GDC 07: Blue Dragon First Impressions

We sit down with Hironobu Sakaguchi to take a look at the first localized build of Blue Dragon.

Microsoft has brought some big names and big games to San Francisco this week for the 2007 Game Developers Conference. One name you might recognize is Hironobu Sakaguchi, best known as the creator of the Final Fantasy series of role-playing games. Sakaguchi is in town on behalf of his development company, Mistwalker, to show off two upcoming Xbox 360 games to which he is lending his creative vision. The first game Sakaguchi covered in his short demo was Blue Dragon, which came out in Japan last December and is scheduled for release in North America this August. We took a look at the first localized build of Blue Dragon, complete with English voice-overs.

Some of the crazy attack animations in Blue Dragon could put even the most spectacular Final Fantasy summons to shame.

The Blue Dragon demo began with a brief description of what the game is all about. The star of the game is Shu, a young boy who is able to harness the power of special shadow creatures. Shu and his four friends--Marumaro, Zola, Kluke, and Jiro--are up against the evil Nene. As we watched the first cutscene, Shu woke up next to a couple of his friends on the cold-looking metal floor inside a dark structure of some sort. After he screamed nothing in particular, seemingly brought on by the realization of his predicament, the evil Nene appeared and we got our first taste of the English voice acting.

Nene announced in a grave, sinister-sounding voice that he had taken over the world and shrouded it in darkness. He picked up Shu and shoved the young boy's face up to a window, where Shu took a good look at the devastated world beyond the glass. At this point we heard Shu's English voice, which fits very well with his rambunctious, hotheaded character. Other voices we heard included the high-pitched squeak of Marumaro and the slightly more feminine voice of Kluke. Based on what we heard, it sounds like the voice-overs and localization have gone well thus far. The short bits of dialogue we saw seemed about as natural as you can expect from a role-playing game about dragons, shadow creatures, magic, and monsters. The voices we heard were emphatically delivered and seemed to fit their respective characters well, adding a great deal of charm to an already great-looking game.

After showing a brief cutscene, Sakaguchi also demonstrated some of the gameplay in Blue Dragon. He began by running around a desolate, arid area to show off the exploration and combat system in the game. While you're on the overworld map, you'll see enemies patrolling the area, waiting to attack anyone foolish enough to get close. If you come into contact with a creature, you'll be drawn into a separate battle screen where the turn-based combat is resolved. If you're not into combat and just want to get from point A to point B, there are ways to make traveling through hostile territory much easier.

You can learn field commands in Blue Dragon, which are abilities you can use to gain an advantage over the enemies in the field. For instance, you can toss bombs at enemies to paralyze them and then run past them or even run around behind them for a preemptive back attack. One of the more interesting field abilities we saw was a barrier that formed around Shu and instantly killed any low-level enemies he came into contact with. This barrier ability is a clever way to avoid fighting a bunch of the same enemies over and over again, as it lets you walk right through any enemies that you could easily defeat, without going through the trouble of actually engaging them in battle. You still earn skill points for enemies you defeat in this way.

The actual battles are turn based, with you and your party of up to five characters taking turns attacking enemies. Each character in your party has a unique shadow creature that he or she can summon to perform a variety of devastating attacks. Some of these attacks that we saw were extremely impressive, with lengthy and elaborate animations that look like something straight out of an episode of Dragon Ball Z. That makes sense, given that the creator of that series, Akira Toriyama, worked on the character design in this game. We watched a few normal battles and one larger boss battle against a sort of robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex and a giant, pink serpentine creature.

Aside from the combat and treasure hunting, there are several minigames in Blue Dragon. One such game is a space shooter where you fly a ship and fire machine guns and missiles at enemy ships. There are three of these shooter sequences in the game, and the one we saw looked simple and not especially challenging, though it seemed like it could be a nice break from the more standard RPG activities in the game.

The English voices suit Toriyama's character designs quite well.

