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Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
  opened by paleface at 06:35:01 08/17/03  
  last modified by paleface at 19:11:57 08/17/03  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Role_Playing; loc=North_America]
Nifty RPG in which Capcom made a lot of unconventional and interesting choices.
Combat is tactical, in that every action you can take requires a certain number of movement points per round, yet movement is not grid-based like in every other tactical RPG I've played which gives you an immense sense of freedom. The interface is set up with strings of hotkeys that let you zip through combat commands very quickly once you're used to them. When monsters you kill in combat drop stuff, it's there on the level map waiting for you to run over and pick it up. Oh, and no random combat: you see monsters before fighting them and can flee or prepare as necessary, including setting a "trap" to damage or distract them before you go into combat itself.
Experience goes into a party pool from which you can divvy it up among the party as you like. Normal saving takes a "Save Token" and can only be done at certain save booths, but you can also just make a "temporary save" at any time when you quit the game. The trick here is that you can't load a temp save more than once, which was done on purpose to force you to go through the game without just reloading constantly when something doesn't work out as you liked. A brave move, one which will probably limit sales (I've already seen mass confusion and revulsion regarding this save system on message boards) but which I wholeheartedly applaud. Finally, you can quit the game entirely, restarting from the very beginning with your earned skills intact. Now, this could be just a trick to extend the play time of a short game (by juicing up the difficulty and making you play through multiple times--and in fact from what I've read I guess there are rooms that only open up on successive playthroughs) but its new and different and not a bad idea.
The music is gorgeous and atmospheric throughout and while the dingy steampunk setting is hardly novel or pretty, the graphics themselves are top notch, so much so that Capcom was confident enough to engage in visual tricks such as a grainy filter that covers the screen except for the UI elements, making you feel subconsciously as if you're watching your characters through a surveillance camera. Another gamble but it works very well to establish a unique feel.
The camera system itself is based on numerous fixed-position cameras throughout the levels, most of which pan a bit to follow you as you run by. While there's the occassional angle that makes it awkward to see the loot the monster just dropped, for instance, the camera system also adds to the high-security, infiltration, Big Brother feel of the whole thing.
The character and monster designs also deserve special mention for being just darn cool.
The first hour has been the freshest RPG experience that I've had in a while and I'm looking forward to seeing how the characters develop.
· Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (PS2)
· Fantastic Pinball (PS1)

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