Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter offers a a major departure from previous installments of the series. The game is a full 3D title with cel-shaded character models. There is no world map; instead, the world consists of full 3D environments that are connected together and divided by sectors. There are no resting spots such as inns to recover the party's health; thus, the players have to rely on consumables.
The game introduces several new concepts such as the PETS system, SOL System, and D-Counter.
Positive encounter and tactics system (PETS)
Dragon Quarter incorporates a combination of real-time strategy and turn-based combat in what is called the Positive Encounter and Tactics System (PETS). There are no random encounters, instead enemies can be seen on the field and combat is engaged when either the player strikes the enemy with their weapon or the enemy touches the player's character.
The real-time strategy portion, or "Positive Encounter", the player and enemies can move about in the environment together at the same time. During this time, the player can set up traps to hurt the enemy or lures to occupy the enemy. If either the player attacks an enemy or the enemy touches the player, the actual combat initiates. The actual combat portion, or "Tactics", is a turn based battling system based on tactical RPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics. Any traps and lures not used up will still be effective. If the player attacks the enemy and the characters can easily overpower the enemy, the enemy is instantly defeated and the player is awarded Party XP equal to the amount of regular experience points earned.
Party XP is bonus XP that is stored and can be used on the characters out of battle as regular experience points. Party XP is usually awarded after battles. During battles, the player is rated based mostly on the tactical advantages the player has before the battle (such as attacking first or using traps) and how fast the player defeats the enemy and is expressed as a percentage as high as 300%. This is multiplied by the regular experience points awarded to determine how much Party XP is earned.
Scenario Overlay system
One of these features is the Scenario Overlay (SOL) system. This system encourages the player to return to previous points in the game, restart the game, and/or replay the game in order to unlock hidden areas, view additional story scenes, and make the characters more powerful so that the player can deal with the game's considerable difficulty level. Unlocked scenes from this system will have the letters "SOL" on the bottom right to indicate that the event is a SOL unlocked event.
Because of how this system works and the game's difficulty, it is implied that the player is encouraged to not finish the game on the very first run and, instead, continuously restart. As enemies become stronger at a faster rate than the player characters, returning to earlier points of the game is a necessity to complete the game. The player is literally expected to lose difficult encounters and retry with additional capabilities. When the player loses, obtains 100% on the D-Counter, or uses an option called "Give Up" (to be used only when the game is deemed impossible to continue), the player is given two options -- SOL Restore and SOL Restart. SOL Restore allows the player to restart at the last save point with the characters at the same level in which they were defeated, while SOL Restart restarts the game entirely. Either option allows the player to retain any equipment equipped, any skills obtained, any Party XP earned, and any items and Zenny in storage.
The SOL system would be later re-used for Capcom's Xbox 360 game Dead Rising since both games share some development team members.
The Breath of Fire series took a leap and restricted Ryu to one dragon form, and he is limited in its use through the "Dragon Counter", a timer of sorts that slowly goes up to 100%. It has been calculated that you gain .01% for every 20 steps (though late in the game it may decrease to 9 steps), .01% per turn in battle, 1.0% for D-Diving (transforming into the dragon form), 1.0% for using the weakest attack (10AP), 1.25% for the medium attack (20AP), and 1.5% for the strong attack (30AP), as well as 1.0% per turn in battle for staying as a dragon. Ryu also has access to a D-Breath attack which rapidly fills the D-Counter while also rapidly increasing the damage done to the foe. Given enough time and sacrificed D-Counter, even the most powerful boss can be killed in one blow.
If the D-Counter reaches 100% before a certain event in the game, the dragon within Ryu takes over his body and soul and the game is over. The dragon form itself is extremely powerful, easily capable of defeating most boss characters with frightening speed. It is therefore a challenge among players to have the lowest Dragon Counter rating by winning the game as quickly as possible without using the Dragon abilities (if the player chooses "End" after reaching 100% on the D-Counter, a disturbing cutscene shows Odjn erupting from Ryu's body).
