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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Underrated RPGs- Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Howdy, y'all, and welcome to the first of what I hope will develop into a series of posts discussing the merits of a particular RPG that I personally perceive as an underrated gem. And today, we will be discussing one of the most bizarre games I have ever had the good fortune of experiencing, and that I wrote a review for waaaaaaay back when on PG's Game Room.

The fifth installment in the Breath of Fire series was the only game in the franchise on the Playstation 2. Until Capcom's recent announcement of Breath of Fire 6 as a F2P mobile title (excuse me for a moment while I go vomit), Dragon Quarter marked a curious and divisive finale to this particular JRPG series.

Part of the reason Dragon Quarter has developed a reputation as being a 'franchise killer' in the eyes of some fans is that it really has very little to do with the prior games in the series. Breath of Fire I-IV all consisted of swords-and-sorcery tales set in ostensibly the same fantasy world. While Dragon Quarter still features a boy named Ryu who can transform into a dragon, and a girl named Nina, these are pretty much the only recurring series elements to be found in Dragon Quarter. Gone is the idyllic countryside and in its place is a dark steampunk future where mankind has been forced to dwell underground due to the pollution on the surface. Traditional turn-based combat has been eschewed in favor of a tactical system not unlike that of some strategy-RPGs. The entire Overworld consists of a single, lengthy dungeon segmented by safe zones such as towns. And, of course, Ryu's dragon form now comes with a meter that steadily rises with each use, and spells death for the player should it ever reach 100%.

Maybe that's why I like Dragon Quarter when so many despise it, because of the risks it takes as an established property. Dragon Quarter is an uncompromising game- resources are limited, including the ability to even save progress, and through a process dubbed the Scenario Overlay System (SOL System), encourages repeated playthroughs to unlock new cutscenes and make encounters slightly easier through foreknowledge and the accumulation of additional EXP. In a sense, it took a very traditional RPG series and turned it into a straight-up dungeon crawler. I personally find the new setting to be really interesting and enjoy the cel-shaded presentation, as a side note.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is about $20 for a brand-new copy on Amazon, and I'd recommend it for any looking for a challenging or unique RPG experience.

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