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VIDEO GAME REVIEW

Rockin’ the Role-Playing Game Boat

Capcom’s Newest ‘Breath of Fire’ Offering is a Refreshing Change of Pace

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Published by Capcom

Made for the Sony Playstation 2

$49.99

Anything is good when taken in moderation. Also, change is good. And anything that moderately changes the stuck-in-the-mud role-playing game (RPG) genre is definitely good. The latest game in the Breath of Fire series doesn’t fit the standard RPG mold -- and it’s for the better.

For one thing, monsters first appear on the field before battle begins. Random battles are becoming more of an annoyance (perhaps Final Fantasy XI will be the first Final Fantasy game to not have random battles.) Traps like meat and bombs can be used to lure or weaken monsters. All of this boils down to hitting the enemy before the fight starts so the player gets an extra turn. This encounter system helps spice things up before battle and gives the player a lot of variety.

The battle system has even more options and flexibility. Instead of simply choosing the “attack” option repeatedly, characters are placed in the same room in which they initiated combat. They must walk within range of their targets before they can attack. And even then, it still isn’t a generic “attack” option. The player must choose one of the character’s several attacks. If chosen in the right order, they combo, dealing more damage. The battle rewards more for experimentation and less for repetition.

The dragon powers take some getting used to, since they are not as easily abused as in previous Breath of Fire games. Dragon abilities, which deliver powerful blows that can end battles very quickly, allow the player to avoid enemies on the field. The number of uses of dragon power, though, is limited. The game ends when the limit is reached, forcing players to reserve their dragon powers for when they need it the most.

When playing through Dragon Quarter, though, repetition is the key. A single run through the game takes around twenty hours, which is very short by RPG standards. However, restarting the game at any point will retain bonus experience and equipment. This makes the second run-through easier than the first. When the game is finished, it grades the player’s performance. This grade opens up new challenging areas to explore and new cutscenes to fill in the plot holes left behind from the previous run through.

The graphic style deserves credit as well. The creatures are all cel-shaded. The thick black outlines and the uneven shading help them stand out from the background. Extra points go out for a Playstation 2 game that was anti-aliased well. The game takes place underground, so the background colors are limited to earthy, metal tones. The cel-shaded objects stand out from these backgrounds and are easy to identify.

The sounds are pretty well done, too. The few sound effects used are appropriate. The voices get a bit repetitive, especially during battle. One character depends on speech to attack, so I thank Capcom for keeping the voices in Japanese and not making a crappy English dubbing. The music matches the mood of the game very well.

Dragon Quarter deviates from the tired-and-true RPG formula that hasn’t changed much since Final Fantasy 2. Let’s hope more RPG developers rock the boat and get creative with gameplay.