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Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter Review (PS2)
review
game: Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
four star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Capcom
platform:
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Apr 2nd, 2002
last revision: 07:52 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005


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In a time when there are very few surprises in terms of gameplay in console RPGs, it is always refreshing when a game comes along that tries to break the mold and shake the genre up a bit. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is the newest game in Capcom's Breath of Fire series, but it is unlike anything I have ever seen before. There is no overworld map to explore, the combat is a mix of real-time and turn based, and you have the option of starting the game over from the beginning with all of your items intact when you die. Dragon Quarter is a nice change from the more traditional RPGs and is worth checking out for fans of the genre.

The story in Dragon Quarter follows a blue haired character named Ryu. Ryu works as a guard in an area called Deep Earth. Ryu, who finds out early-on he can harness the power of the dragon, teams up with his friends as he takes on the forces of a rival organization on their way to the surface of the planet. The story is fairly straightforward and not very deep, but there are still quite a few plot twists and surprises along the way.

Dragon Quarter sets itself apart from not only most other RPGs, but the rest of the Breath of Fire series as well, in several key ways. The battles are a combination of real-time and turn based combat where you are assigned Ability Points that you can "spend" in order to do various actions each round. When an enemy engages you in battle, the camera shifts to an overhead view that shows the members of your party as well as any enemies. Performing attacks or moving around uses up AP, but using items does not. This creates a situation where you can heal your party as well as make a devastating attack all on the same turn. There are no random battles, and it is completely up to you when you want to fight. The enemies are all wandering the same map you are, and if you want to fight one of them all you have to do is touch it. The characters can all run much faster than the enemies, and you can also set traps to soften enemies up before battle--as well as bait the enemies away from your chosen path. The enemies do not respawn, however, so there is no chance at level building other than just plowing ahead into the next area.

Another aspect of the gameplay that Dragon Quarter does differently is that when you die you are given the choice of starting the game over from the beginning and keeping your items and experience, or you can start over from the last save point with your items taken away. The game is rather difficult and you will be dying a lot, but Dragon Quarter offers a unique twist that makes each trip through it a new experience. In the land of Deep Earth, each person is assigned a number known as a D-Rank. The higher the D-Rank, the higher that persons' social status is. As you progress through the game and raise your D-Rank, characters will respond to you differently and new objectives will become available. This makes it a much different experience to play through each time you have to restart from the beginning. The game isn't very long, however, and clocks in at less than twenty hours even after you have restarted from the beginning several times. Luckily, even after you beat the game, you can play through again with all of your items and experience intact in order to unlock even more storyline elements and quests.

All of these changes are completely different from what the Breath of Fire series has been during its last four installments. There isn't an overworld map to explore as the entire game takes place underground. Also, the Breath of Fire series has always stood out because of its dragon transformation system. In Dragon Quarter, only one character can turn into a dragon and even then there is only one form. You are actually discouraged from using the dragon form because using it too much will kill the character. The game shares some similar themes with the rest of the Breath of Fire series, but it plays completely differently. This game would have been great no matter what Capcom wanted to call it, but it almost seems that using the Breath of Fire name on a game that is so different might turn some old school Breath of Fire fans away.

Graphically, Dragon Quarter looks amazing. The pseudo cel-shaded graphics look awesome and the character designs are remarkably detailed. Even though the game takes place underground, the environments are good looking and varied enough that they don't ever become repetitive. The usual array of special effects that accompany attacks are present and look spectacular. The graphics are very easy on the eyes, to say the least.

The sound in Dragon Quarter is similarly outstanding. The music was composed by the same people responsible for the soundtrack in games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Chrono Trigger, and Xenogears. There are a large number of tracks considering how short the game is, and all of them sound great and add a lot to the game. There isn't much voice acting to be heard, and what ispresent is in Japanese. The sound effects are everything you'd expect in an RPG and nothing more. Overall, the sound gets the job done and the music is absolutely fantastic.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is very different from most of the games in the RPG genre, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best RPGs the PS2 has to offer. Even though the game is rather brief compared to other RPGs, you can keep playing through it again and again in order to open up new storyline elements and quests. Fans of the Breath of Fire series might be a little upset by just how much has changed in Dragon Quarter, but you can rest assured that it is a fantastic experience. For RPG fans, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is definitely worth checking out