Capcom Summons Breath of Fire IV

Capcom's Breath of Fire IV Breathes Mightily

By Sachi Coxon

A World covered by Mud.
Two continents isolated in an ocean of swirling mud.
An enclosed world. Ships cannot cross this impassable sea of mud.
Two continents, near yet far.
Intercontinental contact for the first time in history.
As always.

A long continuing war ends.
West and East.
A mighty empire, and various allied countries opposing it.
Both powers are exhausted.
A truce.
A typical conclusion.

The last report of Princess Eleena was on a border town, about a year after the truce was completed.
She showed concern at those who had been hurt by the war.
She proceeded with a small number of people to the border town, pushing through those that opposed her.
What she saw, what she felt in that town which was going through a revival, is unknown.
Only that last town knows Princess Eleena's whereabouts.
However, it would not be good to alarm the empire by sending a force to the frontline.
So, political reasons make a large-scale search impossible.
A time of idleness.
Nina makes her decision.
To go on a journey to find her elder sister.

This journey draws Nina to Ryu.
The story begins.

"Where are you going to now?"
In response to Nina's question, the boy who calls himself Ryu swung his head side to side.
He does not know.
That reaction slightly surprises Nina.
The boy who fell into the big hole that suddenly opened in the middle of the highway.
How could he not know where he was going?
"You are lost, aren't you?"
Again, he shakes his head. He does not know.
She bursts out laughing.
"That is what you call being lost, Mr. Ryu."
Scolding him, she laughs.
She remembers how in her childhood she followed her sister and often became lost.
Suddenly, she says she is being like her sister.
"I will go to the nearest town with you. Ryu, you lost child."
She nods.
She holds out her hand.
They begin to walk.

Breath of Fire IV

Breath of Fire IV is the latest installment in Capcom's flagship RPG series, Breath of Fire. It promises to be the most ambitious one yet, after a three year hiatus from the previous game. Breath of Fire IV is set in a three-dimensional world presented in an artistic style. Two-dimensional characters fit in completely with the surrounds, and the field can be viewed from any point. Over 3000 animation patterns were created for each character, said unable to be achieved in CG. It features an original battle system where the player can adopt his or her own playing style, developed over the course of the game. In fact, it is said there are as many battle strategies as there are players.

Fou Empire The Western continent of Breath of Fire IV is totally controlled by the Fou Empire. It is an autocratic state with a huge army, established long ago by a great emperor. After the death of the First Emperor, the emperor's throne became empty, and since then, the empire is controlled by Advocates of the Emperor's teachings. A year after the armistice with the Alliance, the Empire sends two Dragon Search Teams to the Western Continent and the Eastern Continent.

Opposing the Fou Empire is the Eastern Alliance, created in response to the impending invasion. The Alliance is a conglomeration of the different countries and tribes in the Eastern Continent. Although the Royal Family of Rudia is the leader, each nation keeps its independence. Apart from Rudia, Windia and Fulen are part of the Alliance - gamers may remember Windia from previous installments.

Windia of Eastern Alliance Dragons have always been a crucial element in the Breath of Fire series, and this is no different in this title. There are a number of types of dragons in Breath of Fire IV, but not much about them is known. They are neither animals nor monsters, yet people regard them suspiciously. A group idolise them because of their mysterious nature, and as they in general do not age, they are called "Utsurowazaru Mono", the Unchanging Ones, also the subtitle of this game. However, since they do not cause harm to humans or in fact pay much attention to humans at all, most dragons are accepted as simply another oddity in the world.

Some people are born who have special eyes called Dragon Eyes. It has been told in legends that people who possess Dragon Eyes can communicate with dragons and change the world. There is also a legend that every race in this world were born from gods similar to them in appearance, during the Era of the Gods. For example, people like Nina (see below) are believed to have descended from the Winged God. These various races have at times quarrelled and at other times lived together. As time passed, it is said that each god left their race and became dragons.

Dragons do not have a fixed shape, but in general, they have a large body, and thought to not move about much. There are gigantic worms who appear in the sea of mud, and there are those that sleep under the desert. Here are brief descriptions of the various types of dragons:

