Breath of Fire IV (PlayStation & PC)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom & SourceNext

Designer – Makoto Ikihara

Producer – Hironobu Takeshita

Released around the same time as Final Fantasy IX, and when Squaresoft and Enix were considered the two most prominent RPG video game development companies, Breath of Fire IV was still met with positive reviews and a great reception from fans of the series, and has since become a cult classic among gamers today. However, after playing it for a fair amount of time, whilst not thinking it’s a bad game, I don’t believe that it really lives up to all the hype I’ve heard about it since I watched that video. Though people believe it to be unjust that this game was overshadowed as much as it was at the time, I can’t say I agree with that.

Graphics – 7/10

The scenery and style of the game were very well designed. It reminded me a lot of the game Grandia, whereby 2D character sprites would inhabit a fully 3D world. In particular, I enjoyed walking through the village of Chamba, which is very atmospheric and gloomy, and added an extremely unexpected level of tension for a time. But unlike Grandia, the level design is not as diverse, and a lot of the other villages and towns later on in the game can seem very repetitious after a while. I remember whilst I was playing Grandia, I was very much taken in by how unique places like Parm and the Zil ruins looked. But for me, there just seemed to be much less of that level of captivation in terms of conceptual design.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

As a turn-based RPG, it is pretty satisfying to play the game and level up the player characters, gaining more and more skills and powers as the game goes on. But the problem lies in the fact that there’s not as much variety in Breath of Fire IV in comparison to other big name RPGs at the time, such as Final Fantasy. I also find that despite it’s criminally sort lifespan, South Park: The Stick of Truth had more variety in gameplay than this. There are a few side quests present, such as fishing and so on, but there is nowhere near as many side quests as a lot of other games of it’s caliber and world size. I find it especially surprising, as Capcom wouldn’t have been on a budget at the time following sales of Resident Evil 1 and 2, so I think the only limitations involved would have come in the form of developer’s imaginations.

Controls – 9/10

There are no issues with the controls, save for the fact that the camera angles can be awkward at times and that having to often adjust it can be a bit of a hassle. This would be another advantage that other RPGs of the time would have over Breath of Fire IV; some of them would simply use hand-drawn graphics, making entire settings one big picture for players to traverse across. But because Breath of Fire has a fully 3D environment, camera angles do consequently often have to be adjusted for players to be able to tell where they’re going.

Lifespan – 5/10

I’ve since found out that this game can be completed in just over 20 hours, and whilst that isn’t as short a lifespan as South Park: The Stick of Truth, It’s still very short for a turn-based RPG. Although that may have been considered somewhat long for a game in most other genres at the time, there were still games at that time, which were made to last three, maybe even four times longer.

Storyline – 8.5/10

Despite this game lacking substance in gameplay compared to its competitors at the time, one thing I can’t criticize too much about it is its story. After it starts off a little slowly, it does get progressively better as it goes on, dealing with a number of adult themes and alluding to many real-life political occurrences. Breath of Fire IV follows the story of a dragon god called Fou-Lu, who formed an empire years prior to the start of the game, but became weary of humanity, and put himself into stasis. He awakens at the start of the game to rule again, but he finds he is split into two people; one being himself and the other being an amnesiac called Ryu, who is taken in by a girl called Nina and her friend Cray, who have set out to find Nina’s sister, Elina, who went missing on a diplomacy mission. It does turn into something much deeper overtime, and it does certainly make for a very exceptional story in a time when gameplay stories were first becoming much more prominent than they had been previously.

Originality – 6.5/10

At the time, there didn’t seem to be that many stories in games, which touched on political instability and alluded so elaborately to nuclear war, but more annoyingly to me, it severely lacked innovation in gameplay compared to other RPGs of it’s time, and to me, it shows how Capcom seemed to focus less on gameplay in general in the midst of the release of Resident Evil, which again focused more on story as well as horror.

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In summation, Breath of Fire IV isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been an infinitely better game than what it turned out to be. After playing it, I feel as if people do indeed give it too much credit, and I do believe that it’s overshadowing by Final Fantasy IX wasn’t unjustified by any means.

Score

43.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

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