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Jeremy Jastrzab
06 Oct, 2007

Blue Dragon Review

360 Review | Thumbs up.
You have got to hand it to Microsoft. They really did try in Japan. They got some big names and big games on their side, but apart from a few fleeting weeks here and there, our eastern neighbors continue to ignore Microsoft and the Xbox 360. However, there was one game that managed to make a dent in the weekly Japanese charts. That title was Blue Dragon, and it came about after a disenchanted Hinorobu Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy, left Square-Enix to start his own studio, Mistwalker. Blue Dragon is the first of two games commissioned exclusively for the Xbox 360. It’s also the first game of the generation to be published on 3 separate discs, and only the second decent JRPG to come to the Xbox 360.

The story in Blue Dragon revolves around a set of characters drawn up by famed animator, Akira Toriyama. They live in a fictitious world that is being terrorised by purple clouds that bring disaster to each place they strike. Such disasters include flood, sickness and ‘land sharks’. Sick of the annual attacks, youngsters Shu, Jiro and Kluke stand up to a ‘land shark’ by trying to fight it, only to be taken away by the mechanical beast and find themselves caught in an enemy ship, where they discover the identity of the fiend behind the purple clouds. Along the way, they manage to come across some ‘magic’ that allows them to physically project their shadows into large fighting beasts, including the titular blue dragon.

While this fiend, Nene, is seemingly one of the least the least threatening enemies seen in a JRPG, stopping him is the main driver behind the story, as well as discovering the history behind the world. There are some interesting characters, particularly the loud and jovial Marumaro. While it can be predictable, it’s a reasonably entertaining romp with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. The overriding themes may seem somewhat juvenile, but they’re at least as sophisticated as a non-dubbed kid’s anime, such as Naruto and One Piece. They don't necessarily justify the M rating, but older gamers are likely to appreciate it more than they would a Saturday morning cartoon.

It's blue. And it's a dragon. What were you expecting.

It's blue. And it's a dragon. What were you expecting.
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In truth, the game is not entirely an original work from Mistwalker, as it seems that Japanese developer Artoon has been brought on board to develop the majority of the game. The formula is essentially one that has been played through many times and the influences and pedigree are obvious. At a very basic level, you go from town to town, following the story with the odd diversion here and there. Occasionally, the characters will mingle together and you’ll get some insight into their personalities. The game holds your hand quite a lot, pointing you in directions that are generally quite obvious, particularly for experienced players. Then of course, there are scenarios where you won’t be able to move on until you talk to a specific person. Given the size of some of your locations, this can stilt progress sometimes. As mundane as this may seem, each town that you visit has its own character and flavour, not to mention, there are a few quirky oddballs to meet along the way as well. As formulaic as it may be, it's done really well.

When in the field or overworld, all the monsters are either visible on screen, will crawl out of the ground or drop out of the sky. You can choose to engage them by ‘rushing’ at them or they might just go after you. If you manage to sneak behind them or hit them unaware, you’ll get the first attack. If you fail an attempted escape, your attackers just might get the first attack. You can also project an encounter circle and suck more monsters into a fight. The advantage of this is that you can sometimes trigger a ‘monster encounter’, where the monster and enemies will face off against one another, and then all you have to do is pick them off. While it has been done for some time now, these (essentially) voluntary encounters are unbelievably welcome. But if you avoid too many battles, you’ll be in trouble later on.

At first glance, the battle system looks to be your standard turn-based JRPG set-up. Each character will have their usual options – attack, defend, item and so forth. The difference in this system and the differences between characters will be determined by their shadow and chosen class. There are nine different classes to choose from, each with their strengths and unique abilities. Each class has a set of related skills that can be learned. Individually, the Sword Master and Monk classes can hold their own in a battle of brute force, but having a team of five allows for many different combinations with a lot of potential strategic advantages. Some monsters are susceptible physical attacks and some to magic attacks, so it's really useful when you diversify. Particularly as if there isn't any one class that is much better than another. While a class such as Support or Barrier Magic may seem useless at first, but it can become invaluable later in the game.

She's stolen my heart...

She's stolen my heart...
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The skills and class system allows for leveling up in multiple classes and skills branching. For example, a black magician can have white magic such as healing spells. So you can have five characters with five different classes but each character can be equiped with skills from several classes. Each of the nine classes has vastly different skills, so there is a lot of choice available to the player. There is some reasonably depth and potential within this system. Whenever a player casts a spell or plays as the Monk class, a gauge will appear at the top of the screen, setting up a mini-game that allows you to charge your spell or attack to make it more powerful. Spell users can aim for the sweet spot to try and make the spell more efficient (or use less MP). However, your charge may also allow others to take a turn before you. Later in the game, you’ll earn Corporeal’s, which are essentially the game’s limit breakers.

