Breath of Fire IV is a traditional role-playing video game with an overhead, isometric viewpoint. The game's camera can be manually rotated by the player up to a full 360 degrees in some instances, though unlike Breath of Fire III it cannot be tilted up or down. The game environment is rendered in full 3D, while characters are presented as two-dimensional hand-drawn sprites. While moving about the world, players can interact with computer-controlled characters and objects, gain knowledge about the world around them, and gather clues on how to advance the story. Each playable character is given a special "field skill" that can be used to destroy obstacles or solve puzzles outside of battles, which occur randomly in hostile areas or dungeons.
The "Master System" from Breath of Fire III returns, allowing players to customize each character by having them apprentice under different masters found throughout the world. Under their guidance, these characters may gain new skills and special statistic increases by fulfilling certain tasks, such as participating in a certain number of battles, or finding specific items. The fishing mini-game common to the rest of the series also returns, along with the village-building Faerie Town feature from the previous title that allows players to construct a special village that opens new features.
Battles take place with teams of three characters against any number of enemy opponents. During these combat sequences, the player can choose which characters will perform an action in any order, as well as switch in any available reserve characters from the back row. While positioned in the back row, a character may not participate in battle, but may regain lost health or magic every combat round, as well as become unaffected by any attacks. Battles end when either all enemies are defeated or all characters in a player's front row are out of health. Each battle yields experience points that go toward earning levels for each character, which in turn grants increased statistics and new skills.
New to Breath of Fire IV is the Combo System, which allows certain spells or skills to be cast in a specific order to gain bonus damage or other effects. Casting two ice spells in sequence, for example, will produce a stronger ice attack, while a fire spell followed by a wind spell will create an explosion-based attack. Combos may also automatically occur in single attacks that have more than one effect.
- Ryu - the main silent protagonist, able to transform into a man-dragon hybrid. He is on a quest to discover his true identity, being unaware to know who he was when Nina discovered him near a caravan wreck. His main ability is Slash, useful for cutting off vines and hunting animals for food. As he collects more Dragon Crystals, he gains more dragon forms. His signature dragon forms are the Aura and Kaiser Dragons. His main element is fire. He can still fish through fishing spots around the world map.
- Fou-Lu - the player gains control of this mysterious character at several points of the game, on his trek to recover the Fou Empire from his long slumber. It is then revealed that he is the other half of Ryu's complete being and the main antagonist. He also aims to find Ryu and merge with him. He is extremely powerful and among his signature dragon forms are the Tyrant and Astral Dragons. His main element is water.
- Nina - the princess of Wyndia, accompanied by Cray in search of her missing sister Elena. Her ability is to fly up temporarily, gaining view of the map from a higher POV, which is useful in many of the game's "searching" missions. Her skills with magical wands as well as healing and support skills are unsurpassed. Her main element is wind. If in the inactive party, she can heal some HP for active members who are low in HP.
- Cray - a member of the cat-human hybrid Woren tribe, Cray is Princess Elena's lover. His brute strength allows him to swing his heavy clubs with crushing force. His skill is the ability to push boulders, jars, or crates around. His main element is earth. He can also take the hit for his allies who are low in HP.
- Ershin - a robot with a red cape who speaks oddly. Her armor allows her to walk along the hex without harm. Later in the game, it is revealed that the being inside Ershin's metal shell is actually the spirit of the egoistical deity Deis. Her ability is ram, which allows her to shake apples from trees, smash breakable objects, etc. She is the only one who has access to all the elemental spells. Her attacks have awesome power but has the tendency to miss often.
- Scias - a silent mercenary hired to guard Ryu and Nina when Cray was on trial. He is a dog-human hybrid who stammers when he talks, but his skill with swords is a force to be reckoned with. He later tags along with the party in order to investigate his superiors. His main element is water. Once at critical HP, he concentrates and further increases his damage output.
- Ursula - an Imperial General whose original mission was to take Ryu and his party to the Emperor, but later joins the party herself upon discovering the Empire's evils. Her main element is fire. She is an adept hunter and a skilled markswoman using a variety of guns, which she can use to hunt for animals. When knocked out, she has a percentage chance to revive herself immediately at 1 HP.
- Momo - (cameo)
- Rei - (cameo)
- Teepo - (cameo)
The game begins with a search team consisting of Nina, princess of the Kingdom of Wyndia, and Cray, a warrior from the plains-dwelling Woren clan, who are scouring towns along a great desert for information on the whereabouts of Nina's sister Elina, who went missing several weeks earlier on a diplomatic mission. Happening upon a crater left when a strange object landed from the sky, Nina confronts a large dragon who transforms before her eyes into a young man. Remembering nothing other than his name, Ryu, Nina surmises he must have amnesia and persuades him to help her search for her sister. Meanwhile, across the world in the western Fou Empire, the ancient Emperor Fou-Lu rises from his burial chambers, declaring it is time to conquer the world. In his vulnerable, newly-awakened state, he is attacked by Yohm, a general in the modern Fou army who is privy to Fou-Lu's long-prophesized resurrection, and who aims to kill him before carrying out his plan. Fou-Lu is defeated in the struggle, and escapes by jumping into a nearby stream.
Elsewhere, Ryu and Nina travel to a town blighted by an evil miasma known as "hex", where they meet Ershin, a mysterious person clad in full protective armor who leads them through the poisoned side of town. Re-uniting with Cray, the team makes their way west to gather more information. Traveling across a large dam, they narrowly escape a flood and make their way to Kyria, where an eccentric mayor has set up traps everywhere to route out intruders. Transversing through a nearby wooded area where a monstrous boar lives and then onward through a cavernous tunnel, the group arrives in Synesta. Obtaining a lead to Elina's whereabouts after detaining a nearby thief, they travel to a sand-flier wharf to the north containing a ship that can travel over great distances of desert, and set off for the western border.
