Last week I had a meeting with Microsoft where I got a chance to check out the North American version of Blue Dragon and it is pretty much complete. Remember how Asia (Singapore/Hong Kong) has a version of Blue Dragon with complete English text? I was able to confirm that the text in the Asian release is the same text we’re getting in the US release this August, except the US version comes with an English language track, the original Japanese voices and a French language track (go Quebec!). Microsoft also put in extra work to bring Blue Dragon into Spanish, Italian and German. Now if we add in the Asian only Korean language track, Shu (the hero!) speaks in seven different languages! Consider this, most RPGs get Japanese and English voices. If you’re lucky you might get both on a disc, but specifically for Europe and Korea not many RPGs are voiced in their native languages. Microsoft put in some serious localization effort to make Blue Dragon accessible to gamers and
each the US release has the original Japanese language track with subtitles for purists.
Let’s see… what else did I talk about in my meeting…
Specifically for the US release, Tara Strong who voices Kluke (the girl with the ribbons in her hair) sings her songs, so they were altered a little bit. Also for the North American release Microsoft has no plans for pre-order bonuses or Xbox 360 bundle packages. So that means no Blue Dragon faceplates or bonuses that were given out in Asia. Sorry! As for the anime, it is still in development and it is likely to air on TV first (Cartoon Network maybe?) before coming to the Xbox Live Video Marketplace.
The point I got to play Blue Dragon at was way into the game (25+ hours in!) where Nene, the purple antagonist, traps Shu and his friends with explosive collars. After 45 minutes the collars explode, which means you have to race through the level as fast as possible. Enemies like Armored Fishes appear on screen for you to fight, but since they are visible it is up to you if you want to fight them. Blue Dragon’s battle system is turn based with a timing twist. After you select attack or a spell you can attack right away by pressing A twice or hold down the A button to charge up your attack. Building up power makes attacks stronger, but they also take more time and force your character’s move further in the turn order. There is a way to maximize charging by timing your attack right into the orange zone, the “sweet spot” which lowers the time lag and reduces the amount of MP used.
Once Shu’s group has fought an Armored Fish they can use field skills to create a red barrier around the party. If you create this barrier you can run over a new Armored Fish on the map, avoid fighting it and gain half of the shadow points (SP) as if you fought the battle. Other field skills like stealth turn characters invisible so they cannot be detected by a monster on the field looking at them.
There hasn’t been much information about the class system so let me share a little bit about it with you. Blue Dragon’s system is sort of like Final Fantasy V where you can freely switch between nine classes:
Sword Master – an attack class that can instill magic in their weapons through the magic sword skill.
Black-Magic User – this class casts offensive elemental magic, but has low physical defense.
White-Magic User – they act as the healer of the group and can also cast light magic like shine to damage ghosts.
Support-Magic User – this class uses spells like slow, froggy and venom to to effect statuses in battle. Later they learn double cast which lets them cast two spells at the same time.
Barrier Master – these warriors can cast barriers to protect the party and have a high amount of HP.
Assassin – these are a mash up between the ninja class and thief class from other RPGs. They can steal, do two attacks in one turn and learn to control monsters.
Monk – the strongest physical class out of the bunch and they can also counterattack.
Guardian – these act as a tank characters with skills like total protection, which lets them protect allies from physical and magical attacks.
Jack-of-all-trades – this class is kind of like the freelancer/traveler class. They do not have inherent abilities, but they can equip a more skills than any other class.
Once you learn skills by obtaining shadow points you can mix and match abilities to make custom warriors.
There is one additional ability the heroes learn, a limit break-like skill where the shadows come alive under high tension, but before the heroes learn that skill they must learn about the origin of the shadows…. and I’m not about to spoil that!
Correction: Sorry to get anyone's hopes up in Europe. After reading the comments I double checked with the person I spoke with at Microsoft and only the US, Asian and Japanese versions have the original track. The European version will not be getting the original voices, instead you have a collection of local dialects