Despite being essentially 20 years old, the battle system is robust and quite well paced. Most battles are reasonably quick and your moves are performed quickly. The class and skill system is just what the game needed to pull itself to a reasonable JRPG level, but the primary concern with the game is the difficulty level. On the first disc, the game is an absolute cakewalk, with virtually no monster posing a challenge. This continues through the second and third discs, but about half way through the third disc, the difficulty spikes to a level where some enemies are much faster, stronger and harder then the preceding 20-30 hours worth. Unlike a game such as Dragon Quest, where you're constantly on the edge, regardless of the enemies, going through that many easy battles can have an adverse effect on the game, as it can drag in the latter stages.

There are a few minor additions to what you would consider the standard RPG formula, particularly the ‘poo’ concept, where you dig through the enemy’s poo to collect more items, as well as plenty of side quests. But apart from the difficulty level, the one detractor from the game is likely to be perception. Given the pedigree behind the game, it’s somewhat understandable that some players out there were expecting a mind-blowing experience. So while it does 'tick the boxes' more then it blows the mind, Blue Dragon does it well. It's nothing necessarily new, but at the same time, its far from being bad. Apart from Enchanted Arms, there really aren’t any other JRPG’s for the Xbox 360, so long as you want RPG and are willing to accept that it won’t blow you away, Blue Dragon gets the job done and done reasonably well.

I'm gonna beat the crap out of you... Oh, wait...

I'm gonna beat the crap out of you... Oh, wait...
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In terms of graphics, the game has a bit to answer for. From an artistic perspective, the game is excellent but from a technical perspective, the game is a dud. It stutters, it breaks, it slows and requires a heck of a lot of loading - it's quite unacceptable on a system like the Xbox 360. But the style of the game saves it from embarrassment. There is great distinction between all of the different places that you visit and a number of great aesthetic touches. Everything in the game has been lit up by the Toriyama touch, although the overworld and generic locations (such as forests and caves) could at times have used some sprucing up, and the enemies do get quite repetitive. The CG is excellent, but you’d expect that from a game that spans 3 discs.

The game’s soundtrack is composed by Nobuo Uematsu, of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger fame. The music for each different village and town is excellent, as are the different field themes. However, the default battle theme occurs way too often. You would have thought that after 20 years and on a game that spans 3 discs, you'd get a little more variety. Still, we thought that the boss theme was particularly awesome. You’ve got the option for voicing in English, Japanese and French, and all are done quite astutely. The dialogue is fairly solid in set encounters, but there are a lot of useless and meaningless things said by a lot of the NPCs. Blue Dragon has this weird little sound cue where a voice will tell you something has happened. For example, a sound bit will pipe “defeated” after you beat an enemy. Apart from that, the sound effects aren’t much better than a 16-bit game and are often replaced with text.

So while it’s unlikely to set the world alight, if you have an Xbox 360 and you want a traditional Japanese RPG, Blue Dragon should be up your alley. So while it doesn't really provide anything exceedingly new, most of it is done reasonably well. The class system is nothing new but it's will put together and none of it feels redundant. Furthermore, it does have a few nice touches and has some real character to it. Familiarities aside, the only real downer, is the games skewed difficulty, which leads to it dragging before it's able to get off the ground. Still, it can be quite fun, so long as you can accept that you’re going to see a revolution.
The Score
Got an Xbox 360? Want a Japanese RPG? Not expecting a revelation? Then Blue Dragon has something for you.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Blue Dragon Content

Blue Dragon downloadable content available
30 Oct, 2007 Two packs available now, another to come in November.
Blue Dragon dated for Australia
18 Jul, 2007 Out late next month.
E3 2007: Blue Dragon demo now on Xbox Live
11 Jul, 2007 Dip your foot in some RPG goodness before its August release.
13 Comments
6 years ago
It's about time there was a proper review for this game. All the other sites gave it a such a bad score that was completely undeseving.

I normally wouldn't have bought a game like this but given all the positive feedback from the forumers, I decided I would try it out and if I didn't like it I could take back with EB's return policy.

I'm still on the first disc but this is the first game with turn based fighting I've enjoyed since pokemon. Good review Jeremy.

