kalmis's Blue Dragon Plus (Nintendo DS) review

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Blue Dragon Minus rather

Let's start dissecting this title by looking at the name first. Blue Dragon of course is a IP that got started on Xbox 360. The game was standard JRPG fare with some really impressive character models, as well as deep combat system. Blue Dragon Plus is a direct sequel for this game. Platform has moved from Xbox 360 to Nintendo DS. And the game has gotten a plus title attached to the name. Which would imply that this is a superior product to the first game. Or maybe just not as full blown sequel that doesn't deserve a full number.

 As mentioned the story follows the first game directly. While traveling in the anomaly caused by first games antagonist Nene the main character Shu discovers monsters with ability to use shadow magic. Which previously was a rare trade for Shu's buddies. And for Nene of course. He teams up with old group and goes to look for this in more detail. The cast is larger this time around. Every dialog-able character from the first game is included in the group. Nene is back in the action as well and this time around his story is also explored more. 

Biggest change on the DS version except for the graphics (naturally) is the game-play. It has changed from turn-based random encounters to real time battle with large roster. Final Fantasy Tactics being a role model here. Only difference being that there is no grid. Well besides the tiles in the ground which only in few maps is visible. The free traveling has also been removed. Making the progression in the Cube world, the world where action happens, floor based. IE. each floor being one battle level. Short cut-scenes occurring on each new floor. The large roster is split into 4 groups with some having a mandatory story members. The deep battle mechanism is also (tried) to be kept intact. This is in form of support roles and importance of placement as well as items. Unfortunately on the game-play this is where the game fails. The invisible grid and game camera angle from 4 directions makes it hard to place squat ideally. Not to mention if and when the enemy moves. The strategic placement is lost  immediately. Making the battles, which is the core of the game very frustrating.
Graphics are presented in 16-bit JRPG way. Where each character has colorful and detailed sprite. The game world is similarly bland from the Xbox game. As well as too many recycled battle levels. The rendered cutscenes from the first game are also shown. These look generally as good, even if more blurry. Audio is bit mixed bag. Recycling the Xbox tracks. Still from hands of Nobuo Uematsu, only in MIDI. Still top notch compositions, just shame that is not too different from the first game.

For someone who has played the Xbox game I would not recommend this title. Unless you were completely thrilled by Shu and his world. The combat mechanism is just too broken. For some who has not experienced the Xbox games and or is not fond of turn based combats then this completely different thing. The long and relatively decent story with good looking sprites and short action based levels are good fun.    

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