Monday, November 25, 2013

Review #75: Breath of Fire IV

 Unleash the power of the Dragons.
 Breath of Fire IV was Capcom's last traditional RPG. While there is a Breath of Fire V, it can hardly be labeled as "traditional". Regardless, the game pits in you in the role of yet another Ryu alongside yet another Nina and a couple of other party members, who is a Dragon posing as a human, on his quest to stop a big bad.
 The game takes place in a land styled after China, but where humans and half breeds(From anything to dog-humans to cat-humans) live together. 90% of the time you will play as Ryu, who after meeting up with Nina, aids her in her quest to save her sister. At least at the start, Nina's sister is quickly forgotten about, though the heroes will find her, eventually, but the game makes finding out Ryu's destiny the main leading thread. The other 10% has you playing as the game's antagonist, Fou Lou. Fou Lou's segments are very short and very easy(He is the big bad after all, he should be incredibly overpowered) but they help you sympathize, somewhat, with him.
 The game is  very oldschool, that means that you will be talking with townsfolk until you find that one NPC that advances the story. It's also very vague, so finding the Dragons, which is the game's major sidequest, relies a lot on you going out of your way and backtracking into towns searching for hints over where they may be. And most of the time they are pretty vague about it, so you might want to get a guide. Battles are pretty straight forward, you run around until you get into a random encounter and these are turn based. The battles are pretty average, although be prepared that near the end of the game the difficulty suddenly ramps up, and if you are caught unprepared you will suffer. Honestly, I never lost to a boss or to a random encounter, but  some of the latter boss fights were long and challenging.
 While every character, except Ryu, learns some skills through leveling up, most skills are learned from monsters. In order to learn them, you must guard and hope that the enemy uses the skill that you want to learn. Oh, and you won't always learn it, so you might have to guard many turns. There are also masters spread around the world that alter your stat gains when you level up and teach you new skills when you fulfill certain conditions. Every character can learn any skill, alhough you can't equip more than one character with a certain skill, you can switch them around. As previously stated, Ryu doesn't learn any skills through level up(Even though you can equip him with skills), but he can turn into a Dragon. There's seven different Dragons, most which must be found, and only a couple being out of your way, and each one bestows a different moveset on Ryu. Lastly, by using magic in certain order(Say character 1 uses a fire spell and the next one a wind spell) you can create combos, which make spells deal more damage and, sometimes, even use more powerfuls spells due to the combination.
 While exploring on foot, every now and then you will come upon puzzles. Most are your usual pull the lever or find the keys affairs, but a couple of them require you to use personal skills. Five out of the six playable characters have a Skill, for example one of them can push barrels and another one can headbut stuff. These are not too frequent, but sometimes it's annoying having to go back to a menu to switch your on-foot party just for the puzzle. Speaking of annoying, the camera is very weird. Depending on the area, you may be able to turn the camera in one out of four different angles, sometimes there are only two angles and sometimes none. Most of the time, no angle will be quite right to explore. Also, on-foot movement is a bit imprecise, you might run into angles you didn't mean to. Lastly, the game is full of "minigames" that you must go through in order to continue, and... I didn't really like the approach, why do I have to go through a minigame if I want to use the Sandflier?(Mind you, the first time, this particular one, is actually kinda fun)
 Breath of Fire IV was released late into the Playstation's life cycle, yet it's particularly good looking. While the world is in 3D, characters and enemies are 2D Sprites(With a couple of 3D enemies). The 3D is pretty simple and basic, but the sprites are actually pretty neat. While not too detailed, animation is fantastic, many of the animations are reminiscent of Darkstalkers, full of exaggerated motions and reactions. Music was alright, it fit and there are many different tunes, however, none of them really struck with me. There are also a couple of voiced lines, but they are in japanese.
 There's nothing too bad about Breath of Fire IV, but the thing is.... The Playstation was a console known for its great RPGs, but Breath of Fire IV is just... very, very average. It does little to separate itself from other RPGs, and while playing as the antagonist is a nice touch, it's not a gamesaver. The story does pull a few really good scenes near the end(Concerning Nina's sister), but they can't pull the game away from mediocrity, specially when the verbal clash against the last boss is as cliched as it gets "Yes, Humanity is [insert a flaw] and [insert another flaw] but they are also good!" and then the last boss goes " Then we have to fight to prove who is right". As I said, this game is very average and very cliched.
 5.5 out of 10.

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