Blue Dragon is not a game that is going to elicit a strong reaction from you. It's not terrible, or particularly great or memorable, so the most remarkable thing about it is how unremarkable it is. It's big: three DVDs big, thanks to loads of cutscenes and voice clips. But it isn't grand and sweeping, and it isn't particularly charming, either. Blue Dragon is simply "there." If you wanted to play a Japanese role-playing game on your Xbox 360, this will get the job done. If you wanted to play something that makes an impact, you'll need to keep waiting.
Enjoy the exotic robot dance shows. Sunday matinee is half price.
The game is held back foremost by the story. Main characters Shu, Kluke, and Jiro have had their village destroyed by a land shark. Oh, not the one from Saturday Night Live. This one's mechanical, and it sets into play the main story, which consists mostly of chasing hypervillain Nene across one of the blandest, most unexciting fantasy worlds in recent memory. The narrative is 50 hours of lukewarm plot development that meanders sleepily along until the third disc. The conclusion packs some excitement, but not enough to justify the preceding hours of boring build up.
As if the poor pace of the story isn't enough, the lead characters are barely worthy of bit parts in better RPGs. Shu mostly pumps his fist and proclaims with a raspy whine that he will never give up, which will at least make you thankful that someone cares about the whole affair. Kluke just widens her eyes and looks sweet, and Jiro's most interesting idiosyncrasy is how he waves his hand dismissively when he casts a spell. The two additions to the party, Zola and Marumaro, manage to make things a little less bland. Zola tries, anyway, with her sultry voice and cool demeanor. As for Marumaro, well, he's an annoying, screechy-voiced feline whelp who will make you appreciate the more boring characters. There are occasional attempts at humor, and you may chuckle in spite of yourself: Marumaro's crush on Zola is an occasional source of amusement, for example. Yet most attempts to establish character are simply forced, so the few quiet moments your party members share have no emotional resonance whatsoever.
Everything else just feels like a struggle to rise above the story, and there are some mild successes in this regard. To start with, there aren't any weapons. Instead, your party members have shadows in the form of--you guessed it--blue dragons, and they do all the fighting and spellcasting on your behalf. It's like having constant summons, and it's fun to watch your shadows pummel the enemy, whether by standard attack or spell. The battles themselves aren't anything special and don't do much with the usual turn-based formula, but there is a decent variety of skills to mess with during encounters.
Blue Dragon tries to stand out from the pack in a few other ways. First you have the class system, liberally borrowed from the similar mechanics of Final Fantasy V. Each character starts with a set of available classes, and as he or she levels, so does the equipped class. Over time, you open up more classes, and you can switch from one to the other at any time, as long as you aren't in battle. It's a flexible system because most spells and skills you earn for one class can be transferred to others. The biggest problem is that your characters, who are already lacking personalities, lose even more individuality; they can be anything you want at any time, and the chances are that they'll be effective in every area. In fact, to earn better abilities and unlock some of the insanely difficult achievements, you're forced to switch out classes all the time. Flexibility is a good thing, but the way it's done in Blue Dragon makes every already-predictable character become an even more generic jack-of-all-trades.