Blue Dragon is a unique game for me. Namely, it’s one that I have actually beaten. Oh, granted, it took me a while. I teetered on the edge of no return of this JRPG for about a year and a half before I finally piloted my airship-fish into the atmosphere sucking hole at the end of the game in order to throw down with the last boss. I’m glad I did. While Blue Dragon is pretty much what you’d expect to find in JRPG fare, the ending was something bizarre enough to keep the game in my head nearly a year after I’ve beaten it. I’ve played through portions of the game since then as well, mainly because I’m a sucker for games that have a job system in place.
That’s not to say Blue Dragon doesn’t have problems. Most games do. But the way Blue Dragon bypassed its own, personal issues was by being totally messed up and throwing in a liberal helping of cubes late game. There’s probably going to be spoilers in here, for the record, though I’ll let you know when they’re coming.
Blue Dragon is one of those games you hate to be able to predict, but if you’ve ever played any JRPGs in the past, you know what to expect. The power of your EMOTIONS and FEELINGS are the most powerful force on the planet, and judging by how tall the main characters are compared to the surrounding NPCs, I get the feeling they’re about ten or eleven years old. Still, a good RPG can be tough to come by these days, so I picked up Blue Dragon a number of years back and grimly set off down the path of friendship and adventure.
The game takes place in a world that is battered by disasters. Our three main protagonists, Shu, Kluke and Jiro live in a town that is routinely demolished by some kind of weird underground creature that appears once a year in a cloud of purple fog. The natives refer to it as the Land Shark, and when the purple fog starts rolling in, residents have long since learned to seek higher ground to avoid instant sharky death.
Yes, that’s right. A LAND SHARK. Anyone remember that old Saturday Night Live sketch? The quality on this is pretty bad, but it’s the best one I could find.
If it had actually been that same shark, Blue Dragon would have been a game of the year contender. Instead it was just some kind of giant fin bursting out of the ground. Odd, that.
Anyway, Shu and Jiro decide to destroy the land shark, thus saving everyone, basically forever. After some shenanigans, Kluke gets wrapped up in the plot as well, and all three of them are dragged off away from town at high speed, and eventually end up in an airship hidden in the purple fog, wherein a purple old guy named Nene tells them he enjoys being a dick to people. Shu, Kluke and Jiro resolve to murder him right away, but since they’re children they don’t really pose much threat.
To make a long story short, they’re urged to swallow some light spheres by a mysterious and therefore completely trustworthy source, and watch as their shadows grow and burst up from the ground in weird animal shapes. This is MAGIC, I guess.
From there, its off onto adventures, following the same formula most RPGs follow. In their quest to find and destroy Nene, the three friends head off from town to town, solving whatever crisis Nene has created there. Turns out, the guy is kind of a misery savant. Sure, he could throw a million land sharks at people but hell, that’s boring. So he makes plagues, tidal waves, curses, and a whole sundry mess of other horrors and throws them people-ward. It’s up to Shu, Kluke and Jiro, and later to the pirate-y Zola and the hyperactive annoyance Marumaru, to put these problems to rest.
The shadows themselves are what matter. Each shadow can eventually take one of several roles and learn abilities, which can be used so long as you have the available skill slots. Black and white magic are pretty self-explanatory, with combat friendly classes like the monk, defense specialized classes like the defender, a thief, barrier magician and more. It should be noted, however, that anything the shadow does is labeled, in-game, as magic. It seemed kind of odd when Shu’s dragon shadow punches out a snake made out of shit (I’m serious) and everyone keeps going on about how powerful his magic is.
Each class levels up independently of the others, but the abilities you learn can be used regardless of which class you’re currently using. This creates a level of strategy to your leveling efforts. Or at least it would. That leads us to the first problem of the game.
Blue Dragon is ridiculously easy. I don’t recall one challenge that was too much for me. Not a single battle threatened my party of ten year olds. And since there is a system in place where you can fight like 15 random encounters at the same time if you can round up enough baddies on the overland map, I really feel like there should have been SOME kind of challenge. I actually downloaded “Blue Dragon Plus” off of Xbox Live arcade and ratcheted up the difficulty on my new game plus by about a million points and was still laying waste to fools left and right.
The second problem in this game is the dialogue. I’m not talking about the standard JRPG lines about hearts and friendship, oh no! I’m talking about how Shu and Marumaru are unashamedly annoying. Shu will say the phrase “I will never give up!!!!” so many times you’ll want to strangle him, and Marumaru is a small jaundiced looking thing in a dumb hat with volume control problems who refers to himself in third person and shows off his emotions through interpretive dance. Again. I’m serious.
So, then why should you play Blue Dragon? Well, for one, the job system offers tremendous customization, and the game feels rather old school. But the real reason…
SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANNA KNOW.
The end of the game… after that point of no return I mentioned at the beginning of the article, well… Nene saws the planet in half. But see! Everything is okay! Because the two halves are held together by some kind of weird energy beam, and floating around between the two halves are, uh, cubes.
After you put down the last boss like the whiny, ancient tool that he really is, and peace returns to the land… well, the planet’s still in two, isn’t it? But no one seems to care, really. The poplation of the planet just MOVES TO THE CUBES AND THINKS THIS IS NORMAL.
And then the game ends.