A screenshot from "Blue Dragon".

Game title:Blue Dragon

Studio: Microsoft Game Studios

Rating: T for Teen

Score: 4 out of 10


Gameplay: "Blue Dragon" is Microsoft Game Studio's attempt to bring a Japanese style role playing game to its Xbox 360 system. Despite doing well in the North America and Europe, the 360 has not been able to penetrate Japan where brand loyalty to Sony and Nintendo trumps every marketing attempt Bill Gates' people can make.

Some serious gaming big shots were brought in to deliver greatness to the console, including Hironobu Sakaguchi who is the architect behind the peerless "Final Fantasy" series and character designer Akira Toriyama ("Dragon Quest"). Well, the character design is great.

Somehow the game just failed to connect.

The game is set in the village Talta, a remote part of the world where magic and technology long ago contributed to the downfall of civilization. Each year for the past ten, purple clouds have gathered and brought destruction on the village when finally three teen friends, Shu, Jiro and Kluke decide they have had enough and move to tackle the land shark that threatens their village.

Much of the beginning of the game serves as both a tutorial and an introduction to the characters. The adventure grows quickly in scale and our heroes are off to the clouds to find the real villain and then to search for a way to get back home. It wasn't clear when the tutorial ended but at some point it becomes obvious that the gameplay and combat system is just how it is going to be, which is a letdown. It felt like there should be more but more never came.

Battles with cute creatures and robots are turn based so there is some skill in maneuvering for advantage, but once battle starts, things cut to a minigame that is repetitive and boring. The attack variety consists of choosing to defend, attack, retreat or to use magic or magical objects. Any of the choices is simply a button push with the game taking care of everything. This would be okay if the battles weren't such a big part of gameplay. The role playing consists mainly of choosing which ways to attack as a character builds experience. Does your character use black magic or white magic? Wind attacks or earth attacks? Those choices are fine but they are the beginning and ending of "character" and it just doesn't satisfy.

Two discs come with the game and despite several hard-charging attempts to push through the game, I confess I never waded through disc one. Despite my best efforts the game just wasn't enough fun to make that happen.

The graphics: The game looks great. The characters and monsters alike are fun and cute and animate wonderfully. The village where characters can buy or sell items is adorable and the interactions there at least feel more like exploring the world rather than fighting tedious monsters. It is wonderful to look at.

The audio: The sounds are also great with appropriate, interesting music and fun character voices. The music would really soar if not for the game being not all that fun.


Parent's take: The game despite some cartoon violence, is mostly kid friendly. The repeated use of a slang term that questions one's parentage was pretty annoying because my young children were mostly amused to watch the game but the repeated use of one word gave me hesitations about allowing them to continue with the game.

Final word: As much as a kid friendly role playing game is needed for the Xbox 360, game buyers should look elsewhere. Adults might wish to consider "BioShock" or the old system standby, "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion."