It should have been called Purple Dragon
The very first JRPG for Xbox 360 by Mistwalker/ Artoon that was released in 2007 for the western audience. Since then Blue Dragon has become a franchise with two additional Nintendo DS games.
Story is a epic fantasy and steampunk aspects. The main characters Shu, Jiro and Kluke live in a small village that gets tormented by purple cloud and nasty land shark. One day Shu throws a hissy fit and decides to put a stop on the land sharks. His not giving up attitude carries through the game which is cute/interesting to see. Soon after on their journey to beat the land shark. The group come across vicious old git named Nene who turns out to be games villain. Thrown in to the mix the mystical voice who grants Shu and his friends the power of shadow magic. These being summons that aid the group of kids in the battles. There is also a love interested plot which gives the characters more depth.
Blue Dragon's battle mechanism deserves a own chapter for being such a complex thing. Each character have their summon shadow which each can have one specific class. Classes follow the standard RPG fare with White/Black Mage which are divided into attacking class and other supporting class. Games characters have no set class and these can and actually have to be cross trained. Every few level of classes unlock a specific skill. Characters have only limited available skill slots which can also be increased in form Generalist class. The shadow class leveling is further up aided with a separate experience count in form of Skill Points (SP). Combat yields both normal and SP experience. A Barrier Magic class will aid on the battle field with skills which give a small edge before the actual battle. There is such a useful skill as field barrier which kills already beaten enemies directly. This will only return SP experience but is really handy in several situations where bunch of lesser enemies are on the way. All and all I found the battle mechanism to be intriguing. This also kept the gameplay interesting while trying out different combination.
Game-play is standard Japanese turn-based roleplay where characters travel in larger over world map while facing enemies. Enemies are visible and can be avoided if wanted. On this mechanism I was not too impressed with games map. The over-world map has hardly any purpose. Not to mention the dungeon map which except for tiny piece in the UI doesn't exist. Does not show any directions or anything. Characters and the cut-scenes are beautifully made. On places the monster and characters have such smoothness and simplicity that these could be from a Pixar movie. Still well done but maybe too polished. Probably fine for younger audience and this probably what the game is aimed for as well. Other issue I had with the characters was the lack of facial expression. Hardly any emotion is shown on the characters. Game world itself doesn't have the detail the characters have. Locations feel empty and unimaginable. Shiny yes but dull.
I can not write about game's voice acting too much since Blue Dragon offers such a fine thing as Japanese voices. This is of course the original language of the game and just feels right. Only complaint here is the Manumaro character who's high pitch screams won't take long to become annoying. Suits the character but I can not imagine the English voices for this are. The music is done by Mr. Uematsu himself and this one of, if not the, best thing in the game. All the locations have stunning memorable music that gets stuck in your head for days. The Purple Dragon reference in the title of this review refers to Ian Gillan who is of course the Deep Purple vocalist. Mr Gillan has lend his voice to the boss batle track. At first I thought I was listening to a lost Purple track it being such well Deep Purple like song.
I can truly say that I did enjoy my 50h ride with Blue Dragon. Game is spread over 3 DVD's and the story can be finished in odd 30h. This does require some backtracking and grinding though. In few instances more though could have been put on the level design. Hard to imagine that at this video-game-age a games can fall into a such a nasty level trap.