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Turning Japanese

When you hear a Japanese development house consisting of Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series), Nobuo Uematsu (composer behind the most memorable Final Fantasy orchestral scores), and Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball and illustrator behind the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series) is creating an epic role-playing game for the Xbox 360, you might expect the kind of intensely creative, amazingly impressive work attributed to musical supergroups like Broken Social Scene or the Breeders. Sadly, Blue Dragon, the first game from Mistwalker—the supergroup development house in question—is something closer to Velvet Revolver: solid, yet intensely derivative.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The game looks and sounds stunning. Unfortunately, while Uematsu and Toriyama can sleepwalk past the work of their contemporaries, Sakaguchi seems to have phoned the entire story in. If you've ever played any of the Final Fantasy games, you've already been through Blue Dragon's story, and telling you that it's an epic quest to take revenge would be the kind of redundancy only equaled by my referencing said redundancy within the sentence I'm currently writing.

Sakaguchi somewhat redeems himself with the design of the combat system, however. While it never treads unfamiliar ground, it seems to be a quality amalgam of previous battle systems used during the last decade of Final Fantasy titles. It might seem a bit daunting to beginners, but anyone who has played a game like this before will pick it up almost instantly—and once learned, it provides a clever, entertaining alternative to the traditional "Fight-Item-Magic" menu box system.

Ultimately, if you own an Xbox 360 and enjoy Japanese-style role-playing games, you will buy this game. It's simply the only viable title within the genre available for the system—and while it didn't sway the entirety of Japan to the Xbox 360's side upon its release, Blue Dragon should provide a good month of entertainment for anyone with the patience to ignore its lack of originality.

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