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 is a console role-playing game developed by Mistwalker and Artoon and distributed by Microsoft Game Studios exclusively for the Xbox 360. Blue Dragon is based on a design by Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who also supervised development and wrote the plot. The game was released in Japan on December 7, 2006, where it was sold both as a standalone title and as part of a bundle with the Xbox 360 (including the game, the Xbox 360 system itself, and a Blue Dragon console skin). Other regions received only the game itself, with a release in Europe on August 24, 2007, and in North America on August 28, 2007.


Blue Dragon follows the story of five friends—Shu, Jiro, Kluke, Zola, and Marumaro—as they travel across the world to confront Nene, the evil king of the Grand Kingdom. The setting inspired separate anime and manga adaptations, although these follow the story to different degrees and feature a different cast of characters. The game follows a traditional role-playing design, based around exploration and turn-based combat.

Blue Dragon is the first Xbox 360 title to make use of multiple discs, spanning three discs in total. Overall, the game has received a positive reception, with an average score of 79% on the review aggregator website Metacritic. Blue Dragon was both applauded and criticized for its adaptation of the traditional elements of role-playing games.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Blue Dragon is inspired by older Japanese role-playing-games using turn-based gameplay elements seen in various JRPG. The game world contains two major types of areas: towns, in which the player can rest and purchase items, and dungeon-like areas, with numerous foes to be defeated.

Exploration

Players are initially able to walk between locations on the overworld, and later gain the ability to teleport to previously visited locations. The player controls a party of characters, but only one is shown when exploring the overworld. The player is able to cast magic outside of combat situations based on each character's respective abilities. When combat begins, the entire party appears for battle. Enemies are visible to the player while exploring the game world, and can be avoided. At the same time, players can choose to engage enemies by luring them close and them activating a circle which will allow players to fight multiple monsters at a time. In some cases, specific foes will block a path or desired treasure chest and must be defeated to proceed. Other foes will pursue the player's character once the player is spotted, but players can elude them if they flee far enough. Frequently, a single enemy or monster displayed on the screen actually represents a number of different foes of potentially different types.

Combat begins differently depending on how the player avatar makes contact with the monster. If the avatar strikes an enemy from behind, they take the advantage in battle with a "Back Attack". Similarly, if the avatar is struck from behind, the enemy takes the advantage in a "Surprise Attack". Players can also choose to fight several groups of monsters at once, with each combat taking place immediately after the previous one. A player who successfully employs this tactic is rewarded with bonuses. Players may use "field skills" to aid in controlling enemy encounters, such as using bombs to paralyze enemies. In rare cases, two groups of monsters may be of rival species, in which case a "Monster Fight" will occur, with both monster groups appearing at once focusing on each other before attacking the player.

Shadows

Each of the main characters' shadows.
The core mechanic in Blue Dragon is the use of magical "shadows", with each playable character having a distinct shadow modeled after either a dragon, a phoenix, a bat, a minotaur, or a saber-toothed tiger. Each shadow can be assigned to a single character class (from a number of such classes) at a time, taking on the attributes and abilities of that class. Only the active class may earn Class levels or "ranks", but players are free to change classes at any time except in combat, allowing the group's shadows to be customized in order to achieve the desired combination of skills.

As shadows increase in rank in a given class, they learn new skills, which can then be assigned to a limited number of skill slots to be used in combat. Shadows can be assigned previously learned skills regardless of their current class. For example, if a shadow is currently set to be an "Assassin", but has previously learned the ability to cast "Barrier Magic" while acting as a member of the Barrier Magic class, the Barrier Magic skill can be set as an active skill. This allows mixing or hybridization, with the player able to pick and choose from among the skills learned by a given shadow.

Combat

Although combat in the game follows a strictly turn-based formula, the turn sequence of the combatants is calculated based on the agility of the character, and in some cases characters are allowed to take multiple turns before enemies can act if they possess sufficient speed. Different attacks can take varied periods of time to execute.

