While Shu, Jiro and Kluke make for an excellent (and well rounded) team, you will eventually meet up with two other adventurers who want to aid you on your quest. These extra characters have been wronged by Nene too, and both bring something different to the table. You find Marumaro fairly early in your adventure; he's a tiny guy whose dragon is extremely powerful. Zola, on the other hand, is a 20 year old mercenary who rarely shows her feelings and seems to have very high connections. With these extra members in your party it's time for you to set out and kick Nene's senior citizen butt.
But not so fast, Blue Dragon is not one of those games you can beat in just a few hours. In fact, Blue Dragon is one of the first Xbox 360 games to come on three separate discs. You heard me; this is a three disc affair. The game itself will take you around 50 hours to complete, and along the way you'll meet a number of interesting (albeit not always memorable) characters and travel all around the large world beating up on evil robots and other baddies.
However, just because the game is 50 hours doesn't mean that it's an interesting trip from beginning to end. The reason the game comes on three discs is because of the liberal use of cinema scenes. While it's not as bad as some games (Xenosaga springs to mind), Blue Dragon certainly has a lot of cinemas ... perhaps a few too many. It's fine when the cinema moves the story along or introduces us to a brand new villain, but there are more than a few cinemas that just feel pointless.
The biggest problem is that the whole story of Blue Dragon feels pointless. In a lot of ways this Mistwalker game plays like a paint-by-numbers RPG, pretty much everything in this game has been done in countless other adventure games. While most of the Final Fantasy games have huge twists and reveals, Blue Dragon never delivers that kind of drama. Instead we get a cliché story that has a hard time filling up a 50 hour game. Even the most "shocking" elements feel like they've been lifted right out of other games, I found myself groaning when one of the main characters was captured or when I had to find my way out of a prison cell. If this is your first Japanese role-playing game these moments won't be as cringe inducing, but for those seasons pros out there it's hard not to wince a little when you get stuck doing menial tasks instead of focusing on the main quest at hand.
Unfortunately the story isn't the only generic aspect of Blue Dragon. The biggest problem I have is that the entire battle system just feels like it was lifted from one of the Final Fantasy games. All of the standard elements are here, from the most common magic spells (fire, water, wind, etc.) to the fact that you can attack, use items, defend, use items and everything else you've been able to do in RPGs for twenty years now. That's not to say that there isn't some originality in the combat, when it comes to performing a spell or using some attacks, a large bar will pop up at the top of the screen and want you to hold the button down to charge up the attack. The longer you hold that button down the more powerful it will be ... but if you hold it down too long you'll end up moving your turn past everybody else (including the enemies). It's important to plan your attacks wisely so that you aren't left defenseless as you charge up your attack. This addition is interesting, but it's not enough to make this game feel like anything more than just a "next generation" version of so many traditional RPGs.
One thing I appreciate is that the game throws away the idea of random battles. Instead of the game switching from the world map to the battle at random times, you will always be able to see the enemies on screen. If you are low on health or just don't want to deal with these enemies you can avoid them by running around them, or you can always run up and push the "X" button to attack them (which will send you into the battle mode). Better yet, if you have several enemies around you can push the right trigger and select several enemies at the same time. By doing this you will fight one long battle instead of several shorter battles. This is a nice feature, but it's not the kind of thing that revolutionizes the entire genre.
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