If there’s one genre that feels a bit lackluster for the Xbox 360’s library, it’s role-playing games. While we don’t have much to showcase the Japanese RPG market, Mistwalker has stepped up to change that by introducing Blue Dragon; a game that was released in Japan late last year, which will arrive in the states August 28th. Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on articles for our Blue Dragon quick-fix, as of July 11th, Mistwalker released a demo. However, if you’d like to know more about Blue Dragon without ruining that golden first play experience, feel free to read on.

The demo includes two dungeons to play through, both with a sixty-minute time limit. The first dungeon exhibits Shu and his companions entering Master Nene’s fortress. Master Nene is an extremely old man seeking to extract Shadow powers within the invading rivals to benefit his own. After entering, you’ll play in a 3rd person perspective roaming around the factory-like environment filled with various baddies. Encountering these enemies will initiate battle mode, where you and your teammates square off against one to four monsters in traditional turn-based combat. While it may keep the standard turn-based format close to heart, it does withhold unique gameplay mechanics whilst in-battle to stray itself away from your average JRPG.

Each member of your party has different types of shadows. Shu, the protagonist in this story, has the vigorous Blue Dragon shadow by his side. Everyone else has similar shadows, but in a different species. You fight foes by controlling shadows to perform physical and mental capabilities, so you’re not literally using your party members to fight. Shadows have a variety of customizable abilities and classes. For each character, you choose your shadow’s class which range from different kinds of melee and caster classes, such as Sword Master, Guardian, Monk, Assassin, Black Magic, White Magic, Barrier Magic and Support Magic. Since you can switch a character class at any time, it’s interesting to mess around in other classes. Each class has its own set of abilities which are also customizable, giving you a choice to fine-tune a character to what you want.

Although most of these abilities activate passively, such has HP/MP modifiers, you also have skills that may be used on your turn as well. Whether it’s Meditate, a monk skill that allows you to heal yourself, or even something simple as a Steal command for assassins, there’s a lot to toy around with that’s designated to your class in Blue Dragon without seeming over-complicated. What’s also easy to understand is the level design. Master Nene’s fortress is untroublesome to maneuver around, as is the Ancient Ruins dungeon; you won’t see yourself getting lost. You won’t get confused with the controls as well, as they are laid out in an understandable way.

The game looks especially stunning in both its in-game and cinematic works, showing Akira Toriyama’s work at his finest. However, Akira isn’t the only big-named developer on board. Nobuo Uematsu, widely known as composer for the Final Fantasy series, is present for the musical score. If you didn’t know already, Mistwalker also contains many developers from the one-hit wonder, Chrono Trigger.

With so much potential, we cannot wait for Blue Dragon to be released in the states. Although the story doesn’t necessarily unfold within the demo, it gives us some hints on what’s to come. From what the demo shows, it’s going to be tough to keep your eye off Blue Dragon. Other than a few framerate issues, Blue Dragon seems to be pulling together nicely, and will certainly be putting both fists up for best RPG of this year.

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