Blue Dragon Plus  - Review

Blue Dragon Plus
Ages: Everyone

When Mistwalker - a development studio started by Hironobu Sakaguchi (of Final Fantasy fame) - released Blue Dragon on the Xbox 360, I really wanted to like it. Sakaguchi is a legend responsible for some of my favorite games, Nobuo Uematsu (the composer behind the Final Fantasy series, as well as Chrono Trigger and many other classic RPGs) penned the music, and although I am not really a fan of Akira Toriyama’s art style (Dragonball and Dragon Quest), his involvement added yet another layer of potential for the title. Potential aside, in the end Blue Dragon was a competent, if bland and ultimately forgettable experience.

Blue Dragon Plus, a sequel which picks up the BD storyline one year after its close, attempts to flesh out the franchise with a real-time tactics/stylus-based real-time strategy game in the style of Heroes of Mana or Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. Blue Dragon Plusoffers very little to catch you up on the story, and the presentation thereafter is just as muddled - I was pretty thoroughly confused. Apparently the world is now made of giant celestial cubes, and though the villain of the first game was defeated, a new evil has arisen, and the cast of exceedingly cardboard characters takes it upon themselves to investigate. In execution, this translates to moving through the cube in a tree-shaped series of paths fighting real-time tactics battles against a variety of elemental minions.

The game feels a lot like the aforementioned Revenant Wings, and I dislike it for mostly the same reasons. The controls are imprecise - although the slower pace helps alleviate some of RW’s frustrations - with horrendous AI; just getting your party to do what you tell them is half of the battle (especially considering the relative ease of the battles themselves). The characters are creepy and disturbing in their portraits (not hand-drawn but rather clipped from the 360 game’s renders) and even more so in the game’s numerous 7-second flow-interrupting CG cutscenes. The sprites are some of the worst I’ve seen; they’re muddy, low resolution and oddly proportioned. The overall presentation, most notably the jarring color palette actually made me sick to look at it.

That may seem harsh, but for all its flaws, BD Plus has a few cool features that advance the genre, for example, the menu system made very efficient use of the touch-screen and I liked the ease with which I could access the results of a given battle and assign equipment to my various characters. The mandatory splitting of the party made me think carefully about the strengths and weaknesses of a particular squad, but sadly this innovation was not enough to carry the game.

Fun Factor: BD Plus continues to refine the real-time-tactics genre on the DS, and improves on its predecessors, but can’t really overcome its uninteresting story, ugly presentation, and crippling control problems.
Female Factor: The girls in this game are just as bland, forgettable, creepy, and stunted as the boys.
Player Friendly: An exercise in frustration. For every mechanic that works well (the map design, the menu system, the ease of camera use), the game never sheds the underlying bad AI, poor route-mapping, unit-selection issues and stop-and-go pacing which plague it throughout.

Reviewed by: Alex Lewis - 03/09

  • Blue Dragon Plus
  • © Ignition Entertainment
  • Platform(s): GBDSDS
  • To Order: DS $27.99