blue dragon

a review of Blue Dragon
a videogame developed by mistwalker
and published by microsoft
for the microsoft xbox 360
text by tim rogers

3 stars

Bottom line: Blue Dragon is “a bottomless bowl of Cap'n Crunch on a fifty-hour Saturday morning.”

Quite accidentally — that’s how obsessive-compulsize behavior gets started. Case in point: I was eight years old when I first played Dragon Quest, and the game boggled my overweight mind from so many directions — here I’d spent most of my sentient life making Super Mario run and jump, and here was a game that required me to open a menu and click a command to open a door. I needed to sit and review the instruction manual, which I did upon waking early one Saturday morning. I poured a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and read over the instruction manual at my family’s dinner table.

Ever since then, I can’t play a new RPG without reading the instruction manual over a bowl of cold cereal. They used to be big and fascinating. They used to have cryptic, six-to-twelve-page-long story descriptions and tons of character art; Final Fantasy VI for the Super Famicom easily had the best RPG instruction manual of all-time. Most RPGs these days don’t break much new ground in their instruction manuals; part of me wants to groan at every Square-Enix manual, where they will spell everything out in extended notation: “Use the directional buttons up or down to move the cursor up or down; when the cursor has highlighted the ‘Fight’ command, press the O button to confirm.” Namco’s Tales of manuals, on the other hand, are fresh, clean, and honest, three words you’re seldom to hear used about anything made by Namco: they all start with a big chart, in which the directional buttons’ use is described as “On the field: move character” “In menus: move cursor” and the O button is described as “In menus: confirm” “On the field: speak / investigate”. Square-Enix’s games’ manuals earn their lengths by describing the menu selection confirming process every time they explain the function of a different menu selection. Tales of games earn their length and weight when they drift into extended segments about the unique in-game magic systems.

RPG instruction manuals nowadays are rendered unnecessary by droning, in-game tutorials that make sure no newbie is left behind. The manuals continue to exist, it seems, to satisfy the obsessive, now-archetypal desire that sleeps deep within the RPG-playing hordes: the package must be heavy. It must be heavy, and it must be shiny. People like me didn’t use a razor blade to open our Super Nintendo games for nothing: we wanted as much plastic clinging to the package, forever, as possible. This was part of the reason why we balked at Final Fantasy VII‘s being on the PlayStation: because the Nintendo 64 was going to have proper boxes for its games, boxes with plastic wrap, and plenty of room for superfluous maps and posters and posters of maps. Promises of three discs — three ridiculous discs — swayed us, and we stayed when we saw the big instruction manual; years later, with Final Fantasy X, it became dreadfully apparent that DVD cases, made of soft plastic, are lighter than CD jewel cases, and DVDs hold more information, making multi-disc games obsolete; and thus the Heavy-box RPG of yore has faded into the past. People tried to bring it back, by stuffing trinkets and/or soundtrack CDs into the cases, though those people happened to mostly be idiots or, worse, Working Designs.

The Heavy-box RPG has returned to spectacular form, however, with Hironobu Sakaguchi, Mistwalker, and Artoon’s Blue Dragon, which sports a forty-seven-page (not too huge, not too short) glossy instruction manual and a foil-stamped mirror-shiny label (reversible!) over a DVD case that weighs about as much as a loaded laser pistol will weigh in the year 2148. Taped to the outside of the case, when I bought the game back in December of 2006, was a fat, pristine plastic package of stickers to put on anything I wanted, as long as anything I wanted was an Xbox 360 or related peripheral. Breathing through my mouth, I tore open the package, and screamed like a clown on fire when I saw what lay inside: an Xbox-green plastic hinging apparatus, containing one disc on each side, and then a third disc sitting on a spindle inside the back of the case. Three discs! Why hadn’t I, in all my obsessive, news-combing, information-gathering frenzy, known that this game was three discs? Why hadn’t Microsoft advertised such a fact? I suppose game companies aren’t proud of three discs, or of heavy boxes, anymore. It’s something to reflect on that a country like Japan is able to produce values of this caliber, when they’ve gone out of their way to reject value in all other forms; a six-pack of beer, here, is precisely the price of six cans of beer, plus ten extra yen for the package.

