Blue Dragon Plus Nintendo DS review

Hannah spends time with Blue Dragon Plus, and finds that despite its best efforts, Final Fantasy needn't be worrying itself...

Blue Dragon Plus

I’ve played Blue Dragon Plus for a fair few days now and I’m still not 100 percent sure I know what’s going on. There are various spiky haired, androgynous heroes running around, spawning blue creatures called ‘dragons’ from their bottoms whilst quoting medieval words like “whence” despite living in a futuristic, space world filled with robots.

The game doesn’t exactly ease you into this rather convoluted setting either, hitting you in the first few seconds with phrases like “Where’s the Shadow, it had three heads right?” Of course it did, why would it not? But it does provide you the information on the basics of game play, or enough at least so you can go into battle and win the first few rounds, even if you’re not entirely sure why.

The other details do start to trickle in after a while and that’s down to the gentle, yet effective, storytelling the game offers. It seems a funny, bizarre game at first but it’s serious in the right places and well written enough to make you like the goodies and despise the baddies. However, no matter how good the storytelling, it offers no explanation as to why a sledgehammer-wielding character is walking side by side with a robot with a gun. I think the robot already has the edge, why are you giving him the gun? Have a heart; use some of your obviously superior technology on the common man!

The game begins with the discovery that super-bad-guy Nene, has been reborn and is going to wreak some havoc on the world. As you’d expect, this leads the dragon wielding characters, Shu, Zola, Marumaro and Szabo out on a long quest to find and destroy him in order to save the world – which they try and do straight away as they, surprisingly, seem to trip over Nene after about five straight seconds of questing. This is not the world of Mario where you must fight through castle after castle before finally meeting the big cheese of the evil world. No, in Blue Dragon, the big cheese is patiently sat on a bed of grapes waiting for you, which allows you a fair shot at ruining his future plans before they’re ripe (ho-ho? Cheese jokes are the best). Unfortunately, though, things go horribly wrong when they fail to defeat Nene and are forced back to base, with their dragons’ tails between their legs. After stocking up on courage and extra characters, the team set out in earnest and the fight really begins.

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The extra characters added after the first boss fight are put there to level the odds to your side, but as they each have their own specific skill sets and talents, it can get a little confusing. I suspect this is the nature of the style of game, rather than the game itself, but I found myself contemplating writing cheat sheets so I could remember when to use each character against what. That is, if I could decipher which tiny group of pixels was which as they scuttled about my screen, cunningly hiding behind each other and making it frustratingly difficult to get them to do my bidding.

You see, the controls for this game are perfectly suited to the DS and that makes it all the more surprising that the game is slightly clunky in places. For example, the camera will do its own thing, when and where it feels like it, thank you very much. The characters will move infuriating slowly across the map and with the amount of information, special skills and other jargon squeezed into the screen, I often found myself tapping entirely the wrong 2mm dot/character and wasting valuable enemy-thrashing time waiting for attacks to reload.

Having said that, the battles are fun. Repetitive? Sure. Predictable? Yes, but generally and undeniably fun – though it may be too much to handle for newcomers to the genre. You won’t find me carrying this game around in my pocket forcing it onto friends and insisting that “No really, you have to play this.” Because they don’t.

Blue Dragon Plus is good at what it does, but only good, not great and there are lot of games in the genre which surpass it. It’s not going to convert any newcomers and it’s not going to bowl over any old timers. It’s just going to plod along in the background, amusing some, underwhelming others. The JRPG genre has more exciting games in its catalogue and though Blue Dragon Plus isn’t bad, there’s just no reason to choose it over something like Final Fantasy.

3 stars

Rating:

3 out of 5