PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

Blue Dragon Plus

Hopping along playfully without a care in the world completely defeats any urgency that the narrative may have created. You’re saving the world man, get a move on!


Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Genres: RPG, Multimedia, Simulation
Display Artist: Mistwalker, Feelplus, and Brownie Brown
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Blue Dragon Plus
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Brownie Brown
US release date: 2009-02
Website
Amazon
Developer website

Hands up, who here can name at least five decent RTS games on the DS? Don’t rush all at once. There’s no prize (mainly because I am too poor to afford one), so my review will have to do.

The DS situation is beyond a joke. Western companies have ignored it despite its success in the American market. The cheap development costs and short production time should mean that publishers should be all over it especially in these hard economic times. Yet, outside of Japan, you would think that most game companies have never heard of it. Where are the Command and Conquers and the Total Wars? Some lay the blame on the demographic that the DS appeals to not being interested in anything other than brain training games, new entries in the Mario franchise, or those Ubisoft Imagine Fashion thingies. Others say that Nintendo’s marketing has been so geared toward casual gamers that it has alienated the core gamer. This situation is not helped by the current debate over whether Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is actually selling or not. In any case, the lack of genres representing Westernized gaming has lead to the Japanese trying to fill the void, but, try as they might, such substitutes are no substitute for the real thing.

Mistwalker has hardly had a smooth ride recently as they have released two Xbox 360 exclusives, Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon, neither of which bombed, but they hardly set the charts on fire either. This modest success and spiralling HD budgets seem to have lead to the cancellation of a third 360 exclusive, Cry On and more of a focus on handheld development.

Though this version of Blue Dragon is a sort of pseudo sequel to its 360 counterpart, the gameplay has been altered completely, and, if you’ve actually read the review up to this point, you should know what genre the game can be categorized as now. As far as the story goes, one year after the events of the original, it seems that some robots are up to no good on a cube shaped planet where there’s this awesome power and all the older characters…. Well, you get the picture. It is a Japanese RTS. An example of the nature of the writing is the shock your team experiences when they encounter another shadow user (a massive dragon you can call upon to help you out in battle). In the original game, very few characters had this summon-like power. Here nearly everyone does, but do I really need to go through another, “Oh wow dude, you got a dragon too?!” over and over? The gimmick is pretty obvious early on; there’s no need to continuously assault my intelligence. Luckily, these constant interruptions are told via some lovely FMV pieces, which are always a welcome surprise on the DS. However, some of the beauty of these scenes is cancelled out by more ghastly artwork courtesy of Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest fame.

Controversial as the claim that Toriyama's artwork is ghastly may be because of the ubiquitouness of pointy ears and noses, raised eyebrows, tiny mouths, feline eyes, and, of course, spiky hair, it would be easy to confuse Toriyama's designs with any number of less skilled anime artists. The groteque exaggeration of some of these traditional anime features isn’t helped at all by the characters lack of personality and their bland, forgettable dialogue.

Some of this familiarity and simplicity mars the gameplay as well. Generally, RTS games tend to include epic large scale battles; here you have four teams of four units, and you micromanage each unit as battles progress. Though, there is very little of the latter. That’s hardly a bad thing, but it decreases the game's scope and depth dramatically, resulting in battles becoming monotonous and simple point, drag, and attack affairs. The challenge is hardly... well... challenging, In fact, the real frustrations come from the controls and interface issues.

It’s here that you’ll be thankful that you’re only playing with a handful of units. The characters look too similar, and in the heat of the battle, it becomes increasingly frustrating to pick the right one for each task. Trying to heal your team when they’re on the verge of death -- can I select my healer please? No? Why simply because he/she is hidden somewhere amongst a large group of dragons and robots and I can’t find her/him. Though the shoulder buttons can be used to rotate the camera, if the character that you are looking for gets lost amongst the chaos constant stabbing of the screen till you find him is your best bet.

Other peculiar design decisions include the speed of movement. The evil guys are planning to take over the planet, and you have to try and halt their diabolical scheme, though, you wouldn’t think it based on the nonchalant pace your team move at. Hopping along playfully without a care in the world completely defeats any urgency that the narrative may have created. You’re saving the world man, get a move on!

Does the game really have to be paused every time a robot calls in re-enforcements; doesn’t that completely undermine the REAL TIME STRATEGY aspect?

Another frustration is that the team at your disposal lack brains. Units often wander into packs of enemies and allow themselves to be beaten up without resistance, or they stroll by foes blissfully unaware of their presence, ignoring safer routes. At other times, they stand idly by as team mates are set upon by large swarms of robots and patiently wait for your command having just completed your previous input. They then might decide to take a break by hiding behind each other. Rather than walking around team mates to get to their goal, they won’t budge an inch till you re-direct them. The fact is they won’t do anything unless you tell them to.

When you add a weak story and characters that lack personality, you may as well be playing with a bunch of crash test dummies. The characterization seems to match the less than complicated AI, resulting in characters that are written and play as shallow, empty plastic shells.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.