Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Capcom
Developer
Capcom
Genre
RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Partial Nudity, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Awesome battle system
• Excellent music and graphics
• SOL adds replayability
• Very challenging

The Bad

• Short first time through
• Save system not great
• Lots of long battles and linear dungeons

 
Grade
A-

Change is good. Considering how doggedly Capcom has refused to make major changes to their other series (Resident Evil, Street Fighter), it may come as a huge surprise the almost complete overhaul that the new Breath of Fire has received. Shying away from the more traditional turn-based RPG that the series has always been, Dragon Quarter is a more steam-punk/cyber-punk themed game with a far more involving battle system and a lot of new elements. The world of Dragon Quarter is set 1000 meters below the surface of the world. A long time ago, a great disaster forced mankind under the earth, where a caste-based society was formed. People find their place in society based on their rank. At the lowly rank of 1/8192, Ryu is a Ranger, who is placed on a mission to guard a lift transport. When the mission goes bad and he's separated from his partner, he must ally himself with what he perceives to be the enemy to protect a young winged girl named Nina.

At the heart of the game is a wonderfully sculpted battle system. Players move their group through levels, trying to head the their next goal. None of these dungeons are all that complex, but surviving combat provides more than enough challenge. Unlike previous Breath of Fire titles, there are no random battles. Instead, you'll find the dungeons packed with a variety of enemies that you can either avoid or confront as you choose. But, this in itself requires strategy as the player has the ability to set a variety of traps, including meat to attract enemies, bombs and dynamite to damage them before you enter combat and even the ability to poison and bind them before you start combat. These traps can be used to avoid combat or give you and edge when you enter them.

Once in battle, you'll find a deep system that shows influence from Xenogears, Vagrant Story and Parasite Eve. Each character has a certain amount of AP (ability points) which can be used to move your character and perform attacks. Characters learn skills which can be equipped (depending on the weapon) to three different buttons (and up to three different skills per button). This allows you a wide array of attacks, all of which can be used in combination for even more damage. In fact, using the combos and any additional effects, like being able to kick an enemy away from you, is key to being successful in combat. Since battle happens where you initiate it, you can use the environment to your benefit by setting up magical traps or by pinning enemies in tight spaces to deal with them one at a time. And since you have access to area attacks, you can deal damage to multiple enemies at one time.

While there are a lot of items and weapons to pick up, you'll find yourself doing some serious menu maintenance as you have limited space for items and each character can only hold three weapons, shields and armors. The upside to this limit, though, is the fact that you can switch out equipment on the fly during battle and using items requires no AP.

One of the things you're going to have to take great notice of throughout the game is Ryu's D-Counter, a gauge that measures how close he is to losing control of his dragon form. At a point early in the game, Ryu unleashes his dragon form, which can be used to do massive amounts of damage. To keep from abusing this form, the D-Counter measures use and once it reaches 100%, the game is over. Unlike previous Breath of Fire titles, there is only one dragon form.

RPG veterans may find Dragon Quarter an oddity when it comes to length and replayability - the game runs at 15-20 hours in length. This is offset by the Scenario Overlay System (SOL), which opens up new story sequences and areas every time you play through. That is, if you score well enough to raise Ryu's rank in the world. You can even restart the game after your first battle and get new story sequences.

Probably one of the biggest drawbacks to the game is the save system. You have one "hard" save, which can be made at certain points in the game with Save Coins. Throughout the game, though, you have the option to make a temporary save if you want to quit. When you load the temporary save, it's deleted. While this wouldn't be too big of a problem, the distance between "hard" save points coupled with the hard difficulty and limited items you can carry will lead to a few unwanted deaths. And, when you die, you can either go back to the last save or restart the game.

Visually, Dragon Quarter provides an impressive package. The fully realized 3D world packs in A LOT of detail. Each and every location feels accurately detailed and well modeled. Characters, items and enemies are built in some finely created cel-shaded graphics that really seal the anime style that the game is created in. Because of the location of the story (deep in the bowels of the earth), the color scheme uses a lot of gray, brown, rust and other darker-toned colors, leaving the game a little dark in appearance overall. To balance this, though, there are some bright spell effects.

Audiowise, Dragon Quarter is top notch. The soundtrack is a masterpiece that's actually a joy to listen to. In most RPGs, the music tends to become muzakish and nondescript, but in Dragon Quarter, it holds a moving quality that really goes a long way to emphasize the story. The sound effects are also well done and really accent the battle well. It's actually quite funny to hear Lin yell her attack names during battle.

Be warned that Dragon Quarter is very heavy in dungeon crawling and has some lengthy battles. Gamers who want to explore and have quick battles will find this game tedious, even with the short length. On top of that, your trip through the game is fairly linear and straightforward. Except for the Colony (think Fairy Colony, except with ants), there really aren't a lot of diversions here. Throw in the punishing save system, and you have a game that casual RPGers may wish to shy away from.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter manages to take a classic series and give it a great revamp. Traditionalists may find the new game too different for their liking, but gamers looking for a challenge with a great battle system should look into this title. If you're not sure whether or not you'll like the changes, at least give this title a rent.

- - Kinderfeld

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