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DS  header logo

Blue Dragon Plus

For: DS

Flapping around

Product: Blue Dragon Plus | Developer: Brownie Brown | Publisher: UTV Ignition Games | Format: DS | Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Blue Dragon Plus DS, thumbnail 1
People who claim to have had past lives were always close to positions of power or important events in their previous existences. However, these one-time servants of Henry the Eighth or Cleopatra are usually reporting their past glories in more modest circumstances. Must have been something they did.

It's a similar situation for game characters with special summoning powers. You don't find many masters of the hedgehog or sparrow. Instead, ancient demons, wolves, lions and other ferocious creatures dominate proceedings.

The Blue Dragon series is a particular example of this, with the characters able to use their magical shadows for extra attack power, the incarnations of which include a phoenix, a minotaur and a saber-toothed tiger.

Of course, the star of the show is Shu and his blue dragon, as fans of the Xbox 360 game or the animated series on which this DS version is based will well know. The game itself follows the route of a real-time strategy cum role-player, which proves to be quite a complicated combination.

Indeed, the game's introduction and initial plot is also pretty baffling unless you've had previous exposure to the brand.

Your initial characters - Shu, Zola, Marumaro and Szabo - find themselves on an assignment to uncover the danger behind a newly discovered three-headed dragon that’s appeared in a cube floating in space.

Okay, well plot isn't everything.

What's more annoying is there's no explanation of controls (unless you fancy an impromptu flick through the instruction manual) and so the best method of familiarising yourself is to experiment with each button until you learn its specific function.

This being a squad-based game (indeed a multiple squad-based game by the end), each of the characters you control has his own skills and attributes.

For example, Zola is a speedy explorer, useful for leading enemies into traps, while Jiro is a healer who can ensure the health of nearby friends is topped up, and melee expert Fushira works as a support unit for physically weak characters.

Most scenarios begin with a short yet graphically impressive anime video sequence, followed by a mission that you have to complete to progress to the next part of the plot (that is if you haven't lost the plot yourself).

These typically involve defeating a group of enemies in real-time. This involves using the DS stylus to select one of your four characters, selecting an enemy or map location, tapping it, and waiting for your hero to toddle along at a frustratingly slow speed towards his target.

You can leave him to battle automatically while directing other party members to their positions, however. Sometimes characters will need a few prods to do as they are told, which quite irritating in the midst of a heated fight. You also have to manually trigger actions such as the shadow attacks and especially healing spells to ensure your squad isn't wiped out.

This often means that what starts out as an organised battle becomes a chaotic rabble as you strive to keep each individual beating the living daylights out of enemies while utilising shadows and spells when necessary.

You can try to control the confusion with options to pause and select multiple or all characters to redeploy them, but unless you strictly keep your characters in the same location on the map, after a while it's like herding cats.

It also comes as a disappointment to discover that the summoning of shadows looks far more impressive than the attacks themselves. And the potential damage of these attacks is only known once executed, making it difficult to gauge their effectiveness ahead of time.

Further frustration is created as the game's role-playing element has a bad habit of interrupting battles with pauses for plot development as circumstances change, generally with the result that just when you think you’re doing okay more enemies are thrown into the mix.

More positively on the RPG front, the reward for winning a battle is a healthy dose of experience points. Each character has a bunch of different attributes for you to tweak, as well as items and objects for you to collect and/or buy.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Blue Dragon Plus, however, is how the sense of excitement created during the frantic fast-paced action is gradually worn down by prolonged repetition. Frankly, the novelty of such battles drops off and the story isn't engaging enough to keep you hooked unless you're a fiercely loyal Blue Dragon fan.

In this way, the game loosens its grip on your affections after a time, which is a shame as it looks fantastic and is a lengthy experience with over 25 hours of plot, battling and customisation available.

Sadly, though, it's unlikely you'll look back at the hours spent with Blue Dragon Plus as the most fruitful time of this, let alone any previous, life.
Blue Dragon Plus
Reviewer photo
Stacy Kidd | 24 April 2009
An interesting take on the tactical role-playing genre, Blue Dragon Plus isn't quite honed enough to fulfil its potential
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