First Impression: Blue Dragon (XBOX360) ~ Helpful Shadows

BlueDragonWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I have written an article about a game on the XBOX360. Which is quite surprising to me, since I bought my XBOX360 from an old classmate of mine three-ish years ago. Anyways, I’m glad that I bought the system since when I moved in September of last year, I had a lot of issues with getting my internet up and running, so it was my DVD player. Besides that, I kept playing games on it since it was on anyways. Anyways, earlier this month I felt like browsing the XBOX360 Online store and I wanted to play an RPG. When I found Blue Dragon, a game I thought released only on Nintendo DS, was actually a series that started on the XBOX. I didn’t hesitate and bought the game for 20€. And, because you guys and girls voted for it on my Twitter, here we are. I’m going to talk about my first impressions of this game after playing this game for about 2-ish hours. Let’s dive right into this while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Helpful shadows

Blue-Dragon-XBOX-360In this game, you take on the role of Shu, Jiro and Kiuke. These three young kids live in a village that gets attacked yearly by a mysterious landshark. This landshark not only destroys almost the whole village but also caused several victims. During one attack, these three children want revenge on the landshark and try to trap and fight it. This doesn’t turn out so well and they get dragged away by the landshark. 

After a small exploration of the resting place of the landshark, they discover that the landshark is being controlled by somebody else who is taking great pleasure in seeing the destruction and panic. Our three heroes are able to escape this evil person but they also eat a special light orb which transforms their shadows into beats that make them not only stronger but also give them magic abilities. 

Now, allow me to be blunt and direct for a moment. If you expect a deep and rich story from this RPG, I’m afraid to say that you are barking up the wrong tree. The writing and the pacing is perfect for an children anime series. But, to be honest, I think it fits the game well. If the writers would have written a more grim plot with the whole “your shadow gives you special powers” plot you would either go more in the lines of a Persona game or risking that the story becomes too silly to be taken seriously. 

Yet, on the other hand, this does put the game in a weird position for me. When I play RPG games, I expect more from the story then a simple story for the young kids. Granted, I can enjoy the stories in a Pokémon game and those aren’t too special, but the story in this game is just a bit mediocre. If I have to pin point why I feel that the story in this game isn’t the best, I think I have to say that the story in this game is like a small rain puddle. 

A small rain puddle that is quite enjoyable to jump into and kick the water around but it’s just that. A puddle. It has no depth and it doesn’t provide you with more enjoyment than the surface layer. A perfect example is that the resolution of some missions can be skipped completely. In one of the first missions, you have to save the “bravest warrior” from a sheep village. After you have done so, the exit to the next section of the game is right there and you never see the “bravest sheep” return home and lie about him defeating the monster that was trapping him. 

There is just not enough reaction on the situation by either the NPC’s or even the playable characters. When they get trapped in a big machine with no way out, there is no panic, no plan meeting… Nothing. Anything would be nice to provide more depth. 

The voice acting of this game is decent. I have heard better voice acting but I have also heard a lot worse. But the voice acting has the same problem compared to the shallow story. I feel that some scenes should have been voice acted or at least have some more sound effects to draw you in more but alas, we get silent textboxes. 

Missing: Depth

538221-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-marumaro-dashing-through-the

So, the story isn’t the strong suit of this game. Granted, I have only experienced a small part of the story and maybe the story improves quite a lot when I continue playing this game. Since, I’m seeing a lot of amazing mechanics and idea’s in this game that show the potential of this game. 

I really like how you can choose which character is the character you explore this game with. There are no real difference in terms of gameplay doing that, apart from one minor visual one. 

But then there are things that are quite flawed. A great example is the map system. Explain me why it’s possible to see the locations on the map in the teleport system but not on the world map? The world map in this game is the most useless map I have seen in a RPG. Apart from a location pointer and an icon where all teleport places are, you have no further information. You can’t even see area maps apart from the small compass in the bottom right corner. 