Another combat timing mechanic featured in the game is the "Charge Meter", which allows players to increase the power of spells or attacks by spending additional time preparing them. This meter is always used for spell casting, as well as when using the "Charge Attack" skill used by the "Monk" class. Although players can choose to act immediately, an ability will become more powerful the longer that the player charges the attack. However, the greater the amount of time one charges attacks, the longer the charging character must wait before the next turn. As a result of this, players can choose to charge up an ability so that the ability triggers shortly before an enemy acts, or can instead aim for the "sweet spot", a special red area on the charging bar, indicating a charge that allows for less time until the next attack, as well as a smaller mana cost. Overall, deciding on the correct amount of charge and letting go of the button at precisely that time can greatly influence the effectiveness of each character's attacks during combat.

Plot

Setting

Blue Dragon takes place in a fictional open-world environment where every year for the past ten years, purple clouds have mysteriously appeared in the sky, signaling misfortune and disaster for people across the world. For years, a terrifying beast dubbed the "Land Shark", came with the purple clouds, killing thousands of people and destroying a number of villages. The world is split up into climate regions, each containing multiple kingdoms and villages. Around the environment are multiple sources of treasure

Characters

The five main characters of Blue Dragon are Shu, a 16-year-old boy; Kluke, a mature and serious girl; Jiro, an intelligent young man; Marumaro, a member of a small ancient village called the Devee Tribe; and Zola, a powerful warrior who protects the kingdom of Jibral. Both Shu and Kluke's parents were killed by the "Land Shark", a powerful ancient machine that terrorizes local villages. The antagonists include Nene, an old alien-like man who is the controller of the Land Shark and the king of the evil Grand Kingdom; Deathroy, a small mechanical creature that lives off of Nene's life force; and General Szabo, a robotic servant of Nene who leads his robotic army.

Story

Blue Dragon begins when the legendary purple clouds arrive in Talta Village, the home of Shu, Kluke, and Jiro. While the other villagers seek shelter, Shu and Jiro slow down the Land Shark. After encountering troubles, Kluke saves them. Together, the three trap the Land Shark in a net, but the Land Shark breaks free and rushes away, with Shu, Jiro, and Kluke dangling from its back. The Land Shark stops in an ancient ruin that the three friends explore. They discover the Land Shark is really a machine—a "mechat". Without warning, the mechat comes to life, only this time sailing into the sky, again carrying the three with it.

The party arrives at a giant mechat base in the clouds and are tossed into the throne room of Nene, the apparent leader. Nene explains to them how he enjoys hearing the screams of the dying victims of the Land Shark. The party battles Nene, but are easily defeated. They are thrown out of the base and start to fall to their deaths, but a beam of light from the base catches them, and brings them back to the base. The party find three small floating spheres in the middle of the room; a mysterious voice commands them to swallow the spheres. The party refuses, and instead hold onto the spheres for safekeeping. As they try to reach another mechat to escape the base, they are forced to fight a large army of Nene's robots. When the battle seems it will never end, and with the unseen voice promising them knowledge of how to pilot the mechat, the party members eat the spheres. As they consume the spheres, a strange transformation occurs to each, changing the forms of their shadows into powerful beings that are able to destroy the robot army. The party escapes the base and crash in a desert.

After becoming familiar with their new shadows, the party travels to Talta village, befriending Marumaro on the way, who also possesses a magical shadow. Finding that the villagers from Talta have started to head towards the capital city of Jibral, the party takes off after them. Just outside Jibral, the party finds the villagers attacked by monsters but they are saved by the arrival of King Jibral and his forces, including Zola. Once the villagers are brought to Jibral, the King decides to implement a plan to destroy one of Nene's bases near Jibral using Shu and his friends along with Zola. Together, the party works with the warriors of Talta Village the Jibral Kingdom to besiege Nene's mechat base. After the base is destroyed, the party heads north in search of Nene. Nene captures Kluke, and places a collar around her neck which Nene alleges will explode. After reaching Nene, Zola separates from the party to buy them time to attack Nene. When the party attempts to remove Kluke's collar, Nene absorbs the party's shadows by placing collars on all of them. After taking their powers and placing them in himself, he removes their collars and attempts to kill them before they recover. Shu, despite being drained of magical ability, unconsciously teleports the party to the distant Devour village.

