Ah Breath of Fire
. It’s about character development, wide and expanse environments, and the ability to reload your game after you die right? Well, not exactly. This latest entry in the series, Dragon Quarter
, throws many of the components that are synonymous with the series out the window and leads the franchise onto an entirely new course. Those expansive towns and environments give way to claustrophobic dungeons, the super-deformed graphics are replaced with cell-shaded technology and the save system? Well, let’s just say it’s SOL.
That’s right, SOL, but we’ll get to that later.
What’s this game about exactly? Well I’m not quite sure, hell I’m not even sure if the main protagonist is male or female nor do I understand the back-story. Essentially the game boils down to this, the land was overrun by (insert generic evil here) and thus, forced (insert generic peoples here) to head underground and establish a series of underground cities. Thus you have Dragon Quarter
, a game that’s light on the sunshine and heavy on the claustrophobia.
What really sets this game apart from the others is the much-talked-about SOL save system. When you die in the game (and trust us, it’ll happen) you’ll be given two choices: lose a ton of goodies, experience and items and restart from the last save point, or, start the game over from the beginning, with all of your equipped items and experience points intact. The guys at Capcom call it the Scenario Overlay system but I can think of at least two different phrases that better suit that acronym.
To its credit it provides the gamer with something new and rewarding. Each time you choose to start over you’ll see new cut scenes, find new items and travel into areas which were previously locked. Is it worth starting all over from the beginning just to see a few new cut scenes? Well we’ll leave that call up to you.
If you’re looking for a unique combat system then you’ve come to the right place. You can actually see all of your enemies on the field before choosing to engage them. When used in conjunction with the trap system, the game’s combat system teeters on the brink of ingeniousness. You see, the trap system allows you to do a wide variety of things, from luring your enemies with a piece of meat so that you can avoid an encounter, to setting up a bomb so that you can deal some damage before heading into combat. If you choose to enter an encounter you’ll face a pretty unique fighting interface.
All of the combat takes place entirely in the game’s environments. While the combat is turned based you can freely move your characters around the landscape. You’ll have a set of Action Points which define what actions you can and can not do. Doing things such as weak, middle or strong attacks and moving around uses up your points. Sure it’s nothing revolutionary but it makes the combat fun, refreshing and entertaining. Combine it with the cool trap system and you’ll have a unique experience every time you set foot in hostile territory.
The graphics are nice, but nothing extraordinary. They’re much more appealing than they should be thanks to the game’s rock solid frame rates. The frames are always up and constant, providing a pleasant viewing experience for the eyes. In terms of sheer graphical prowess and design I’d say that it lacks a few paces behind Dark Cloud 2
but way ahead of the abysmal Legaia 2
. Strangely enough the game seems to have a sort of Resident Evil
thing going to it thanks to the fixed camera angles that you’ll encounter from time-to-time.
The use of written text as opposed to spoken words in today’s RPGs is big no-no in our book and sadly, BoFDQ
commits this deadly sin. Better make sure to put on your reading glasses because you’ll be doing a whole lot of it. Only a few lines are spoken and those times don’t last too long. To make matters worse the text box used to display the text can only display a few lines of text so you’ll find yourself having to click to advance text much more often then you might like.
The use of text also detracts from the game in that it lacks the character and emotion that is conveyed through spoken word. How am I supposed to sympathize or even empathize with someone if I can’t hear and feel their emotion? It also adds an air of ambiguity to the characters themselves as they don’t seem to be as fleshed out as they could have been.
There also seems to be a lack of variety in the game. Many of the locales look similar to each other, lending the game that sort of cut and dry feeling. We also wish that the game would have featured more characters as the small handfull that you're dealt is pretty sparse, especially in comparison to the competition.
Barring that you can put up with the SOL system, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
just might be the game for you. It’s a lot less engaging than Dark Cloud 2
but it has enough unique facets and features to differentiate itself from it. It’s a worthy game in its own right that should be experienced by anyone who is a fan of the genre.