If you’re an RPG fan – especially a Japanese RPG fan – then you already know what you have been looking forward to on your Xbox 360: Blue Dragon. The anticipation has been growing steadily since the announcement of the game; now with only a month left and a demo in the Xbox Live Marketplace, the hype is blowing out the seams. VGCore has taken some time with the demo and decided to give you our impressions, even if you have made your own.
First of all, if you don’t already know, this game is being developed by Mistwalker. Is that supposed to mean something? Heck yes it does! Mistwalker’s staff happens to be two extremely known greats: Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of the popular Final Fantasy series), and Akira Toriyama (the creator of Dragonball and Dragonball Z). Sakaguchi-san is the head-honcho over at Mistwalker while Toriyama-san was brought in for his famous art style that some may have seen on the aforementioned, as well as Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. High expectations have been put on these two’s shoulders and after playing the demo, we’re about to tell you how well they have done so far.
After only a few minutes in the game, presentation included, you can definitely tell that this is a true JRPG. The quirky characters and art styles can be none other than Japanese, which isn’t a bad thing to JRPG purists and anime fans. The game starts out by letting you choose the two areas that you can "demo". Of course, it puts you right into these levels without any intro to the characters so I'll fill you in. First is Shu, a young boy with crazy hair and a stubborn hot-headed approach. Then his two friends, Jiro, and Kluke are introduced when a huge Land Shark attacks their little village (in the real game).
The battle system is typical turn-based fun. Immediately, you are able to battle with all of your friends (including extras!) you’ll get to see the shadow powers and how they are slightly different at controlling, for instance: Shadow warriors are reflections of the heroes’ emotional reflections and cannot be “told” what to attack when they are introduced. But once they are available, you can use the powers that they have, like Wind Sword, Fire Sword, etc. In the full game, you can change the class that each shadow is aligned with and can be changed in the menu in between battles. Shu's dragon starts off as a Sword Master. Jiro's minotaur begins as the White Magic class and Kluke's phoenix kicks things off with Black Magic. Each class can attain different power as they level up and you can also earn new classes as the game progresses, like Assassin, Monk, Support, and the Generalist.
JRPG equals random battles, right? Not here. If you are one of the people that get frustrated with random battle after random battle, fear not for Blue Dragon’s environment shows you when there is an enemy afoot and you can choose whether to engage or not. Not only that, but there’s a bit of strategy that you can use to take down these visible opponents. For instance, if you can sneak up behind an enemy, you can “dash” up to them and get them from behind (called a “Back Attack”) and have the upper hand for a couple of turns. Also, if there is more than one opponent, you can squeeze your right trigger (RT) and create a ring around your group. If there are multiple enemies in the ring, you can choose to face them one on one, or you can face them as a group. Facing them as a group is probably your best bet as you get more experience and the opponents don’t always like each other…if you catch some enemies that don’t get along with each other, they will actually begin attacking one another while you get to take pot-shots at them and gain the experience of beating them. It’s not often you thank your enemy huh?
The main character look kind of generic and definitely weren’t as polished as we were expecting, but don’t let that turn you away. While in battle, little screens pop up showing your character performing their move in a close up "powerful" mode, a la Dragon Ball series. The enemies and bosses are just what you would expect from Toriyama-san, too. Although, some are a bit odd...like the Zebra Poo Snake. I was quite taken aback by the name when I saw it. But hey, the look cool and not...um...like poo. Oh, and don’t forget the Flamboyant Dinoram (it looks just how it is named). Did I mention quirky before? Just checking. Overall, the graphics and presentation are indeed excellent and the amount of polish so far is excellent. The in-game music is really good too. The melodic tunes you hear whilst wandering are euphoric. But once you engage in your first boss battle, expect to hear some popping riffs and dramatic scores. Good stuff.
So far, so good. The only real complaint is the main characters forms in the normal environment. Again, they are a bit generic compared to the rest of the characters and the shadow warriors look a bit “off”…I don’t know how else to explain it. The look and feel of the game is true to its Japanese roots and gives great credit to Mistwalker. This could really help out Microsoft’s lacking appeal on the 360 in Japan, while giving the West an excellent JRPG that fans have been craving. With only a few weeks to its American release, we can safely say that we have a lot to look forward to.