Finally, there is an element of replayability in the form of the D-ratio, which is a rank that in the story is determined at birth, but in the game one can increase his or her D-ratio from the base of 1/8192 to as high as 1/4 (the dragon quarter), which makes certain areas of the game accessible. The highest "lock" in the game is 1/256, while the Dragon Blade you find in replays (which is based on your D-Ratio) maxes out at 1/8, so getting 1/4 is simply for show. In the game itself, D-ratio is a measure of the chance a person has to "link" with a dragon; the higher, the better. Therefore, people with higher D-ratios are wealthier and more powerful than those with lower D-ratios. In addition, the low-Ds are forced to live on the lower, more polluted regions of the world. In any event, the story doesn't change even when your D-Ratio changes (the game's characters will still refer to you as a Low-D, even when you have D-Ratio 1/4).
The D-Ratio for the replay mode is calculated at the end of the game by determining the player's rating. Some factors that determine this rating are time to complete the game, percentage of battles that were initiated by the player, number of treasure chests open, and percentage of maps explored.
Due to the finite resources, players are encouraged to be very careful during enemy encounters and using consumables. Enemies do not respawn, so it is impossible to grind for XP or farm for zenny/items during a playthrough. Permanent saves require the use of Save Token, which are found in specific locations or dropped from certain foes.
An unspecified amount of time before the game begins, humanity fled the desolated surface world to the underground in order to survive. Now, the world lies in a state of turmoil; polluted and stagnant, only the upper classes are able to escape to higher levels with better air. The game follows Ryu, a low level citizen, who rebels against his government in order to save the life of Nina, who is unable to survive underground, due to an experimental surgery performed on her in order to convert her into an air purification machine. According to Breath of Fire tradition, dragons play a large role in Dragon Quarter, and Ryu himself is able to transform into a dragon. Despite this tradition, however, the main influence of Dragons is felt in the storyline of the game and not the gameplay - unlike every other installment, Ryu can only transform into one Dragon form.
The focus of the story is on Ryu's escape to the surface with Nina, accompanied by the ever-watchful Lin. A majority of the game simply focuses on Ryu and company's ascent from over a kilometre below the surface to ground level, traversing dark underground passageways and fending off the encounters they find. On the lowest levels one can find those with low D-ratios; as one ascends the levels, the D-ratio of the inhabitants increases. As the name suggests, D-ratios are expressed as a fraction with a numerator of 1; lower numbers in the denominators indicate a higher D-Ratio. As one can see, D-ratio is the main determinant of social status in the world of Dragon Quarter. The highest D-ratio a human can achieve is 1/4 - this is the Dragon Quarter of the title, which represents a one in four chance of linking with an available dragon.
There are two main subplots in the game; the first one concerns the six mysterious rulers of the entire underground world, who seem to be ubiquitous in their ability to gain information and their ability to act on this information. These rulers also reveal the storyline via a legend passed down that says a boy with the power to become a dragon will bring the world back to the surface. The other subplot is introduced almost at the outset of the game: a rivalry between Ryu and Bosch, the latter of which is portrayed as an entitled, monomaniacal elitist. Bosch initially wishes to use Ryu as his lackey in order to attain a higher rank, due to his (Bosch's) high D-ratio of 1/64. Early on in the story, Bosch inadvertently releases Ryu's ability to become a dragon when he tries to kill Ryu; after he has seen this power, Bosch's will to beat Ryu in battle drives him to undergo experimental dragon fusion, eventually resulting in his ability to become a dragon as well.
Ryu's entire struggle comes to a head as he is forced to invade the upper levels of the underground to lead Nina to the clean air she needs to survive. Three of the five regents which govern the entire world Ryu knows fall beneath his blade before he comes face to face with Elyon, also known as "Origin", the leader of the Regeants and the first host of the dragon Odjn. Elyon acknowledges Ryu's power, noting that none have ever come closer to reclaiming the surface world than he. He then summons two pieces of himself he banished away to extend his life, using his newly rediscovered power to attack Ryu, Nina and Lin. After a fierce battle, Elyon lays defeated and Ryu notes that Elyon was "Odjn's first", heavily alluding to the fact that Elyon was directly responsible for Mankind not reclaiming the sky hundreds of years ago because he feared to push his power to the limit. With their final obstacle out of the way, Ryu, Lin and Nina venture forth to the hatch itself. There Bosch catches up with them, now containing his own true dragon, Chetyre, instead of a mere construct. He and Ryu clash for one final time before Bosch is truly defeated. Seeming to give up, Bosch gives himself over to Chertyre and allows the dragon to manifest himself fully in the world again. Ryu, faced with a true dragon and Odjn's power ready to kill him, is forced to ignore the possibility of death and use his own D-Breath attack to channel Odjn's power against Chertyre. It is important to note that this brings his D-Counter to 100%, something to be avoided at all costs during other points in the game. From this point, which should kill him, Ryu channels more and more of Odjn's power, his D-Counter rising far above 100%, and finally defeats Chertyre and opens the way to the surface. As he lays dying, Ryu tells Lin and Nina to go on ahead, that he'll catch up with them in a moment.