Hironobu Sakaguchi saw a grand vision; it told him to get together the most talented artists, programmers, game designers, writers, and musicians, and throw them at several videogames until he had successfully defeated his former home of Square-Enix. In minds as idealistic and pure-hearted as Sakaguchi’s, there’s no way this plan could fail: if you’re able to think on his wavelength there’s no way his RPG Lost Odyssey, featuring the art of Takehiko Inoue and a story by Kiyoshi Shigematsu — both immense talents from outside the videogame industry — will not be awesome. However, this corner of the industry is currently in a stinking state of inbreeding; the first young man in line to purchase Final Fantasy XII, when allowed to ask a question of Square-Enix president Yoichi Wada before a television audience, meekly spoke “Please remake Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 3 thank you” and shuffled away. The people like Tetsuya Nomura; they don’t care that he got started as a one-bit pixel-chopper in the Super Famicom days, or that his art style has slowly fluctuated from idiocy to madness. As far as the hardest-cored RPG fans are concerned, Nomura is one of them. Never mind that the first RPGs in the legacy of Japanese RPGs were made by bold, daring people on risk-taking budgets, pouring more money into the pockets of an artist who ended up only ever drawing a couple of shots for the instruction manual than they would pay the programmers. Yuji Horii scored white-hot manga artist Akira Toriyama for Dragon Quest back in 1986, and the move helped the game sell millions. Sakaguchi, meanwhile, in building his counter-Dragon Quest, sought out semi-fine artist Yostuffaka Amano to lend a lofty air to Final Fantasy.

Since those two series exploded all over the world, kids with access to pens and pencils have sought to be as awesome as their idols, and this has resulted in many a Japanese elementary schoolchild telling his teacher he longed to design characters for RPGs when he grew up. What kids are doing, with their cute little dreams, is cutting out the middleman — which, in this case, happens to be “Earn recognition outside the field of videogames before being asked to collaborate on a videogame” — and the videogame industry has never stopped to slap them and tell them to eat their vegetables. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not! I’m certainly not one to judge people provably more successful than me (I’ve never designed characters for a major videogame, et cetera), though certainly, the quality is growing me-too-ish and even dull. Namco’s Tales of games are an ironically good example of uneven distribution of talent. They’ll get a hot rock band like Bump of Chicken to do the theme song, and then let said theme song play out over an animated scene of ferocious vapidity: the camera pans slowly toward each character as they stand perfectly still, and then, just as the camera stops, the character makes some crudely vague gesture with their weapon or magical pet. Sakaguchi must have seen this tsunami coming from miles away. He apparently wanted no part of Final Fantasy VII because he thought the technology wasn’t up to the vision yet. He wanted to keep making games on Nintendo systems, with sprite graphics, while the other half of his team worked squeaked out FMV-laden adventures. When Square subsequently got huge, he probably entertained the idea of sacking Nomura and using the Huge Revenues to hire an awesome artist, like Kentarou Miura, artist of the manga Berserk, which had inspired both the story and the character designs for Final Fantasy VII. He knew from the start that he wouldn’t be able to do this, though; the managers around him were growing increasingly hard-headed, and success would only make their heads harder, and their souls paranoid as hell. Sakaguchi knew that with great power came great potential to piss off one’s fans, and he knew that RPG fans were, more than anything else, fans of the package: if someone likes Final Fantasy VII, then they are fans of Nobuo Uematsu’s music, and of Tetsuya Nomura’s characters. The managers would have considered swapping in a new artist to be like admitting that the previous one hadn’t quite been exactly all that he could have been. It would have been like confessing to a lapse in judgment. It would have been flipping off the fans. To exist in the world, for an artist, is to have fans. Sakaguchi probably knew all these things, and he would have rather loved for Squaresoft to die in loud obscurity.

Even if that had happened — and even though it didn’t — I’ll tell you what that all makes Sakaguchi: it makes him a man. A trooper. He’s wanted little else than to stick to his guns. Even his majorly unsuccessful film debut, “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”, while bland, was the work of a man: it wanted nothing more than to push an envelope, and whether you liked it or not (hint: I didn’t), even if the people’s faces were creepy and surreal, it’s just not kosher to diss Sakaguchi about it, when you consider that he was the first to attempt to make a feature-length computer-animated motion picture about realistic-looking human beings, and that no one’s tried such a feat since.

