Blue Dragon Plus Review - May 18th 2009

Ever since leaving Square-Enix and its hugely popular Final Fantasy franchise, Hironobu Sakaguchi - the visionary behind the RPG series - has attempted to replicate the huge levels of success the company he left have had.


His company Mistwalker has shown its hand with two Xbox 360 exclusives, Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon, both games being heavily inspired by the Final Fantasy console titles. Now, the latter of these series comes to a handheld, and unsurprisingly, the game borrows ideas from one of the more recent handheld versions of the aforementioned RPG series, Final fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. Near all of the features found in Blue Dragon Plus were found in RW, but is mere imitation enough to produce a game worthy of spending money on?

The first thing to explain about this derivative nature of games development is that Blue Dragon Plus is a pale imitation of a great product. While Revenant Wings continues the story of Final Fantasy XII through an original and enjoyable game, even for non-fans, those who don't know the history of Blue Dragon will struggle to feel genuinely involved in the world of the game, seen throughout the lacklustre story it tells.

The dragons are impressive, but having to activate them for every character is frustrating.


Directly following on from the first game, Plus sees lead protagonist Shu and his companions having to unearth the truth behind an attack that leaves their world split into two. When a three headed dragon appears on one half of this world, the team must unite once more to rid the world of evil. The story follows with predictable plot twists, poor character development, and an incessantly large amount of morality-testing moments, which players will grow tired of almost instantly. The original Blue Dragon's story was never truly great, but some people seemed to enjoy the Anime nature of it. As a sequel, this will only appeal to those who were completely satisfied last time around.

But the sequential nature of the game isn't the only thing Blue Dragon Plus borrows from Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. In fact, the gameplay found here is a carbon copy of Square-Enix's game, an RTS-lite made specifically for the DS. You control a team of up to 16 units at a time, sending them to attack enemies in specific formations and groups. When a unit finds itself next to an enemy, they will begin to attack it with their current weapon. By tapping on different units, their special abilities - dragon based attacks - can be activated separately. While this works fine with small groups of units, when you have a large amount of characters grouped together, it can become both difficult and somewhat tedious to have to select each individually to use their magic abilities. This is worsened when some enemies, ghosts for example, require these abilities to be damaged. These abilities may look flashy, but activating them is far too annoying to be worth it.

The cut-scenes are the definite highlight.


Moving units across the field easily should be a given with this style of game, but unfortunately dodgy AI means that most simply wander around before they listen to your commands. When you select an empty space for your currently selected units to move to, they will begin to find their way there in what should be the quickest way possible. Most units however will stand around for a short while, pacing around the same spot as they 'work out' which way to go, and even worse, some can end up taking the longest route across the battlefield, forcing you to reselect them and move them individually. This adds even more frustration to the proceedings. Luckily, the selection process for picking out your combatants is quick and well executed. You have three options, select a single unit by touching them with the stylus, select all units currently available, or draw a ring on-screen where all the units inside will be selected. Unlike Revenant Wings, this is free drawn by you, and so it is much easier to select exactly the units you want to take to each part of the map. The developers have obviously thought about this aspect of the gameplay, and it should allow for tactical elements of the game. But unfortunately, they seemingly forgot to make this feature at all useful; a distinct lack of tactical based battles.

In terms of presentation, Blue Dragon is very much like every other RPG on the system. The character designs of the original Blue Dragon work excellently in the sprite style seen here, and while the animation is hard to make out - they are very small in size - both the enemies and your team suit the playful nature of the game. On the other hand, the environments look distinctly bland and oppressive, never really fitting in with what is mostly a bright and bubbly kid-friendly adventure. The textures are blurry at best, and it doesn't make for a very appealing experience when such bold character models are dropped on top of this sort of environment. The FMV cut scenes are where the graphics really come to fruition, and while much like every other DS RPG, they all take place at the start and the end, the scenes really do look very like the Xbox 360 game. Of course the game is weak overall in comparison to the HD iteration, but these cut scenes deliver some much needed eye candy to an altogether weak looking game. The sound design is good though, with both cutesy tunes and epic orchestral scores accompanying the action both in and out of battle. And the sound effects of the attacks are decent, even if a tad low quality. Blue Dragon Plus doesn't feature amazing presentation; merely serviceable for such a low budget game.

As was the case with the original in 2007 on Xbox 360, Blue Dragon Plus is little more than a fairly good version of the Final Fantasy formula, this time taking cues from the RTS gameplay in last year's fantastic Revenant Wings. For those who enjoyed the first game and have loyalties to both Microsoft and Nintendo, this is a good game to play on DS. Merely good, people who haven't played the first should definitely try the game it takes ideas from beforehand, as it does a much better job at merging the RTS and RPG genres together on the Nintendo DS. Can be enjoyable, but not enough to recommend to everyone.

- Sam Atkins

   

A continuation of the story seen in Blue Dragon

 
   

An RTS on the DS, which plays well

 
   
Decent presentation
 
   

Annoying Teammate AI

 
   

Fairly mediocre

 

6

   
     

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Ignition Entertainment
Mistwalker
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