Friday, October 05, 2007

VG REVIEW: Blue Dragon


“BLUE DRAGON”
Microsoft, for Xbox 360, rated T for Teen (alcohol reference, crude humor, fantasy violence, mild language, mild suggestive themes), $59.99.


It was supposed to be a match made in heaven. The return of the dream team.

Hironobo Sakaguchi, creator of the “Final Fantasy” series, Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the music for most of the “Fantasy” games and Akira Toriyama, character designer and cartoonist of the acclaimed “Dragon Ball Z” manga, would join forces to work on a video game for Sakaguchi’s new company, Mistwalker.

The last time these three artists teamed up the result was “Chrono Trigger,” a role-playing game that is one of the few “classics” that still remains immensely enjoyable.

What we got instead was “Blue Dragon,” an enjoyable but wholly average rpg that, while amusing, will surely be regarded as a letdown for those who hoped, nay, prayed for greatness.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A plucky young lad from a bucolic village attempts, along with his cookie-cutter friends, to stop the nameless terror that is plaguing his town (in this instance, it’s a “land shark,” prompting guffaws and memories of classic “SNL” skits).

Along the way he and his companions gain impressive mystical powers (the blue dragons of the game’s title) and discover lost civilizations and dangerous monsters and blah, blah, blah.

The story and characters are two of the biggest problems with the game. There’s not a single person, creature or plot line here that you haven’t seen before. As such, it’s extremely hard to feign interest in the various goings-on, despite the protagonists’ evident excitement.

The combat system is a little more intriguing. Taking a few pages from “Final Fantasy V,” “Blue Dragon allows you to switch your character’s “classes,” so that your Sword Master, for example, can learn to be a Monk or Assassin without losing any of his sword skills. It’s a nice, flexible system.

There are other things to like too, such as the Field System, which not only does away with random battles (one of the more annoying aspects of most rpgs these days) but also allows you to pit various monsters against each other by attempting to fight groups of them at once.

The game makes considerable use of the Xbox 360’s graphical capabilities, but the “Dragon’s” cute aesthetic at the same time works against it. The figures are too polished and stiff. They look more like Hummel figurines than characters you could relate to or spend time with.

The worst thing I can say about “Blue Dragon” is it’s completely average. An enjoyable way to spend a few hours, especially if you’re hungry for an rpg, but nothing that will get your blood pumping. And considering the number of top-tier games that are out right now, “average” just isn’t good enough.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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