You have to wonder, though, playing Blue Dragon: would Sakaguchi have stayed a film director for life, had “The Spirits Within” been popular? It was well-made enough, and it was even critically acclaimed. Had it set the world on fire, would Sakaguchi still be a film director today? Blue Dragon leaves one with the distinct impression of “maybe”, and that either way, Sakaguchi truly possesses more of the love-like attention to detail necessary to craft a videogame world than any RPG producer outside of Yuji Horii. Sakaguchi said in an interview prior to Blue Dragon‘s release that he wanted to stick with what he knew, with the field and the format he spent years working in, that of the Japanese RPG. After leading the Final Fantasy series slowly down a flaming corridor from utter normalcy to complete nonsense, after spending more time reinventing himself than he ever spent being himself, Sakaguchi has finally settled down, given in, and admitted that there is something he can do better than he can do anything else. Back in the old days, it was a pissing contest, Hironobu Sakaguchi versus Yuji Horii, Final Fantasy versus Dragon Quest, Relentless Reinvention versus Astute Revision. A few hours of Blue Dragon is enough to sound the gong: the war is over, Yuji Horii kind of won, and Hironobu Sakaguchi wears his fatalism pretty well.

If you’ve never played a Japanese RPG before, or if you hate them, or especially if you despise them, you’re probably just going to sigh a lot at Blue Dragon. If you’ve never played a Japanese RPG, at least, you might be able to really get into the game. It’s as good a first RPG as any, and it’s a better one than most. Though if you hate the genre, be not fooled by the precious, amazing graphics. It’s the same old-school game, the same old-school story progressions, the same old-school focus on numbers that go up and hit points that go down. In design, it’s far more reined-in and focused than perhaps any Japanese RPG has ever been, though if you don’t like these games, you’re not going to like this one. If you’ve played dozens of these games and ever loved one of them while hating a couple other ones, chances are you’ll be able to play Blue Dragon, like it a fair deal, and shrug at the end and kind of feel like you’re qualified to judge it as superiorly well-made. Just don’t walk in expecting it to find your hecking car keys and/or change peanut butter into jelly.

There’s certainly a fine-wine quality about this game. Akira Toriyama’s character designs are subtle — the most amazing hairstyle is a pretty average shaggy ponytail — darker, and less fantastic than something he’d submit for Dragon Quest, though if you’ve ever appreciated his work, you’ll no doubt consider these designs sublime. Likewise, Nobuo Uematsu’s musical compositions, while lacking the chintzy flourishes and brassy motifs of his celebrated Final Fantasy VI soundtrack, are rounder and far more musician-like than anything he’s ever composed. Some tracks even approach a Kenji-Ito-like level of pop-song-esque fullness; when Ito makes such music, it tends to stand out so strongly that it distracts from the game, so that the graphics become a background for the music. Uematsu’s score is just subtle enough to fit in, and just catchy enough to make buyers of the soundtrack scratch their heads and wonder why it’s not a little more catchy. And Hironobu Sakaguchi’s scenario is a thing of beauty. After ripping through literally a dozen Tales of games over the years (such was my hunger for scenario-heavy entertainment-focused RPGs), it’s revealing how effortlessly Sakaguchi manages to make “Go to the castle to speak to the king” seem like something legendary heroes really do have to do every other day. Blue Dragon is Sakaguchi blowing steam out of his system; he plays the RPG cliches like a trumpet. Not minutes after we go to a castle to speak with a king, here’s an enemy army invading. Here’s the sky clouded purple. Here’s an opportunity for our heroes to help. The story starts as something of a fractured steampunk yarn, in which our young heroes fight several battles and eventually find themselves aboard a giant flying fortress.