On a side note, I could totally see a Anime series based on the Blue Dragon game. It has a typical anime story line and typical anime characters and would do really well.
6 years ago
I think the game deserves better than the score you gave it and I prefer the impressions that palgn users have given the game on the forum. I would rate the game at least 8.5 and it is one of the better RPG experiences I have played in the last few years.


Also you are quite harsh on the graphics, especially when in comparison there are many other games out there on PS3 or 360 that have worse graphical 'issues' than Blue Dragon, in fact the only time I notice even a bit of slowdown is during the battle sequences shadow animations, everything else runs really well.

This game is easily the best looking RPG ever made on any system and the technical issues are a minimal, why give it a 6.5? were you so harsh on Oblivion which I feel has a lot more technical issues with the graphics than Blue Dragon does?

A lot of loading? no more loading than any other RPG that i've ever played, look to contempary RPG's such as Persona 3 or Oblivion and you'll see what I mean, I think that it is quite normal for an RPG to have that level of loading.

The soundtrack rocks! and I enjoy the boss theme song (i'm a sucker for cheesy power metal) but each to his own.

http://palgn.com.au/viewtopic.php?t=19252 Blue Dragon thread for what I feel are excellent user impressions
6 years ago
pizzashapes wrote
On a side note, I could totally see a Anime series based on the Blue Dragon game. It has a typical anime story line and typical anime characters and would do really well.
Mod Edit: piracy is illegal, mmmkay?

Sorry mod. I'll get the message through.. I didn't actually realise that was piracy if it was unlicensed.. sorry anyway...

the anime exists. but I am unsure if it will ever see a western release
6 years ago
The graphics are awesome. Go play FFXII to realise how far we have come. I love the style and way everything is done. Couple of little hicups here and there.

I have played FFXII and Blue Dragon this year and BD was clearly more enjoyable.
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
The graphics are awesome. Go play FFXII to realise how far we have come. I love the style and way everything is done. Couple of little hicups here and there.

I have played FFXII and Blue Dragon this year and BD was clearly more enjoyable.
Same here mate i enjoyed it heaps way more than FFXII. There were a couple of slow downs but i didn't really care tbh. I really enjoyed this game and i can't wait for number 2 icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
agreed FFXII is awful in comparison to the awesomeness of Blue Dragon
6 years ago
That thumbs up should be changed to a very nerdy blue dragon refference like "Oh friend, my friend" but only a prob few would get that.
6 years ago
Quote
Apart from Enchanted Arms, there really aren’t any other JRPG’s for the Xbox 360
Except for the vastly superior Eternal Sonata which is out here in a couple of weeks.
6 years ago
I think the score given is GENEROUS. This game is just plain bad in my honest opinion. I basically only play RPGs, I love RPGs. I did not love this RPG. Didn't even LIKE it.

FFXII > this game to my mind, though I don't know why people keep comparing EVERYTHING to FFXII lately. But obviously feel free to disagree.

In any case, this games overuse of motion blur, screen tearing, appallingly shallow and badly delivered story, lack of any real character development or action justification and spasmodically repetative gameplay make this game bleh.
6 years ago
Great review I agree with all the scoring except for the graphics it surely deserves at least a 7.5. The animations in the game are amazing, its like watching anime. Really if you like your typical JRPGs and you have a 360 you should get this game its really entertaining.
6 years ago
8.0 for the sound and voice acting done well? Did they fix the voices from the demo or something because the voice acting in the demo was absolutly pathetic, it's the #1 reason I didn't buy blue dragon. Also way too harsh on the graphics, based on the demo I'd give the graphics an 8 and the sound a 5.
6 years ago
Have to agree with Peveus to a degree - since I've only played the BD demo. From what I have played though, FFXII is the superior game (imo, of course). While FFXII keeps the battles going at a brisk pace, while still maintaining a large degree of control (while flawed, I didn't see an improvement on the magic system in BD, but that might have been just the demo making things too easy) BD crawls along at a snail's pace in comparison. I found myself avoiding battles in BD as opposed to happily engaging enemies in FFXII.

Perhaps after playing the KOTOR games and FFXII, the traditional turn based RPG doesn't appeal to me as much these days.
6 years ago
Skiller wrote
8.0 for the sound and voice acting done well? Did they fix the voices from the demo or something because the voice acting in the demo was absolutly pathetic, it's the #1 reason I didn't buy blue dragon. Also way too harsh on the graphics, based on the demo I'd give the graphics an 8 and the sound a 5.
Well you can choose from Japanese, English and French in the Australian edition so there is no reason to complain.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  30/08/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1

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