Blue Dragon Plus Ds Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Reviews

Blue Dragon Plus is unmistakeably a Blue Dragon game: it has a Blue Dragon featured, Shu and company have returned and it still has an odd obsession with monster body waste, but it isn’t, as the name suggests, merely a simple upgrade to Mistwalker’s and Artoon’s original game. Not a chance of that, when the game in question is an RTS and RPG hybrid as opposed to the classical style RPG that its prequel was.

Upon its release back in 2007 (has it really been that long?) Blue Dragon polarised opinion: some people enjoyed its old fashioned tendencies, whilst others felt that it was too rigidly stuck to times gone by, I was largely of the latter but found the story to be lacking. It wasn’t a bad story by any means, but it lacked the refinement of the game mechanics. Blue Dragon Plus’ plot is unsurprisingly along the same lines, though lacking the spoken dialogue of the 360 game, but boasting about an hours worth of FMV. As it turns out, the story is actually one of the better reasons to play the game.

It isn’t as if the story is anything special (although it does have its moments), because it’s not, it’s because to play, Blue Dragon Plus is quite simply not even in the same league as the original game. It’s not grid based and you can move characters pretty much wherever you want to. It controls just as you’d expect it to: a simple touch with the stylus for single character selection and movement, for multiple character selection you draw an appropriately sized circle around them, which works great. Overall it does little to break genre convention, which is no bad thing, but its list of problems sees that it isn’t amongst the best.

Firstly, the pathfinding of and Shu his entourage is sometimes awful: at times they will walk into one another and take longer routes than necessary, what‘s worse is that sometimes they opt to take the most dangerous path imaginable, even when there are much safer options open to them. Maybe all of that fighting is starting to take a toll on their minds.

Of course, this AI stupidity (the two words really doesn’t go well together, do they?) is often detrimental to your strategic plans, so in a way it’s a good thing that any form of complex tactical manoeuvres are rarely required in Blue Dragon Plus. An effective tactic is dividing and conquering, or grouping together enemies with the same elemental weakness and zapping them all into oblivion with their most feared of spells.

Speaking of magic, the traditional MP system has been ditched. Instead when a character fires off a spell, they have to wait for a short interval until they are able to use it again. Another thing you have to keep in mind, is that when you use magic at exactly the same time as an enemy, a shadow (they’re friendly monsters) fight will occur. These moments require you to slide the stylus across the screen as many times as possible. Win and your impending magical attack will cause greater damage, but lose and the same applies to you. The only problem with this is that it’s seemingly impossible to win, not once throughout did I manage to come out on top.

Helpfully when characters are first introduced, you’ll get tips on how best to make use of their capabilities, which is a nice little touch. The game as a whole does well at easing you into proceedings: battles are initially less cluttered and chaotic affairs than they tend to be in the later stages.

When things do turn to chaos, at its worst Blue Dragon Plus can be a confusing coming together of tiny sprites, which can make it hard to keep tabs on the action, and at such times it can be troublesome picking out a healer, when the situation really requires it. At least the characters move at a slow speed, which alleviates but never fully remedies the problem.

A vast array of characters with contrasting capabilities grants the skirmishes a great deal of variety. For example Shu himself is a well balanced character with both strong physical and magical skills, Jiro and Kluke are most effective on the magical side of things, meanwhile King Jibral has strong physical attack and defence, but is weak against magic.

On top of levelling up, by finding and equipping additional shadows, characters can become more flexible and, in turn, more useful. So as an example, if you really wanted to you could give a physically reliant character some magical capabilities to bolster their attack options.

Outside of battle, there’s no true adventuring and battle respites are spent equipping your party and moving your characters around an isometric map. Shops can be discovered along the way and if you meet an enemy, you’ll fight them. From here, you’re also able to partake in free battles to further strengthen your party as well as take on optional quests.

Another thing that you’re able to do from this screen is build robots to fill up free space within your ranks. They never level up, but you’re able to fiddle around with their inner circuits to make them more powerful and this can get quite complex, to the level that it almost makes it feel like a puzzle game at times. Striving to create the ultimate machine can be quite a time consuming process, but it’s worth the effort as they have the potential to become some of the most powerful members of your team.

Blue Dragon Plus is slender in strategy and has a number of problems, but thanks to its controls and overall intuitive nature, it still manages to be a mildly enjoyable strategy game that above all, tells a decent story.

6/10

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