I’m a Pokémon fan. No, that’s putting it lightly. I’m a Pokémaniac. Not only have I played all the games, I have Pikachu tattooed on my butt cheek (cropped to be SFW). I think I can honestly say that Pokémon is one of the best RPG series I’ve ever played. Sadly, Nintendo will probably never port the series over to iOS, as they want to give people a reason to keep buying their portable systems. On the good side, though, that leaves room for other developers to take the Pokémon formula and try to improve on it. Dragon Island Blue does a great job of doing just that.
Dragon Island Blue is what you get when you cross the mechanics of Pokémon with the world of Final Fantasy, and then throw in the art style of Dungeons & Dragons and the dungeon crawling of Pokémon Dungeon. This mix is a very, very good thing.
You start your quest with a dragon hatchling of your choosing. There are four different colors of dragons, each with their own advantages in battle. Once you choose one, the adventure begins.
Dragon Island centers around the world map. You can move from one set location to another, but never really enter anything other than dungeons. When in towns, you’ll have options of places to visit, but each will only give you a menu. Call me crazy, but I enjoy this throwback to the older style of games. In the towns, you can buy items (which I never found much of a use for), visit the guild which gives you quests to complete, or make changes to your monster lineup. This was just about the only useful things I found to do in the towns.
On the world map, you’ll encounter random battles with groups of monsters and other trainers. Just like in Pokémon, if you weaken wild monsters, you can attempt to catch them. Unlike Pokémon, you can convert your in-game currency into catch cards while in battle, eliminating the need to stay stocked up on them.
When you begin the game, you can travel with two monsters at a time, both of which will be present in battle at the same time. As you level them up, you’ll level up as well. As your level as a trainer increases, you can carry more and more monsters with you and eventually you’ll have three in battle at a time (which is the maximum the game allows).
Combat is done beautifully. Unlike Pokémon’s horrible PP system, you’ll never run out of a move in Dragon Island. Instead, each move has a recharge time. After doing it, it will take a certain amount of time before that monster can attack again. That said, the combat is completely turn based, so the game will wait on you thankfully. This system allows for neat tricks like slowing down an enemy’s recharge times or speeding up yours. On that note, watch out for the Bitewings. I was locked in combat with one once which never gave me a move until after 30 of its attacks.
You’ll be spending most of your time in this game in dungeons, whether doing quests, grinding levels, or looking for extremely powerful totems to add to your party. The dungeons have floors that are randomly generated. You’ll see the room you’re in, as well as the ones adjacent to it, but no others until you visit them. The random nature removes the monotony involved in wandering them for all your different reasons.
While the game is overall pretty awesome, it has one flaw. There are many parts to the game I just couldn’t understand. I never figured out how several of the items worked or what some of the places in the town actually did. This is because the game doesn’t go out of its way to explain these things. It would really benefit from a tutorial, but it’s still possible to learn how to do the most essential parts from just playing.
If you were looking for a Pokémon experience on iOS, Dragon Island Blue delivers exactly what you seek. Not only that, it’s a well done, robust RPG that should be picked up by anyone who enjoys this genre. I can’t recommend it enough.