Those of you that haven't played or heard of Blue Dragon before, prepare to be confused. The game doesn't bother to explain itself at all. So, just in case you get confused, here are the basics. The game tells the story of a spiky-haired kid called Shu, who along with his hilariously misfit entourage of friends, can use their shadows to summon super-powerful beasts like dragons and whatnot. Exciting, no? These Shadows have amazing powers and can be used to save the world from evil and whatnot. Still following? At the end of Blue Dragon, an evil 'Ancient' who goes by the name of Nene was presumed dead and an army of equally evil robots was presumed equally dead. What follows in this DS iteration is a constant sense of impending doom and foreboding evil as the JRPG plot unfolds in stereotypical fashion.
As you might well have guessed, the plot is a little predictable and tedious. The dialogue is slow and clunky and there is very little of interest going on until the very final moments of the game. It is this total lack of pacing to the story that leads the whole game to feel bogged down and sluggish. The plot isn't exactly helped by the dire sound effects that plague it throughout, irritating and offending in equal order. Whilst the music is admittedly good, the plinks and plonks that accompany every scrap of dialogue will have you tearing your hair out.
The game has also quite clearly tried to sex things up and bring some new elements to the series. Whilst before only Shu and his friends could control Shadow beasts, in BDP it seems everyone and anyone is able to do so. It almost seems as though the game is trying desperately to make things exciting.
Graphically, the game has good and bad points. The 3D cinematic sections and Shadow attacks look superb and the 2D sprites and levels are all nicely detailed and designed. The whole presentation of the title is excellent and really well polished, so whilst the audio might irritate at times, the visuals will have you purring like a kitten...maybe. Alas, there isn't really a sense of grandeur in the worlds that you traverse, with most settings being rather bland and indoors. Yes they look good, but they don't really ever excite.
Exploration is also limited. You control your characters in a turn-based style and fight in real-time. Battles themselves are simple and make good use of the touch-screen, allowing you to move around characters quickly and easily. Once you move a character to an enemy they will begin attacking automatically and you can simply select which attacks you want to use by tapping a couple of buttons. Annoyingly, you have to re-select characters for each and every attack, which can get a little repetitive.
Perhaps the games most offensive element is the AI, which is, to say the least, special. Select a unit to attack and watch in dumbstruck awe as your character goes on a scenic meander all around the map in a ridiculous attempt to get to where you selected. That's not all however. Defeat one enemy and your characters will stand around looking perplexed whilst they get pounded by another standing right next to them.
The overwhelming sense given by this game, however, is one of mediocrity. Its polished exterior fails to hide what is essentially a very dull and lifeless game. Clearly aimed at a younger audience, it is relentlessly simplistic and formulaic, refusing to do anything exciting or dynamic. Whilst some of the attacks are fun to look at and deploy, they are surrounded by a sea of tedium that plagues this game from start to finish.