Ahh... the Forth Breath.
darfiscs wrote this review on .
One can find a few of these changes in the battle system, to start. While battles in the previous installment could only have three characters participating at once, combat in the fourth game now allows the use of all six characters the player eventually acquires. However, only three characters at once still participate in a round of combat, and the player, of course, inputs commands for the three chosen characters, after which they execute their commands in input order, with the enemies executing their commands, too, in the mix; new to this installment are powerful and random combination attacks. A possibility does exist that enemies can beat your characters to healing, and the run option, as usual, doesn’t always work; furthermore, battle speed in my opinion needed a bit of improvement. Still, when a round of combat ends, the three characters that didn’t participate in that round regain a small fraction of their AP; AP recovered in this manner, however, is not sustained after battle.
Ryu, as usual, can transform into a Dragon, this time into one of a few set forms, rather than a possible random form that the previous installment’s Dragon Gene System offered. After each round in dragon form, Ryu gradually loses AP, and reverts to his normal form when either all his AP or HP is lost (he can’t be healed in dragon form, by the way). Additionally, if characters defend, they can learn special Skills from enemies, which they can exchange with other party members using Aurum. Masters also make a return, and this time, learning new Skills requires far different tasks than gaining levels, such as performing a certain number of hits with a combination attack.
The interface was solid for the most part, with a drastically simplified world map system, where encounters with enemy-infested fields are optional, and the player eventually gains access to a Shift spell to move easily between areas. The menu system was never troublesome, at that, with the ability to hold 128 different types each of consumables, weapons, armor, and accessories, a very generous cap. Furthermore, the fourth installment places a bit of an emphasis upon minigames needed to advance the storyline, although these thankfully aren’t as tedious as those found in say, Final Fantasy X. Ryu’s fishing minigame returns, at that.
The translations of the Breaths of Fire have taken a gradual ascent since the second installment’s rather disastrous localization, with the fourth’s containing far more polish, what with no grammar or spelling errors as far as my eyes could see, save for the atrocious medieval dialect of a few characters. Still, I did see a few compressed item names in the inventory, and the translators both forgot to change the title screen logo (just what is the subtitle?) and translate the ending credits. Finally, the translators unfortunately removed a rather controversial scene from the English version.
As far as creativity goes, the battle system definitely contains some original aspects and modifications, such as the AP-recovery part, although it does borrow much from its predecessors, such as the Master System, the dragon system, the ability to learn Skills from enemies, the characters Ryu and Nina, and so forth. Still, the game does feel much different from any of its predecessors.
None of the Breaths of Fire have ever had deep, dramatic storylines, and the fourth installment is no exception. It starts out with Princess Nina of Wyndia, searching for her sister Elina when she finds a mysterious wanderer coincidentally named Ryu, who decides to help her in her endeavor. Meanwhile, an ancient emperor named Fou-Lu rises from his grave one day, embarking on his own quest to reclaim his throne; Fou-Lu, as it turns out, has a mysterious link to Ryu. While Fou-Lu’s storyline is interesting, despite lacking the best part that’s unfortunately absent from the English version, Ryu and Nina’s side of the story contains endless diversion, and the ending is rather disappointing.
The fourth Breath of Fire marks the return of a great soundtrack, with many memorable tunes, the most prominent being the angelic world map theme. Two normal battle themes exist, too, both solid, and all town music was gorgeous. I yearned for more, but sadly, many spots were without music (with atmosphere noise occasionally serving as replacement). The game also has voice acting in battles and the opening anime, left in Japanese, which I would definitely appreciate if I knew exactly what everyone was saying.
Breath of Fire IV makes a very fine attempt at 3-D graphics, aside from a cool opening anime. All character and monster sprites contain a very lively anime style of design, and the environments contain a lush color scheme. Still, the environments do contain some pixilation at points, as do the sprites, mostly during cutscenes with unnecessary close-ups. Furthermore, most water contained only one bluish hue, with only occasional rippling and other effects.
The fourth installment is perhaps the easiest of the series, with hardly any troubles in my experience, save towards the very end, even though I thankfully didn’t die once in the game. With that said, the game takes from forty to fifty hours to complete.
In the end, Breath of Fire IV, upon its release, was definitely a step in the right direction for the series, and proves to be one of the franchise’s strongest installments, if not the strongest of all. Even if you didn’t exactly enjoy the first three games, this one’s still worth a look.