We get to know the characters as they journey back home, and shortly after they discover their purpose — after about fifteen hours of action-packed wandering — the game does something of a snickering little 180. It’s as though, suddenly, the game is now in color, even though it hadn’t quite been in black and white before. It’s something of a low-key “Wizard of Oz”, then. Beyond all expectations, there’s a point where, suddenly, the gorgeous graphics become infinitely more gorgeous, where the lazy threads of the story suddenly and fiercely tie themselves tight together, and the game straightens up and begins, finally, to gain momentum. This is fascinating among modern RPGs, where the plot usually starts hot and heavy, and then gradually loses steam. In Blue Dragon, you’re plinking around dungeons until, at last, the game adopts something of a Chrono Trigger stance, and starts creating elaborate events and set-pieces. More than anything else — even the Active Time Battle system, yes, especially that — this is Sakaguchi’s contribution to the Japanese RPG: where Dragon Quest focused on tricky mazes filled with complex puzzles, Final Fantasy games, as of IV, shifted their focus to short, straightforward, corridor-like dungeons in which dynamic things were happening. A play-through of some of Blue Dragon‘s more complex, domino-like events will perhaps reveal why Sakaguchi is currently so in love with Gears of War: that’s precisely the kind of thing Sakaguchi has always been trying to make, only without the guns, or the action. Sakaguchi’s curb stomps be words.

Once Blue Dragon hits its crescendo, you probably won’t stop playing. Its final act — its third disc — manages to make you actually care about these big-headed kid-like characters (who are all supposed to be sixteen years old, which is kind of creepy, given how tiny their hands are) and what happens to them.

 

happy animation boy

On the whole, it feels like Final Fantasy IV, plot full of gleeful twists and turns. At many points, you can almost imagine the scenario writer snickering as he writes the scene where the characters finally get on a boat and almost instantly get attacked by a sea monster. Every other battle or event in Blue Dragon is like an all-new episode of the only cartoon in the world that could cause you to wake up at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning after a full week of hating elementary school. If there’s anything negative I can say about it, it’s that the beginning part isn’t nearly as much fun as the middle part, though I only noticed that in hindsight: I had been, truthfully, hyperventilating in my excitement to play the game, so I hardly noticed. I had high-definition three-dimensional quasi-realistic super-deformed Akira Toriyama characters before me — the game could have been an interactive paper-doll-dressing simulation, and I would have played it for at least twenty hours.

As I warned earlier, if you hate the genre of Japanese RPG, you won’t like this game. Though if you sincerely like the genre, as far as RPGs go, this one’s pretty great. The battle system is mostly borrowed from Final Fantasy X — an excellent move, as that battle system could benefit from a second chance and some tweaking — though instead of three characters, you have five. Characters’ turns come up based on their agility statistic; you choose an action for them; they execute the action. The similarity to Final Fantasy X‘s battle system is more than skin-deep — it penetrates to the soul. FFX made a ballsy move by eliminating the Active Time Battle system, which is what had differentiated Final Fantasy from Dragon Quest in the first place. The designers of FFX knew that the Active Time Battle system was, effectively, bullstuff. It was a heavy handed and somewhat jack-offish way of making the player feel rushed during battles, though someone, somewhere, must have realized that making players hurry to make menu choices was kind of unnecessarily mean. FFX made the conscientious choice by making the battles truly time-based, tactical contests, rather than forcing players to press buttons and squeal like speds.

The battle system is as stoic as it is frantic. You can see characters’ and enemies’ turns displayed at the top of the screen; highlight an enemy with your attack cursor, and his position in the timeline, also, will be displayed. Use this knowledge to plan your tactics, et cetera. Only FFX kind of flunked out early, by having somewhat tacky disparities: you can only have three party members at a time, and at the start of the game, you basically have one character who can use white magic (for healing), one character who can use black magic (for killing enemies that can only be killed by black magic), one character with an aerial attack (for killing flying enemies), and one character with an armor-piercing attack (for killing armored enemies). This made the battle system kind of cheap: “Oh, there’s a flying enemy — gotta switch in my flying-enemy-killing dude now!” The effect was kind of like walking into an empty room thirty hours into a Zelda game and being asked to light a torch in order to open the door, which you’ve been doing for thirty hecking hours now, even though you’d only ever been playing the game for maybe fifteen minutes.

