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Japanator review: Blue Dragon Plus (Nintendo DS)

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Right from the get go, I knew that Blue Dragon Plus was going to have a few pretty high hurdles to jump in order to win me over. First, and probably highest, was the fact that I didn't know anything about the original series. Second, I've never really been one for real time strategy or tactical games, and third, while I love my DS, I always find it tough to spend prolonged time on the handheld system.

Not knowing the back story, I assume that BDP picks up immediately following events from the previous game. Shu and company find themselves crash-landed on a giant cube crawling with robots. Said robots are packing explosives and are hell-bent on blowing the cube up with them. I'm sure there's some reason why, but I'll be damned if I ever knew it.

Along the way, Shu and his band pick up a host of friends both new and old, even making a few robo-friends of their own (far) down the line. Together they all work to exterminate the cube of the suicidal robots. Of course, things can't be that easy, and sure enough Nene, the villain (I'm guessing) from the previous Blue Dragon rears his giant purple head and starts, well, doing nothing, mostly. Since his reasons for not doing anything either villainous or even slightly dickish are a major plot-point throughout the game, I'll just say that his giant purple, veiny, pulsing head is probably flanked by a couple of the biggest blue balls you've ever seen.

 

 Obviously, this story isn't exactly deep and the game is really more of a straight-up tactical grinder. All of the action takes place in real-time. Each character has three basic commands it accepts, those being fight (or rather “do nothing” as everyone automatically engages any foe that comes near) item use or magic (shadow) use. You can command the entire party to move around the board or fight a foe, or grab either groups or single fighters out of the pack. Once the action starts things move rather quickly and the teeny tiny size of the sprites makes most quick decision making a literally hit-or-miss proposition. Characters can overlap each other and enemies, so madly rotating the camera and blindly stabbing the screen is often your only option.

However, this mad pointing is often unnecessary, since every character is basically the same, as is every encounter. I'd say that I easily played 80% of the game without paying much attention, just letting the troop walk to the next baddie and fight it until it died. A little bit of healing now and then and the fights were quickly over. This method only became easier as the game progressed and the party grew. There's even a handy button that allows you to add all of your friends to the party, no matter how far away in the cube they may be (you eventually split into multiple parties) right before the battle, making you virtually unstoppable.

 


 Make no mistake, this is no RPG. Sure, each character has unique stats that slowly build up, but you have virtually no control over their development aside from what accessories they wear. The game tries to point out the unique qualities of each character when they first join the party, but in practice they are so negligible as to be rendered moot, especially when you load up everyone together.

The graphics are very nice, crisp and suitably old-school, but the animation leaves much to be desired. Every character and monster only has two animations, either walking or being hit, with a few exceptions for the rare narrative break. There are a number of very nice cut-scenes, but they are predictably brief and often spread over both screens, which makes the action tough to take in all at once.

The music is toe-tapping and just good enough to be neither annoying nor interesting. There are a few different song sprinkled throughout, but you'll be hearing the same two or three for most of the game.

 


Overall, as someone with no experience with the Blue Dragon story, I found absolutely no interest in the events in Blue Dragon Plus. Yet I don't think that's necessarily the fault of my ignorance. The plot is simply thin and silly, the dialog sounds like a child acting out an action drama and the fact that it's damn near impossible to die for most of the game leaves little to hold on to. The lack of interaction in character development, or even any real discerning factors between each person also makes the entire game feel like the same battle over and over. Even the boss battles are more about endurance than clever strategy. There's the feeling that the game wants you to play a certain way, using each character in very specific roles, but the reality is that it's far too easy to just bulldoze the enemy with overpowering numbers.

None of these points are game breakers. For fans of the series and of the genre who really want something to pass the time, Blue Dragon Plus does offer up some time-killing good-times. There is a lot to uncover if you feel like taking the time to grind away, finding all the treasures, building robots etc., though none of it is even remotely necessary to make it through the game. This one is for die-hards only.

OMG NUMBERS: 6 out of 10 purple penis jokes

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reviewed by Zac Bentz

 

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Zac Bentz
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Filed under... #Blue Dragon #nintendo DS #reviews #Video games

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