|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Mistwalker, Bird Studio||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3 Publisher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 18, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-3||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Blue Dragon showcases some decent 3D terrain along with the ability to rotate the camera. Unfortunately, the graphics are hit and miss: some dungeons have creative color schemes, but most areas use a pretty bland set of colors, some of the enemies look cartoonish and goofy, and most of your AI teammates look (and dress) like children. Once, just once, I'd like to play a Japanese DS action/RPG hybrid that's populated by badasses in black armor, rather than children in brightly-colored clothes. Fortunately, you can customize the main character to a fairly satisfying degree, so during cutscenes you can be guaranteed that there will be at least one person who doesn't look like a clown hired to amuse children.
The most appealing aspect of Blue Dragon is, by far, the item fusion system. Two decent items can be combined to make unique and powerful items, like better weapons and armor that you can't find in stores. Even weak items can be fused with stronger items in order to boost the stats of your strong items ever so slightly (almost as if the strong stuff is eating the weaker stuff). This means that not only is there a lot of room for character customization, as each weapon type has its own fighting style and elemental attributes, but it also means that loading down your backpack with weak gear is not such a bad idea after all. Feeding a bunch of weak swords to your powerful boss-slayer is much, much more satisfying than simply off-loading gear at the local chop shop. Still, to keep things in perspective, keep in mind that it's a pretty flawed game design that makes the player wade through a lot of mundane tasks before you can get to the "fun" part. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that the entire game is supposed to be fun, isn't it?
Blue Dragon reminds me of two other DS titles in particular: Phantasy Star 0 and Ragnarok DS. Blue Dragon is more fun and engaging than Ragnarok (how could it not be?), but in every area where Blue Dragon trips and makes a mess of things, PS0 truly shines. If given a choice between those two games, I can't imagine ever choosing Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow over PS0.
Kyle B. Stiff
CCC Freelance Writer