipe out lower ranked enemies without even fighting them. The latter does not allow you to gain any experience points or gold though. On the flipside, if I decided to fight the good fight, Mistwalker once again added a special feature for me to utilize. By pulling on the right trigger I paused time and brought up an attack ring. All the enemies within this ring’s radius can be fought in succession and in doing so it allows for experience and status bonuses. You can even get two enemies who may not like each other to square off as well, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of not having to fight. I found that I used this feature more then I imagined. I honestly think it was a good addition, but it most likely comes down to one’s own tastes as to whether or not you may enjoy it as much as I did.

There is lots of encouragement to explore one’s surroundings as you venture throughout the lands of Blue Dragon. You can walk up to almost anything and find gold or items. Some may find this a welcome addition, however others may find this somewhat of a hindrance as they don’t want to have to look in almost everything, and I mean everything. That being said, should you want lots of gold, potions or money, it is really something that you may want to do.

As mentioned the game is on three DVDs and can last for about 50 hours. However, for the diehard RPG’ist out there, these 50 hours may seem quite long in the sense that they many may have seen or done a lot of this type of gaming before. Part of the problem for Blue Dragon lies in the fact that the first third or so of the story is not nearly as exciting as the last two thirds. The first third is very linear and just doesn’t offer a lot to do in terms of action or combat. I found that I struggled a lot during to continue and that I almost threw in the towel. However once I got through the initial part of the game it managed to take a different feel. I am concerned gamers may not make it over this hump and that they may not try to persevere due to the fact that they may not know how better it can get. There are optional side quests toward the end of the game that are pretty fun and challenging. Bottom-line, should one invest the time in the game it can provide some enjoyable experiences.

Overall the gameplay of Blue Dragon is going to cater to different people in different ways. Those who are casual RPG fans will probably enjoy this game as it offers much of what JRPGs are well known and revered for. However that being said, diehard players may find this game somewhat generic and predictable. I fall within the first group and I enjoyed the gameplay, but you may not.


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