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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this portable version of Blue Dragon Xbox. The unique style and strong storytelling outweighed its flaws in the new real time strategy style combat. The move over to the DS also gave it far more intimacy than I expected. Although it has its fair share of generic role play trappings, the end result was a worthwhile experience I was glad to have.
Blue Dragon on the 360 was a difficult game for me to like. After the gorgeous art of Eternal Sonata 360 and impressive visuals of Lost Odyssey 360, Blue Dragon's neon style was a bit of a shock. Here on the DS the same style remains but it feels far more at home. Sometimes the benefits of the small dual screens can surprise me and I found myself drawn into Blue Dragon Plus much more than the original
Picking up the story a year after the first game, Blue Dragon Plus very nearly put me off from the start. I found its introduction, even for someone familiar with its world, confusing and inadequate. For new players I could only imagine how difficult it would be to get into the game, although a decent combat tutorial is included.
Once I overcame this I immediately felt at home. The familiar characters are all back and even the irritating Marumaro has been neutered to be a bit more tolerable. There are interesting twists in the story and the manner of the main villains return, complete with shadow-wielding robots is a great start.
There's nothing quite like leading a big bad enemy on a wild goose chase so they can meet a catastrophic end.
Moving from turn based to a more real time style combat felt a perfect fit for the game. Too often with role play games on the DS I lose interest with turn based combat. But here, with more tactics and strategy the experience stayed fresh. Even if the Revenant Wings system wasn't as well implemented as I liked.
But one aspect that improved Blue Dragon was the boss battles. This is a part of games that I usually despise and my family know all too well the frustration I get from it. Although I love my DS, it's come close to being smashed on a number of occasions thanks to Final Fantasy remakes and the recent Henry Hatsworth. Blue Dragon avoided all this with some interesting and thoughtful boss fights. Some required the use of certain attacks, or the combination of various skills. Other needed luring into environmental traps which meant splitting my team up. There's nothing quite like leading a big bad enemy on a wild goose chase so they can meet a catastrophic end. Thanks to this style of play I rarely encountered a boss fight that made me want to give up or shout 'Cheat!' in a loud voice.
But what did make me shout and scream a lot was the combat system in every other battle. Micromanaging each member of the squad soon became a chore. Or rather a nightmare in certain critical situations. No-one in the Blue Dragon world seems to know how to defend themselves unless you tell them to. Mix that in with an appalling pathfinding system and soon I had characters waltzing off like buffoons. Not great for anyone's blood pressure.
What really started to get me down were the Shadows. In my opinion this was the most impressive part of the original game. Special characters could call upon their shadow side to help them fight. It was the preserve of the few. But now everybody is able to call on one and although it's integral to the story, it just lessens the impact of this great feature.
These flaws nearly ruined the game for me and it's only thanks to the excellent story that I kept going. The emotional scenes that really added weight to the experience is what redeemed Blue Dragon Plus in my eyes. And although I nearly didn't I'm glad I persevered until the end.
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