zh666's Blue Dragon (Xbox 360) review

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Blue Dragon was extremely easy, but enjoyable RPG.

Blue Dragon reminds me of a mix of Final Fantasy X-2, Dragon Quest 8 and Evolution, maybe with dash of Okage: Shadow King for good measure. There was a few things that really peeved me about Blue Dragon, sure the game was extremely easy, sure the blur effects annoyed the crap out of me, sure the story was perfectly average at best, and sure the graphics weren't exactly blowing my mind. Outside of that, I really loved building up my job classes, I loved exploring the world around me, I loved the music, I loved the art style.

Blue Dragon was far from the most original game ever, but I atleast enjoyed most of the game. What can I say, I like JRPGs.

----------Battle System----------
Blue Dragon is a turn-based RPG. The turns are placed out by the character or enemy with the best agility. Characters and enemies are lined up from each other (like say, Evolution for the Dreamcast) and can be placed in a front or back row. Depending on which row the character/enemy is standing on, they can get a defense or offensive bonus. This is typical among early Final Fantasy games, and even the Evolution games. Another Evolution similarity is the bar that tracks the order of up-coming attacks by enemies and characters.

You gain experience like any normal rpg after you defeat enemies in a battle. You also gain SP points, these are skill points. The SP goes towards your Shadows. Each character has one shadow, but you can change your job class. You can be a Sword, Guardian, Monk, Black Mage, White Mage, Assassian, Generalist, Barrier Mage or a Support Mage. This system kinda reminds me of Final Fantasy X-2 mixed with Dragon Warrior 7. After so many skill points, your Shadow's job class can level up, after a pre-determined amount of levels your shadow can gain new abilities. Your Shadows power adds to your power as well, so say Shu is at level 10 and he has 100 HP, add the Shadow at level 10 and he has 100 HP, so Shu will have about 200 HP (this is just an example). So you're basically playing as two characters, so when you switch to a lower level shadow, Shu will probably be a weaker character until he levels up his shadow.

When you have a shadow equipped, you'll have one Skill unlocked, for example if you're a Monk, you can Guard, or if you're a White Mage you'll be able to use White Magic. Over time, you can eventually equip 8 other skills from ANY job class that you've already learned. You can basically make a lean mean killing machine if you unlock all the good skills. This actually breaks the game and makes it WAY to easy. You can learn a skill that will attack two times, learn a skill that will automatically counter, you can learn a skill that will cast two magic attacks at once.

You can't equip weapons, but you can equip 4 accessories (and 3 bonus accessories later in the game). These accessories are basically a standard substitute for Weapons, Armor, Helmet and whatever. The Bracelet boosts your strength, the Ring boosts your defense, etc..

Boss fights require no thought or strategy at all. You can pretty much beat this game without using magic at all if you wanted to. You'll punch yourself to victory with every boss fight. Dungeons and overall exploring in the game will make up for the mundane boss fights. I had the most fun in this game just running around dungeons and fields, looking for stuff, figuring out the (simplistic) puzzles.

One good feature is the lack of random encounters. All enemies are visiable on screen before a battle, you can run away from them at anytime. There are only a few enemies that might block your path or will guard a treasure though. It's similar to Chrono Trigger, but in Chrono Trigger it's more of a puzzle to avoid a battle. Blue Dragon's system is closer to Grandia games where you can just avoid a battle all together. One cool feature, and maybe the only original thought in the game is the ability to gather all surrounding enemies into a collection of fights. Say your are surrounded by 4 enemies, all you have to do is hit one of the triggers and then you can battle all 4 in a row without having to waste time exiting and enter battle. You also get battle bonus' between fights. Sometimes if you group up enemies that hate each other, like for example an Insect creature and a Plant creature, they will fight each other rather than your characters.

----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Shu, Jiro and Kluke. You're all in your late teens (although they look more like 13 year olds) and live in a small secluded village that gets attacked by a Land Shark every year. Shu, Jiro and Kluke are tired of being tormented and having their village destroyed every year, so they attempted to attack the Land Shark. During the battle, they find out that the land shark is really a robot, sent by an evil magician called Nene. Nene has been tormenting every town with some weird idea for the past 10 years. As Shu, Jiro and Kluke board Nene's lair, they find magical orbs that give me magical powers to control their shadows as weapons. Shu, Jiro and Kluke later hook up with Marumaro and Lady Zora, and go on a quest to stop Nene from destroying the world.

