|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Feel Plus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: AQ Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Just Not How You Remember It
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Although the reviews for the original Blue Dragon were fairly mixed, I was definitely a fan of the game. It's old school-inspired gameplay and cute story reeled me in right from the start, and once it was finished, I was definitely ready for more. Blue Dragon Plus picks up where the last game left off and follows the continuing adventures of Shu, Kluke, and the gang. However, a lot has changed for this title, and I have to say that, as a fan of the original game on the Xbox 360, I was a little bit disappointed with the follow-up.
One of the biggest selling points of Blue Dragon when it was released was that it played just like a classic RPG. It featured plenty of random-encounter battles, turn-based gameplay, and favored strategy over speed. However, the battle system in Blue Dragon Plus is nothing like that. In fact, this game does not resemble a classic RPG in any sense.
Instead, the gameplay in Blue Dragon Plus can best be described as an RTS, and the battle system is almost identical to that of the Final Fantasy XII follow-up, Revenant Wings. You use the touch-screen exclusively, tapping on various characters and leading them to attack different enemies. You do not have to direct the different members of your party to attack (they do that on their own), but you will have to direct any special attacks they have towards specific enemies by selecting the individual on the battlefield with your stylus and then selecting the special attack from a sub-menu. This individual selection system is also used for casting spells and using items. Those who are not used to RTS-style games will probably find this fast-paced gameplay more than a little off-putting, especially considering the turn-based nature of the original. However, if you like RTS games, you still may take issue with the battle system in Blue Dragon Plus.
One of the main issues I had with the battle system was the A.I. In a game where you have a fast-paced active battle system that relies on your ability to manage several characters and their locations at once, you need A.I. that can act on its own fairly well. However, the A.I. in Blue Dragon Plus is sorely lacking. Characters often get lost in complex rooms, or forget how to navigate across a room with corners or tables. I routinely had to babysit my characters as they walked from one foe to another to make sure they didn't end up walking in circles around a random element on the battlefield.
However, despite my initial qualms with the battle system, I have to say that after a few hours, I did grow to like it. Even though it was a little simplistic for me, I rationalized this simplicity as compensation for the fact that it was so different from the original. It would just be mean to throw a series built on turn-based gameplay into full-fledged take-no-prisoners RTS, and I think the developers realized this and decided to compensate with the toned-down difficulty.
Another interesting facet of the gameplay was the customization aspect. Blue Dragon Plus allows you to take a certain amount of disposable robot soldiers with you into battle. These robots can be customized using a variety of different items and a little bit of good-old-fashioned trial and error. Since these robots can be easily replaced, you actually have quite a lot of freedom when designing these expendable characters. This definitely adds another level of strategy to the gameplay, which, as I mentioned before, suffers all too often from being on the shallow end of the strategy pool.