Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Role Playing Game
When I learned that the creator of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, was creating a series of new games for the Xbox 360, I was excited. Sakaguchi was responsible for making me fall in love with the Final Fantasy franchise and it appears he is going to give me another game, and another franchise, that will become my new RPG obsession. Blue Dragon has been in development for a long time but it definitely has been worth the wait.
Microsoft and Sakaguchi have been very secretive with Blue Dragon. Even after what we have seen at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, many elements are still unknown. For starters, we aren't entirely sure of the story yet, who the mysterious villain is--shown in the demos at TGS 06--and why your main characters seem to only fight against an army of robots. One thing we do know is that the heroes in Blue Dragon are set on fighting their way through the legions of robots in an effort to get their hands on the big-eared villain. We assume he is the primary villain in Blue Dragon.
The primary character you control is named Shu. He is the black spikey haired character that you have seen in most screenshots and pictures of Blue Dragon. The rest of the party consists of Kluke, a female, Marumaro, a goblin of sorts, and Jiro, another male. Like the early Final Fantasy series, each character has their own strengths and skills they bring to the party. However, it is unknown how much control you have over allowing new skills to be learned by any character of your choice. We will probably have to wait to learn these details.
Walking around the game world is very familiar to other Role Playing Games. You control Shu during these elements--with the rest of your party mysteriously held in your pocket or inside your body. While working around the world, players can hit a button to open up chests or doors, talk to others, and use some sort of attack. However, it is not clear what this attack is for. Enemies appear on the screen, similar to how they did in Chrono Trigger, and this gives players the opportunity to avoid enemies and not have any random enemy encounters.
Once a battle begins, players will see the familiar menus associated with any other Role Playing Game. Here you make your selections and instead of the character actually fighting the enemy, a Blue Dragon appears behind your characters and does the action for you. However, enemies will not do damage against your Blue Dragon. Your characters will take the damage instead. In the demo, all encounters were fairly easy. A large robotic boss proved to be a little bit of a challenge but after defeating him, the heroes were ushered to another area to chase after the villain.
Sakaguchi says that Blue Dragon is basically finished and hopes to ship the game in Japan this December. He claims that the game will take RPG veterans roughly 40 to 70 hours to complete. In a Q&A session with Sakaguchi, he was very insistent on not comparing the games at Mistwalker with Final Fantasy or anything else Square makes. While the similarities exist, Sakaguchi left Square and it appears he is taking the first games at Mistwalker in a completely different direction than Square is. Perhaps he felt like the titles at Square were moving away from what made them classical gamepaly experiences in the first place.
One thing we do know for sure: Blue Dragon is going to be awesome. And I do mean game of the year awesome. Microsoft, get this one out to territories outside of Japan ASAP!