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Written by  :  Bregalad (972)
Written on  :  Dec 25, 2020
Platform  :  PlayStation
Rating  :  2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars

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A letdown

The Good

Breath of Fire IV is the fourth entry in the Breath of Fire series, and the second on the PlayStation coming after two SNES games and one Playstation game. I had played the three prequels before playing the game.

As in the previous games, the game is a typical JRPG where you conduct a party with Ryu a dragon in human form, Nina a winged person and a party of anthropomorphic animals around the world to save it from evil.

Even though the game is overall a letdown from its predecessors, there's still good things to tell about it. A good thing is that the game has more 3D content than it's immediate predecessor, and the world to explore is a bit larger. Another good thing is that they kept how the overworld function from Breath of Fire III, meaning it's quick and easy to backtrack to different locations.

Even though the story is not very interesting, there's at least a few plot twists. The game features at a certain point Pukapukas, amazing little creatures. I loved them, because they're very cute.

Graphics quality were significantly improved since Breath of Fire III and the FMV opening is stunning.

Another very cool thing is the alternation between the "main" quests where you control Ryu, Nina and their friends, and the "sub" quests where you control the emperor Fou-Lu who seems to take place in the asian middles ages. This was probably inspired by the alternation between Squall and Laguna in Final Fantasy VIII and this works particularly well. The parts with Fou-Lu tend to be more interesting than the parts with Ryu and his party, as Fou-Lu himself is a real badass character.

I liked it's possible to use the entire party in battle simultaneously. Even though only 3 party members are active, and the others are passive, each round active members can be switched easily without any penalty, which opens the opportunity of dynamic battles despite a very traditional round-based battle system. The party members will always do the action in the order you select them, so this allows for some strategy, such as doing healing spells first. Sometimes even passive members can help by doing counter-attacks or will automatically heal the party. It's possible for active members to heal passive members, but it's impossible for the enemy to hurt passive members in the back. As such when a party member is wounded it's simple to take him in the back and heal him later.

The dragon system, traditionally different in each game of the series, is pretty good in this one. You have to first meet with the "masters", so you can turn into various dragons. In dragon form you control the dragon as any party member, and can do very powerful attacks, but your Mana will slowly drop. It's efficient, fun to use and much needed against most later bosses. Another thing I liked is that the party is more balanced than in both Breath of Fire II and Breath of Fire III, despite some party members still being more useful than others.

The Bad

Even though this time, unlike in Breath of Fire III, the camera can actually be rotated and the playfield is actually in 3D, it is easy to get lost, especially in cities. It is also easy to miss treasure because it's in a blind spot, or, less conveniently, miss doors that leads to the next big event of the story, which is needed to continue the game.

They reintroduced the context/screen change between field and battle, which was abolished in Breath of Fire III. I find this is a significant step backwards.

They kept the hard-to-use system from Breath of Fire III, where party members should chose a "teacher" among the NPCs, and met him regularly to gain skills. This is so annoying to use you're almost better of ignoring it completely, which doesn't prevent beating the game.

The music is a very poor overall. Even though there's a few decent songs, like the overworld theme, and some ok-sounding asian-themed music, played mostly during Fou-Lu's moments. Other than that, the music is very annoying. The battle theme and most boss themes are just bad, and many areas and villages have bad music as well. Some people will say it's good it doesn't sound like typical JRPG music and is more original, however since most JRPGs usually have great soundtracks, departing from this tradition is a bad things in my point of view.

There's a ton, and I mean really a ton of absolutely horrendous and annoying minigames which are obligatory to progress in the story. I only remember an annoying ship minigame in Breath of Fire III, here it's the same but made 10x worse. Be prepared for frustration.

The fishing system is totally deficient. I couldn't ever catch any fish, and unfortunately there's places in the storyline where you're supposed to do it. Fortunately there's still a workaround, so I could finish the entire game without ever catching any fish at all.

There's an entire world made of a fairy minigame, that looks so bland and uninteresting I didn't even want to get into it. However if you're the kind of player who's into spending hours in minigames, there's the opportunity to.

The storyline is mostly bland and uninteresting. There's one or two interesting plot twists, other than that it's the very standard world exploration without any real goals other than "discover the true nature of Ryu". Basically it's a recycling of the story from Breath of Fire III minus the interesting parts and minus the time elapsing thing. Thanks god Fou-Lu saves the day on this one with his interesting parts.

The Bottom Line

Breath of Fire IV is a letdown from the previous 3 games. Even though it has it's moments, only fan of the series need to play it, other players can easily pass this one up and spend their time on better JRPGs instead. Let's hope it's sequel Breath of Fire V, which stand on my shelf for 20 years and I still haven't played, reserves me a better surprise.