Blue Dragon Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
August 28, 2007
Microsoft Game Studios

Blue Dragon

When little expense is spared to convince you no expense has been spared.

Review by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
November 8th 2007

Dread stirs in the Talta Village when the purple clouds descend. The villagers all know what to expect, hurrying up to the highest reaches as an enormous, rocky fin emerges from the canyon floor: the land shark, coming once a year to carve a path of destruction through their lives. As is typically the case, a few young people refuse to stand idly by. Shu is bold and courageous, but not exactly bright, so it's a good thing he's backed by the more intellectual Jiro, and assisted by the token woman with the spunky attitude, Kluke. Their desperate attack on the land shark will lead to a globetrotting adventure, changing themselves and their world forever.

Typical grand RPG stuff, really. Blue Dragon adheres to the mold of classic Japanese RPGs with its turn-based battles and story of a handful of young people taking on the world, but it does so with a nod to everything that's happened since the SNES days, doing away with most of the clunkiness that were partly due to hardware limitations. The only irritating convention it sticks with is save points stretched out much too far, forcing a player to commit at least an hour to make any progress, which certainly didn't endear it to busy reviewers. The menus also range into the clunky side with important functions nested three layers deep and pauses between layers making simple things like healing a chore. Outside of the slightly too frequent slowdown in battle, the game sports no other flaws. None.

Plus it has Marumaro, the most endearing non-human punk with a pot on his head to ever grace a videogame.

Well, maybe a few minor ones, but nothing that gets in the way of the most delightful game experience this 360/PS3 generation has to offer. On occasion, the visuals defy belief, while most of the time they're simply incredible. Sony were the ones who promised Toy Story graphics in real time, but here it is at last: characters and settings so smooth and detailed, so full of detailed animations, they it's sometimes hard to accept the whole thing isn't pre-rendered. Of course, for the truly spectacular scenes the game does revert to pre-rendered cinemas, which explains why the game comes on three loaded discs, but just as often it seems these are mixed in with the in-game cinematics to artfully disguise any loading times. Loading times in general are fairly short, though slightly annoying to get that black screen when visiting small interiors. Small interiors which are completely optional, but like everything else, lavishly detailed.

Combat has excellent flow. Enemies appear on the field, letting the player get them by surprise for an advantage. You can also hit multiple enemies at the same time, which may trigger a Monster Fight. Here the monsters battle it out against each other, and let you pick off the stragglers. There are also field skills that can be used to weaken enemies or avoid them entirely. Yet if you want to fight, it can be as quick or as complex as you desire, especially with a range of Normal to Impossible difficulty settings (as a free optional download). Typical options of attack, defense, spells, and item usage greet you. It's all very polished and familiar, though the one crucial addition is charging up your spells, which delay their attack but pack more power, whether nearly doubling the damage of an attack spell, or making sure everyone gets their share of shielda. Delaying your spell until just the right moment often decides the victor.

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