4.2

Blue Dragon review
Always Final Fantasy's shadow

Summary:

I can't blame people for finding Blue Dragon enticing back when it was released. It was the only traditional JRPG out at the time on the seventh generation consoles (though I'd like to think that Enchanted Arms was good too), and... well, that's it, mostly because as the generation went on, more JRPGs came by and managed to... well, some at least satisfy me more (Eternal Sonata), and some even blow me away (Lost Odyssey, Resonance Of Fate and Tales Of Vesperia). Sadly, Blue Dragon fits under the "filler" basket, serving as something to pass the time while better games were still in production.

Story: I honestly can't say I liked it. I actually found it to be shallow and boring, with some really annoying characters. The story is basically this - three kids are taken by a machine and they swallow orbs, which transforms their shadows into beasts - a dragon, a minotaur and a phoenix. They fight against Nene and barely escape with their lives. Believe it or not, that's all the plot you get for a good 30-40 hours. There may be some sidestories expected, but to be honest, they aren't even remotely interesting. Nothing grabs you, the story never sucks you in, and the worst part is that it just goes on, and on, and on, until predictable twists executed with no soul occur... I honestly don't care, the story lost me within the first few hours, and for about as long as I was able to tolerate it before selling the game and never looking back, it never gained my interest (you thought I was going to say regain, didn't you... joke's on you, I was never interested).

What hurts it for me is the characterization. To me, the characters are either pretty boring, or pretty annoying. With a plot that has as much depth as a bobble head blonde chick, I was expecting the characters to be interesting, but ironically enough, they're what make me fall asleep in the first place! They never say anything that makes me want to care about them, and their personalities match that of an NPC. I didn't care what happened to them, and I sure as shit didn't get absorbed into what little personalities they had. It's really hard to actually describe how boring they are, because it's impossible to pay attention to such lame characters without the need for drugs.

Gameplay: When you first begin, it seems like an alright RPG. You got your normal overworld exploration, towns, dungeons and fights. As you proceed, the gameplay loses a lot of momentum. Then again, this is what you get when you root for the generic RPGs, because that's what this game is. It takes tried and true formulas, and just rehashes them. This would've been fine if the story was actually decent, but since that isn't the case, the gameplay quickly becomes redundant and shitty.

Overworld is what you'd expect - running around on a scaled down world to save time on travelling to your destinatination, which is also scaled down... I have no problems with this, other RPGs do this too and it's at least serviceable in getting you from one place to the other. There are lots of chests littered around, and towards the end, you get an airship, but I never made it far enough to get it.. all I know is that you can scale the world faster and over water, which at least helps in getting to places you normally couldn't and complete some sidequests - most of which involve killing stronger monsters - and get to the last part of the game. That's about it.

Towns are also familiar to fans of the genre - NPCs to talk to and shops to buy items from. However, NPCs are hardly helpful as they tell you mostly useless shit that you don't care to know. SOME tell you what you need to know, especially ones in the camps, but for the most part, you couldn't care less for what they have to say. As for shops, they sell most of the essentials like armor, accessories, spells and items, and I guess you can forgive the lack of weapons since your shadows do all the work... The towns, outside of shops, are pointless. Add on to the fact that the cutscenes tell you just about everything you need to know, and to figure out the rest, all you need to do is explore a little, towns just serve as Point B at times.

Dungeons are pretty snoozeworthy. They mostly consist of just traversing along a path, and having to only do a couple of things to open up the path to the next location or boss. Some dungeons don't even have that, and in the end, they're just "walk from Point A to Point B" with some enemies to fight along the way. I remember going through this one dungeon, and I swear to god, it was so *bleep*ing linear, that it almost felt pointless going through it. The only thing stopping me from just getting it over and done with was that I had to look for a few items, then backtrack to the guy who needs them, and then go through the linear borefest without going to sleep... it's as if the level designers woke up every day and just said to themselves "I'm not going to design! I don't know what I'm going to do, but it's definitely not designing!" Flunkies.

The battle system could've been a saving grace, but it's not exactly. It's simple enough - a few options, those being attack, defend and item at the very least, and depending on what class you have equipped at the time and how much you've leveled that up over time, you'll get other commands, like Black Magic for Black Mages, White Magic for White/Support/Barrier Mages (geez, way to split hairs, guys), and some others as the classes level up. Turn order is determined by the speed statistic of all of the participants, and what attack they used, since some attacks require more recovery time than others. Really, all you have to do is input the right commands to keep your fighters alive while killing everybody on the enemy side. Simple, really. The main problem I have with this is that it's so goddamn easy.