As Nina and Lin walk up the spiral staircase to the surface, Odjn appears, asking if Ryu has any regrets. Ryu replies that he has none, stating that reaching the surface was his only goal. Odjn exhults, telling Ryu that it was not his power which brought Ryu this far, but his own determination. As Lin and Nina grieve, Odjn restores Ryu's life to him. What the three of them would do for the rest of their lives on the now pure, lush and green surface world would remain a mystery.
- Ryu - The main character of Dragon Quarter, he has been given the ability to transform into a dragon for a limited period of time. He travels along with Lin, Nina and Bosch.
- Nina - She is a victim of an experiment that surgically grafted Air Filters into her back. To keep the the experiment secret, she also had her vocal chords removed which made her mute.
- Lin - An agent of Trinity, a group that is opposed to the current government. Because of this, her D-Ratio number has been erased. She meets Ryu shortly after he rescues Nina, and joins him in protecting her as they climb to the surface.
- Bosch - At first, he is Ryu's partner and "friend" in the Rangers, but later becomes one of the principal antagonists throughout the game. He comes from a rich family (he is the son of Vexacion, one of the Regents) and has been raised to fight in a manner similar to ancient Spartans (a particularly disturbing SOL sequence shows a prepubescent Bosch killing a Genic five times his size, at the demand of his father). This means he possesses a great deal of both political and physical power. He fights Ryu a total of three times in the game, each time growing more and more obsessed with defeating his former partner. He has a D-Ratio of 1/64.
Regents are high ranking officials who act like a board of directors to govern the underground world. All of them possess high D-Ratios.
- Deamoned - is the former leader and oldest of the Regents. He met his match when he lost an eye and was defeated by Elyon. When he learns of Ryu's powers, he leaves the other Regents to deal with him by himself. He is very skilled in hand to hand combat.
- Cupid - is the youngest of the Regents. He's very skilled with magic and can sense a "good" or "bad" aura amongst people, and beyond this "aura," he can glimpse the future. He can also summon an invincible monster to his aid. Cupid is male in the Japanese version, but female in the US version.
- Hortensia - is a sorceress who is said to be able to manipulate time and space as she pleases. She speaks of a prophecy that "Man will grow wings and reach for the sky". She specializes in mind game-like tactics.
- Jezuit - is a smooth talking Regent who specializes in swift hand to hand combat. Since he has the lowest D-Ratio among the Regents, he is opposed to the idea that D-Ratios should be used to determine everything. He likes to flirt with Hortensia and doesn't seem to take anything seriously. His specialty is transforming into an invisible wolf-like monster.
- Vexacion - is Bosch's father and a master of sword fighting skills called "Beast Skills". He is one of the longest serving Regents, rivaling Deamond and Elyon. He has the twins Ryked and Nalaka as his apprentices. He is known as Kensei (or "sword saint"). His specialty is using powerful attacks such as Kirin Flight and Twin Wake.
- Elyon - is the leader of the Regents. He was the first to be Chosen by Odjn and, as such, has the nickname "Origin". He gave up on opening the gate because he was too worried that he wasn't doing it of his own free will, and that he might be risking the lives of all the people in Shelter. Afterwards, he broke the link with Odjn, and decided to become a Regent and wait for the next Chosen. Since he gave up, his link to the dragon was severed. By the time Ryu appears, he has watched numerous Chosen link to dragons but fail to reach the surface. He's dying, worried what will happen to the world if he dies, yet he gives Ryu one last chance, even though Ryu isn't a Chosen. Elyon was responsible for Odjn linking to Ryu, and it was his command that Nina be surgically altered (probably to help fulfill Hortensia's prophecy).
