Blue Dragon was a victim of its own expectations.
When the game was released in the States in 2007, word had already spread about some of the members of the development team who had worked on this project. Many gaming publications called it a reuniting of the “Dream Team,” a group of extremely influential developers in Japan who produced a somewhat-known title called Chrono Trigger back in 1995. For example:
- Hironobu Sakaguchi, who created a niche series named Final Fantasy
- Akira Toriyama, who did the character design for a cult anime called Dragon Ball Z
- Nobuo Uematsu, who has done some music for a few games–okay, you get the idea
Basically, Blue Dragon was given the difficult task of being as good as Chrono Trigger. It was not. Maybe those were unfair expectations, but once people started associating the two games, I think Blue Dragon was doomed no matter how good it actually was.
Make no mistake: Blue Dragon had its faults. Its turn-based battle system felt slow and clunky at times. The graphics were mediocre. The main character was extremely annoying. But it was still a decent game, especially for those who wanted an old-school RPG experience. Also, running around and hammering the A button to find hidden items was surprisingly entertaining (“NOTHING. GOLD. NOTHING. MEDAL. NOTHING. NOTHING. NOTHING.”). And the equipment system was pretty fun.
Like a lot of the people associated with the development of Blue Dragon, Uematsu’s work on this title wasn’t his best. For example, there’s “Eternity,” the boss battle music that some people absolutely can’t stand because of its screeching and bizarre lyrics (FEAR AND AWE / IN YOUR EYES / SHOWING YOU WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE). And if you want the perfect example of Blue Dragon’s attempts to be Chrono Trigger, look no further than this:
Seriously, listen to the first 15-20 seconds of both of those links. It’s uncanny.
Still, it’s not a complete loss. The soundtrack has its share of good songs, and a few that I would consider great. Here are my picks for five of the best tracks from Blue Dragon…
Uematsu Staple No. 1: A soothing, evocative piano track as the opening theme or title music. See also: To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X. This plays as the screen shows a peaceful look at Shu’s village, with our main character reclining under a giant windmill before he springs into action. Probably Shu’s best moment in the game because he isn’t talking.
I love this track as a standalone piece of music, but it’s especially good within the context of the game. You’ve stumbled upon an ancient hospital, looking for some medicine that will help cure Marumaro’s village. As you walk in (and the music begins with just a choir), the place has virtually no power and no activity. Eventually you start exploring, reactivating some of the doors and other machines, and the music picks up accordingly — the instruments essentially add more and more layers as drums, synths and finally an organ join the fray. Pretty cool stuff.
Easily my favorite track from the game. At first, this doesn’t seem like music that would be in the background of a dungeon — its gentle melody seems more suited for a quiet village or something. Still, Uematsu uses an orchestra to full effect here, leading to an extremely powerful piece that would probably make my list of top 25 songs of all-time.
Time to get excited for the final dungeon! This is one of those tracks that takes over an area. You know the type — instead of being replaced by a game’s regular battle theme, it plays through both puzzles and battles, imposing its mood. My favorite section is toward the end, after the breakdown, when there’s this cool back-and-forth echoing passage right before the track loops.
The Seal is Broken
Uematsu Staple No. 2: An epic final boss theme with choirs, rock riffs, heavy synth and an almost bombastic soundscape. This might be my favorite of Uematsu’s offerings if the lyrics weren’t in Japanese — and yes, that’s taking other megahits like Dancing Mad and One-Winged Angel into consideration. The opening is especially neat, as once again we start with just a choir and build our way up from there.
Music to My Ears covers soundtracks or individual songs from video games on a recurring basis, which is basically whenever Chris gets around to writing it. You can view all posts in the series by clicking here.