Traditional Fantasy Yarn
Blue Dragon essentially has one aspiration; to be a collage of classic RPGs to make the most traditional role-playing yarn in existence; and that’ll sound like your dream come true or your worst nightmare, depending on what games you like to play. If you’re in the market for a game where teenaged anime caricatures fight generic evil, gain experience, and earn new skills, all the while learning something about themselves, then boy is this a game for you. If you’re looking for something new, you couldn’t be more off the mark by checking out Blue Dragon.
The game’s story begins with an evil Land Shark that harasses the village of the main character, Shu, and two of his friends. This creature has appeared in the past, too, murdering Shu’s parents and destroying the village. This time, however, the trio realize that the Land Shark is being controlled by a greater power, and they set out to find out what it is.
There’s not much of a story here in Blue Dragon, despite the game’s digital girth; weighing in at three DVDs and over 50 hours of gameplay, the length and scope of the game certainly don’t come up light. However, the actual plot here is razor thin, and you spend most of the game’s first disc just running around the countryside, fighting and getting used to the game’s battle nuances. The main villain in Blue Dragon – Nene – is horrid, and not in a good way. He wears grandmother glasses and has a pursed up smile welded onto his wrinkly purple face. Worse still is that, well, he has no reason for being evil. He’s basically just a jerk. Hardly a compelling reason to want to see what happens next.
However, like its very early forebears, Blue Dragon’s plot exists to give you just enough storytelling yarn to take you from one location to the next, giving you tons of enemies to fight, skills to learn, and accessories to equip and experiment with. In general, playing Blue Dragon is much more simple than your average modern RPG. You level up by killing monsters out in the world and earning experience points. You’ll also be able to pick a separate class, and battles will also level these up. Classes earn you new skills and boost your stats, while your character’s level is more of a general show of experience. You can switch classes frequently to learn a variety of skills, but generally you’ll want to pick a speciality for each character and stick with it to earn powerful skills more quickly.
Accessories are things like rings and necklaces that carry magic powers. Essentially, these items just boost your stats. So if you find a ring that boosts you Magic attack power, you’ll want to give that to your magic user. Very basic associations like these make Blue Dragon great for beginners, and also serve as a nice nostalgia trip for experienced RPG players.
Although there’s nothing special about how the game plays, there’s something oddly refreshing about a game that returns to convention with such high spirits. Whereas most modern RPGs flood you with dialogue, cut scenes, and other exposition, Blue Dragon is almost all gameplay, with field and battle segments stitched together with very brief exchanges of dialogue and the occasional short CG scene. The game knows what it’s doing, and adds in a number of features to make your exploring and battling go nice and smooth, including a fantastic map that’s easy to read as well as a ‘battle ring’ you can use to fight multiple enemies in a row. This adds a bit of strategy just to the premise of battle; rope together enemies who don’t get along into one battle, and they’ll fight each other too, thinning out their ranks while you reap the rewards.
There’s a few cute moments in the game’s story, but for the most part, this is a tour through lots of tried-and-true fantasy environments, battling colourful enemies on equally rich backdrops. It’s a cute and easy game that’s meant to be just enjoyed on a simple level, and not necessarily all that good for hardcore types who want to ‘master’ a game.
It’s hard to classify Blue Dragon because there’s nothing really outwardly good or bad about playing it. It’s an RPG – and one you could probably mistake for many others – but it does it with such a zeal for tradition that you probably won’t care. Instead, you’ll enjoy it for what it is; a throwback to role-playing games of the 90s, with some extra paint thrown on for good measure. You might not want to pay full price for it, but fans of the genre will certainly get some mileage out of it.