FFX eventually let you customize your characters, and make them all equal — maybe make them all able to kill flying, piercing, or magical enemies. Blue Dragon, slightly similarly, starts with all of your characters in a gray area. Like in Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy V, you’re constantly changing the focus of your characters, and hard work (of the level-grinding variety) is rewarded by winning your characters extra, class-specific abilities that can be equipped to any other job class. As you level up your “Black” class, for example, you’ll earn “Black Magic Level 1” or “Level 2” or “Level 3”, allowing you to use different levels of black magic even if you’ve switched back to the “White” class. In this way, you’re mixing and matching your abilities to make “custom” characters — though this isn’t always what makes the battle system interesting. That would be the charge attacks; in any other game using a pseudo-real-time battle system, like Final Fantasy Tactics, magic spells and special attacks carry a basic casting time. Choose to cast a fire spell, and then wait patiently until it’s casted. In Blue Dragon, you can cast any spell or special attack right away — or you can cast it later. It’s all your choice: just after you’ve selected a spell and a target, a charge meter is displayed; the charge meter is marked at the appropriate places with icons representing your fellow party members and the enemy party. Hold down the attack button to charge your attack. Let go when you think you’ve held it down for long enough. At first, it seems like an innocent little tedium-breaker, though it ends up being executed rather brilliantly. Not a third of the way into the game, enemies start showing up who can kill your party members in one violent hit, 100% of the time. You’ll need to hit them before they hit you, while also hitting them hard. A lesser game, like Grandia III, would concentrate your party’s tactics on slowing the enemies down, or canceling their actions. Blue Dragon, on the other hand, forces you to think hard about your own actions. Say you’re fighting an enemy you know to be somewhat vulnerable to paralysis spells. You want to cast a paralysis spell on him, so as to render him immobile for your boys to beat on him for a couple of rounds, and you want to charge the spell up as much as possible — charging increases effectiveness — though you also want the spell to execute before the enemy’s next turn. So you need to think about it for a bit, and you might end up making a compromise that costs one character his (revivable) life. A similar “fine-wine” delicacy creeps into dozens upon dozens of battles throughout the game, and again, if you love these games, it’s a real treat.

There’s a freewheeling, casino-like nature to battling, so that when you win, whatever you get feels like a pay-out. The ability to battle multiple enemy parties at once at first feels kind of a throwaway feature, though it ends up miraculously making grinding more than entertaining for anyone who’s ever played, say, a “Mysterious Dungeon” game. Press the right trigger on the field map to see a list of all the enemies within battling range — choose to fight all of them, and you’ll fight each party, one after another, in sequence. Between enemy parties, a slot machine will pop up on screen, and award you with a bonus: increased strength, speed, et cetera. Interestingly, the only negative effect on the slots is “remove all bonuses”. The game understands, as all Dragon Quest games do, that the game doesn’t lose when players win. It’s already an oath of bravery to take on six enemy parties at once, so the game cuts you a little slack and applauds appropriately when you win.

After more than twenty hours of playing this game, a question popped into my head, and I had to consult the instruction manual. I can’t remember this happening with any other game in the last ten years. My question was about the little red blip on the magic / special attack charge meter. Did I get a bonus if I stopped the bar on that red blip? Or did it do less damage? I honestly couldn’t tell. The instruction manual told me that stopping the bar on the red blip (sometimes very difficult) resulted in the spell doing maximum damage and costing only half as much MP as usual. I felt a little dumb for having not noticed that, though I quickly justified my dumbness by remembering that I’d been avoiding the red blip most of the time because it seldom puts me in a good strategic position. Sometimes the red blip appears at the beginning of the charge bar, sometimes at the end. The battle system kind of starts to philosophically unravel when you realize that a red blip at the beginning is subtly stressing how important it is to attack as quickly as possible and as hard as possible. It’s a slick little quirk, almost worthy of a Romancing SaGa game, though it’s far more philanthropic. Either way, it’s applaudable that the game doesn’t spell this out for you — nor, really, does it spell out anything for you. It expects you to figure things out for yourself, or to read the manual.

