Blue Dragon

Hironobu Sakaguchi, Akira Toriyama, Nobuo Uematsu the last project that these three men created was one of if not the best RPG experience that you can get on the SNES. That game was Chrono Trigger, with its young and ambitious hero, and time warping game play this was one of the better RPG’s that the 90’s saw. Jump ahead some years, and consoles later and these men have teamed up again to deliver the best RPG on the Xbox 360, or even the original Xbox-.Blue Dragon.

In a time where most RPG’s are going to the “open world environments” Sakaguchi-san has stayed the course with the turn based combat. Being the father of the Final Fantasy he has years of experience working on turn based games. So that old adage “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it” comes into play. Which is fine with me, I have been waiting for years for a good turn-based RPG to come to the Xbox brand.

Akira Toriyama the creator of Goku, and friends from Dragon ball Z did the character designs for this game and it shows. You can see Toriyama’s style in each character of Blue Dragon, which means that never will you mistake this fantasy for a reality. Like playable anime, Shu, Jiro, Kluke and the rest of the gang personify the cartoon-y style that is huge in Japan, while at the same time never letting Blue Dragon take itself too seriously.

Nobuo Uematsu may not be a household name in the U.S., but he is a composing god in Japanese video-game circles. As the man behind the music of a dozen Final Fantasy games, it’s not surprising that Uematsu-san has a longstanding relationship with Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi grabbed Uematsu for the score of Blue Dragon (not to mention Lost Odyssey) for the obvious reason of camaraderie, but the man knows how to make a video game come alive as well.

Uematsu’s familiarity with the ivory comes through loud and clear in Blue Dragon, with piano riffs accompanying darn near every arrangement. Since we are talking about the audio this is a good time to point out that the English voiceovers are actually good in this game. The only real complaint is that Marumaru can get kind of annoying after a while, but his shadow will end up finishing most fights for you once you gain control of him.

Let’s talk about some game play; when an enemy spots Shu and crew, a “detected” note appears above the tipped-off monster. It’s possible to evade a battle by simply running out of sight, but usually a fight is imminent if you’re detected. This encounter system is interesting since it takes into account the enemy’s agility and the timing of the player character’s strike (the X button) to determine attack precedence.

A handy encounter-circle icon system can be brought up to either fight one enemy at a time or every enemy within the reticule’s bounds. Battling multiple enemies’ rapid fire is the way to go in Blue Dragon, after each set that you defeat you will get a list of effects that will be cast on your party if you can select the right one. It could be higher agility, or cure all of your team, or attack up. You will also get more experience this way when you attack groups at a time.

A simple turn-order icon sits atop the battle screen, which makes it easy to determine a strategic plan of attack. Physical attacks can be pinpointed at an enemy with the left stick and then carried out with a simple press of the A button. A nifty charge meter is available at times, which means that A can be held in for a more powerful or more efficient attack. The charged attack has a negative effect on Magic Points if you miss the sweet spot, if you are able to hit it though your magic attack will not cost as much mana, and you won’t have to wait as long to cast it.

Things begin to get more interesting, once the characters finally see their shadows. A shadow is basically the magic attack force that all of the playable characters and some bosses possess. Shu, for instance, has a Dragon shadow- (Hence Blue Dragon). Each shadow can pick a class, which denotes what attacks and different skills they will learn. There are Black and White Magic, Sword, Assassin, Monk, Guardian, Support Magic and a Jack of All Trades class.

You start out with one class unlocked and can switch between them once you unlock more. Basic and upgraded skills, each with elemental attributes, such as fire, water, wind, earth, light and dark play major roles in how easily enemies are defeated. Party balance also comes into play with five fighters, with front- and back-row combinations of the eight available classes allowing for myriad attack stances possible of taking down any monster in Blue Dragon.

This is the RPG that fans have been waiting for! If you love the Final Fantasy brand, but don’t own a Playstation system then this one is for you. Even if you only play the open world games like Oblivion or Two Worlds, Blue Dragon is worth your time you will not be disappointed with its’ colorful cast, dramatic story, or beautiful real time, in game cut scenes.

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