Review: Blue Dragon

The face of RPGs is ever-changing. As an Xbox 360 owner (and soon to be PS3 owner), those are some of the games I was most excited for to see in the next-gen revolution. The beautiful graphics, engaging storylines, and memorable characters who would stick with me long after the console was turned off – they got me hyped beyond belief. The best place to start? A good old JRPG. Akira Toriyama is one of my absolute favorite artists due to his work on Dragon Ball Z, so when I heard about Blue Dragon the wheels in my mind got to turning – I had to make it part of my collection. A fated trip to GameStop netted me my prized purchase. If I had known then what I know now, it would have just stayed right there on the shelf.



Blue Dragon chronicles the adventures of three main characters: Shu, Jiro, and Kluke. The trio, best friends of course, previously made their homes in a small village until a pesky landshark set its eyes on destroying their homes along with the rest of the village. Shu, with his archetypical Naruto-styled personality, makes it his personal mission to follow the vile fiend who would dare destroy their village across the entire world of Blue Dragon – Nene. After the premise is laid out before you across some of the most bland cutscenes I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through, the story barely rises above where it began. Though there are three discs of content to wade through, none of the characters are particularly endearing – not even their names. Shu begins to grate on the nerves after his tenth “I’ll never give up!”, Kluke is along for the ride as a token female character, and Jiro is admittedly a poor man’s Trunks. While there is plenty of time to establish a memorable and touching story, Blue Dragon never feels much like a journey that will stick with you even a few minutes after you have ended a playing session. As I’m sure you’re aware, story in RPGs is absolutely integral. Without it, the rest of the game simply falls apart, and that is the boat we find Blue Dragon in. When you happen upon Marumaro, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a JRPG, then you’ll be right at home with Blue Dragon. Across three discs you’ll venture through wastelands, deserted hospitals, sprawling plains, and even submarines, in order to take down Nene. Simple RPG mechanics aply here: visit towns, obtain information, stock up, fight, level up, rinse and repeat. At least that’s one saving grace that they couldn’t screw up. You’ll feel right at home when it comes to leveling and preparing for your next important matchup with any given area’s resident boss. Most RPGs feature a good variety of weapons, armor, and accessories with which to deck out your party in an attempt to customize them strategically. While you can find both of the former, there are no weapons to be found in Blue Dragon. In fact, that’s where the game’s namesake comes into play – every member of your party fights with summoning magic. A blue-tinted monster is called forth each time an attack is performed, whether it’s physical or magical. Using these blue monsters is like having a summon ready at any point in time, thus reducing the intrigue the blue meanies would have provided originally had you not relied on them for every single attack you perform. Viewing the same animations over and over throughout random battles nearly entirely killed the game for me, unfortunately.

Blue Dragon has lifted a class system straight out of Final Fantasy’s job system in an attempt to more diversify random battles and the tedium of actually playing the game, but even that falls flat on its face. Any character can perform any job at any time. They already possess the personality of cardboard, why not allow them to become faceless workers as well? At the very least there are no random battles to be found here. Instead, monsters appear via the overworld so you may trek towards them if you fancy a fight. Items and potions are also quite easy to obtain, so you won’t find yourself farming for gold in order to buy essentials. Because of this mechanic and the fact that there are no random battles, Blue Dragon is easily one of the simplest RPGs I’ve ever come across. Your characters level quickly and gain special attacks at an exponential rate, and boss monsters rarely pack more punch than higher-level overworld monsters. It would have been greatly appreciated had the game put up something of a fight, but its simplicity only contributes to how dull it is as a complete package.

Akira Toriyama lends his expertise to Blue Dragon, and as a result character designs are quite vibrant and colorful. Still, you can’t compare the drab and textureless characters to his work previously in Chrono Trigger, or even Dragon Quest. Primary colors and vibrant landscapes are pleasing to the eye, but the party member you’ve chosen to traverse the lands with is so small onscreen that after a while playing becomes an exercise in frustration. What’s more, cut scenes rarely look any better than what you’re treated to in-game. If you’re looking for some amazing graphics, Blue Dragon just doesn’t fit the bill.

While the usually venerable Nobuo Uematsu lends his talents to the musical score, it’s far too laden with rock riffs and embarrassingly 80s-styled hair metal to take seriously. The voice acting doesn’t get much better, either. You’d think that when the game is attached to such a high profile composer, the voices could have at least gotten it right!


It’s unlikely that you’ll give this game a second thought after playing through it once. There are so many better RPGs out there, especially on the Xbox 360. Unless you’re a big fan of the mundane, there’s really no reason to play through it any more than what is necessary to complete the storyline that needlessly spans three entire discs.

If you’re a fan of JRPGs, then you may want to give this a look. I believe that was my one fatal flaw. You won’t be getting anything spectacular, but if you are jonesing for an early, traditional JRPG fix that will likely leave you disappointed, then give Blue Dragon a try. Seriously – there are far more interesting games to invest your time in.

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