In Devour Village, they find themselves unable to escape the village without their magic, because the community is surrounded by evil trees. Shu has an epiphany and finds himself able to summon his dragon shadow without his sphere. Shu destroys the head evil tree in Devour Village, and the party is finally able to leave. Eventually all the party are able to summon their shadows again.

At that point, the party reunites with Zola, who supplies a mechat for them to pursue Nene. As the party goes after Nene in the mechat, Nene initiates an ancient machine that splits the world into two hemispheres, with thousands of isolated cubes floating between the halves. The party follows Nene to the primitive cube at the core of the transformation. They party journeys through the cube eventually defeating General Szabo and ultimately engaging Nene. As the party weakens Nene, it is revealed that Zola was working for Nene all along, and she was the voice that told the others to swallow the spheres. When Zola was too weak to defend herself, Nene had given her a shadow and sent her to Jibral as a spy. Zola then betrays Nene choosing her friends over Nene. With Nene's death, Deathroy, the small creature that has been on Nene's shoulder removes himself from his masters body draining Nene's remaining life force. Deathroy is revealed to be Destroy, the biomechanical weapon that destroyed the legendary ancients that once tried to bring peace to the world. The party defeats Destroy, melting him in lava. The party then quickly escapes from the melting cube to rejoin their families.

Development

Blue Dragon was first revealed on February 24, 2005 as one of two unnamed role-playing games in development by Mistwalker Studios for the console which later came to be known as the Xbox 360. In an IGN interview following the unveiling, Peter Moore stressed the importance to Microsoft of having Japanese games available on the system, commenting "... It's a main priority for me in the next 12–18 months to ensure Japanese developers are our partners." Contributors to Blue Dragon include a number of well known Japanese figures in the gaming industry. The title's original story was written by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the game director of the first five Final Fantasy video games. It also features art from Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball and visual character and monster designer and illustrator of both the Dragon Quest series and Chrono Trigger.

Much of the actual software development work on the game was done at Artoon, with Takuya Matsumoto serving as director and Manabu Kusonoki responsible for the game's world view. Matsumoto previously worked as a designer on Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space, while Kusonoki is known for his work at Sega, including the world of Panzer Dragoon. Near the end of November 2005, roughly a year before the title was released in Japan, Artoon's Naoto Ōshima indicated that the game was around 40% complete. He also pointed out that Artoon had previously been known primarily for action titles, so that responsibility for Blue Dragon was originally somewhat frightening. Following this, a relative lack of media information for most of 2006 resulted in speculation that the title would be delayed until 2007, but Microsoft's Takashi Sensui confirmed in August 2006 that the game would indeed see a year-end 2006 release. Blue Dragon makes use of three full DVD discs making it the first Xbox 360 game to use over three discs of gameplay.

In a November 2006 interview with IGN, Sakaguchi confirmed that the sequel, Blue Dragon 2, was in the planning stages, and would presumably start development shortly thereafter. Later in an issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump, it was announced that Blue Dragon Plus was in the works for the Nintendo DS. It is a real-time simulation RPG, featuring 2D sprite graphics, and was released on September 4, 2008 in Japan and on February 19, 2009 in North America. In 2009, a second Blue Dragon title was released for the DS, Blue Dragon: Ikai no Kyojū. This game would be more action oriented, and would follow along a player-created character, rather than Shu.

