18 April 2024
Games Technology

When Xbox Was Struggling In Japan, Akira Toriyama Was Its Ace

For those who haven’t heard, Akira Toriyama, the legendary creator of the Dragon Ball franchise and character designer of beloved video games like Chrono Set off and the Dragon Quest collection, has handed away on the age of 68. As followers and collaborators have expressed condolences and tributes on-line, a whole lot of consideration has understandably been given to his largest and most influential works. However one recreation that deserves recognition right now is 2006’s Blue Dragon. Whereas it didn’t go on to be an enormous franchise, it’s a case examine of Toriyama’s affect and peerless character designs. When Xbox was trying to seize the Japanese viewers within the early Xbox 360 days, turned to Toriyama.

Blue Dragon was developed by Mistwalker and Artoon and printed by Microsoft. On the time, an Xbox exec described the transfer to IGN as a deliberate effort to deliver Japanese gamers to the Xbox 360 and future generations of the console. “This is step one for Microsoft because it begins partnering with essential Japanese builders and publishers,” stated Xbox’s Peter Moore. “That is an funding that can repay sooner or later, and can be a platform-driving set of video games for our next-generation system.”

Xbox had traditionally struggled within the territory (and nonetheless does), and publishing RPGs from Japanese builders like Blue Dragon and Misplaced Odyssey was a play at increasing its viewers inJapan. Blue Dragon, nonetheless, had an ace up its sleeve: Toriyama’s distinct character design.

Mistwalker was based by Ultimate Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, so Blue Dragon had some wildly influential expertise on the high. It was primed to be a mega hit, and reached inner gross sales expectations of 200,000 copies sold after a year. However maybe if it hadn’t been an Xbox 360 unique only a yr after launch, it may have had an even bigger cultural influence. However those that performed the sport nonetheless maintain it pricey, and for good motive.

A Blue Dragon battle.

Picture: Xbox

Blue Dragon follows a gaggle of children who every have the ability to manage shadow-like dragons who act as extensions of their battle capabilities. Whereas the characters and story are comparatively easy in comparison with a few of its contemporaries, it was a deliberate nostalgia play for followers of basic RPGs that helped set up Sakaguchi and Toriyama’s legacies. Mistwalker’s debut harkened again to conventional turn-based fight simply as established RPG collection had been beginning to experiment with new codecs, like Ultimate Fantasy XII.

Marumaro holds a bug.

Picture: Xbox / Blue Dragon Wiki

The characters Toriyama designed for Blue Dragon evoke the identical childlike marvel of the early arcs of Dragon Ball. A few of these heroes are simply identifable as Toriyama designs, from the spiky-haired protagonist Shu wanting like Goku’s long-lost cousin, to the lording presence of the shadows feeling harking back to the wish-granting dragon Porunga from Planet Namek. The monsters exhibit Toriyama’s vary in designing intimidating creatures just like the Merman Lizard, in addition to bizarre little freaks just like the bat-like Deevees. Although it wasn’t the flashiest or deepest RPG of its time (this was the identical yr Persona 3 launched, in any case), as a debut recreation for a brand new studio, it was a very strong recreation that had the potential to develop into one thing larger.

Mistwalker didn’t simply drop the franchise, nevertheless it by no means made an enormous console recreation once more. On high of an anime adaptation, two extra video games had been developed for the Nintendo DS, together with a method recreation known as Blue Dragon Plus developed alongside feelplus and Brownie Brown, and Blue Dragon: Woke up Shadow, an motion RPG co-developed with tri-Crescendo. Whereas Microsoft didn’t publish these video games on competing platforms, none of them would have occurred if Xbox hadn’t partnered with Mistwalker and Toriyama in a transfer to court docket Japanese gamers. It does depart one to marvel what might need occurred if Blue Dragon had been on different platforms the place that viewers was extra established. Nonetheless, if nothing else, it stands as a testomony to the affect and widespread recognition of Toriyama’s iconic artwork fashion.