Blue Dragon is looking good on the Xbox 360. The characters are all very expressive and the enemies are large and cartoonish but still imposing. The attack animations and battle effects are especially impressive. The voices and the music sound good, as well, and there's even a song from Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan that played during a boss battle.

The game is already on shelves in Japan, but unless you're fluent in Japanese, you'll want to wait until the localized version of Blue Dragon ships in North America this August. Be sure to check out the new screens from the game while you wait, and check this gamespace often as we bring you more details on Blue Dragon.

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Discussion

120 comments
43n1m4
43n1m4

The demo seemed alright. Nice cartoonish characters and weird enemies. I'm almost through Enchanted Arms, and this game seems to one up EA - but nothing spectacular, if you ask me. Just solid JRPG. Considering the very few JRPG I've played, I might pick that one up just to try a new one in that genre. I don't mind turnbased combat... as a longtime fan of the HOMM series, turnbased combat is actually prefered to this kind of games.

Knightmare_King
Knightmare_King

I just brought the game today so i hope i got my money's worth.

R3volv3r_Snake
R3volv3r_Snake

i hope this game is good cus i already pre-ordered, and the store i ordered it from wont give money back. oh well. im counting on u sakaguchi.

JJpenguin
JJpenguin

MasterKenchin how can you say no more FPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just because something is common does not make it bad, just filter out the crap, as for this game, i don't get it, it just looks a bit like spyro with OTT hype...i don't want my new copy of bioshock replaced by THIS!! :(

DregoTTi
DregoTTi

I'm waiting for this game 4 days to go

connell66
connell66

Well, the graphics are quite sloppy from an artistic perspective, and from the looks of it, the technical side of the spectrum won't fare well, either. I must say that I'm quite the Chrono Trigger devotee, but that's not to say that I make purchases based on brand name power, and this is not a game I am eagerly awaiting. In other news, BioShock is sweet, and it does its spiritual predecessor System Shock 2 more justice than it needed. And considering how excellent System Shock 2 was, that is an amazing feat. Yes, when this is released, it will be mentioned on the same breath as DOOM, Goldeneye 007, Half-Life, Halo: Combat Evolved, Perfect Dark, Duke Nukem 3D, and Quake.

w4rgasm
w4rgasm

I love RPG's but this game doesn't seem very good. I'd rather get Eternal Sonata or Two Worlds

vass86
vass86

i'm just not interested in this game. i have been checking it out based on the hype but i'm not that impressed. in this generation of games i think it's time to leave the turn based combat. that goes for final fantasy 12's combat too.

valcrist09
valcrist09

This game is a flop, IGN gave is a pretty sad score and was really disspointed, I played the demo and was not impressed, it ran terrible, the graphics are weak, and it seemed really boring. I just hope Eternal sin and mass effect do a better job. But idk with Bioshock coming out next week, i have a hard time seeing blue dragon selling well at all, and also enteral is coming out around the same time too.

ja_rawr_ed
ja_rawr_ed

xbox needs more rpgs but not all hardcore turn based. eternal sonata and two worlds look better.

Petshopboy
Petshopboy

It may not get the best rating, but I could still go for a decent JRPG on the 360.

foritxxar
foritxxar

Looks like its gunna be a 8.0 at best. Generic JRPG, imo...

Expo_Smacko
Expo_Smacko

This one of the games I am looking forward to. Looking forward more to Bioshock. But this will be the next game after Bioshock :)

Pangamaster
Pangamaster

LowlyKnight that post is a little disturbing

Vampire_Turtle
Vampire_Turtle

Woohoo! I played the demo and it puts FF to shame... well maybe not but I prefer BD all the same. Come on August!

zidan4000
zidan4000

hope the game will have a good story

LowlyKnight
LowlyKnight

mmmm..... blue dragon.... you are so delicious.... you are... you are beautiful and i want to play you so hurry up and come out so i can play you... oh... and blue dragon... do me a favor.... if you get a second... ask bill gates a question for me.... how is it that he can afford to buy a small country, but somehow can't afford to buy the rights to heavenly sword? you ask him for me blue dragon... you ask him for me.... oh, and blue dragon... thanks.

noerart
noerart

@ERoBB "There will be an option where you can play with English subtitles and Japanese speach.There will be an option where you can play with English subtitles and Japanese speach." I thiiiink that might actually have been what he was trying to say. Anyways, looking forward to trying this out - if I ever get the time. (and if they actually give us a European version of the game... - damn those sodding encoding/format differences....)

