'Blue Dragon' has some bite, but it's no 'Fantasy'

To many role-playing game veterans, Hironobu Sakaguchi is a legend. His creation, Final Fantasy, is heralded as one of the greatest works in the genre.

Sakaguchi attempts to recreate some of this magic with the Xbox 360 in Blue Dragon. It's a light-hearted adventure with solid fundamentals, but not powerful enough to become one of the genre's best.

You control Shu, a feisty young boy fed up with attacks in his town by a mysterious land shark. Shu and his friends, Jiro and Kluke, finally confront the beast, only to discover it's a machine. Shu later uncovers the forces behind the machine, and sets off on a voyage with his friends to stop them.

To combat these new threats, the three swallow a light sphere to give them shadow powers. These shadows come in the form of various beasts, including a dragon, bull and phoenix.

Blue Dragon is a traditional, turn-based RPG. As you dispatch foes, your shadow powers grow stronger. You also unlock new skills and spells to aid you in future battles.

Character customization is Blue Dragon's strongest asset. You can easily craft your character into whatever role you choose. While one can specialize in black magic, another can bolster their physical attacks. Molding a cohesive unit is quite simple to execute.

The presentation in Blue Dragon is colorful and lively. Most of the attack scenes and effects look vibrant. Game interfaces are clean and easy to navigate. Engaging battles is unique as well. Pull the right trigger and a circle appears highlighting characters in your area that you can battle. Instead of random encounters, you can opt to zip right by most enemies toward your objective.

The adventure feels linear. Warp points allow you to backtrack in search of additional items and gold, but often there's no incentive to explore.

While the action is sound, the story isn't very captivating. Most of the characters, including the protagonist, are annoying. Shu's propensity for shouting is irritating, while another character's screams make nails on a chalkboard sound soothing.

Blue Dragon suffers from too many bouts of inactivity. Some cut scenes run a bit too long. Levels are often littered with load screens, interrupting the game's flow.

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