Dragon: A Spirited Effort
Xbox 360 isn't known for its role-playing games (the exception is the superb Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), but developers are working on several titles for the console. Blue Dragon has been hyped as Microsoft's answer to the Final Fantasy games. Is it? Not really.
The game begins with three of the five main characters, Shu, Kluke and Jiro, in their village, Talta. Each year, a creature known as the Land Shark terrorizes their home. Right away, you are thrown into battle as Shu tries to stop the creature. But Land Shark turns out to be a machine built by villain Nene. The three kids end up on an airship, where they acquire magic powers that allow them to control spiritual animals, or Spirit Beasts. Along with two new friends, catlike Marumaro and mercenary Zola, they set out to defeat Nene. The story is not original, but it is fairly interesting.
Gameplay is standard; combat is turn-based. However, instead of Shu and the others acting out your commands, their Spirit Beasts perform the moves, which is entertaining. As your character's level increases, you can unlock classes such as Sword Master (physical attacks), Black Magic (Fire, Water, Wind, etc.) and Monk (making attacks more efficient). Each class brings something different to the table and makes a tired battle system more enjoyable.
Graphically, Blue Dragon looks great, and the environments add vitality (the water in the game is mesmerizing). But the blur effects from distant images can hurt your eyes. The characters are great, and although some players may be turned off by the "kiddie" look of the game, I enjoyed its style.
There are better role-playing games on other platforms, but for Xbox 360 owners, Blue Dragon will do just fine.
-- Gregory McDougal
Blue Dragon Teen; Xbox 360 ($60) Microsoft Game Studios/Mistwalker Studios Blue Dragon Teen; Xbox 360 ($60) Microsoft Game Studios/Mistwalker Studios