Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Mistwalker and Artoon Co. Ltd.
N Amer - 08/28/2007
Having been developed with three huge names attached to the project: Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy), Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball Z and character designer for Chrono Trigger), Nobuo Uematsu (composer for the Final Fantasy series), Blue Dragon has been an Xbox 360 title on the minds of many gamers since it’s announcement was snuck in before the Xbox 360 had launched. There have been high hopes for the title, giving Microsoft a much needed break into the coveted Japanese-RPG genre.
Now, after spending some significant time with the title, I can say that Blue Dragon will turn out to be all that we’ve hoped for. The game’s old-school charm and story-telling, as well as a new-school gorgeous aesthetic and phenomenal art direction make this a game that people should be excited about, and it’s finally almost here.
Blue Dragon starts out in the Talta Village, where we meet three protagonists: Shu, Jiro, and Kluke fighting a giant land shark that has plagued their village for many years. They grab a hold of the Land Shark and get sucked away from their village. They end up on a ship run by Nene, the nefarious villain who created the land shark (which turned out to be a mechanical creation and not an actual beast terrorizing the town). Nene lays the smack down on the group with his magical abilities.
The group of would-be heroes attempt to escape the ship and become confronted by a group of robot guards, at which point they are advised by a mysterious voice to swallow some light crystals, giving them the ability to perform magic and granting their shadows special powers. They escape the ship and begin their quest home.
Nearly every object in the environment can be searched for items. You can walk up to a tree and kick it or search under a rock and find items like antidotes, medicine, gold, etc. everywhere you look. You can even find Experience points or Special points for your classes that you can dole out to anyone in your group.
You can build up your characters’ stats by equipping accessories. Much like weapons and armor in other RPGs, accessories give you attack and defense boosts, but are relegated to necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. However, they do the same thing, boosting your stats and even giving you elemental boosts at times.
Getting into battles is not random as in many other RPGs, as you can see your enemies on the field before engaging them and even engage them in ways that will affect the way the battle begins. For example, hitting them from behind will let you perform a back attack, or knocking them off balance will give you a first strike. However, this works both ways, as they can also get the drop on you.
Turn-based combat feels a lot like an old-school RPG. There is no time scale, meaning that you can perform your attacks whenever you’re ready. Depending on your class, you can perform specific moves or attacks unique to your shadow’s current skill set. As you play, you can unlock different skill sets by gaining levels. You begin with Shu’s Dragon shadow being a Sword Master, Jiro’s Minotaur being a White Mage, and Kluke’s Phoenix being a Black Mage, but you can unlock new classes like Guardian (proficient in defense), Assassin (good at stealth attacks), Monk (specialized at charged attacks) and so on. Each class can gain levels through SP (special experience gained on top of normal EXP) until level 99.
The enemies are done in the same charming vein as Dragon Quest (a given since they were both created by Akira Toriyama), with weird and quirky foes like, ahem, Poo Snakes popping up at certain junctures. The boss battles are also pretty crazy too. The first boss that we faced in the game was a “Flamboyant Dinoram”, which lived up to its namesake by being a huge, colorful, smiling beast. The music is great stuff too, with nice environmental songs and good battle music. However, the crazy hair-metal boss battle music takes the cake (you just have to hear it, it’s friggin’ AWESOME).
All in all, the first little bit of Blue Dragon showcased a ton of promise, and could be a great title in a genre that the Xbox 360 (or the first Xbox for that matter) has been sorely lacking in. The wait is almost over, as Blue Dragon drops this August.