Music

Blue Dragon s score was composed and produced by Nobuo Uematsu, who is famous for composing much of the music in the popular Final Fantasy series. One of the boss themes, "Eternity", was composed by Sakaguchi, and Uematsu, and includes vocals by English singer Ian Gillan. Blue Dragon Original Soundtrack was released on December 13, 2006 and was arranged by Satoshi Henmi and Hiroyuki Nakayama. Music from Blue Dragon was performed live at the Play! A Video Game Symphony concerts in 2006. IGN praised the track "Cave" as one of the "Top 10 Nobuo Uematsu Musical Moments". Enter Shikari also made an instrumental song, Enter Shikari vs. Blue Dragon for the original soundtrack.

Blue Dragon Original Soundtrack track listing'

Manga and anime

On November 12, 2006, Shueisha announced that a manga adaptation of Blue Dragon would be produced. Blue Dragon: Secret Trick is drawn by Shibata Ami and was scheduled to premiere in Monthly Shōnen Jump in January 2007. Takeshi Obata, the illustrator of Death Note, is handling Blue Dragon Ral Grad, which began serialization in issue 1, 2007 of Weekly Shōnen Jump. Viz Media later released the first volume of the manga as simply "Ral Grad" in February 2008.

An anime adaptation directed by Yukihiro Matsushita, animated by Studio Pierrot and co-produced by SKY Perfect Wellthink, TV Tokyomarker and Pierrot was announced in November 2006. The anime began airing April 7, 2007, featuring a different vocal cast than that used for the game. It also ignored most of the game's plot. It aired on TV Tokyo, and ran for 51 episodes. A second season of Blue Dragon— —premiered on TV Tokyo on April 5, 2008. On April 16, 2007, Viz Media announced that it had licensed the anime for release in North America and Europe. An edited English language dub of the series premiered in the United States on Cartoon Network, on April 5, 2008, where it aired on Toonami Jetstream until Jetstream was cancelled on January 30, 2009. Since then it has been discovered that Viz Media did make an uncut version of the Blue Dragon anime in English. This uncut version released by Manga Entertainment has had the first 24 episodes released on DVD (so far exclusively in the UK) over three 2 disc DVD sets with the release date of the next DVD set to be announced. These uncut episodes unlike the US DVD releases fully restores the original Japanese opening and closing, all edited scenes from the Cartoon Network version are restored including the original music, as well as having the option to view the series in Japanese with English subtitles.

Reception

Pre-orders of Blue Dragon bundled with a limited edition Xbox 360 Core system were sold out in Japan well before the December 7, 2006 release date. Microsoft and Mistwalker initially hoped to sell over 200,000 copies, which would break their record for sales of an Xbox 360 game in Japan. The game did manage the goal, with almost exactly 200,000 copies sold as of December 27, 2007. Creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was pleased the game sold as well as it did.

Reviews for Blue Dragon were somewhat mixed, though generally favorable. On the review aggregator Game Rankings, the game had an average score of 78% based on 64 reviews. While many reviewers praised the game for its traditional approach, a few reviewers criticized it for that very reason, with one reviewer remarking, "In fact, there is very little you can point to in Blue Dragon that hasn't been done multiple times over before". The story also came under scrutiny from some reviewers for being too generic and too similar to existing Japanese RPGs, with slow pacing during the beginning of the game. Eurogamer stated that the apparent lack of effort put into the facial animations for each character resulted in a limited ability to express emotion. They also noted that the mouth movements are well timed, but that the rest of the characters' facial movements are "static".

Game Informer commented that Blue Dragon lacked "jaw dropping" moments and was missing a nebulous "key element" to make it perfect. 1UP.com also picked up on this, adding that Blue Dragon was missing "strong characters, gripping storytelling, and excellent pacing". X-Play said that the game was very visually pleasing, but indicated that it was like any other role-playing game. Though most of the reviewers criticized the game in one way or another, they all complimented it for its excellent graphics and music. Specifically, Game Informer remarked that "the characters look like sculpted figurines wandering around a world built to scale". GameSpy complimented the title's music and graphics saying the game had "phenomenal music; and magnificently rendered cutscenes".

References

  1. [http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/entershikari/ Xbox.com | Soundtracks - Enter Shikari


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