Blue Dragon Hands-On Preview
Blue Dragon box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Mistwalker 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Aug. 28, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
No Blues Here

by Matthew Walker

August 2, 2007 - Are you looking for the next great RPG that has classic genre elements? If so, Blue Dragon will be the game for you. We have been looking forward to this game for what feels like forever, but coming later this month we will be diving straight into the world created by Mistwalker. Luckily, I was able to play a little of the game before its release. First things first, if at any point in your gaming life you have felt that turn based RPGs were not your cup of tea, then you may not interested in this title at all. I do say, however, that you should give this a try due to the simple fact that if you have ever thought about trying this genre out, this would be a great place to start. Enough about why you should try it though. How does it shape up after a fairly long wait in terms of the video game industry? Read on to find out.

Blue Dragon screenshot

After an uninspired menu screen (I'm sure this will be different in the actual game), I selected between one of the two areas to play through - the Ruins and the Fortress. I went with the Ruins first. This was the perfect place to get accustomed with the combat system of the game. The term turn-based does not do the game justice, more like as many turns as you can squeeze in before you are attacked maybe. There were several times I had to wait for long periods and several attacks before it was even my first turn when I went up against the baddies, and that takes a lot out of you if you have not played a turn-based RPG in a while. I started out with all five main characters - Shu, Jiro, Kluke, Zola, and Marumaro - and each one brings a different approach to the combat. For example, Jiro brings the healing and protective spells, while Kluke controls the black magic and supportive spells. Automatically, I can see how we will need to rely on the abilities of the others in order to progress in the game, yet another classic element of RPGs. Even in the demo you have to adapt quickly to this combat technique, otherwise it is a short demo. Several of the spells are also present in the demo.

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I do have one gripe about the lettering on the screen - it is incredibly small. This may not be that big of a problem during the full game since you will have the time to become associated with where certain spells and items will be, but in the demo it was a huge turn off when trying to see what spell you where selecting. I was blindly selecting spells at first, crossing my fingers that it did what I wanted. Since this is a turn-based game, I doubt that will be much of a problem when the full game is released. During the demo, I was only allowed one hour to explore the game's features. Thankfully, everything you select from the main blacked out menu has an explanation for what it does in the top left corner of the screen. An interesting concept idea for the combat system is that after you select any action other than using an item, you can charge the action to make the impact stronger. The disadvantage to this was if you timed it wrong you would be waiting too long and the action may not even be performed before the enemy attacks, a feature of the game that could keep the turned-based game alive.

Blue Dragon screenshot

At the end of the Ruins level, I faced an abomination of a tree that looked like it was spat out of one the Evil Dead movies, only slightly more demonic. If these are the types of enemies that we will be facing in the game, I am glad that we will have the opportunity to be a little more accustomed with the characters and their abilities before we wander along to find the "Devil Tree" and his nasty friends.

Once the "Devil Tree" was uprooted, I decided to play through the Fortress level of the game. It was a huge difference considering the Ruins levels was mostly about becoming acquainted with the combat system. This one had more of a "search things out" approach to it. Also, unlike the Ruins level, we are treated to a couple of in-game cutscenes which look as wondrous as the game itself. A little of the story is also given. Apparently, somewhere in your journey Kluke gets a metal contraption wrapped around her neck that works like a bomb and now they have to find a way to remove it. At the end of this level, we square off against General Szabo and his merry little quartet of robots. First I faced off against the quartet, and I honestly thought in the back of my head that I would only have to face them and I unleashed several attacks I should have held onto. As soon as they were bashed, it was General Szabo's turn. After defeating him, I was given another cutscene, though it was not in-game graphics but CGI. The heroes quickly discover that the device around Kluke is about to explode. Kluke takes off not wanting to cause any of them harm. Shu chases after her. The tension builds as Shu tells her that he was going with her no matter what, and right when the intensity of this moment has you hooked, the screen goes white, thus ending the demo.

Blue Dragon screenshot

If I wasn't already anticipating this title at the end of the month, then after the demo I would be. There seems to be a lot to explore in the game and that it will be more than just your standard RPG, including a beautiful art style that matches the playful music. I do wish the song during the boss battles will be different because if it is the same song, I will have to make sure I mute the television after a few major boss battles. Blue Dragon is shaping up nicely and I cannot wait until the full release to find out the other secrets of the boy and his dragon.

By Matthew Walker
CCC Project Coordinator

Features:

  • Innovative RPG gameplay features: As their quest progresses, warriors can create original attack methods by utilizing several types of Shadow Change, including Sword, Assassin, and Power Magic. You can choose to focus the hero on certain areas of expertise. Shadows level up and gain new abilities associated with the job they are currently doing. Once gained, abilities are not lost and remain available to use when needed.
  • Massive scope and engrossing environments: Shu and his companions battle their way through an immense world filled with vividly illustrated remnants of ancient civilizations long forgotten.
  • Stunning graphics: Taking full advantage of the power of Xbox 360, Blue Dragon engages you in a world and characters that are brought to life with vibrant colors and detail, from Shu's wild hair to his martial arts-style garb, conveying the beautiful simplicity and sense of adventure found in this truly next-generation RPG.
  • Dazzling character design and effects: Toriyama's unique influence is evident in the design of the game's anime style characters, as their actions are enhanced with next-gen blur effects. Additionally, the game's algorithmic animation system adds heightened realism to character and creature movements.
  • Famed developer: Mistwalker is a creative company founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the original developer of Final Fantasy. Operated by a handful of experts, the direction of new Mistwalker is influenced by Sakaguchi's extensive industry experience. Artoon is a digital entertainment design, development, and production company with rich talent and experience. Centering on the design and development of original content, Artoon is mainly involved in the development of software through external cooperation, as well as the design and production of entertainment content in the mobile communication category.

  • Screenshots / Images
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