Name: Blue Dragon Plus
Genre: Strategy RPG
Platform: Nintendo DS
Blue Dragon was one of the first traditional role-playing games to come out for the Xbox 360 when it was released in 2007. Though it was met with some mixed reactions, reviews were mostly favorable, and I found a lot to love about the game. The battle system, while random and turn-based, also implemented some interesting features, most notably the use of shadows, and there were some surprisingly dark and serious themes going on under the cutesy, anime-esque exterior. Acting as a follow-up to the events of Blue Dragon, DS title Blue Dragon Plus has ditched the turn-based fighting for real-time combat while retaining the characters from the first game. It’s an interesting concept, and though it doesn’t quite measure up to the original, Blue Dragon Plus is a solid strategy game that fans will find familiar and fun.
It’s been well over a year since I finished Blue Dragon, so I wasn’t sure if I would get into Blue Dragon Plus right away. However, as soon as I saw Shu, Zola, and even Marumaro, I was happy to be back in that world again. The game also recycles some music from Blue Dragon, which was welcome; any video game tunes from famed composer Nobuo Uematsu can only be a good thing, in my opinion. The game is set a year after the end of Blue Dragon, with Shu and friends investigating an evil shadow in one of the cube worlds. It isn’t long before they find out that an old nemesis is still alive, and the peace they fought so hard for may be shattered if they don’t do something to stop it.
Story-wise, Blue Dragon Plus is weaker than the original, but still worthy enough to be an entry in the series. I wasn’t thrilled with some moments of lazy storytelling (“Hey, we all have shadows now! Oh, me too! I just forgot to tell you!”), but for the most part, the dialogue felt fitting for the characters. There are times when the plot got a bit dull, and I found myself tapping the stylus rapidly to try and get to the next battle faster. Unfortunately, the story is often lacking in tactics games, and Blue Dragon Plus, while not bad, plot-wise, is simply not as engaging as Blue Dragon.
Of course, the bread and butter of any strategy game is the fighting, and Blue Dragon Plus has a battle system that is simple, but entertaining. Everything is controlled by use of the touch screen, from moving across the board to summoning shadows. Tapping a character, and then an enemy, is all that is necessary for the most basic physical attacks; commands, like magic and item usage are a bit different, but not much deeper. However, despite the simplicity, the real-time battles can be very addictive and are the highlight of the game. Later in the game, equipping items and spells adds another level of strategy to the fighting; sending everyone in your party for a straight-on melee attack isn’t going to get you very far in the tougher battles. The touch screen works surprisingly well for the most part, but occasionally can be imprecise; also, sometimes sending separate units to different sections of the map can be a bit of a chore. Despite some hiccups, I had a lot of fun picking teams, customizing my units, and battling.
While playing through Blue Dragon Plus, I found myself saying, “This is good, but now I just want to go back and play Blue Dragon again.” Sequels and spin-offs should do more than just provide gamers with some nostalgia, they should build on the series. While Blue Dragon Plus doesn’t appear to be an actual sequel (hopefully, we will get a second 360 installment someday), I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to the original, and think about how I’d rather be playing that game. This may not be fair, because Blue Dragon Plus is a good game in its own right; however, the storyline doesn’t feel as fleshed out, and it’s not as addictive.
Even though Blue Dragon Plus is a lot of fun, it doesn’t really do anything particularly innovative. There’s nothing here to draw in gamers who aren’t fans of the genre, unless they’ve played the previous Blue Dragon game. Likewise, if you were turned off by the cartoony style of the first game, this one won’t do much for you either. For fans of the series, however, Blue Dragon Plus is an extremely solid game that should hold you over until (hopefully) a full console sequel is released. Unlike the 360, the DS has no shortage of role-playing games, so it might be hard for this title to stand out. Still, it’s a good strategy RPG that should be experienced, at least if only to give it a trial run.