That day, I spent an extra twenty minutes or so re-reading the manual. There’s a two-page section at the end, called “Jiro’s tips”, where Jiro, the boy-genius of your party, offers dozens of tips, such as “If the monsters are too strong, try leveling up!” or “You should probably save your game whenever you see a save point!” In the lower-right corner of the second page of the tips section is Maro, the semi-unintelligent, loudmouthed character. He says: “Hey, let me give some tips, too!” and then gives the reader precisely two tips: “Accessories and armor boost your stats” and “Raise your agility statistic to attack more quickly!” Why it has to be Maro giving these two tips, I have no idea. Though I guess that’s the long and short of it, for you. Why bother releasing a Japanese-style RPG, when the genre has been astray so long, and innovated so infrequently, misunderstood by its detractors whenever it does wrong, misunderstood by its fans whenever it tries to reach out? Why step into this minefield, and make another breezy, entertaining game that’s happy not really changing anything? Why, because accessories and armor boost your stats, of course.

–tim rogers

Comments

21 Responses to blue dragon

  1. Nice review Tim, but I think I’ll be waiting until after the holidays to purchase this one and play it. Persona 3 and Wild Arms V come out this month, so my RPG schedule will be full. Not mention all the other “next-gen” new releases hitting this fall/winter.

  2. Yeah, Blue Dragon is one of those games you don’t have to play right now, so it’s cool to wait a bit on it. Like Final Fantasy V, it’s going to age pretty well, I reckon. (Note: if you don’t think Final Fantasy V has aged well, navigate away from this internet page quickly.)

    And it might be better to play Persona 3 (***1/2) or Wild Arms V (****) first! Because Blue Dragon is in eyeball-shattering HD, and it’s hard to go back to the rough stuff after you’ve sampled the sweetness.

    Wild Arms V is heckin’ great, though. (You’ve read the review on this site, yeah?) How much does it cost over there? I’d recommend it even if it was $60, though I think some people wouldn’t agree with my enthusiasm, and would send me hate mail, so I’m hoping it’s only like $30.

  3. Yeah the HD is nice, but PS2 games look pretty freaking sweet when played in the PS3 with 720p upscaling + smoothing with a HDMI cable.

    But I digress, Wild Arms V is being released on 8/28 at $39.99. The first pressing is coming with a 80 page 10th anniversary artbook (must be abridged from the JP artbook). Yes, I’ve read your review. I haven’t played a Wild Arms title since the original on PSX and I’m looking forward to it.

    Final Fantasy V is timeless, I first played through it on the PSX and I’m no playing through it again (while I eagerly awaiting the fansubbed Mother 3) on my Gameboy Micro.

    Part of me want to buy Blue Dragon on day one to support the series and Mistwalker. But my wallet (and my upcoming wedding) tells me to wait.

  4. Yeah, well, see, Blue Dragon is basically FFV with a deeper, subtler, smarter job system and an ingenious time-based turn-based battle system, and even a random dungeon mode wherein you can put your customized party to the (somewhat arbitrary though challenging) test.

    That’s a short review right there — if you love Final Fantasy V, revise the score on my review here to four stars.

  5. The Blue Dragon demo just didn’t capture me. Maybe I caught it on a bad day. Maybe it was too deep for my simple little mind.

    I did love Final Fantasy V.

    So I’ll buy this one, in addition to Wild Arms V and Persona 3, based solely on your recommendation. If you’ve never read one of the DoubleJump guides, I’d strongly suggest that you do so. They generally only cover the stranger JRPGs, like the Disgaea games and Shin Megame Tensei‘s games.

    Fascinating reads, really. And I typically HATE strategy guides.

    Anyway, take some heart, gamer elitists. This pithy, inarticulate American grunt is playing some damn good games based almost solely upon your reviews.

    Keep in mind, I say almost because of the orgasm that Chrono Trigger gave my fifteen-year-old brain when it was released here (makes me feel a little old). God I still absolutely ADORE that game.

    Great review of it, too.

  6. Sweet mother of mercy!
    These are definitely refreshing opinions, but what ever happened to ‘less is more’. Why does it take 6 to 7 paragraphs to LEAD INTO a review?
    Honestly, the reviews on this site are great – I just don’t want to have to read a dissertation on 16th Century Social Political climates before hearing someone’s opinions on Pokemon (just an example).
    I’m a gamer man. Sure, I like to read, but can you add some coles notes at the bottom?

  7. Sometimes I really do wish I had a 360.

    As it is, I think Wild Arms V will keep my (extremely low to nonexistent) jRPG appetite satiated until White Knight Story.

