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GDC 07: Sakaguchi part one: Blue Dragon

A jet-lagged but amiable Hironobu Sakaguchi gave us a first look at the English localized version of Blue Dragon. As luck would have it, we also got a firsthand look at the localized version of Lost Odyssey. That statement is actually a little misleading, as Sakaguchi informed us that Lost Oddyssey will launch simultaneously around the world this holiday. That's right, this holiday, not holiday 2008. But, back to the preview. The first game up was Blue Dragon.

The first thing you'll notice about Blue Dragon is that the game is sharp. Seriously, you could cut your finger on one of these characters. The models are highly stylized (thanks to the work of Akira Toriyama) but very detailed. The game world is beautiful as well. The use of colors throughout is simply gorgeous. It's hard to describe it any other way. It just looks nice. If you're tired of "real is brown", Blue Dragon will be a breath of fresh air. Of course, the game wouldn't be much without a little gameplay to go with it.

Sakaguchi-san showed off some of the game's combat. The battle we witnessed involved a huge robotic dinosaur (we have named him RoboSaurus). The RoboSaurus wielded a laser eye worthy of Dr. Evil and periodically pooped out living fecal monsters. Seriously, they were curly pink pieces of excrement called "Jumbo Poo." More to the point, they were curly, pink, and angry. The kind of angry that needs killing.

The combat, as Blue Dragon fans already know, is turn based. The combat does have a few things to spice it up though. First off, characters have a huge amount of skills from which to choose. The top of the screen shows the player order, so you'll know who attacks first. An interesting addition to the turn based format, players have the option of charging up attacks. This is done via a pulsating meter. Release the button at the proper time to unleash a more powerful attack. There is a trade off though, as the more power your attack generates, the further back you land in the turn order. Thus you're left with the choice of less power right now, or more power further down the line.

Perhaps more interesting than the combat itself are the options before combat. Battles are not random, and enemies are visible in the main world. From here, you can avoid enemies, attack from behind for an advantage, or activate one of many available powers called "field skills." These powers include the ability to instantly kill lower level enemies, or paralyze enemies with a bomb. You have to be careful though, as missing with a bomb gives enemies an opportunity to attack (we know that because Mizuguchi actually failed on his first try during the demo).

All in all, Blue Dragon looks like what it is: a new gen Japanese RPG. Whether or not that excites you is up to personal taste. There is no denying that the game is gorgeous, and we like the twists in the combat engine. American players will finally be able to sample the game for themselves in late August.

Stay tuned for impressions of Lost Odyssey.

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