"In the days of old, nearly every game I played seemed to have a sort of magic to it. Developers poured their hearts and souls into their highly pixelated works with bad graphics in an attempt to bring greatness to a "nerdy" pastime. "
In the days of old, nearly every game I played seemed to have a sort of magic to it. Developers poured their hearts and souls into their highly pixelated works with bad graphics in an attempt to bring greatness to a "nerdy" pastime.
Then the dawn of next-generation gaming came. Games were no longer about simply being fun, but they were focused on ousting the competition in seeing who can have the most polygons on screen simultaneously while keeping the gameplay at a smooth 60 FPS. Years had passed, and I had played no game in which I truly felt a spark of 'magic.'
Then came Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter.
While on the outside it appears to be nothing more than an overly linear RPG with bad character design and dark, plain graphics, looking into the game reveals its light side: a touching story about a dying girl and one young man's determination to see her survive, no matter what it takes. Forget the game's high difficulty level, its battle system that combines turn-based strategy with combos, and its Scenario Overlay System in which one must replay through the game to see every possible scene. Beneath all the gimmicks and through all the cel-shaded graphics lies a world in which all hope seems to be lost. A young man, a sort of low-ranking police officer in his underground city is faced with watching his partner and friend succeed in everything, while he himself is damned to never become anything more than a grunt because of his low ranking. A lift they're assigned to guard is attacked, and the young grunt falls into a chasm, seperated from his high-ranking friend, pressing him ever-deeper into hopelessness and despair. All hope seems lost as his presses his way through a realm of old, broken machinery and trash.
But, a glimmer of hope appeared.
A frail, red-winged girl being carried off by a grotesque cyclops looks up to this young man, with tearfilled eyes. A burning sensation erupts in him and he rushes the Cyclops, easily taking it down although it is a beast many more times the size he is. And thus, the heartwrenching story of this young man and his female compatriot begins as he tries to find a way to save her, as he battles his way to reach something never seen by anyone in this massive underground city: the sky.
Throughout his difficult struggle he must travel through dimly lit, artificial areas, populated by many poorly designed cel-shaded characters while the masterful melodies of Hitoshi Sakimoto ethereally play in the background, perfectly fitting the dark mood of his surroundings.
Before battle, he is able to place a number of traps that can be used to affect the monsters before engaging them in combat. Not only can the traps be placed on the field, but if a trap goes unused when a battle starts, it will remain on the battlefield in the same place he left it, ready to be activated and damage all enemies in its range. Not only that, but he and his companions have the ability to pull off a number of combos due to the innovative combat system: Each step he takes spends AP, and there are moves the player can set to his or her O, X, and square buttons, for a total of three abilities per button, as they take 10, 20, and 30 AP, respectively. each chain of combos adds a 10% power bonus to each new attack, while skipping your turn gives you more AP, up to twice as much as your normal maximum. Furthermore, the Dragon Transformation system has made a return, yet with a twist: Each action the young man makes in Dragon form causes a gauge in the upper-right corner to increase. if it hits 100%, it's game over. There's no way to reduce this counter during the normal play of the game, though it offers a "Give up" option that allows the player to start over with equipped weapons and skills intact, as well as Party Exp (which is a kind of bonus Exp earned in battle the player can use to level up their characters) and the party's Zenny, also known as money.
And yet, when you, the player walk away from this game, though littered with flaws such as a poor character design and dark, boring environments, somewhat poor translation and the annoyance of replaying through the first parts of the game as you are forced to use the "Give Up" command due to the game's kicking of your ass, you can't help but feel as if you've accomplished something great. Not because of the game's difficulty. With a little practice and trial-and-error gaming, you can pull off great combos and keep your Dragon counter as low as possible with little effort. No, the accomplishment comes from the storyline. After setting the controller down and watching the credits scroll, You will know you had accomplished something great for these cel-shaded personalities, even though it was just a small virtual world with bad graphics and catchy tunes.
This, my friends, is "magic." The magic that was once lost to me in the next-generation world of gaming, yet revived in the form of Dragon Quarter.
With games like this, the light of hope still shines for the gaming community.
Community review by espiga (February 27, 2005)
Espiga likes big butts, and cannot lie.
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