Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Underrated RPGs- Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
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.