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter was first announced by Capcom at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles as the first game in the series to appear on the PlayStation 2 console. The project was headed by series veteran Makoto Ikehara, who served as director, and was inspired to create the game's dystopian setting after reading the 1994 alternate history novel Gofungo no Sekai (五分後の世界, lit. The World Five Minutes From Now) by Ryū Murakami. The game's unique gameplay elements and high challenge were added to differentiate it from previous entries in the series, which Ikehara felt were "too easy" when compared to other role-playing titles, with the level of difficulty gradually increasing as development went on. Character design was handled by Tatsuya Yoshikawa, who had provided official artwork for all previous Breath of Fire games, and who specifically designed the character Elyon after the main antagonist of the previous game, Fou-Lu, because he "wanted to use the character again". In order to give the dragons Odjn, Dover, and Chetyre their own distinct identity, they were made to speak Russian during cutscenes and were named after the Russian numbers one (один, adeen), two (два, dva), and four (четыре, chyetirye), respectively. Unlike the protagonists of previous Breath of Fire games, each also named Ryu, the Ryu in this game is a normal human being characterized by Yoshikawa as "an average person like you might find anywhere" with his only extraordinary ability being his strong will and sense of justice. In November 2002, the game was released in Japan under its regional title, Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, and was dedicated to the memory of Capcom employee Yasuhito Okada.
A number of intended features were cut from the final version of the game, including an online mode which was dropped early in development that would have made use of the PlayStation 2's internet capabilities, as well as a fishing minigame similar to earlier titles in the series. The dragon Odjn was originally conceived as a "cutesy" companion to Ryu and his team before becoming large and menacing, with his early design instead going to Cupid's pet Oncotte. Certain story points that the development team deemed too "shocking" were also removed before the game was completed, including a locked room in the Biocorp Labs that contained headless duplicate bodies of Nina. Ikehara noted that he also originally wanted to include a cutscene in the game showing how the surface world became uninhabitable, but was ultimately unable to do so.
One week before the game's release in Japan, Capcom USA announced that it would be releasing Dragon Quarter in North America in February 2003. This version would later appear at the 2003 Game Developers Conference under its official English title that excluded the numeral "V". The game would be released in Europe in November 2003. For unknown reasons however this version featured a few changes in the game's mechanics. The soft save function was removed from the game entirely, so the only way to save the game was creating hard save files by using save tokens. To compensate for this the player can find roughly twice as many save tokens throughout the game.
On February 16, 2016, Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter was released on the Japanese PlayStation Store as a "PS2 Archives" digital title for PlayStation 3. The title was delisted from the store in early 2019.
The music of Dragon Quarter was composed by series newcomer Hitoshi Sakimoto, who had previously contributed the soundtracks for other role-playing titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics and the Ogre Battle series, along with sound producer Yasunori Mitsuda who oversaw the development of each track. A special five-song promotional album called the Breath of Fire V Dragon Quarter Mini Image Soundtrack was given away to attendees of the 2002 Tokyo Game Show and sold on Capcom's online store to promote the title, with a full commercial soundtrack for the game released in December 2002 by Capcom's music label Suleputer across two discs. Dragon Quarter features the vocal song "Castle・imitation" by J-pop performer Chihiro Onitsuka as the game's ending theme, which was later included on her 2002 album "Sugar High". In 2006, the game's soundtrack was re-printed as part of the 11-disc Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box, which contains music from every game in the series.
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter was the top-selling game in Japan during the week of its release in November 2002 at 80,059 copies. It would go on to sell a total of 140,073 copies by the end of that year, enough to qualify the title for a re-release in July 2003 under Sony's "PlayStation the Best" label at a lower price. The game was given an 8.5 out of 10 average by Japanese Hyper PlayStation 2 magazine, and a 32 out of 40 score by Weekly Famitsu, earning it the magazine's silver award.
