I had been given the privilege to review an advanced copy of the latest "Blue Dragon Plus
" game for the Nintendo DS - my current favorite gaming console. XD
"One year has passed since Shu and his companions defeated the tyrannical remnant of the Ancients, Nene. In the midst of the battle, the world split in two and now consists of a myriad of "cubes" that exploded from its depths. In one of these cubes, King Jibral stands on the balcony of Neo Jibral Castle and surveys the scene before him. He notices a mysterious cube in the distance that suddenly starts to move violently, and from it he sees the Shadow of a Balaur, a three-headed dragon, emerge. The enormous and sinister Shadow is just the beginning of the new turmoil and devastation to come."
The Blue Dragon series brings together three powerhouses in the gaming world - Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy fame, composer Nobuo Uematsu (again of Square-Enix fame),and Akira Toriyama, best known for his "Dragon Ball" series and memorable character designs. The story picks up a year after the events of the first game (exclusively on the XBox 360) and throws the characters right into the midst of a brand new battle against a formidable new enemy.
The gameplay is real-time strategy (RTS), like Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
and other Tactics-style games. You have a "grid" to play upon and must guide your characters to battle. Strategy is key - and so is timing (to a degree).
To be honest, I'm none-too-great at RTS games, preferring turn-based RPGs, puzzle, and rhythm games that allow me to take my time and access the situation. But prior to starting up the game, I took some time to try out the tutorial - to learn the basics.
The instructions come fast and furious, though you can take your time moving about the training grounds and fighting small battles to gain more experience with game play. The controls are a little confusing at first - especially utilizing your special abilities and understanding how they work.
Starting up the game itself, I found that things just hit the ground running. There's a good portion of visually stunning full motion videos (FMVs) to retell, in short, what happened at the end of the previous game and what is currently going on in the Blue Dragon world. Once the characters disembark their ship, the battles begin. Not much more than a one-page description of the character to work off of - and some early plot twists seem to lose impact without prior knowledge of the characters and their relationships.
I'm currently about an hour into the game and just reached the "map" where I can finally equip accessories on the characters and change their skill sets. I also reached the first "shop" available in the game to purchase healing items and sell extraneous items. The story is unfolding quickly and things are starting to get interesting. The character sprites are cute - I personally like that they don't really have "voices", but tonal sound effects that emulate voices for each character.
Invisible "medals" on screen encourage full exploration of the maps and locked chests likely mean that you will return to older maps as the game progresses. Keeping track of a character's speed and strength is crucial. It can be easy to lose track of a weaker character's HP.
The hardest things I've found were navigating the proper characters around the board and having them do what you want - when you want them to. Casting spells on a group can be tough to manage. Navigating three or four characters around a board isn't too bad, but when it reaches seven or eight, things get a little hectic. ^^; (From what I understand, you can control up to 16 humans and mechas...)
Below is a widget with all the info you might need (or want?) about this new and exciting game:
Doesn't Shu kinda look like Ani as a boy? XD;
If you're looking for a challenge or are a master of strategy, this just might be a great addition to your collection! :D