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Avoid 'Blue Dragon' or get burned

September 28, 2007

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Blue Dragon....rawwwwhhhhhIf one thing is true in the gaming world it is that Japanese and North American gamers have different tastes. One such topic they don't see eye to eye on is the Xbox 360. While the next-gen console has been enthusiastically embraced by hardcore and casual gamers alike in the rest of the world, Japan hasn't warmed up to Microsoft's box of gaming goodness. As of September 9th, Xbox 360 sales in Japan are at 446,201 units which translates to approximately 8.7 per cent of the videogames market in the region.

Where is the love, I ask you? Where is the love?

In an effort to win over Japanese fans, Microsoft hooked into 'Blue Dragon'. Developed by Artoons and Mistwalker and published by Microsoft Game Studios, the game is based on the Japanese anime and magna hit. While the game was well received in Japan last December, unless you hunt down the DVDs, there is no animated television series or graphic novels here in North American to acquaint gamers with the characters and the storyline. That puts 'Blue Dragon' at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to
appealing to kids who already consume a steady diet of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto and Dragon Ball.

Blue Dragon the kidsIn the epic saga of 'Blue Dragon', three overly cheerful brats - Jiro, Shu and Kluke - attempt to uncover the mystery behind a strange purple cloud that seems to bring about destruction wherever it goes. While investigating the source of the crisis, the little horrors unlock super powers they never knew they had. Their very own shadows become living creatures that they can use to bash everything and anything that gets in their way. Shu's is the most powerful and the blue dragon of the title. Jiro's shadow takes on the form of a minotaur and Kluke's is a fiery phoenix. As you set out to bring an end to the chaos, your party will grow with new members and you gain new skills and powers.

In the art department, 'Blue Dragon' is radiant. Although they are a mite too long, the anime cut scenes are eye-catching and side-splittingly funny. So too are the graphics during the gameplay. The entire world of 'Blue Dragon' is full of colourful creatures and characters. If you've never seen or heard of a 'Poo Snake', this may be the only time you can experience its magnificent flatulence for yourself. Lucky you.

Although 'Final Fantasy' series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi had a hand in the development of 'Blue Dragon', one wonders if this old dog has learned any new tricks or was willing to share any because 'Blue Dragon' is insufferably tedious. More aptly termed as "RPG Lite", all 'Blue Dragon' consists of is wandering around vast open areas battling monsters, opening treasure chests, fighting the occasional boss and levelling up your characters. You can avoid the roaming monsters if you like but all that will be left for you to do is search rocks for precious gold coins. A geology sim? I think we'll pass, thanks.

Blue Dragon Fight!'Blue Dragon' does allow you to highlight entire groups of monsters so you can battle them full-tilt and some of the monsters will turn on other in such a brawl but even with these twists, it is just one dull battle after
another with the same animated cut scenes capping off each scuffle. Mashing the buttons will do you no good either as you cannot skip your own recycled victory celebrations even though you are putting yourself into a self-induced coma.

'Blue Dragon' certainly does fill a cavernous void for 360 fans when it comes to the RPG genre but there is very little reward for slogging through an adventure that takes up three - Yes, you read correctly - THREE DVDs. The story is painfully slow to get going and the battles are so brutally boring even the most patient fantasy gamer will probably not be able to make it through the first disk. The same reason die-hard North American RPG fans like myself don't revisit the turn-based strategy games of the eighties is the same reason we will ignore a throwback release like 'Blue Dragon'. As 'Oblivion' and 'Warcraft' have proven, RPGs have come such a long way there is just no going back.

Blue Dragon
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Artoons and Mistwalker
ESRB Rating: (T) Teen
Official Site: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/b/bluedragonxbox360/

Rating: 3 / 10

 
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