Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Blue Dragon Plus for Nintendo DS

When i let the dogs out this morning, i found a plain yellow padded envelope on the front porch with a big UPS Ground label on the front. Inside was a nice letter from the marketing agency, thanking me for taking the time for the review and reminding me to find their web tool online and let them know when the review was posted; and the game: Blue Dragon Plus for the Nintendo DS.

My DS was dead from way too much Animal Crossing: Wild World over the last couple days, so it took me a few hours before i was set up to try Blue Dragon Plus.

But i'm probably getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning. This is my first video game review, and i was surprised even to be asked to take part, but i want to make sure i do a thorough job and be fair.

I will say up front that i was not influenced by the marketing agency that asked me to review the game in any way. the fact that the game was shipped to me for free, i can only assume, is the standard in reviews, as evidenced from Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del mentioning in their blog that such-and-such publisher sent them random-game to review.

I refrained from loading up the original Blue Dragon on my 360 while waiting for this game, wanting to go into the review fresh and perhaps as if i had never even played it. It has been about a year since i played the 360 game, and i couldn't remember much, so I'm off to a good start.

I also refrained from reading any other reviews or watching trailers of Blue Dragon Plus, so as not to be influenced by anything except my own experience.

The other thing I refrained from was the instruction booklet. I had two reasons for this:

  • One - As a man, I have a natural aversion to instruction booklets.
  • Two - I wanted to really know how intuitive this game was. Would it have controls easy to guess and navigate, or would it be incredibly complex and require remapping and a cheat sheet?

So, on with the review

Initial Thoughts

  • Good intro cutscene, really reminded me of what i remember from the 360 version. Very cinematic and recognizable characters. Kind of surprised me for the DS (but the only other game I have is Animal Crossing, so I really don't have much of a basis for comparison).
  • Feels like final fantasy tactics at first glance after the cutscene. 3D Isometric, shoulder buttons for rotating the camera, D-Pad for positioning the camera.

  • I like that it introduces the characters in the party at the start and gives tips for how to effectively use them in combat.

  • Controls were very intuitive and only took mere seconds to play with and figure out. No complexity at all.

Yes, so there are the first three thoughts I had. My initial impression is a positive one.

Initial Thoughts Rating: +


The second thing I noticed is how story-driven Blue Dragon Plus is. Packed with excellent cinematic cut scenes and story-furthering dialog interspersed with some very strategic real time combat. For those of us that are fans of the Final Fantasy series and can handle lots of dialogue and cut scenes, you'll feel right at home.

The story was engaging and interesting. It built upon the world from the original title and flowed well, much like a comic book or graphic novel. It made sense in context and was well written.

Storyline Rating: +


The real-time combat takes a little getting used to. Most isometric games like this that I am used to (FF:Tactics and even Blue Dragon(360)) were turn based, but when the enemies don't wait for you to pick your action, they just start walking and beating on your characters out of the expected turn sequence, the world flips upside down and its time to build a new strategy.

This is where the simplicity of the controls shines. Three icons on the right side of the screen control party selection. The first is for scrolling through your party individually, the second is for circling the target party members with the stylus, and the third is selecting all party members. Clicking on an enemy sends all selected characters to release whoop-ass. There are two to three icons at the bottom of the screen for each character selected. Special attacks, and medicine for healing. Simply click one with the stylus and combat pauses so you can ensure the target of your spell.

I was easily able to group my combat-oriented members on the enemies to overwhelm them and send the scout out to gather treasure and medicine to keep them alive.

The rest of gameplay is spent reading through the linear storyline and watching the cut scenes, or making minor direction choices that automatically move you to an area occupied by either a monster or a shop. Simplified perhaps too much, but easy to understand and work with.

Gameplay Rating: +

Genre Elements

Blue Dragon Plus is listed as an Action RPG. Combat action is the primary element of gameplay, so I give it a + for that.

The 'Key Points' page of the marketing site boasts "Exciting RPG Elements Such As Item Collection, Character Progression and Robot Customizations".

Fine, let's talk about RPG Elements.

Items are collected and assigned to characters to grant additional stat bonuses and counteract weaknesses or increase strengths.

After combat, characters are awarded experience points and possibly level up. There is nothing to do during level-up. Stat increases are awarded automatically.

I haven't even gotten to the robot customization yet. This intrigues me, and I'm looking forward to it.

But how does it play as an RPG? That depends on your definition of Role Playing Game. I'm a paper and dice RPG'er and text-based RPG'er, which means I have a much different view on role play than WoW or EverQuest RPG'ers. So for me, the RPG element was the weak point of this game.

But as for the Action, Blue Dragon Plus is all about action.

I would say this is a neutral, one plus/one minus, but the RPG portion is listed as "Elements", and not designated as the primary genre, so we'll catagorize it Action.

Genre Element Rating: +


I know I haven't yet played the whole game through to the end, but in my experience so far, there isn't much to replay. Choices are limited to how you go about taking out the bad guys during combat. All conversation is pre-scripted with no input from the player, so once you've played through to the end, that's it. I'm not one who even re-reads books more than once, so I probably wouldn't play it more than once, but what I have played so far was good.

Replay-ability Rating: -


Blue Dragon Plus is a good story-driven combat game with some innovative elements in a familiar world. While not a true RPG, it does try to incorporate popular elements to appeal to everyone, and does an okay job. The 30+ hours of playtime is a fresh release in the wake of shorter games, but the complete linearity does not promote replay-ability. More of a graphic novel with combat breaks, but still recommended for fans of the original or similar titles. Having first completed the original is suggested for understanding the back story.

Summary Rating: (4 out of 5)

Blue Dragon Plus
Published by: Ignition Entertainment
Developed by: Feel Plus
Genre: Action RPG
System: Nintendo DS
Rated: E for Everyone
Release Date: February 24, 2009

Blue Dragon Plus images and video care of Rocket XL Marketing.
Dragon Score Image copyright: WarSpider Entertainment LLC, and is used with permission.
DragonClash.com is neither owned or operated by Nintendo and is not
associated with the Blue Dragon Plus product.


About This Blog

Reviews of anything Soulie is asked to Review! Right now its mainly video games, thanks to RocketXL Marketing. But if anyone else asks, and if he has the time, Reviews!

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