Hello, everyone, and welcome back to part 2 of this 3-year RPG Special. We last left off on one of the developer Mistwalker’s most celebrated titles, Lost Odyssey for the Xbox 360. For a console that is covered in shooters, Lost Odyssey is one of the best games you could get if you want Japanese-style RPG’s. While you could complain that it shouldn’t have used random battles (and to some extent I agree), I love the game. I enjoyed and was pulled into the story, I enjoyed the characters, and I love the turn-based fighting mechanics. It’s one of the better games you can get for the 360, and for about 10 to 12 bucks, I could totally recommend this 4 disc long game. However, there was a game that came out before Lost Odyssey that is still solid, but might be the weakest RPG in this special. I mean it’s not a terrible game since I don’t want to play a terrible RPG like some RPGs in the past, but it is probably in the same area where it has good and bad points that could be the deciding point for you as a gamer as to whether or not to invest in it. Let’s try to catch our shadows and review Blue Dragon.
Blue Dragon takes place in a fantasy world where once a year, weird things happen in different parts of the world. Later, these occurrences are revealed to be caused by ancient machines thought to have been destroyed or buried forever. During one occurrence in a small place called Talta Village, three teenagers named Shu, Jiro, and Kluke get wrapped up with the main villain of the game named Nene, who somehow knows how to control these ancient weapons. Along the journey, the three teens will be joined by a little demon character named Marumaro and a warrior girl named Zola. Here is one of the deciding points that I talked about. The story is very weak and pretty generic. It’s a shame, since this is by the guys behind Final Fantasy and the artist of the Dragon Quest franchise. The characters are pretty bland and don’t really have anything that separates them except probably their gender. There are some grand and epic moments, but there really isn’t a wow factor that the story has going for it. Just like another great RPG, Lufia 2, the story is a missed opportunity and I don’t think Microsoft really wanted to put down the money for a truly solid translation for the game, which in the end, makes the story come off as generic. It boils down to the point where some of the side characters and the main villain have more character to them and that’s bad when you feel more attached to the side characters and the bad guys, since Nene is not that bad of a villain.
Like the story, the gameplay is pretty straightforward. It’s a turn-based RPG, which is how Japan loves their RPG’s. It has a bit of a wall system like Lost Odyssey. Since you only have 5 characters to control, you can have 3 characters up front who will take most of the damage while the two other characters will be in the back casting spells and taking less damage. There are a few tweaks to the system, which are nice. Random battles are thrown out the window in place of monsters that are visible on the field and overworld map. Your main weapons are the giant blue shadow monsters that resonate within your character. This means you are only equipping items that will make your health higher, take less damage, and increasing your attack powers to name a few. Your shadow monsters are also class specific, and can change classes throughout the game, like for example, Shu’s shadow is a warrior, but can learn attack and defense magic. Each class has specific abilities that you can carry over from that class to help customize your party to the perfect fighting force. Some of the abilities learned from these classes can be used outside of battle, like make a sphere around your character that can defeat monsters kind of like an instant win mechanic in Earthbound, but you only gain part of the experience that you would have gained from fighting them. There is even a battle grid that you can make appear, entrapping any monsters that are within it to fight in order to gain bigger awards, but also risk fighting monsters that are stronger than you and get wailed on. Another added bonus for the battle is that sometimes if you entrap specific monsters, you can pull off something called a monster fight that will make certain monsters fight other ones, making some fights easier. Later in the game to pay tribute to Final Fantasy, you can unleash super moves that take forever, but bring in the pain, usually killing all of the monsters. Even if the gameplay in this game is straightforward it’s deep enough to be enjoyable.
The graphics are beautiful. Instead of taking an anime cel shaded look, like the Naruto Clash of Ninja series, which I think looks cheap, everything here looks like it was made out of clay. Everything is smooth, and there are basically no ridges on any of the characters. It looks great, and it helps with the added art style of Akira Toriyama due to his creative approach towards enemies and characters. I especially love how the machines look, definitely very original looking. Famous composer, Nobuo Uematsu, does the music. While this isn’t his best work, there are some great tracks that range from soft piano playing to techno music, to even a terrible, but addictive boss fight music that is like shredded up rock and roll. It’s a great package if you’re looking for good presentation in this game.
However, I have a lot of complaints for one of the better RPG’s on the 360. The story is weak! I think it’s because it was a poor translation. I mean, there aren’t any grammar issues, but I just never felt blown away by a lot of the events in the story. This is a flipping RPG! You HAVE to HAVE a GOOD STORY! The characters are bland and forgettable except for a few side characters and the main villain. That is sad when you can’t feel connected or even care for the 5 main characters! I also hate the character design for most of the main cast. Marumaro is like the only main character design I like. The other 4 main characters have huge heads that would in real life make your neck snap. There aren’t even a lot of emotions in their faces, usually the same facial emotion through the entire game. This is Mistwalker Studios by the way, the people who made Lost Odyssey and hopefully coming here in the states, The Last Story. Two greatly well-received games! Lost Odyssey’s story might not be original either, but it’s actually interesting and keeps you going while you play with memorable characters! Did Microsoft not have that much faith in this game? I mean, you’ve got a legendary RPG designer, a legendary character designer, and a famed composer! I think you could have at least given up the money for a good translation. I also hate how you can’t level up everything at once, like in Tales of Vesperia. In that game, even if you aren’t using specific characters, they will still level up! It’s so tedious, since later in the game you will need to grind all of your classes and for a while, you will lose one of the main characters that happens to be the attack magic user. I also hate this barrier spell that you can kill enemies with on the overworld and level screen, because unless you level up your barrier magic abilities, it takes up a huge chunk of magic points each time you run into a monster and kill it, while only gaining a small amount of experience and shadow points that you could have gotten. In Earthbound, with the instant win mechanic, you wouldn’t have to lose any of those experience points, you would just have to run up to a monster weaker than you and BOOM! Fight’s over, and you gain all of the experience you would have gotten if you were forced to fight it. Of course, later in the game, if you level up your barrier magic abilities, the “kill weaker monsters” barrier will give you more experience, but it’s usually a bad idea to switch classes, since you will basically drop in everything from health to attack power if you choose a different class.
Even though I pointed out some annoying flaws with this game, I enjoyed it more than other more terrible RPG’s, like the first Two Worlds and Risen. Heck, Blue Dragon is very cheap now with the highest price I’ve seen being 10 dollars. I still recommend this game over a huge number of RPG’s and shooters that are on the system. Now, the story is terrible and the characters forgettable and this might be the deciding point if you want to buy this game or not, but trust me it’s a good game. It has solid turn-based mechanics with a more streamlined customization feature, and it doesn’t have random battles. Thanks for reading and see you in part 3 where we travel to a no man’s land and I take a breath and take a chance with Tales of Vesperia.
This game gets a 7 out of 10