Nothing. Gold. Nothing. Item. Gold.
These are the words that pop into my head whenever I search for something in a set of drawers. Looking for nail clippers? Nothing. Nothing. Item. Even my wife is in on the act. She was in the room for a large proportion of my 100-hour stint on Blue Dragon, and it’s etched into her memory. The monotone, disinterested voiceover. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. She says it herself when she is looking for the nail clippers.
I’m not sure why this is my abiding memory of Blue Dragon. The cult classic certainly had more to offer than its exploration system, where you’d enter someone’s house and immediately, methodically, move to every piece of furniture and tap A to search. Gold. Gold. Nothing. But I think it’s this charming, deliberate focus on detail that is what makes Blue Dragon so special. Yes, you can search everything. No, it won’t always yield results. But you will be able to play a game of ‘guess the outcome’ as you tea-leaf from a cupboard.
There’s also the small matter of the Nothing Points, the Nothing Trader and the Nothing Glasses. Mistwalker knew what they had: they knew that there would be a bizarre sub-category of people who obsessed over searching everything, of finding everything. So, they rewarded them. You would collect all the ‘Nothings’, the empty drawers and chests, and get a point for each. Bring them to the Nothing Trader, and you’d get ballet shoes, belts and ribbons. And if you were hellbent on clearing the world of Nothings, well, you had the Nothing Glasses to spot the last few.
We bought a strategy guide to find Nothings. We were sat on forums discussing Nothings. “Nothing will come of nothing”, Shakespeare once famously wrote into the mouth of King Lear. Well, for us, hundreds of hours of play came from Nothings. Shakespeare got it wrong.
Of course, there’s loads more to love about Blue Dragon. We should probably acknowledge them too.
There was the tiny island where infinite creatures used to spawn. We put elastic bands between the analogue sticks on our controller, and left Shu running overnight, using an auto-killing piece of armour to generate thousands and thousands of XP. We cheesed it, and regretted none of it.
There was our one remaining achievement – ‘Closed Flying Fortress Door’ – which we still haven’t got. It’s only 5G, but the experience is still raw. It was a QTE after a long sequence of unskippable cutscenes, where you had to jab a button repeatedly, Track-and-Field style, to successfully close a door. Close a door! But no matter how much tapping, jabbing, spasming or rubbing vaseline on our gamepad would help. We never did get that last 5G. We even paid our brother to do it, but he failed.
There were the three discs, the sign of a game that was going to eviscerate your private life. There was a reason my wife stayed in the room as I played it: she wasn’t going to see me otherwise. Because it was so all-consuming. Something about the toybox art style and cutesy characters just suckered us in.
There were the poos, of course. Blue Dragon couldn’t wait to show you a poo, stumbling about with a wooden sword, as one of the first (THE first?) enemies encountered in the game. There’s no doubt that Hironobu Sakaguchi had a scatological fetish. Even the endgame ‘Weapon’ was a giant poo, made of gold and wearing a crown. There’s nothing like dying, over and over again, as you work out the best strategies for taking down a monumental sack of crap.
But most of all, we remember how much we loved Blue Dragon. It’s almost inseparable from Lost Odyssey in our mind: a Mistwalker one-and-two that is unlikely to be beaten by any JRPG studio, anywhere. They’re too sides of the same coin: the plaintive, beautiful Lost Odyssey and the turd-obsessed Blue Dragon.
Pooh-pooh to the reviewers who didn’t care for Blue Dragon. It got middling reviews, mostly because it did nothing that other JRPGs hadn’t done before. But had those games done it with such tin-toy gloss and artistry? Had they done it with such a childlike glee and charm, as you willed the main characters to come back together after their various arguments? And did they do it with so much fecal matter?
Of course, the journalists said that it did ‘nothing’ new, but maybe they were zeroing in on its finest aspect, after all.
Blue Dragon is available to play on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S via an Xbox Store download. Go and grab it for £14.99 if you want to learn more about nothing.
I smiled while reading this
Just started my first play through, gonna play lost odyssey next!