Review by chandlerbing
"A Breath of Life for the series!"
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is the first game in Capcom's long-running RPG series to appear on the PS2. It represents a change of direction too as some old traditions are scrapped and new innovations are introduced into what some may accuse to be purely generic RPGs. The characters of Ryu and Nina are few of the old traditional Breath of Fire elements that Capcom retains for this latest installment. Dragon Quarter is set in an underground world where nobody no longer knows whether the overworld or indeed the sky even exists anymore. The new dark, gloomy and intensely mechanical setting is also a departure from the bright and colourful world of the previous games and the themes running through the entire game are often much more ominous in their presentations and also implications.
One of the major new elements of the game is the Scenario Overlay system (SOL). What this involves is the chance for you to start the game afresh or return to your last saved point whilst retaining some/all the party experience, zenny (currency), items and equipment from your current progress. Being able to voluntarily Give Up is something that I've never seen before in any RPG and since the going is tough, it is a neat touch that eases some of the frustration of knowing that you cannot get past a certain area (stuck between a horde of monsters with no items and very little HP for example).
Once Ryu gains new dragon powers, the player will be introduced to another innovative feature of BoF:DQ - the D-Counter. From that point on, the counter will raise and continuously raise until it reaches 100%. This spells an instant game over and seeing as there is nothing to do to reduce it, it adds a certain degree of pressure on the player to play wisely and not mess around too much. Using the dragon power increases this counter and because the power is incredibly strong, the counter is used as a restraint and the gamer to resist using his most powerful attacks too much. With this feature, the player won't ever feel secure and will be alert for the remainder of the game. It's uncomfortable for anyone who doesn't want to feel under pressure but the addition of this D-Counter is basically Capcom sticking two fingers up at anyone accusing the Breath of Fire series as being generic and piss-easy.
The fishing game is no more! How could they, you may think! But yes, Capcom has done away with a feature that's been in the BoF series since the very beginning. But the fairy colony idea is still there although it's been changed around so you'll be instructing ants instead of fairies. The basic idea is very similar to past games in that you hire and distribute workers to dig as well as running shops and other services whenever new rooms are discovered. As with fairies, the ants can also die in which you must hire out new workers to take their place. It's a sidequest that you'll be working on throughout the entire game every now and again since there is no possible ''conclusion'' to it. It's not some mindless optional thing that has no impact on the main game, it does, as shops can sell items and equipment not easily found elsewhere and raising money is significant too. It's an intelligent quest that tests your micro-management skills to the utmost and how you deal with the resources (ants) at hand.
Since there are a number of cutscenes in the game, you are given the option to skip them anytime you want. No longer do you have to sit through lengthy sequences that you've seen millions of times before, which is one of the criticisms aimed towards recent Final Fantasy installments.
The music in this game reflects the darker premise of Dragon Quarter very well and is overall, a lot less colourful than the previous installments in the series. There are no ''cute'' tracks at all and town themes have a sad, melancholic tone that expresses the oppressive underworld society of the game. It's all top-notch and the different battle themes has urgent tensions to them that really gets the player hooked on the fights at hand.
If you make comparisons to any recent RPGs, Dragon Quarter is actually a pretty short game. The whole longeivity of the game really depends on how you play and also how many times you need to voluntarily (or involuntarily) choose to restart the game from the very beginning. Once you clear the game, that's not all. Previously locked areas can now be accessed depending on your previous performance and allows you to access new cutscenes and places you simply could not enter if you play the game only once.
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter represents a new direction for the series. Doing your best to make it through the game takes a tremendous amount of patience and effort on your part but is always rewarding every step of the way. It may make for a short game overall but the replay value and the genuine rewards you get from replaying the game several times makes it worth your while. This game is unlikely to disappoint anybody craving for a challenge or something that is different from the norm. It's a bold step for Capcom as it may alienate long-term fans of the series who may not like the changes that Capcom made but IMO, all the better for it as it prevents the series from becoming stale.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/01/04
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