I received a review copy of the Nintendo DS game, Blue Dragon Plus. I was pretty excited to get it, because I haven’t played a game in a while, and because it is a strategy RPG, which are among my favorite kinds of game. The character designs were also created by Akira Toriyama, so right off the bat, this game had a lot of positives for me. After buckling down and spending some time with it, I found it enjoyable, but also very, very frustrating. With a few minor game tweaks, this would have been an awesome game.
Gorgeous in game cinemas
The game starts a year after the events of Blue Dragon, a 360 game. I did not play this, but it did not affect my understanding of the game. Nene was defeated at the end of the last game, but in typical game fashion, he’s come back to menace lead character Shu and his friends. Now they have to join together to end this new threat. Armed with their powerful Shadows, which give them magical abilities, they set off to to explore the mysterious cube that has appeared, fighting monsters along the way.
So far, so good. The story isn’t the most original, but it’s certainly easy to understand. The game play mechanics aren’t overly difficult, either. You use the stylus to mobilize your troops, swiping command boxes on the screen. There are boxes for deploying everyone in a group, or for isolating only certain units and sending them off into the heat of battle. You can also tap directly on a character to issue your marching orders. Magic spells and items are used by tapping a unit and then tapping a symbol for the desired command. Again, pretty straightforward. It did get annoying when the screen became a little cluttered with characters and monsters, as it was sometimes difficult the tap on the unit you wanted to quickly save from an untimely demise. This was especially irritating when, after issuing a command, your silly little trooper heads off on an unexpected path, making you wonder why in the heck it was taking the looonng way around or when it walked directly in the path of an attacking monster.
Time stops when the a character uses a Shadow skill
Several times I found myself yelling at the stupidity of the AI as my party members wandered aimlessly about, ignoring my carefully thought out instructions. Argh! How can these guys be that dumb? They were so dumb that I soon gave up any real tactical planning – it was just too cumbersome in the real time environment. Instead, the best strategy, unless the battle had time constraints, was to just gang up on one or two enemies at a time, utilizing healing spells or potions to make sure that nobody dropped dead from their inability to think even the slightest bit. Cooperate with other party members? Nope. Just stand and occupy a square on the grid so nobody would attack from behind? Not unless I made a very frenzied effort to keep them in one place. It’s even worse when one of the party members is under the computer’s control, and not yours. It will wander around like a dying goldfish, unmindful of anything save the need to allow itself to be surrounded by attacking monsters and obliterated. Oh, so frustrating.
Parties take turns moving around the map
The 2D graphics and 3D cinematics were nice, utilizing both screens on the DS. The character designs were colorful and eye-catching, as were the monster designs. The Shadows were all different as well, and were nicely animated as they initiated their magical attacks. The backgrounds were a little repetitious, and I sometimes had a hard time telling Maru and his siblings apart, too. They were all small and a little too similar. The menu screen layouts were clean and neat, and very easy to navigate, but having to equip items was a little cumbersome. There are also ample opportunities to save your progress, both during and after a battle.
The game tries to add a little spice to the monster bashing, by introducing quests that the party can undertake. These were of the fetch this or kill that variety. While not a quest, you even get to save a pink Poo Snake from being "flushed." I don’t know where it was going to be flushed, though the mechanism did look suspiciously like a toilet. Yay! And he joins your party. He even carries a spear around in his pink coils of pooey-ness. Yeah, that’s one character I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Nene can be a drama queen.
If you are a fan of RPGs or strategy games, Blue Dragon Plus is worth taking a look at. But if you are easily frustrated when your characters wander aimlessly to their doom, you will want to think twice. Even the game’s good looks won’t make you feel better when your party loses a mission because of the questionable AI.