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Breath of Fire IV (PlayStation) artwork

Breath of Fire IV (PlayStation) review

"Think Capcom, and what springs to mind? Resident Evil perhaps, or maybe Street Fighter. It's fair to say that they aren't really known for their RPGs. On the strength of this offering though, maybe they should be. "

Think Capcom, and what springs to mind? Resident Evil perhaps, or maybe Street Fighter. It's fair to say that they aren't really known for their RPGs. On the strength of this offering though, maybe they should be.

Breath Of Fire IV being an RPG, I can't really go into too much detail regarding the plot, so I'll just explain what is happening when you start the game. Basically the nasty Fou Empire has struck a tentative alliance with it's neighbouring territory (the key locations of which being the over-bureaucratic Ludia, and the city of Wyndia). This alliance is very fragile, however, and the threat of a new war is always on the horizon. As such, when Princess Elina of Wyndia disappears while on a diplomatic mission in the Empire, the pen-pushers are reluctant to do anything about it. Undeterred, Elina's sister, Nina, and her old friend Chief Cray of the Woren (a Cat-like warrior tribe) set off alone to try and find her.And this is where you, the player, gets control of the game. Of course, the plot gets much more complex than that - it'd be a very dull game if it didn't, but I don't want to go into any more plot detail in case I spoil the game.

Gameplay-wise this game will be familiar territory for any RPG fan (and I assume anyone who has played another Breath Of Fire game, although I can't comment on that really, as this is my first). You've got your world map, your towns with residents who don't seem to object to your just waltzing in to their house, your hours of conversing with the locals and your random turn-based battles. It is in the latter where Breath Of Fire IV really shines. As in most contemporary RPGs, you have three characters in your main party, although by the time you reach the end you will have six characters overall. 'So what do the other three do in battles' I hear you ask (actually that my just be the wind outside, but it brings me to my point nicely enough, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt). Well the battles here utilise a front row and back row system. Although you can only have three characters at your disposal each turn, you can choose from all the characters each time. Those you don't choose go to the back row. There they are able to avoid any enemy attack, and crucially, they can regain Ability Points (for those of you new to RPGs, APs are like the currency used to buy your magic and special attacks). Some characters even have their own special moves that they operate (without the need for you to do anything) from the back row. Cray, for instance, occasionally goes to sleep at the back row, which puts him out of action for a few turns, but recovers his health. In addition to this, the battles are further enhanced by 'combo' attacks: you can combine your magic attacks to make even more powerful attacks. Knowing what attacks make what is purely a matter of trial and error, so experiment.

This game is also full of mini-games, the most prominent of which being the fishing and fairy colony games. The fishing game is actually quite time consuming, though you may not realise it at the time. The fish you catch can be used as health items in battle, sold, or traded. There really is nothing ground breaking here, but it's an involving little diversion, and I'm told that it even works with fishing controllers (although I don't know anyone who actually has one, so I can't say for sure). The colony game is more like Sim City or Theme Park. Basically you need to help the fairies to rebuild their village, and make sure they have enough food.... It's almost a game in itself, to be honest. Put together, these two mini-games probably add ten to twenty hours onto the game length, depending on your dedication, and that can't be bad.

The graphics in this game are deceptively detailed. At first glance they may appear to be SNES / Mega Drive standard - there is a definite 16-bit charm about the look of this game - although spend a bit of time with the game and you will realise how much care has gone into the graphics. The snow effects, for example, are superb. Anyone who says that this game isn't as pretty as Final Fantasy just needs to be shown these scenes (either that, or just needs a good thumping. NOTE: VIOLENCE DOES NOT SOLVE ANYTHING. THIS REVIEW IN NO WAY INTENDS TO ENCOURAGE VIOLENCE). It may not have glossy FMV sequences every hour or so, but the upside of this is that the game fits nicely onto one disc. Hooray!

The translation is, unfortunately, superb. I myself am a big fan of bizarre translation in RPGs (I'm easily pleased), so I was quite disappointed to see that there were no grammatical errors that I noticed, and no downright nonsensical comments, although that isn't to say that the game's dialogue isn't humourous. Some of it is even fairly risque - one character blurts out the, frankly, odd line 'I had hoped that when we got married she would start wearing clothes'. The fact that this line is so darned unprovoked makes it a charmingly bizarre moment, and really adds character to the game.

The music in the game is well orchestrated. It's no masterpiece, but it keeps you entertained while you play, which is surely the most important thing. At the end of the day only the battle music is memorable, but the rest of the music is enjoyable enough, and it's fairly atmospheric. Nothing overwhelming, then, but nothing too underwhelming either.

Ultimately, it's lack of blockbuster gloss means that Breath Of Fire IV will always be second to Square's Playstation RPGs, but that isn't entirely fair. In my opinion it can rival any of them in the enjoyment stakes. The plot is epic, the characters are believable (which is quite an achievement seeing as one of them has a bushy tail, and one is, for want of a better description, a big walking dog), and may even have you cheering out loud at their decisions at times (please, please tell me this wasn't just me). And the game is fun. What more do you need?

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (March 06, 2004)

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