Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/28/00 | Genre: RPG
Breath of Fire IV is the latest entry to Capcom's long running RPG series. In a series that's always been old school, this entry is not much different from the previous ones.
The story is centered on the lives of an amnesiac dragon boy, Ryu, and the innocent winged princess, Nina. Nina finds Ryu and together they set out to discover Ryu's identity and ultimately save the world. This is the main problem with the game. The plot is always the same with just minor changes between sequels. Why Capcom can't come up with an original premise for its Breath of Fire games is beyond me. To give them some credit, they have added two intertwining stories to this game with the appearance of a second dragon character, Fou-Lou - the magic emperor.
Furthermore, this time around Ryu doesn't have amnesia but simply has no past to remember. Ryu and party set off to search for Nina's missing sister, his past, and the purpose of the war between the Fou Empire and the Alliance. They end up running from one set of enemies or another in a plotline that moves at a snail's pace and doesn't seem to go anywhere. Another problem is the personalities of the characters are poorly developed and dialogue is exceedingly dry. The characters are simply going through the motions in this lackluster RPG.
The graphics in a Breath of Fire game are never great but this time they are actually worse then before. They looked washed out and muted, particularly in the anime sequences. Here the game actually looks like it had a budget so constrained that to even attempt to portray the characters in quality animation would be a burden. In the game itself, while the environments can be rotated, they are small and similar to each other. Most towns look alike and are spread out in a maze pattern that can be hard to follow. There is an over world map that plots out various paths the character can follow leading to a location or an event. The process is very linear and ultimately unsatisfying. Battle graphics have limited animations and the spell effects are not particularly impressive.
The sound and music are fairly standard RPG fare: mostly repetitive and forgettable. Each character possesses a battle voice that doesn't change during the game. There are some detailed sound effects in the forest and town areas that bring some realism to the otherwise boring environments.
There's also not much new in the gameplay department either. There's the standard set of attack, defend, item and magic use options. This time, however, you can have up to 6 characters in your party with 3 up front attacking and 3 behind in support. During battle the player can alternate which characters they want up front and which they want to rest to recover status and magic points. Magic types are specific to characters with only Ryu and Fou-Lou able to transform into dragons. Each character also has their unique actions such as push, ram, fly, and slash that can be used in dungeons to solve puzzles. Another addition is the Skills learning system. Scattered around the world are Masters that you can apprentice any of your characters to. Depending on the Master, the character can get statistical bonuses such as speed or defense as well as special skills such as theft, stronger magic attacks, or status spells. Each Master will set a task that needs to be completed to unlock all the Master knows. Skills can also be obtained from defending against enemies in battle.
In the end, however, the skill system is just a complicated way to get more magic which doesn't serve much use in the long run anyway. The game has the usual assortment of mini-games such as fishing and designing a fairy village that are actually more fun than the main game.
Breath of Fire IV is a disappointing sequel to a generally mediocre RPG series. Capcom has got to do some serious re-thinking if its only RPG series is to survive on the next generation consoles.