Thankfully, not everything is as broken as the global map. There are minor flaws in the game as well. They can be distracting but they didn’t ruin the game (too much) for me. For example, I think it’s hardcoded in the game that after cutscenes, every character joins Shu to continue the adventure… even when you selected another character to explore the world with. And after a small second, you transform into the correct character. 

Now, let’s talk about something good about this game for a change. I really enjoy the battle system. While I would have loved a better animation for the start of a battle, that nitpick doesn’t take away that the battle system has some unique and fun mechanics. Every enemy can be seen during exploration. So, there are no random battles in sight in this game. You can also bring up a circle in which you can choose which enemies to group together to attack in one battle. And while you’re exploring, weaker enemies will flee from you while stronger enemies try and chase you down for a while.

So, you can assign classes to your shadow. These classes dictate which spells and attacks you can use. This adds a layer of complexity to the game that I enjoy quite a lot. In addition to that, the battle system also has a timing mechanic. Unlike the Paper Mario games where you have to time a button press with the attack landing, in this game you have to hold the “A” button and if you land in the “critical” red zone, your spell or attack is more powerful BUT it might need a turn to charge up. The risk/reward system is excellent. 

Let’s power through

538217-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-activating-warp-devices-willFrom the previous section of the article, you might get the idea that this game is mediocre or isn’t worth your time. Now, that’s something I personally disagree with. I think this game is worth at least a try if you enjoy playing RPG or adventure games and you want to play something more lighthearted. 

Maybe the amazing visual presentation of this game might pull you in like it does with me. While some animations aren’t the best and a bit silly, like some walk cycles. The game looks well crafted and apart from some minor animation hiccups during cutscenes with the mouths not moving during talking, I don’t see too many major issues. The biggest issue is that some unskipable attack animations have some minor slowdown or tearing in them. But, that might be because I’m playing this game on a very new TV and maybe the high refresh rate and the big size might be overloading my poor XBOX360’s GPU buffer. 

The other big part of the presentation of this game is the audio. Apart from the game needing a bit more sound effects during cutscenes, I think the audio does a decent job of giving this game more character. Yet, I do have some complaints. I noticed that in some spots, the audio mixing wasn’t the greatest and the sound effects sounded too loud compared to the music that was playing. Speaking about the soundtrack, I enjoy most of it but there are some tracks with vocals. And these miss their mark completely in my opinion. Not only is it hard to understand what is actually being sung but combined with the sound effects of the battle, it gets even worse. Also, these songs don’t fit at all as a boss battle theme. 

Something I feel on the edge about is the fact that this game doesn’t have an autosave system. All the saving happens manually. So, don’t forget to save when you get the chance since a “Game Over” sends you back to the main menu where you have to load your save. Thankfully, this game isn’t too difficult but loosing progress is never fun.

And I’m not saying that this game is too easy. If you aren’t careful, you will loose and “Press A” to win doesn’t apply in this game. You will have to use some strategy or else you will be defeated. 

So, if you would ask me if I would recommend this game… I would say “Yes, but know that this game is not for everybody.”. While this game is quite enjoyable, I don’t think that this game aged quite well. While I heavily disagree with the 90+/100 scores that some reviewers gave this game, I don’t think this game is a bad game. 

While I haven’t gotten too far into the game and according to a small peak at the walkthrough, I currently finished 10% of the main story, I’m quite curious to see what this game is going to throw at me. So far, this game is quite enjoyable in my eyes despite it’s childish nature and the various flaws this game has. But, it puts a great battle system, enjoyable worlds and various other things to balance the flaws out. 

Normally, I wouldn’t score a game in a first impressions article but I’m going to do it because earlier I said that I disagree with the 90+ scores that this game is getting. I would give this game 70/100. This game has a lot of good elements but the lack of depth and polish in this game is something I would love to see improved in the sequels when I get around in playing them. 

And with that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article before I find another way to talk about the same point again in another way. There are a few things I’m leaving for the review when I have beaten this game but I have mentioned the most important things. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.