  8. I played the demo a few days ago.
    I liked it pretty much, but the long animations during the battles were kind of a downer. I loved FFX’ and DQ8’s battles for being so blazing fast. I think I might have a hard time with BD even though I loved FF5.
    Can anyone comment on this? Is this an issue when you play the full game?

    @mrcanehdihan:
    You must be confusing this with some other videogame-site.

  9. Agent Orange:

    Yeah, I’ll be honest — the battle animations are a little bit long! It takes some getting used to, especially when you’re in a battle versus like twelve enemies and they’re attacking one at a time. Like, in FFX, they would let the enemy attacks stack up, just let them all attack at once, let the numbers float there on the screen for a bit. Here in BD — where strategy actually does creep in once you realize that there is no perfect way to configure any one party member, when you realize that no single piece of equipment will only grant benefits — the slow pace is perhaps a little intentional, though it could have been a tiny bit faster.

    Next:

    >> Dear mrcanehdian:

    Honestly, the reviews on this site are great – I just don’t want to have to read a dissertation on 16th Century Social Political climates before hearing someone’s opinions on Pokemon (just an example).

    Yeah, obviously that’s “just an example”, though if you wanted to be more precise you would have said it’s “just a hecking simpletonesque example” or “just a rube’s example”, or maybe even “just a complete hecking moron’s example”.

    A six-paragraph lead-in regarding the social political climates of the 16th century in a review of Pokemon would, yes, be not so exciting, particularly because the type of lead-in you described would have nothing to do with videogames. For heck’s sake, you brainless ass, the six-to-seven-paragraph lead-in in this review is actually about videogames, and, at points, even about the people who made this particular videogame. That’s not too tough a distinction to make, man!

    Complain about the long-winded nature of these reviews again, and I will IP ban you for your own good! Maybe then you’ll get a job, learn a little about the world — a little bit about why, how, and when people ask to speak to the manager in supermarkets — and you’ll raise enough to buy your own computer, which will mean that the next time you’re in the public library, you might accidentally read a hecking book and think “SHIT! The plot of Little Women is even more intricate than Final Fantasy X-2!!”

    If you want just the facts, kid, you’re in luck —

    IGN: Blue Dragon
    IGN is the ultimate Blue Dragon resource for trailers, screenshots, cheats, walkthroughs, release dates, previews, reviews, soundtracks and news.
    xbox360.ign.com/objects/728/728023.html

  10. Blue Dragon looks thoroughly uninteresting to me. Toriyama’s designs are entirely mundane this time around, and the gameplay looks like the same old stuff we’ve be mashing “confirm” through since FFI. Granted, I think FFXII was very flawed, but it still set the bar for turn based JRPG’s in a way that makes a game like Blue Dragon appear to completely fail as a modern game.

    And FFV aged well? IMO, FF Tactics made FFV completely obsolete.

  11. GnaM: I would say that I was feeling much the same way as you in response to Blue Dragon up until this point! Granted, I very much enjoy Toriyama’s character designs (something that has come as a bit of a surprise to me as I age is that I actually appreciate them more than I did when younger and exposed largely to his manga) and I look forward to having them run around in high definition. But the gameplay has been not-particularly-interesting to me for quite a while now, and this review finally changed my mind on it. The strategy of the battles Tim describes makes me look forward to this game that I was going to inevitably purchase anyway, and his describing it as a sort of successor to or twist on FFV has basically made up my mind to get it day one.

  12. “And FFV aged well? IMO, FF Tactics made FFV completely obsolete.”

    Ideally we’re comparing Gooch-high-fantasy je ne sais quois rather than Job System.

  13. niku – The battle system does not sound as exciting to me as it does to you. The charge attacks sound like a nice touch, but not enough to prevent the game from feeling like just another canned, un-innovative JRPG. I’ll admit that if the battle system and scenario design was indeed executed absolutely perfectly, a typical JRPG battle system that didn’t innovate would still be fun…but far too often I’ve run into RPG’s that are either so easy you can button mash “attack” through most of the game, or difficult in the wrong kind of way; the way that places emphasis on mindless level grinding over strategy.

    felix – I hope you’ll forgive me if “je ne sais qouis” comes across as rather unspecific. What else is there to FFV other than the job system? I’ll admit that the story was lighthearted fun for a bit, but ultimately wasn’t involved enough to sustain my interest. Once the job system got boring, the game got boring. In any case, you can find light-hearted fun stories in many JRPG’s; Secret of Mana and FFIX for example. Save for VII, VIII, and XII, I don’t think any of the FF games were gravely serious in their story progression all the way through.

