In an interesting twist the Xbox 360 exclusive role-playing game Blue Dragon has been readapted for the Nintendo DS. Abandoning its core turn-based RPG roots, Mistwalker and Hironobu Sakaguchi put a little more action behind this interesting envision of Shu and his magical shadow powers.
Loading up Blue Dragon Plus I was surprised to find out that Mistwalker and its developmental partners Brownie Brown (Heroes of Mana DS) and Feelplus (Lost Odyssey) have changed up the formula from turn-based action to a real-time tactical format. At the root of Blue Dragon Plus it is still a role-playing title, however the chance of pace is a significant switch up from the 3-disc epic that was released on the Xbox 360 two years ago. For some gamers this will be a disappointment and for others who brave the new formula a welcomed change.
In North America Mistwalker has gone with Ignition Entertainment to publish their new take on Blue Dragon. The game is also a Nintendo DS exclusive which is equally interesting. On the Nintendo DS, Blue Dragon Plus feels strangely at home. The production values are excellent and above the standard we are used to seeing in the average DS cartridge. This gives the pint sized Blue Dragon the same cinema flair that helped the Xbox 360 version garner interest. Obviously the developer wasn’t trying to match the horsepower on the DS, but for what they are working with they did an excellent job pushing Nintendo’s hardware.
Dragons, Cubes, Shadows
If you have played the original game then you’ll be interested to learn that Blue Dragon Plus picks up one year after the events of the first game. It’s not important to have played the first game when jumping into the DS edition, however if you did you’ll feel more familiar with the characters and the games world. Blue Dragon despite its Finial Fantasy roots is fairly straightforward featuring a young boy Shu who gets into huge epic sized adventures with his group of friends. One of the best parts of Blue Dragon Plus is that you are set up from the get go with the party you left on with in the Xbox game. This frees up a lot of the time that was spent on the long drawn meeting that took place in the original game and kicks the action in gear immediately.
For specifics the world is still split into two after the battle with Nene in the first game. This causes mysterious cubes to come up form the world’s depth and in one cube a violent entity called Balaur emerges. Balaur , the three-headed Dragon stir up some trouble, as expected, and it is up to you to stop its quest of devastation. All the normal RPG parallels exist with all the RPG trapping you will be familiar with, Blue Dragon Plus isn’t overly dry, but it has its moments. Don’t expect a revolutionary plot here, it is all RPG 101. The high quality full motion videos help break up the story and keep you interested along with the fast paced combat. All the RPG elements you’d expect are also present including a worthy playtime of 25-30hrs. Fans of role-playing games should find enough epic battles to keep them going until the end.
It's Cool to be Blue
The magical aspect in Blue Dragon Plus is what you would expect, with the exception of being able to summon powerful shadow creatures. Each character has their own shadow creature, and Shu’s shadow creature is the Blue Dragon which the game is named after. Some of the other characters in the game include Jiro and his Minotaur shadow, Zola and her Killer Bat, and even a Jack O’Lantern hosted by General Szabo. The shadow characters don’t exactly have the exact feel as the graphical representation on the Xbox 360, but you still get the idea. Still, each character is important and they have been carefully balanced to play a certain role in the game. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has experience in the role-playing genre, so use the healer as a healer and try and keep everyone streamlined into their specialized role.
Taking the Reigns of the Dragon
The gameplay in Blue Dragon Plus controls by using the stylus and feels fairly natural in its surroundings. You navigate from location to location getting into encounters and exploring various arenas on a map. Battles between your forces and the enemies can be all out wars with the inclusion of each sides shadow powers. The interaction between your players and the enemy move in real time in an arena. You control your party members by taping the screen and directing them towards a target. This makes the game a little confusing in the beginning, so expect a little bit of a learning curve. Once you get past all the initial confusion, Blue Dragon Plus is very entertaining. The best comparison I can give is Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings which followed a similar system.
Like any good role-playing game you can jump deep into customization if you wish. Blue Dragon Plus has enough skills, and equipment adjustments to keep you busy for longer then likely suspect. There are shops, loot to pick up, basically a lot of extra role-playing stuff to fool around with. Depending on how deep you dive, tinkering around with the skills and each character could drastically extend the games life. Like the first Blue Dragon game, Plus has a lot of extras, side-missions, and cool little things to figure out and find.
Blue Dragon Plus is a game every fan of the original Blue Dragon should look into. Even though the gameplay format and platform has changed, the game still retrains the same feel, characters, and shadow presence. There is a more than enough action to be had with its real-time combat along with all the obsessive compulsive traits you've come to love about RPGs. The only real debatable reason why a role-playing fan wouldn’t enjoy Blue Dragon Plus is the switch up from the standard turn-based combat style from the original. Mistwalker’s experiment with the new tactical, real-time system isn’t the most user friendly starting point; however once you get the swing of things it’s a good run. Blue Dragon Plus is definitely a solid title worth investigating.
Gameplay: 7, Graphics: 8.5, Sound: 6, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 7.5 Final: 7.4 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 03.02.09