MasterKenchin
MasterKenchin

This is the kind of game the x-box 360 needs, no more fps please!!!

ERoBB
ERoBB

iiss229 What do you mean, dont translate all of the speaking parts? So a character is speaking English, then all of the sudden goes into Japanese? Gotta be all or nothing. There will be an option where you can play with English subtitles and Japanese speach.

weltall1028
weltall1028

I like the barrier that kills lower level enemies so you don't have to fight them.

kevy619
kevy619

why isnt this out yet :(

Zweihanderhero
Zweihanderhero

Sure, the game looks good but people should really wake up and fire Toriyama. That hack has no talent whatsoever...It's just like he's recycling DBZ characters for all of his 'new' creations. Every single one of his drawings look dated and similar. How the hell did somebody like this become so famous is a question for the ages.

Hoopin4thelove
Hoopin4thelove

no prob im getting this game no matter what they say Sakaguchi san is the maker and im the player. im jordan to his phil jackson im kobe to his phil jackson

iiss229
iiss229

Looks like it will be a very good game... but wow, I hope they don't translate every single speaking part to english. Don't change the language on the speaking parts, it would ruin some of the feeling.

angkawsw
angkawsw

very artistic character designs....heroes, dragons, save the world..... gonna be a great RPG

Sam_Lowery
Sam_Lowery

anarchicgoth - "i dont know if i can rent this game of gamefly cuz its 3 discs lol" It is?!? man, they must have a ton of cut seens and voice acting.

chris2388
chris2388

can't wait for it 2 come out

ogretroll123
ogretroll123

Yay! I want me some Blue Dragon! And other RPG (Not just JRPGs) for the 360!

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

Finally a break from the xbox norm. Will follow this game and looking forward to more screen and video clips.

dreamcastdre
dreamcastdre

I'll be happy once this game finally hits the States. It should be incredible.

Sonic_Freak87
Sonic_Freak87

this game looks incredible. looks like the 360 is finally getting quite a few must have titles

Ashietaka
Ashietaka

This game is going to be SO Good. I mean come on, it's just like Chrono Trigger in the sence that it's the same people practically working on it. Who knew the 360 would be blessed with such a game. Akira Toriyama for the artwork and all, I mean come on. 360 owners are extremely lucky to get this one because most RPGer's believe they must go to Sony for a good RPG, I guess not anymore huh?

anarchicgoth
anarchicgoth

i dont know if i can rent this game of gamefly cuz its 3 discs lol

Kn0w0ne
Kn0w0ne

Bring on the RPGs! Keep um comin 360! We need way more than the current crop. Give us (Dare I say) CHOICE!

Duminakan89
Duminakan89

can't wait for this title, been expecting a true RPG for the 360 for ages!

sirbargearse
sirbargearse

This game is so big in Japan right now that even my non game playing Sister in law that lives in Tokyo knows about this game. Apparently there's been huge line ups to get this title. Crazy stuff! Just the RPG we need for the 360... or any console for that manner!

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

ermmmmmm, i think i might have to get XBOX360 just for this .... argh!

thewarpstar18
thewarpstar18

i hope that this game does very well. I want an RPG like this for the 306

NND1
NND1

360 iz HOT!!!

eViL_kA
eViL_kA

yeah August feels like a long time away. At least they are working on building an RPG library on the 360, unlike its older brother...

shriek_213
shriek_213

damn all the way till august? was hoping little bit earlier...

S-Biz
S-Biz

Yeah, I was hoping for a June release as well. Other than that, I'm looking forward to this.