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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox 360
August 28, 2007
Blue Dragon Plus

 Written by Jason Young  on September 20, 2007

Review: Kicking it back, old school style.

Is Blue Dragon Microsoft's answer to Square-Enix's Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games? No and no. Created by half the development team of the SNES classic, Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon carried heavy hopes with it that the Xbox 360 could possibly be the definitive RPG console this generation. With artwork by Dragon Ball Z artist Akira Toriyama, direction by video game auteur Hironobu Sakaguchi, and music by Nobuo Uematsu, everyone had high hopes for the game. While the game isn't as bad as one might make it out to be; it's just average in every sense of the word.

You see, one of the main problems in Blue Dragon is its storyline, which can be summarized within a single sentence: Bad guy does evil, good guys feel compelled to stop him. Simple enough, but sadly that's almost as much characterization as there is in the game. This is a problem in almost any RPG, especially since they rely on telling a story to the gamer. During the course of Blue Dragon, players take on the role of Shu and his friends who have been ?blessed' with the ability to summon creatures from their shadows to fight for them, they witness their world being destroyed by the evil Nene and begin their quest to stop him from destroying their planet.

As a turn-based RPG, players who are accustomed to playing games such as Final Fantasy (prior to XI and XII) and Dragon Quest will feel right at home with the game's battle system almost immediately. You and your enemies take turns fighting each other until one or the other goes down. After each fight your characters gain experience points to level your characters, and SP points to level your shadows. Borrowing a class system straight out of Final Fantasy V, each of the game's five characters can learn skills among nine different classes: white magic, black magic, support, barrier, swordsmaster, assassin, generalist, guardian, and monk.

For the most part, the game's bread-and-butter comes from the class system as you'll be leveling up your shadows in order to learn new skills and create a super bad-ass single class; which ultimately boils down to either a melee fighter or a mage. Aside from attacking skills, characters will have the ability to learn enhancement skills as well as other useful abilities for avoiding or surprising your enemies amongst the world and level maps.

Unlike most RPGs where you're forced to take one step and then a random battle occurs, enemies are placed individually among the game's different areas and you'll have the ability to engage them in any way you please. Want to gain an advantage? Use the skill stealth and sneak up behind them before engaging a battle. Of course, it works the other way though. Another useful feature in Blue Dragon is the field menu which allows you to select multiple opponents to fight consecutively one after. In between each of the battles, a bonus roulette wheel appears giving your characters an attribute boost before each fight. In some cases, monsters will fight one another to show who's king of the jungle.

Visually, the game is a mixed bag. While the character designs are awfully basic and seem as though they were created from RPG Maker Next-Gen edition, the monster and creature design in the game are awesome. I mean, how many times can you say you fought a pile of poo and lost? The game's environments are rather uninspired, as you've seen them before millions of times. With this said though, the game's FMV sequences are downright impressive on an HD monitor. On par with anything from Square Enix, the transition between cut-scene and in-game graphics are almost unnoticeable to your casual gamer.

The game's music on the other hand is quiet reminiscent of earlier works by Uematsu; mostly Final Fantasy IX. Although none of it is quite memorable, with the exception of the boss theme ?Eternity,? it provides suitable music for the game's numerous environments and none of it seems out of place. Anyways, back to the boss music. Sung by Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, the song may seem out of place at times (especially in the beginning), but as you begin to listen to it more and more, the more you'll hope that it could land in the next Guitar Hero as it simply rocks. While the hard rock isn't suitable for everyone, those who enjoy metal and rock will have a jolly good time with it.

Voice acting-wise, the English dubs are average at best. They do an alright job with conveying the character emotions, but thankfully the game is bilingual (as all RPGs should be in the next-gen). The only slightly annoying thing is the in-game announcer which can thankfully be turned off in the options menu at any given point in the game.

Exploring the game's areas and everything it has to offer (in addition to unlocking achievement points) can take a good fifty-sixty hours, but for those of you looking to rush through the game it could easily be done within forty.

Bottom Line
Blue Dragon is not the definitive RPG experience on the 360, nor even in the past several years as it fails to do anything innovative. Instead, we're presented with a RPG that takes a nostalgic look at past experiences and incorporates many elements from the Golden Age of gaming (Final Fantasy I-III) through its simple storyline and gameplay elements. Sure the characters are about as deep as a frying pan, but it shouldn't stop any JRPG lover from playing this game for at least a single playthrough. Especially for those looking for a nostalgic kick on a next-gen console. Here's to hoping that Lost Odyssey does something amazing and innovative in the future.

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