COURTESY OF MICROSOFT GAME STUDIOS
The original Xbox had a game library consisting largely of first-person shooters and sports games, with only a few memorable exceptions. Now, the Xbox 360 offers a variety of different genres, including the classic role-playing game, as exemplified by “Blue Dragon.” In an era where RPGs are declining, “Blue Dragon” is an exciting trip back in time to the roots of this genre.
In “Blue Dragon,” a strange creature attacks villages every 10 years, laying waste to them. A team of young adventurers discovers that this beast is actually a machine controlled by a sadistic man who delights. The adventurers traverse the continent to stop the man from causing further destruction.
“Blue Dragon” uses a turn-based combat system, something rarely seen in RPGs anymore. Characters and enemies take turns attacking each other, but the turn order is not fixed. Different abilities take different amounts of time to charge up, and a character’s agility statistic also determines who attacks in what order. The combat is fairly fast-paced for a game of this type.
The truly intuitive part of the game comes from the magical shadows, which are the basic components of the entire game. Characters’ shadows take on the appearance of an animal and allow characters to become more powerful. Shadows can give your character special abilities and new skills, depending on the type of animal the shadow becomes. It works well as a device to make the game play less linear and give characters an excuse for being strong enough to take on all of the monsters in the world. It also turns out to be a lot of fun, even if the customization can get confusing and disorganized at times.
“Blue Dragon” generally feels like a classic turn-based game from the early 1990s with a few improvements - namely, being able to see enemies on the map instead of having enemies attack your team from out of nowhere. The world is full of vibrant color and rich environments even though the graphics are not jaw-dropping. The enemies are also as humorous and creative as they can be lethal. Giant centaurs wearing spiked armor and multi-headed snakes rear up to stop your team from achieving its goals.
The game’s primary drawback is its schizophrenic difficulty levels. While the battle system is entertaining, some bosses will be a joke while others put up a fair fight, and still others will simply mop the floor with your party. Characters don’t have much of an average strength, either. Some will become powerful juggernauts in battle, and others will be utterly useless, unless you spend time mending their weaknesses with the customization system. This is only a minor downfall and does not take away from the game.
All things considered, the variety of skills, colorful and creative enemies and entertaining yet simple story line make “Blue Dragon” a great game. It may not win any awards, but at least Mistwalker and Artoon are trying something new without relying on glitzy graphics. More importantly, “Blue Dragon” highlights the diverse library of games that the Xbox 360 offers for gamers who enjoy different genres.