Breath of Fire IV was developed by Capcom's Production Studio 3 shortly after their work on Breath of Fire III. Series scenario writer Makoto Ikehara once again developed the game's script, deciding to take the series in a new direction after the previous three-game story arc. Though the game takes place in an alternate world, several references are made to past games in the series, including cameo appearances by the characters Momo, Rei, and Teepo from Breath of Fire III, and recurring enemy monsters from earlier titles. Because of a hectic programming schedule, some planned features of Breath of Fire IV were not included in the final version of the game, including an extended ending sequence involving the death of Yuna.
The English language version was marked by a very rushed localization process. Due to Capcom USA's financial difficulties at the start of the new year, Breath of Fire IV was produced for North America in a period of only seven months, and released just in time for the 2000 holiday season. The result left a few portions of the game untranslated, including the title graphic and ending credits sequence, with only the former being corrected for the PAL region release the following year. One of Scias' skills, Analyze, which would giving the player detailed statistics on enemy monsters during battle, was omitted completely to avoid translating the accompanying dialog. Some spell and dragon names were rendered in Korean rather than English to give them a more exotic feel, a procedure that was not used in the original Japanese version.
The English translation of Breath of Fire IV was censored in several ways during its translation from the original Japanese version. Some instances of harsh language were toned down for North American and European audiences, as well as a few frames of suggestive animation during dialog or story sequences. A scene involving Fou-Lu decapitating Emperor Soniel is cut from the end of the first royal palace sequence, with the English version having him instead killed off screen. A scene with Nina and Ursula bathing in a pond as well as a scene involving Ursula dropping her pants to "prove her womanhood" to skeptical sailors was removed entirely from in the North American and European versions. References to Scias' alcoholism are also absent, with some of his slurred speech patterns being replaced with a stutter.
All instances of editing were brought to the attention of Makoto Ikehara, who detailed them in an interview in the Japanese art book The Graphics of Breath of Fire IV in August 2000.
Mobile Phone spin-offsEdit
Four games based on or containing elements from the original game, all released exclusively in Japan, were created for mobile phones.
Breath of DaifugōEdit
Breath of Daifugō is the first mobile phone game based on the Breath of Fire series, and is a simulated version of the Japanese card game daifugō featuring characters from Breath of Fire IV. The game includes a normal version of the game which can be played against a computer-controlled opponent, as well as an "Endless" mode that continuously gives the player cards even after their deck has been extinguished. A Tournament Mode is also included, which allows multiple players with their own copies of the game to compete against one another. The game was released in Japan in August 2003 alongside another Capcom mobile card game, Solitaire Fighter, exclusively for NTT DoCoMo brand devices.
Breath of Fire: Ryū no TsurishiEdit
Breath of Fire: Ryū no Tsurishi is a fishing game based on the mini-game from Breath of Fire IV. Players control the character Ryu through a closed environment containing a lake, which they can fish in using twenty different kinds of lures and six separate rods. As the player approaches an area of water they can cast from, an indicator appears alerting them that they may fish from that spot. The game contains thirty-four different species of fish for the player to catch, each with their own weight which can be recorded as a high score, as well as the fish merchant Manillo, who can provide the player with new equipment by trading in fish from their stock. Like the previous game, Ryū no Tsurushi was released exclusively for DoCoMo brand phones, and was made available in October 2005 alongside the mobile version of Mega Man 2.
Breath of Fire IV: Honō no Ken to Kaze no MahōEdit
Breath of Fire IV: Honō no Ken to Kaze no Mahō is an action role-playing spin-off of Breath of Fire IV. Taking place sometime during the events of the game, the player controls Ryu and Nina as they try to escape soldiers of the Empire by venturing into five separate dungeons filled with monsters and traps. Unlike Breath of Fire IV, where combat took place in a turn-based fashion, battles in Honō no Ken to Kaze no Mahō happen in real-time, with enemies roaming each area along with the player. Ryu may attack enemy creatures using sword techniques as well as his dragon transformation skill, while Nina utilizes magic spells to damage opponents from afar, with both characters able to be switched at will. By defeating enemies, characters gain experience points that allow them to gain levels, making them stronger and giving them access to new skills. In addition to battling, players must dodge traps and solve puzzles laden throughout each dungeon in order to advance, all while avoiding members of the pursuing Empire. The game was initially released in November 2007 for DoCoMo devices, and was later made available for au devices and SoftBank brand phones in 2008.
Breath of Fire IV: Yōsei-tachi to Hikari no KagiEdit
Like the previous mobile title, Breath of Fire IV: Yōsei-tachi to Hikari no Kagi is an action role-playing spin-off of Breath of Fire IV. The game revolves around a group of Faeries who live in their own dimension known as Dream World, and have lost their town treasure, the Key of Light. As Ryu and Nina, the player must travel through dungeons filled with enemies in order to find the ten missing pieces of the key while battling enemies and avoiding traps. Like the previous game, battles take place in real time, with enemies appearing on the field screen along with the player, and may be defeated using either Ryu's sword techniques or Nina's magic. In addition to finding the missing parts of the key, players must also help upkeep the Faerie Village a similar manner to Breath of Fire IV by assigning faeries to do specific tasks such as finding food, clearing land, or defending the town. The town-building scenario is expanded from the original game by allowing the player greater control over the growth of the village, such as the placement of houses, along with an on-screen indicator of all remaining villagers. The game was released for DoCoMo brand phones in November 2008, and later became available for au devices in 2009.