Blue Dragon is a well-made and surprisingly scatological Japanese role-playing game designed by alumni of the Final Fantasy series, as well as Akira Toriyama, the comic artist behind Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Quest. The story follows a team of spiked-hair, big-eyed anime teens who have been infused with powerful magical spirit animals. The teens trek across a magical sci-fi wasteland on a quest to defeat a mad scientist being an almighty dick to their beloved peasant village.
With its sharp, colorful graphics, the game looks better than an animated movie. Unlike the dark realism of most Xbox 360 games, the towns, wastelands, and ruins are vibrant and whimsical. The story is slow to start, with countrysides to wander and the odd dungeon to explore. But things really pick up toward the end, as the game employs a liberal dosing of cinematics, all crammed onto three DVDs.
Even with these pluses, however, Blue Dragon can't really be counted as revolutionary. It's just exceptionally solid. Fairly traditional, it sticks to many of the conventions of previous games: linear story (move from point A to B), learning spells, searching for hidden treasure, monster fights. The combat system is turn based, and while it looks great, it feels like every JRPG game made in the last 20 years; big boss fights are even set to butt-rock heavy-metal songs. Thankfully, monsters are visible on the screen, allowing you to choose to avoid them or go after them—which means no more random monster fights.
For all its adherence to tradition, however, there is a strange, cheeky, and immature scatological fixation running through the game. You can search for hidden treasure in golden feces piles. There is a disturbing Freudian monster called a Poo Snake—a pink spiral pile of poo with arms, legs, and the head of a snake. These are likely in-jokes referring to Toriyama's past work on Dragon Quest with its Blue Slime monsters, but they seem out of place. Still, scat and heavy tradition aside, the game is a decent attempt to capture former JRPG glory. Much like the pulp paper comics of Japan, it's a disposable and enjoyable experience.