Co-developed by Lost Odyssey's FeelPlus+ and Heroes of Mana's Brownie Brown, Blue Dragon Plus follows in the footsteps of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings and Heroes of Mana as a real-time tactical RPG. The story takes place one year after the end of Blue Dragon and features almost all of the characters from that title. This time around all of the game's playable characters have shadows for use in combat, and there are enemy characters that can use them as well. The game lacks the blank slate customization of the original, as each character's shadow is its own unique class. However, customization is possible, as characters should be able to add enhancements to their main shadows.
"Fans of either the Blue Dragon series or of tactical RPGs will have a highly customizable game to look forward to in the near future."
Blue Dragon Plus looks impressive and features a good bit of dual screen FMV throughout the game. It also features nearly an hour of in-game story scenes, nearly one each mission, which is quite a bit for a gameplay-focused, tactical RPG. The intro movie will easily spoil the ending of the original title, as it is a direct follow up, but it was impressive especially considering the graphical abilities of the DS.
During the first few battles of the game, Blue Dragon Plus does a good job of easing you into the gameplay. Each character is introduced and a brief description of their battle abilities is given. Each character has a unique role to play in battle: Shu attacks, Zola is speedy, Jiro heals, Jibral is a tank. With everything stylus controlled, it was simple to just tap a character and tell them where to move or what to attack. In battles, clicking the L and R buttons rotates the map to make things easier to see. Another great feature is the ability to save mid-battle; with a simple press of the start button, time pauses and you can save your progress.
I was also able to play a save file later in the game, and was guided to a robot production screen where I could modify one of many robots under my control. I could add or remove bonuses from the unit as desired, allowing for a custom-made robot for my party. About fifty different robot types have been confirmed for use in Blue Dragon Plus, so with those and the actual party members, tons of party options will be available.
After seeing all of these options, I was then ready to take my party into combat. My objective in this mid-game mission was to take out all of the robots swarming the area. I first used the stylus to select my entire party and move them out of the starting area into the corridor where the first group of monsters was located. Then I used the stylus to highlight just Zola and a couple of my premade robots to start attacking the nearby enemies. Next, I tapped Zola to bring up her combat menu options. I was able to select her shadow attack and watched as it charged up before unleashing a powerful AoE attack. Before I knew it, the rest of the robot army was all over my party, but thankfully before getting crushed I grabbed Jiro and used his AoE healing to cure all of my nearly dead party members. Things started looking up and before long I had won the battle. It was fast-paced, intense, and very easy to control.
Blue Dragon Plus looks to be a vast improvement over Brownie Brown's Heroes of Mana and a solid follow up to Blue Dragon. Fans of either the Blue Dragon series or of tactical RPGs will have a highly customizable game to look forward to in the near future. It's too early to say how the story will pan out, but so far the focus of the gameplay is much stronger than anything the story has to offer. I am excited to see how everything comes together, now that I've been able to play it first hand.