Sometimes cute ain't enough.
The Japanese seem to really love cute things [Like condoms? ~Ed.], which is how I imagine the thought of a young boy capable of controlling a dragon was considered to be a “good idea”. Unfortunately, the original Blue Dragon was met with mostly lukewarm reviews, yet seemingly sold well enough for a direct sequel to be made, just for a different platform.
[image1]The real-time SRPG Blue Dragon Plus is the continuation of main character Shu and the gang's quest to stabilize the world, this time doing so from a giant glowing cube. Everybody's got a dragon called a Shadow, which seem to be themed with animals and plants, to help them throughout the fight.
But nothing is particularly well-designed or pretty to take advantage of what the DS can do. It utilizes the touch-screen in a logical way, but takes little of the power at its disposal for rigging up a good-looking picture to touch. The cut-scenes are nice and look ripped from the original on the Xbox 360, but these are purely video and bear no resemblance to the in-game action. They seem to be thrown in just to help make the box art look more impressive.
[image2]Early on, the game throws you into the fight, explaining first the strengths and weaknesses of each character, but not much else. A lot of trail-and-error ensues - which shouldn't be difficult since the game is completely played via the touch screen. However, just finding the items menu is annoying, and the system is odd to handle in-battle. There's basically one item to choose from, basic medicine that heals for 100 HP. That's it.
Actually playing through the battles isn't too difficult in practice, though. The game plays in real-time, and with the full map on the top screen, it's easy to tell when enemies are heading your way. But what's wrong with this basic setup is in the storyline itself. Early on, it constantly asks you to break up your team and “split up” in a way that's unnecessary, and makes each fight more and more frustrating. Splitting into two teams isn't necessarily bad on its own, since there are eight characters in your party, but breaking into four teams is just... dumb. Really, really dumb.
[image3]Each battle is also extremely slow and lumbering on both sides of the fight. At no time is there any sense of tension, just a lot of feet dragging in the mud to get from point A to point B on the map. One thing I learned early on was to never let your characters move a significant distance on their own, since they have a tendency to get lost. No, really. How they might run up a walkway to get to an enemy below them, not find a way down again, and not think to run back is just absurd. I really hate hand-holding anyone under my control when they should know what they are doing; why must I be saddled with digital toddlers?
As for storyline and all that jazz, technically there is one, but aside from that small point, it's ignorable. Every character is so similar in their speech that if there wasn't a character slide at the bottom of the screen, I wouldn't be able to tell who was who, which is so sad... especially since nothing they say is interesting in the slightest. All of it felt like stock dialog, and not just stock, I'm talking about "under the bottom of the barrel" uninteresting. Considering the character types - the buff-yet-naive kid, the all-knowing prince, the brash-and-tough-as-nails young woman maybe there isn't any compelling conversation left to have.
The whole package is so bland, boring, and unremarkable (and tedious - moving those guys around so you feel like you have a team that can win!) that it's similar to PB&J on white bread. Bad analogy? Well, it's just as imaginative as Blue Dragon Plus, so it fits.