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Breath of Fire IV
Breath of Fire IV (PS)
Member Name: nevikrose
Breath of Fire IV (PS)
Advantages: Has stood the test of time, still gorgeous, still playable, still fun
Disadvantages: irritating camera occasionally, you need to be able to play PSX discs
There's something truly comforting in knowing that however fast technology moves, it's still possible to get a good gaming experience from an outdated and obsolete system.
Original Playstation titles have, for whatever reason, been experiencing something of a revival over the last couple of years. It's been good to see that even with the release of the Vita, ported games from the old PSX have still been making it on the PSP playable list, and it's still possible to buy, if not the old PSX system, then certainly refurbished PS2 systems in trade games shops. Yeah, I'm an advocate of older games, you can't blame me when so much joy can still be had from games published over 10 years ago, even more in some cases.
As far as older games go, this one should certainly not be passed over. It's something of a collectible now, often going on ebay for as much as a new PS3 title might. If you see a copy of this in a trade in store for pennies, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you passed it over.
Breath of Fire IV is one of the Japanese style RPGs that hit the market just after the millennium. It is the fourth title in Capcom's successful franchise that was it's answer to the wildly successful Final Fantasy series offered by Square (Enix). BOFIV was released in the Japanese and US market in 2000 and the European market in 2001, selling over 300,000 in it's first year and qualifying it for that old re-release silver bordered thing Playstation used to do.
Characters and Story
The story focuses on a number of characters as the game progresses, and in JRPG style, we learn a little more about them over time as their relevance to the story is revealed.
The protagonist is Ryu, as is always the case in Breath of Fire games. This incarnation is a blue haired boy who has the power to transform into powerful dragons. He has no memory of who he is, or where he is supposed to be when he is discovered at the beginning of the game.
Fou-Lu is a mysterious and frighteningly powerful man who were are introduced to through cut-scenes and short play scenes. He is Ryu's 'other half' the immortal emperor, newly awakened and hell bent on ascending to Godhood.
Ryu is joined initially by Nina, a winged princess of the Wyndia kingdom and Cray, a cat-like warrior of the Woren tribe. They initially set out to take Ryu to the nearest town, in the hopes someone would know him, but like all amnesiac heroes, he's irresistible and they just can't leave him alone. Good thing too, else there probably wouldn't have been much of a game to write about.
As they uncover memories and flashbacks, Ryu realises Fou-Lu is attempting to ascend, an act that will have dire consequences for the mortal world. They embark on a quest to stop him, picking up the usual RPG bunch of misfits as they go.
The characters here are vivid, and while they certainly don't break any huge norms, they do have empathetic personalities and stories with which you can engage. It is noteworthy that the characters are not cut in black and white here, even those outside the playable 'fellowship', they are complicated people, with ingrained ideals and hard won trust. Their aims may not all match up with Ryu's for the same reasons, but there are some genuinely touching moments in the plot. In BOFIV The characters are the story, they are not along for the ride.
As a late 90's/early 00's game it relies on the classic overhead, isometric viewpoint with a moving camera. Often the camera can be rotated to position the viewer more favorably, which is invaluable in towns as there is often a door that's invisible from a certain angle. It has to be said; I have, on more than one occasion, forgotten this feature and spent a good half an hour trying to figure out why I can't get anywhere/find the shop/leave the town.
As you journey through the world Ryu learns more about his dragon heritage. You learn how to harness that power, which can be tamed into specific spell forms that Ryu gains over time. When you draw on these forms in battle, Ryu will transform first into a dragon/man hybrid, in which he is able to use ancient magic, or, when the power gauge is full draw out the dragon's full form. This transforms Ryu fully into the dragon you have 'summoned' cuing a cut-scene for the ultimate attack. They are stunningly beautiful and actually useful, unlike some games, where the benefit of summons is unbalanced against the time taken to watch the cut-scene/animation.
There are several side quests and extras you can engage in, forging your own armor with scavenged and farmed parts, minigames in the plot line to advance the story and the ever present fishing in all JRPGs. The fishing's useful however, although there's the old 'Pokemon' element there it's also a method of unlocking rare items, since you can turn in fish for vouchers.
The other aspect of this game's approach is the fairy village. At some point on your travels, when you have set up camp, a fairy will approach the band and ask for help. They are useless at managing their time and resources and need someone with a level head to help them out. Without considering Darwin's 'survival of the fittest' Ryu agrees and you suddenly have access to a whole extra part of the game which is a charming mishmash of part SimCity, part Harvest Moon and rewards your resource management skills with new minigames, shops and for some reason...insurance. (I'm not sure why incompetent fairies sell insurance but It helps you revive dead party members, so it's not to be sniffed at.)
The big highlight here is not only how well written and complex the characters are, although that's a sure fire winner, it's the graphics. It's rendered in beautiful 3d, with 2d sprites, it looks very 'Capcom' which in all honesty is no bad thing, and the environments, creatures and animations are beautifully designed.
If you'd like to see more, just google images for this game, the world alone is pretty, but the aesthetic of the world is so good that it's spawned fantastic fan art, FMV cutscenes and even it's own Manga.
The music is also brilliant, so much so that I have the official soundtrack, which is pretty rare for me.
These are blissfully rare. The camera angle thing is irritating, but at least you can rotate it, and are not stuck trying to 'guess' where the doorway or alley might be.
Sometimes the overhead view can make traversing terrain a little tricky, and certainly I've fallen off more than a couple of rocks, but it isn't as bad as some 3d platformers that are on the market even now.
I consider BOFIV to be a gem in the history of console RPGs. Admittedly I have a weakness for the old Japanese style, but in all honesty, it's hard to beat the great story, well paced plot and pretty animations that it has to offer, even if you don't.
I would recommend keeping an eye out for it in bargain bins, if you see it, snatch it up. If you are a collector of classics, or enjoy games like FF7, FF9, the Tales of...series or even some of the Zelda games, there's a lot for you here. It may even be worth paying collectors price for.
Summary: Worth it even for the non collector, as it's a well written, ultimately playable RPG