(http://www.d3publisher.us/ProductDetails.asp?ProductID=111)  Rated Everyone 10+ by ESRB.  Direct sequel to Blue Dragon and Blue Dragon Plus, Awakened Shadow has much to live up to in a similar fashion. Game industry veterans involved in this third entry of the series include creator of Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi; creator of Dragon Ball Z and graphic designer of Dragon Quest series, Akira Toriyama; and long-time RPG maker and video game score composer tri-Cresendo. With names like these, it is easy to set expectations up to where it is simply unreachable.

(http://www.d3publisher.us/ProductDetails.asp?ProductID=111)  Rated Everyone 10+ by ESRB.  Direct sequel to Blue Dragon and Blue Dragon Plus, Awakened Shadow has much to live up to in a similar fashion. Game industry veterans involved in this third entry of the series include creator of Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi; creator of Dragon Ball Z and graphic designer of Dragon Quest series, Akira Toriyama; and long-time RPG maker and video game score composer tri-Cresendo. With names like these, it is easy to set expectations up to where it is simply unreachable.

Presentation:
Awakened Shadow continues the story from the previous Blue Dragons. However, the protagonists from the previous games only serve as the customizable player character’s aids. The relatively linear storyline follow the player’s mysterious humanoid character in the journey of self-discovery and world-saving. The tale sounds familiar? It is. But thankfully it includes a “skip” option for the many cut scenes as to keep the actions going.

       

Graphics:
The game is rendered in 3D graphics, but the trademark style is immediately recognizable for those familiar with Toriyama’s work. It is especially pleasing on the custom made character, as it is almost like having a character personally designed and drawn by Toriyama. The scenery is acceptably detailed for the most part, although some dungeons appear like floating mazes of the void when they are held up by nothing but some gradient shades.

Sounds:
Unlike the two previous titles in the series, Awakened Shadow does not have the benefit of having Nobuo Uematsu as its composer. And even though tri-Cresendo contributed to its development, their musical influence cannot be found. Even so, influences from Uematsu’s track carry over from the earlier titles to keep this game audibly pleasing.

         

Gameplay:
Awakened Shadow continues its series tradition of changing core gameplay. It was first a turn-based RPG then became a tactical RPG, this time it comes back as an action RPG. The game offers two intuitive control schemes, one with the buttons and other with the stylus, basic navigation and combat would not have required a tutorial.

Even though the fighting looks almost like a hack and slash, it pays to be careful about charging headfirst into battle. With a combination of status bars on the screen away from the action and a couple of quick hitting monsters, fights can end unfavorably in split seconds. Those looking to lower the difficulty level can play with a few others online, but sadly multiplayer requires the use of the dreaded Friend Codes with no option to quickly play with a few strangers.

       

Innovation:
One aspect of high value in this title is its item synthesis, called “combining,” which serves to upgrade and create equipments. It is easy enough to get into, but the required materials soon become rarer and rarer. But it certainly increases the enjoyment for the RPG fans that live to improve equipments.

Longevity:
Getting through the story portion of the game takes quite a bit of time on its own, this is also further lengthened by the difficulty of the game. The hero and his shadows gradually fall behind in levels after every few dungeons. Then it is time to go back and do some required replaying in order to catch up. After the game, there are quite a few challenge bosses to pick on. Some of these will most certainly require co-op play.

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