Fun Factor: 8/10
Total Score: 26/30
Sometimes it doesn't take long for an idea to catch on.
Looking at Blue Dragon Plus for the Nintendo DS, it sure seems that a trend has formed of RPG games branching into the strategy genre.
And why not? Final Fantasy Tactics has been such a success its become its own cottage industry. Final Fantasy XII sported a real-time strategy sequel for the DS called Revenant Wings and now Blue Dragon has a RTS sequel of its own in Blue Dragon Plus.
Like its predecessors, Blue Dragon Plus offers a mix of real-time strategy and RPG elements.
The overall presentation is top-notch both during play and during the game's cinematics. The game boasts a sountrack by Final Fantasy legend Nobuo Uematsu and character designs by Akira Toriyama (character designer for Dragon Ball Z and the Dragon Quest series).
The control scheme is simple enough that the game can be controlled with the stylus alone, selecting units by touch, selecting a destination (or target) and choosing between magical abilities are easy to get the hang of, though sometimes the small screen makes things a little confusing during the heat of battle.
Still, the characters are distinctive enough that you can tell them apart, even though they're quite small and the game does a good job of walking you through the early missions, which are played with a smaller party of more generalized characters.
For someone like me, who prefers his strategy in turns and not real-time, this was a welcome introduction to the game and made it easy to get involved in the action. The game's tutorial missions also spell out quite clearly what the roles of the various characters are- who should be wading into melee and who should hiding behind them to throw spells.
Although the game sports a few dedicated spellcasters, including an elemental "artillery" caster and healer, almost all the characters have a special spell-like ability to inflict elemental damage, usually in an area. Some of these attacks strike in a line while others affect an area. Once an ability is used, there's a "cool down" period in real time before a special ability can be used again.
Blue Dragon Plus packs a lot of fun gameplay into its 30-hour single player campaign. Your characters gain levels and can find items to increase their abilities. Each character has a unique feel and has a role to fill and the maps where the battles take place are large and allow plenty of room for maneuvering.
The levels are well designed and give you plenty of chances to use the terrain to your advantage.
Blue Dragon Plus is an engaging game for gamers of all ages. In addition to playing the game myself, I loaned it to my neice, a 12 year-old dedicated gamer who has beaten Final Fantasy X-2 and the Kingdom Hearts games more times than I can count (more times than me for sure).
Like me, she enjoyed the game and was drawn in by its cute character designs, which she immediately recognized as "by that Dragon Quest guy".
If you are a fan of strategy games, especially on handheld platforms where they seem particularly strong right now, or if you are a fan of old-school Japanese RPGs, you should definitely check out Blue Dragon Plus.