Many North American reviewers would comment on the drastic changes made between Dragon Quarter and earlier games in the Breath of Fire series, with Game Informer claiming that "If anything, Dragon Quarter will likely tear the Breath of Fire fan base apart...it's unlike anything you've experienced before" and IGN calling it "a tough pill to swallow for returning fans." IGN would praise the title's "enormous" combat strategy, steam punk atmosphere, and soundtrack, calling the game's musical score "pure genius", but found its playtime of roughly ten hours to be low, calling it the "perfect RPG rental." GameSpot conversely felt that, while Dragon Quarter's combat system was enjoyable at first, it became less tactical as the game progressed, and that it "devolves into the sorts of slugfests typical of RPGs." The website would commend the title's graphics, however, calling the character designs "inspired" and that the characters themselves "express realistic emotions" which accentuate the game's serious tone. Electronic Gaming Monthly would also call attention to the game's new battle system, stating that "[we] don't think [we]'ve ever had as much fun with RPG battles before," but felt that the game's pacing hindered its story. GamePro called the game "an RPG sequel that couldn't be more different if it tried", commending its new "astonishing" combat, but felt that the forced repetition of the Scenario Overlay system and likely having the play through the game several times to see all the content was its biggest downfall. TechTV similarly felt that the game's restart mechanics will either "inspire you or drive you mad", but found its "unique combat" and "attractive visuals" to all be positive factors.
European reviewers would similarly comment on the game's deviation from role-playing game standards. Play magazine found most of the changes to be beneficial, stating that "[we] wanted something different too, but what [we] got instead is marvelous." Others such as Edge, however, found its innovations to be mixed, but overall good, saying "Such bastard generic cross-pollination will be of keen interest to those who have pigeonholed the console RPG as yesterday's bread, as Dragon Quarter variously succeeds in its misfit marriage." The title would ultimately receive mostly positive reviews, with a 78% average score from the aggregate review websites GameRankings and Metacritic. Dragon Quarter would later be nominated for "Best Original Music in a Game" during GameSpot's Best and Worst of 2003 awards, and in 2004, IGN ranked the game 6th on its list of the "Top 12 Hidden Gems for the PlayStation 2", which included games that sold less than 135,000 copies in North America, or less than half of one percent of the console's user base, stating that "For one of the most popular role-playing franchises in the entire 32-bit era, the lackluster performance of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is nothing short of surprising.".
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- ↑ http://www.gamespot.com/news/2866426.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1 (dead link)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 cite book |title=Breath of Fire V Dragon Quarter Official Design Materials |publisher=Enterbrain |isbn=4-7577-1441-6 |language=Japanese |year=2003
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ http://ps2.ign.com/articles/376/376911p1.html
- ↑ http://mediaviewer.ign.com/ignMediaPage.jsp?channel_id=70&object_id=482049&adtag=network%3Dign%26site%3Dps2%26genre%3Drpgviewer%26pagetype%3Darticle&page_title=CGD+%2703%3A+Breath+of+Fire+Dragon+Quarter (dead link)
- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20100527111101/http://www.capcom-europe.com/games/Breath-of-Fire---Dragon-Quarter-Sony-PS2
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 http://www.rpgfan.com/soundtracks/bof5/index.html
- ↑ http://vgmdb.net/album/925
- ↑ http://www.dragon-tear.net/newnmk/?it=bof/bofcds.html
- ↑ http://www.rpgfan.com/soundtracks/bofbox/index.html
- ↑ http://www.rpgfan.com/news/2002/2192.html
- ↑ http://garaph.info/softwareindividual.php?gameid=927
- ↑ cite journal |journal=Hyper PlayStation 2 |language=Japanese |issue=12 |pages=108–109 |title=New Game Reviews |date=December 2002
- ↑ cite journal |journal=Game Informer |publisher=GameStop Corporation |date=March 2003 |page=79 |title=Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter Review |issue=139
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 http://ps2.ign.com/articles/386/386227p1.html
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/breathoffiredragonquarter/review.html
- ↑ cite journal |journal=Electronic Gaming Monthly |date=April 2003 |page=112 |publisher=Ziff Davis Media |title=Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter Review |issue=165
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20030808005648/http://www.techtv.com/extendedplay/reviews/story/0%2C24330%2C3420393%2C00.html
- ↑ cite journal |journal=Play |publisher=Imagine Publishing |date=June 2003 |page=52 |title=Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter Review
- ↑ cite journal |journal=Edge |date=June 2003 |page=98 |publisher=Future Publishing |title=Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter Review
- ↑ http://www.gamerankings.com/ps2/561476-breath-of-fire-dragon-quarter/index.html
- ↑ http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/breath-of-fire-dragon-quarter
- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20090909092601/http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/all/bestof2003/day2_1.html
- ↑ http://ps2.ign.com/articles/530/530285p2.html