  14. I had pretty high hopes for Blue Dragon. Chrono Trigger is still one of my favorite games ever and the amount of people from that project on this team made my smile with hope – a hope that was quickly dashed when I loaded up the demo on my 360.

    I pretty much agree with GnaM that it really feels like I’ve played this same battle system for about 10 years now. Chrono Trigger did so many things right, but top among them was a battle system was both fresh and comfortable.

  15. GnaM-

    That’s the thing about FFV, though. Everybody seems to regard it as kind of a weird regression in between IV and VI; without V, certainly, there’d be no reason for the “odd numbered SYSTEM games / even numbered STORY games” rule. But it pushes the hell forward, and the fact is that it does take itself pretty seriously – Final Fantasy, as it was originally envisioned, doesn’t really come any purer than V.

  16. 108:
    First, take a big long breath and relax.
    Seriously, it was one piece of criticism and not something to get so worked up about.
    I’ll concede; the example was stupid, but I honestly gauged from your writing that it would be handled with a degree of modesty and light heartedness.
    I stand by my point. The reviews are very well written – when they’re focused. I’m still not convinced that 3 paragraphs about your experience with game was manuals really needed to precede the review. In fact, it sucks the fun out of the article so that by the time it does get around to talking about the game (and offering great insight), I’m a little less excited about the actual review. And it’s not just this piece. Granted, this whole in-depth diatribe may be the sites very intention, but as someone who reads (and has written) game sites on a regular basis, I just really believe that your unique views would be served better by a little less filler.
    But then again, that’s my opinion and really, who cares right? Contrary to your assumption that I’m a jobless heckwit, I’ve been writing for magazines, radio and review sites myself for years and while its natural to leap at the throat of any editor, client or halfwit with a keyboard who attacks your work, the fact is criticism is part of the job. So you can chose to defend your piece or come out swinging. It just sucks that you chose the latter.
    But whatever, you’ve probably already dismissed me and I’m half expecting to find this letter pulled in quotes and out of context as even more proof that I’m an idiot with zero idea of what I’m talking about. Post this or not, ban me or not, I just wanted you to know that it wasn’t my intention to rile you up, just to connect to a site I had, up until now, made a daily read.

  17. Hey, thanks for telling me to relax!

    What you don’t realize, dude, is how heckin’ constantly relaxed I am over here.

    As for the rest of your comment: “LOL”

    I’ve written plenty of game reviews for plenty of magazines, many of which you probably read and/or llike, and I write this kind of stuff here because it’s the kind of thing I wish I could read somewhere else.

    In other words, stick around!

  18. I got this game yesterday and I played it for SEVEN HOURS because it was EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED. I was spending some time with Persona 3, and it was all “HEY MAKE CHOICES” and I was like “STRESS!” and then I got Blue Dragon and it was like “ENJOY YOURSELF” and I totally hecking did.

    So, if Wild Arms V is not stressful, I will probably pick it up and enjoy it, too. I liked Persona 3, but for High School I liked Bully more, and for Summon the Devil I liked Nocturne more, so I’m not really sure where it fits in my schedule anymore. I think I only like RPGs if the game has PRETTY and NUMBERS GO UP in a LOW STRESS ENVIRONMENT, and this game right here is exactly what I’ve wanted since Final Fantasy XII, which while very different internally provided a Good Time on the Good Ship JRPG.

    Also, there are choice meats in your review, I actually wish it were a good deal longer.

  19. Just got this game on a whim. I would probably like it more if not for the INSANE slowdown during battles (it feels like it’s running 3 FP/S at times) coupled with their pace already being slow.

    And I’m sorry, but I’ve just never seen any appeal whatsoever in Toriyama’s crap. I think it was described in another review as “imprisoned”, and I can’t imagine a better adjective to describe the subject.

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