Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: Get lost in a huge virtual world with "Blue Dragon"

When I first played Mistwalker and Artoon's "Blue Dragon" on my Xbox 360, I thought it was a pretty big environment. When I saw the 3 DVDs, I KNEW it was pretty big.

The JRPG, known as Japanese Role Player Game, was published by Microsoft way back in Japan in December 2006. It headed further east to Asia in May 2007 and has finally hit the U.S. shores. Was it worth the wait? Can a nearly one-year-old game dazzle the harshiest of gaming crowd, the RPGers?

"Blue Dragon" features an all-star lineup - from the game producer, Hironobu Sakaguchi, the designer of "Dragon Ball Z," Akira Toriyama and the composer for "Final Fantasy," Nobuo Uematsu.

The game unfolds with the lead character named Shu fighting a landshark attacking his village. Two of his friends decide to help him and they *defeat* the shark, but land in ancient ruins, the first of many on your journey. After facing this evil (and very deformed looking) alien unsuccessfully, the three children swallow orbs they have and suddenly, each child has a huge phantom shadow that will fight for them. Each shadow possesses different powers, ranging from wind and healing to swordmaster and assassin. You will need to utilize all of these powers before the end of the game.

As you face enemies throughout the game, you earn experience points. You can use those points to upgrade your powers. The collectibles you find can also be used to buy supplies and such at vendors you meet during your journey.

As you complete your journey, you pick up more friends. What's cool during battles are you can select which characters you want to fight - and what characters you want to stay back for support. You could throw all of them on the front line, but some characters are not as strong and keeping them in reserve can pay off.

What happens at the end? No spoilers - you'll have to play ALL 3 DVDs! While I have no problem changing out DVDs, I do think this is one title that would have been perfect for HD-DVD instead of just DVD-9.

The environment is huge - it's a very easy feat to get lost. The scope is vast - and don't play this title unless you have hours to devote or you may be devoted. For the record: I spent 2 hours alone on one boss - Flamboyant Dinoram in the Wilderness.

The graphics are breath-taking - you'll be lost in a huge virtual world. On an LCD screen at 1080i, the colors and details simply pop. Even though the character are styled as anime characters, the entire presentation is totally sweet. The blur effects are very nice touches too.

The sounds are top-notch too. The soundtrack is dynamic - it plays exactly like a carefully crafted movie. The music is really awesome - I wonder if Microsoft is planning to release this score on CD?

The game won't disappoint RPGers - it's vast in scale and a pretty cool story. It is an adult game - the title has a "T" rating. As cute as this title is, it's no "Viva Pinata." I was shocked by some of the language in the game. It was totally unexpected. In "Bioshock" and "Grand Theft," you know it's coming. Not in this game ...

So, are there any negatives? Just one - the 3 discs. They are absolutely necessary and it's well worth it, but Microsoft should really rethink doing HD-DVD games in the near future. Having a game this massive without loading screens would absolutely rock.

Why should I care: It's a huge (literally) JRPG that puts you in the role of Shu, a child on a quest to save the world from poo snakes, fat rats and Nene, this anorexic alien.

The good: Massive environment, shadows that help you conquer enemies, intense boss battles, incredible graphics and sounds, by far, the best JRPG on the 360 - the best JRPG on any next-gen system, cool battle modes and tons of ways to kill hours.

The bad: This puppy is stretched across 3 DVDs - scorpions that sting you and you don't realize your power is draining due to them!

The ugly: The shock of having a game that stretched across 3 DVDs!

Overall: 9.0 (out of 10) - Some folks aren't really excited about RPGs and that's cool. But this game has tons of potential. This IS the best JRPG on any next-gen console and "Blue Dragon" has definitely set the bar for other RPGs ("Eternal Sonata) coming to the market. If you want continuous action without swapping discs, well ... but if you don't mind, check "Blue Dragon" out.

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