The story was typical, but it gave you enough reason to play the game. It's really no better or worse than Skies of Arcadia, but Shu, Jiro and Kluke were kinda forgettable main characters. Other than that, the story was good enough.

I loved the style of the graphics, but at the same time hated a few aspects of them too. I loved the character models. They're animated nicely, and looked great. Some characters looked straight out of Dragon Quest 8 and others looked straight out of Chrono Trigger. On the other hand, the monsters were kinda generic looking and totally forgettable. I really really hated the blur effects. Blue Dragon has this stupid feature where they blur out the backgrounds to make draw-distance look further than it really is. While it's nice in theory, it gets annoying when you run faster than the blur effects disappear, so you can actually run into the blur and the whole screen gets messed up. It makes me think my eyes are getting worse than they actually are. I hate it.

I don't like the battle system animations though. The shadows look really choppy, I hate how the camera flashes around all the time (this annoyed me about Wild Arms 3 and most Dragonball games). I like how fast the loading is, and how big the areas are. Besides that, any of the areas within this game could of been in a PS2 game without a problem. Besides the character models and maybe some of the cleaned up cutscenes, there really isn't much in this game that wowed my visually.

The scope of the game is huge though, there's alot of enemies to fight, nearly 300 or so. Although most of them are repeats with different color or higher level. There are ton of sidequests, a ton of characters, alot of cutscenes and overall a ton of stuff do to and see.

All the main characters and any character that is involved in the storyline have voice overs. Not all dialog is voiced out though. The main character Shu has a very high energy voice and can be a little annoying, I'm pretty sure he is voiced out by the same person that did Musashi in Brave Fencer Musashi. Just like Brave Fencer, his voice is really annoying at first, but you do eventually warm up to it. Another voice that can be a little annoying is Marumaro, who is a little bat-humaniod character with a shrill over excited loud voice. The voice fits his personality, but it is a bit over the top and loud. Other than that, I had no problems with the voice cast with the other characters. Kluke and Jiro's voices were a little dull but it fit their personalities.

The music is freaking amazing. The battle music is rememerable, victory music is rememberable, the town music is rememberable, the boss battle music is rememberable. I loved the music. This is some of the best new music I've heard since Baten Kaitos, and like Baten Kaitos there are songs with vocals. There's atleast 3 or 4 songs within the game with voices and I love it. The boss battle music is even sung by Deep Purple / Black Sabbath alumni Ian Gillan. The boss music really threw me off at first but after hearing it a bunch of times I couldn't get the song out of my head. I love the huge variety of music too. There's weird techno songs, slow acoustic tracks, speed metal, gothic drone, etc.

----------World Map----------
The world map is an overview of connecting fields, dungeons and towns. This is not much different than Dragon Quest 8, actually it's almost exactly the same thing as Dragon Quest 8, not that this is a bad thing. I loved Dragon Quest 8's world map design, while I think Blue Dragon's world is a little less detailed and more forgettable in a sense compared to Dragon Quest 8 with less explorable areas. Blue Dragon loads alot quicker between world map / town or world map / plane.

There's a warp function you get fairly early in the game (kinda like Dragon Quest 8, hey). You can't warp to any town or dungeon that includes a warp device, you have to first find this device and when you unlock it, you can warp back and forth at anytime. I like that you can backtrack, but there are a couple times in the game where you're trapped within a town. Even if you can backtrack there isn't really any reason to until later in the game when you get more sidequest items. Near the end of the game you'll get your flying plane (like Dragon Quest 7 and 8). There's only one more dungeon beyond this point in the game, but when you get your flying ship you do unlock a bunch of sidequest dungeons and bonus bosses, so there's quite a bit to do if you don't want to rush the end of the game.

----------Time to Complete Game----------

The final boss is quite possibly the easiest final boss I ever fought in my entire life. You can save before the final form of the final boss, but this you can't backtrack from this point, so if you missed anything, then save with a different file. After you beat the game, you get a pretty lengethy ending, which was pretty sweet. No reward for beating the game, but you can download a free patch that will unlock New Game+ and Insane mode if you want a higher difficulty.

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