It has some neat ideas to TRY and seperate itself. There's a charge meter, where you hold the A button for a spell or a Monk's attack and the longer you hold it down, the longer the attack takes, but the more damage it does, though the best results are outlined by a different colored line. On the world map or in dungeons, you can open up a field, and every enemy in it is yours for the picking. Unfortunately, they pussed out by giving you a random stat increase after defeating a group of enemies, meaning you can sweep them easily. Come on, I want to feel like I earned the extra EXP! Although I like the idea of enemies that hate each other showing their hatred by figthing each other instead of joining forces to fight our heroes, it makes things too easy. Wouldn't it be logical to make the enemies stronger, since they're in rage mode!? I don't know. All I know is that the two-layer system - a front line and a back line - is a pretty good one, as it allows a little strategy, though it's just a case of putting the mages at the back lines and the berserker types (Sword Masters, Monks, Assassins) at the front, since the back line takes less physical damage, though their physical attacks leave a lot to desire, and the opposite is for the front line (lesser defenses, higher offenses). Again, all good ideas, but most of them feel like wasted potential, and the rest are good on their own merits...

If you want a summary, here's one - Blue Dragon just plays it safe to the point where it's inconsequential whether or not you play it. It's nothing new, nothing executed exceptionally well, nothing fun, and... just a whole heap of nothing.

Controls: For the most part, the controls work as finely as you'd expect for a JRPG. The buttons respond just as they would and are simple to get the hang of, even the ones that aren't of the usual sort, like the field abilities and the encounter circle. Just one issue - the charging feels a little delayed, like I let go and the bar goes further a bit more than I'd expect it to go, which would delay my character's turn further than it should, and it doesn't seem as powerful - or worse yet, that character is ready to die.

Graphics: Akira Toriyama is a damn fine artist. He has his own sort of style that you would've come to recognize after the likes of Chrono Trigger and the Dragon Ball franchise. His backgrounds and surrounding objects are as samey as other Japanese artists, but his character models, especially for the non-humans, always have this creative spark to them, like he was probably high or something while drawing them up. His designs still have that top notch quality we've come to expect from him. What wrecks the graphics for me is how behind the times they are. It's like I'm looking at a PS2 game from 2003, and I'm sure at this point, the 360 can afford to up the ante. That, and it seems to lag when magic attacks are performed - that's poor programming, and again, it feels like the 360 hasn't had its processors utilized correctly. Honestly, I want to feel like I'm playing a game made in 2006 when the labels clearly state "copywrited 2006" or some shit like that, not a game made in 2003 for the PS2, or shoot, maybe a Dreamcast reject! Damn. I like the aesthetics, but not the technicality.

Audio: Some of the tunes sound pretty good, though nothing too special. They're more for atmosphere, or getting you into the mood, which is good. Can't say I liked the boss tune, though. Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame sings, and he's still got it to some degree, though it seems like he's lost a fair amount of the attitude that made his vocals awesome in big hits such as Highway Star. I might also add that this song goes from alright, to *bleep*ing annoying after a few boss fights. After the fifth fight, I just hit mute and played the Final Fantasy 9 boss tune on my CD player, because that's a much better tune. It really pumps the blood, gets you into battle, yet it also has that foreboding atmosphere, like you're fighting a boss. This song that passes itself off as a boss tune has no atmosphere or anything - it's just a song that wouldn't even make a Deep Purple compilation CD and they had to get the song out there somehow - ooh, here's a mediocre JRPG, let's put it there!

Might also add that the voice acting ranges from mediocre to annoying. None of it draws you into the story due to how innefectual it feels, like as if the actors are just there for the paycheque, and sometimes, it even detracts from the story due to how annoying some of the characters' voices are. I don't know about you, but if I hear Maromaro's voice again, I'll probably reach into the TV and *bleep*ing strangle him until his eyes explode - that's how much his voice pissed me off.

Replay Value: There is no New Game+ feature, unless you download it... for a price. This shits me. What if I don't feel like forking over a few more bucks for a feature that should've been in the game in the first place? Oh, then no New Game+, no second chance to get all those super special awesome items I could only get in that one situation, therefore, no second chance to get all the achievements, and there's no difficulty increase without buying the New Game+ DLC, so there's almost no point in replaying this game. Mediocre games don't normally deserve more than one playthrough, anyway.

Overall: I feel like a massive douchebag slamming my guts onto this game because it has a high score on Metacritic, and it was favorable to many people I know of on top of professional reviewers... Maybe I'm being too hard to Blue Dragon, because let's face it - a lot of people liked it, people wanted a JRPG that was more like Final Fantasy on the 360, and there wasn't much in this department at the time... well, here's the thing - after Enchanted Arms, Blue Dragon just feels generic, bland, uninspired, and boring! Boring story, boring exploration, mediocre battle system, mediocre graphics, mediocre soundtrack, and voice acting that almost makes me envy the deaf - it's a serviceable game, but there's no fun to be had and nothing to really invest your time into. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to Enchanted Arms.

Scores:
Story: 1/5
Gameplay: 7/15
Controls: 7/10
Graphics: 3/5
Audio: 2/5
Replay Value: 1/10
Overall: 21/50

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smithswood Oct 9, 10
"voice acting that almost makes me envy the deaf" - Has to be the best description of how voice-acting makes you feel I think I've ever read!
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