Blue Dragon

By on October 14, 2007

We check out the first JRPG for the Xbox 360. Is it good enough to make the 360 at least a distant competitor in JRPGs?

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First Impressions
My reaction is

That is the line you will often hear from the game’s protagonist, Shu, when he’s in a bad shape. This line, however, also uncannily represents the game’s eternal fight against mediocrity.

Blue Dragon has a number of strong points like a very deep character customization system, huge and varied worlds to explore, and dragons! What makes it a disappointment is that all of the above, except the dragons, have a negative aspect to them. There is no clear winner, in the end, and the game literally shouts out “Meh!” to you, right in your face.

The story is usually the main aspect of an RPG, so having a lackluster story is kind of a suicide mission right from the start. While you’d expect the game to shout “Kamikaze!” and end it’s virtual life, it instead chooses to slog on, like a person on the verge of dying, but somehow tries to fight back (insert ‘Goku’ remarks here). It is packed in 3 discs, a feat which no other XBOX 360 game has dared to do, and with good reason. 3 Discs is an obvious indication that the game created is too long, too big for most people to play or enjoy, and in most cases, you will fall asleep trying to finish off the 1st disc.

A lackluster story prevents Blue Dragon from reaching the great expectations of players. The basic plotline is that 3 friends Shu, Jiro and Kluke have their village attacked by a Land Shark. Somehow, whenever these Land Sharks arrive, a set of purple clouds will follow them, and this happens every ten years. Shu, Jiro and Kluke stop the land shark, but find out that the Land Shark is actually an ancient weapon of some sort and confront the evil villain behind all this, Nene. Obviously, he’s too strong for them, and right after this, a mysterious friend gives them 3 light spheres, which they eat, and sprout out blue shadows in the shape of a dragon for Shu, a minotaur for Jiro, and a Phoenix for Kluke. These shadows can attack their enemies, and make them much stronger. After this they travel all over the world, find new friends and enemies like Marumaro, a bunny-like thing and Zola a sultry mercenary (just my type!), and try again to save their village and the world from disaster. While the story is nothing new, it’s the pace that really suffers and bogs the game down. You will spend the first 5-8 hours of the game in the same place, and the story slogs on throughout the 1st disc.

The sad part is, the pace of the story veers all the way around in the 2nd disc, where it is quite nice, with a few decent twists in it, and the ending in the 3rd game is pretty good, but the million-dollar question anyone who’s reading this review would probably asking “What’s the point?” sadly, has no answers.

Almost every respectable RPG has a manual save-system, and the reasons for this are obvious and in plenty. Maybe you want to explore some other part of the environment before facing a tough enemy. Maybe you want to rack up some more experience, and get leveled up before facing it. Maybe you are at a point in the game, where one decision you take will change the course of the game completely, and you want to choose the other part too, without having to start the game all over again. Or maybe, you just want to quit Oblivion, the Blue Dragon revolution is here. This game has, drum roll please, save-points! (Audience laugh track starts to play).Clearly, the game designers have some twisted pleasure in watching gamers playing Blue Dragon start over from a save-point crossed 45 minutes back, to come back to where they played before (laugh all you want Artoon!). There are checkpoints which you cross just before entering a boss battle, but if you quit your game, you have no option but to start over. There is a save option in the menu, but this is ‘activated’ only when you are in a village of sheep, which again points out the same question “What’s the point?”

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The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
5
Fighting against everyone in a radius is a nice twist to Blue Dragon’s combat system. However, searching the whole environment for treasure isn’t exactly what you’d call a pastime. Fighting the same enemies also doesn’t do the game any good.
GRAPHICS
6
The developers have tried to cover up the lack of detail in the environment by blurring your field of vision. Fixed camera angles don’t work well all the time, and moving the camera is a pain. Shadows and their animations look good, though.
SOUND
5
Average background soundtrack that changes genres too drastically when you are fighting battles. Just-about-average voice-acting.
VALUE
6.5
You wouldn’t really want to play the game again, but given that it has a massive 3 discs to finish, it will take you a long time to get through the game once.
FUN FACTOR
5
Blue Dragon does not mark an auspicious start for JRPG’s on the XBOX 360.
OVERALL
5.5
If you are dying to play an RPG, you might consider renting Blue Dragon, as Eternal Sonata seems to be a much better JRPG for the XBOX 360. But, there is no game that is so massive. It’s 3 discs, for god’s sake!

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