The Essence of Mediocrity
Blue Dragon is a game that aims to take everything that everyone knows and loves about Japanes RPG's and package them all into one big game. Depending on your perspective, this is either the greatest thing on Earth, or something just short of Hell. I'm going to take the middle road on this one and say that while Blue Dragon does not introduce anything exceptionally new, revolutionary, or even distinguishing; it does take the JRPG elements that have been introduced in other games and refines them to a point of near perfection.
The story of Blue Dragon is one that can be summed up in exactly one word: cliché. Or if you'd prefer another word: bland. It all starts with three teens in a small village that are terrorized by a “monster.” Fed up, they decide to try to do something about it. They fall with spectacular results, and this kick-starts the story. What follows can only be described as 50 hours of I-saw-this-coming character development with few twists and turns that are unexpected. However, there are “climax” events at the end of each disc which prove to be quite entertaining by themselves. Unfortunately for the story of the game, these events are too few and far between to make the middle any better. Let me emphasize that this story is not bad, per se, just unimaginative and predictable.
The same goes with the characters. There's the stereotypical “Never give up, never surrender!” main character. Then there's his foil that on his own spends too much time thinking and not enough time acting. Then there's the girl which they're both fawning over the whole game. Did I mention that she plays the damsel in distress role quite well too? Combine that with what I can only describe as a 10 year old kid with the worst voice acting this side of Final Fantasy X, and a “tough” mercenary and you have what might be the MOST recognizable cast in JPRG history. My previous points ring true here as well. These characters aren't bad, just blah. I will throw in one interesting note on them. The mercenary Zola has a plot twist at the end that was something I wasn't expecting. I'm not quite sure if this is because the developers didn't know what to do and just threw a part at her, or if I missed out on some kind of tiny detail early on.
The battle system is fairly intuitive and interesting. Spells have “charge” times such that you can spend a long time casting a small spell, or a short time casting a big spell and get the same effect. So, your first level “heal” when charged all the way up can heal the same or more as an uncharged “healus.” Add this with some neat multicasting abilities and you can get some rather ridiculous combinations going on in a battle. The battle system itself is your standard turn-based affair, with no active timer. It's all very reminiscent of Final Fantasy X in terms of the turn “order.” The job system isn't anything too special. Your shadows have jobs and jobs levels are independent of character level. If you've played Final Fantasy 3 or 5 you'll know exactly what I'm talking about as soon as you load up the game.
In summary, this is the penultimate game for those of you that absolutely love the genre of JRPG's. For those of you that have played one or two of them before you'll quickly find out that this game adds absolutely nothing to the genre. In between a relatively weak story, some annoying characters, and a decent battle system this all adds up to 3 out of 5 stars. Not bad, but not really good either.