Breath of Fire IV - Reader Retroview  

More Graphics, Less Heart
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

30-60 Hours


Rating definitions 

   he fourth installment of the Breath of Fire series begins to make the transition into 3D graphics. Unfortunately it does so at a high cost. While the game is still quite good, some parts of the story feel heartless and empty. I found Breath of Fire IV as a whole to be a little disappointing.

   The battle system is similar to that of Breath of Fire III: You can attack, use a skill, use an item, defend, or watch your enemy carefully in hopes of learning one of their skills. There have been a few changes though such as formations being replaced by a front and back row system which allows you to switch between members in the middle of battle. An interesting addition is that often your attacks or healing abilities will combine or create combos that will increase damage/power and grant extra hits. The Dragon Gene system from III has been sadly replaced by a very limited dragon system where you improve your dragon forms by playing minigames for some bizarre reason. In battle, you simply select which dragon form you wish to become and provided you have enough AP you can become it. While it is simpler, it lacks the customization and diversity of the Dragon Gene system. Another addition is the ability to summon dragons, but this ability has little impact on gameplay aside from making battles easier now and then. Masters now not only teach you new skills and growth, they also slightly effect on battle. One master might raise accuracy while another might help keep you from getting KOed. AP temporarily regenerates as time passes in battle depending on the character which can add some strategy.

The new battle system The new battle system

   Breath of Fire IV retains the same level of difficulty level as the third game in the series. It starts off quite easy and increases very slowly in difficulty. Only the last level and a few rare ultra-powerful enemies pose a real threat. If you create some powerful combos it can be quite easy to destroy most sets of enemies very quickly.

   The interaction in IV is quite good. It is easy to perform each character's specialty move, scroll through menus, and travel across the simplified world map. Even most of the minigames have good play control. There aren't really any spelling or grammar mistakes either. It would have been nice if they translated the ending titles though.

   The new minigame based system of IV is fairly original, as is the unique dragon summoning system. The ability to play as the hero and the villain for parts of the game brings a unique and original perspective to the game as well. The rest of the game is very similar to previous Breath of Fire games, so overall it is only slightly original.

Less than stunning 3D graphics Less than stunning 3D graphics

   Breath of Fire IV allows you to play as the hero normally, but also allows you to occasionally play as the villain. The ability to see the world through his eyes and see his motives and power from his perspective was very interesting. Unfortunately, that was about the only interesting part of the story. Sure there are a few cool points here and there, but the story as a whole advances very slowly. Only a few of the characters are interesting and the rest are neglected for the most part.

   If you rush through the game as quickly as possible and avoid all of the sidequests, it'll probably take somewhere around 30 hours to complete the game. If you except to learn all of the abilities the game has to offer then you're required to play about twice as long (one of the abilities is based on a rather high play time). You should be able to finish most or all of the sidequests and defeat the ultra-powerful enemies during that time, so it's unlikely that you'll greatly exceed 60 hours.

   Most of the battle themes have been improved upon slightly, but most of the other themes remain about the same or lower quality than in III. For those of you who haven't played Breath of Fire III, the music is quite good and the same goes for IV.

   As I mentioned earlier, the graphics have begun to move even more towards 3D. Dragons are in full 3D and even have long animations, (thankfully you can skip them when you get sick of watching the same animation repeatedly) but most of the 3D Dragons and enemies aren't very impressive. While they are indeed in 3D, they don't look very good and don't fit in very well so they end up canceling any visual bonus it would get for having 3D graphics. On the other hand, the 3D landscapes fit in well with the rest of the game's style and rotates fully (in most places) as you move the camera. There is also the addition of character portraits to dialog boxes. While each character has only a few pictures, it does help show their emotions a bit better. Overall, the graphics are above average.

   While it attempts and for the most part fails to improve upon its graphics, Breath of Fire IV manages to overlook the story. The ability to play as the villain is nice, but it fails to mask the shortcomings of the rest of the game's plot. All things considered, Breath of Fire IV is still an above average game, but it was a bit of a disappointment.

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