It has been a long time coming due to a sequence of unfortunate circumstances, but MH now presents its review of the new game, Blue Dragon Plus for the Nintendo DS that was promised by njt way back HERE
. He did a good job of providing the background, so I’ll just get right down to the details.Gameplay
As a TRPG with real-time strategy, the basics of the gameplay have some definite pros and cons. On the plus side, the genre adapts well to the unique style of the Nintendo DS. The sole use of the DS stylus instead of the right hand buttons works well for the game as it solves some of the big issues in making a non-pc real-time strategy game. The genre is usually limited to computer gaming since the free movement of the mouse to select items on the screen far surpasses in speed what can be accomplished with buttons alone but thanks to the stylus filling the same purpose, this is not an issue for the DS. In combination with the fact that there are only two very quick use selection menus in combat, the need to pause gameplay is nearly eliminated, proving that a real-time strategy can work well in a non-pc game.
While the stylus makes commanding the units pretty easy, the game has a way of stepping on itself when it comes to movement in the battlefields. As with many of the problems in gameplay, the kinks with movement increase with the number of characters. The issue comes with the fact that if multiple characters are sent in one direction, characters with low speed stats will block the path of higher speed characters, who will go in a different direction rather than wait it out, leading to movement becoming more hectic as pathways get smaller and the party gets bigger.
In addition, the targeting system has a number of flaws. First of all, auto-targeting is practically non-existent, so without the player’s constant input of commands, the characters will just stop moving until an enemy hits them. This also applies to situations where the enemy you have set as the target moves to an inaccessible location. Since enemies are generally arranged in groups on each map, this becomes a major pain to deal with since you need to give brand new commands for an enemy two feet away. Add to this the same issue of blocking off that came up in movement. Characters will be blocked off from the enemy by their own teammates and thus put out of range to use any of their magic or basic attacks. This is only complicated further by the fact that while many of the group’s best physical attackers use air slashes from a distance, a lot of the more frail ones use up close attacks, making the battlefield very difficult to organize.
Magic thankfully is pretty simple and if it wasn’t for the issue of characters blocking off each other from the intended targets, it would work beautifully. Once a character is selected and a magic chosen from his skill list, arrows point to all targets within its range as well as if the spell’s attribute will have an increased or decreased effect due to the target’s affinity. This makes the basics of the magic system pretty easy to understand and use. They have also added in a system so that if both you and an enemy are casting at roughly the same time, you battle with shadows by zigzagging with the stylus rapidly. In most cases this is a pretty good way to boost your attack’s power with the major flaw that it is triggered by any type of magic but the effect of winning is always damage. This means that if you are casting a much needed healing spell and unwittingly trigger this, win or lose the original spell’s effects are cast aside and your white mage needs recovery time before he can cast again.
Fortunately, through most of the game your party is split up into groups, reducing the negative effects of the huge party (though there are quite a few characters you can move around to any group freely during this time). By the end though, you are left with a group of 14 to 16 characters all getting in each other’s way. Possibly the biggest improvement that could have been made to the game is an ability to divide the cast into prearranged quick-select groups for battle. Without this, you are stuck with either manually arranging them into groups at the start of battle (which becomes extremely tedious with the full cast) or simply sending your full army in direct charges with the All command. The first option is a pain to maintain due to the lack of auto-targeting and the second falls victim to the character blocking problems and makes battles boring pretty quickly.Story
The plot as a whole in this game was disappointing. Coming as part of the series that yielded one of the longest Xbox titles ever as well as a manga series that I thoroughly enjoyed, this game fell quite short of its predecessors in this regard. Very little time is spent on recalling the events of the first game short of brief descriptions of each character’s past as they are introduced. Due to the circumstances of a certain character (one of the very few that actually gets character growth in this game), gamers who didn’t play the original are left with only a vague understanding of the importance of his actions, which are the core of the game’s entire plot.
The splitting of the cast into groups gave potential for some good plot, but was not as good in actuality as one would have hoped. It seemed one team was devoted to moving the plot forward while the other simply added more characters to the team every other level.
The storyline itself wasn’t that bad. It dealt with issues of love, forgiveness and atonement that were compelling at times. However, it seemed that every major plot point was based around the past of one of only two characters and the rest were pretty much insignificant and thrown into the game just as an excuse to create a character type.Graphics/Sound
As for the game’s video and sound aspects, I’d say they are pretty good. The rotatable 3-D maps are quite impressive visually and very rarely obstruct much in game. The characters’ 2-D sprites are quite well done, each with their own unique attack animations to show their basic weapon choices. The 3-D shadows representing a range of mystical creatures looked good and did well to represent the personality of each character that was reduced in their 2-D forms. The cinematic cut scenes, though few in number due to the game’s short overall length, are beautiful though the split screens of the DS cutting the video into halves can be a bit annoying. As for the music, the score was not bad at all. Each piece does exactly what it’s supposed to do, give life to the background and reflect the emotion of the situation.Overall
Overall, I’d rate the game at about a 6-7 out of 10. More advanced gamers may find it too easy but at times annoying, yet younger gamers might find it a decent introduction to the basics of its genre. While the game does have some definite flaws in its gameplay and story, it is still a big step forward in the move of real-time strategy off of computers and has proven that Nintendo is the company with the capability to further this venture.