Sand Dragon: Junar Sand Dragon: Junar
Length: 15 meters. A tubular dragon. It lives in the desert in the middle of the continent, and mostly travels through the sand. On a night of the full moon, it has been seen to emerge from the sand and fly in the sky. There is an old legend that it was the Protector God of a race that flourished in the middle of the desert around there, but not much is known beyond even this.
Mud Dragon: Nosto Mud Dragon: Nosto
Length: more than 10 meters. A cylindrical dragon with a semi-transparent body. It lives in the the mud sea in the middle of the continent, called the "Great Mud Gap", and sometimes shows itself on the sea surface. It is said that when this dragon shows itself, misfortune will occur, but of course, whether this is true or false is not known.
Grass Dragon: Ta-Pu Grass Dragon: Ta-Pu
A dragon that lives in the southern tip of the continent, in the "Golden Fields", a huge place where winds blow constantly. In the grasslands, it appears half-floating, and when people near it, it disappears. The race that live in this grassland call it Ta-Pu which means "The Holy Ghost of the Great Savannah".
Human Dragon: Aura Human Dragon: Aura
Recently, this dragon was spotted in the great desert region of the eastern continent. It is thought that it is a new species of dragons, with a body similar to humans. Like other dragons, it does not seem to harm humans. However, ever since the sighting of this dragon, the activity of all dragons seem to have increased. There is news that a group from the Imperial Army are searching dragons, but its connection to this is unknown.
Wind Dragon: Larwi Wind Dragon: Larwi
A gigantic dragon that wanders around at heights of 2000-3000 meters. With a face similar to a whale's, it has a very long body of over 2 kilometers, and flies about rifts between clouds. According to legends from Windia region, in the Era of the Gods, it was the dragon that the ancestors of the Windians rode on to descend from the sky. In Windia, a grand ceremony to revere this "Messenger of God" is held every year.

Breath of Fire IV intertwines the two perspectives of Ryu and Fou-Lu, the First Emperor, across time. This is called a "Parallel Drama". Nine important characters have been announced, but it is believed that only the first six characters are playable, although as Fou-Lu is so crucial, he will likely be playable in certain scenes.

Ryu RYU: found fallen on a highway by Nina in the desert region of the Eastern Continent. His race and birthplace is unknown. He has "Dragon Eyes", rare in this world. It is said that those who hold the "Dragon Eyes" will rule the world and in doing so, cause catastrophe. However, Ryu seems utterly incapable of causing such harm.
Nina NINA: The Princess of Windia, a kingdom which is part of the Eastern Alliance. She is a Winged-One. She meets Ryu by chance while on a journey to find her missing sister. She has been brought up well but she is a little childish, and perhaps even unreliable. She respects her beautiful and strong-minded sister.
Scias SCIAS: During the war, he was a mercenary hired in the middle east - but after the war, he had no jobs and passed time without much to do. Due to certain incident, he becomes the protagonists' guide. He is extraordinarily reticent, but he can be relied upon. He'll always love a drink.
Cray CRAY: The young leader of the Fulen Clan, affiliated with the Eastern Alliance. He sets out with Nina to go on a search for his friend from infancy, Princess Eleena. As much as possible, he controls his feelings and radiates coolness and serenity, a result of his responsibilities as a clan leader, but at times his temper can become volatile. His fighting skills are tremendous, and he acquired several merits during the great war.
Master MASTER: The armor he wears completely protects him from curses, and as he does not take off his armor even when eating or sleeping, his appearance and race is unknown. He says the wrong things, and laughs in the wrong places, and the way he acts is a little suspicious. He meets the heroes just after he becomes cursed, and for some reason, travels with them.
Ursula URSULA: She is a troop leader in the Fou Imperial Army. Although originally a commoner, she entered the army after a general saw her great skills in magic. She wields a magical gun, and she is praised for her self-control and her ability to be relied upon. She is part of the search team in the East- continental neutral zone.
Fou-Lu FOU-LU: Founder of the Western Fou Empire, he was the First Emperor. He had unbelievable powers, and unified the whole of the western continent in a single lifetime. It is said that minutes before he died, he prophesised his resurrection hundreds of years later. After his death, he was called "God Emperor" and for twenty generations, he has been revered.
Yom YOM: He is one of the generals in charge of the Fou Imperial Army. On first appearances, he seems old and battered, but his fighting skills are without compare. He can easily summon and control various evil beings. He is faithful to his duties as a soldier, and he carries out orders efficiently and effectively.
Rasso RASSO: Like Ursula, he is a troop leader of the Imperial Army. As he is the son of an influential noble, he is a member of the elite and will probably become general. He believes in the power of the people, and is a proud narcissist. He was sent to the neutral zone in the eastern continent, and seems to be looking for something.

A Dragon Summoned Through Dragon Awakening, Ryu, with his fire element and Fou-Lu, with his water element can transform into different dragons. Dragons can also be summoned in battle. However, apart from summoning dragons, Ryu and Fou-Lu will be able to use Dragon Magic. As they level up, the dragon magic they can use will increase and become extremely powerful. It is said that even a hundred hit combo is possible. Fire Combo

Breath of Fire IV features an exhaustive magic combination system. For example, although a character might only know weak magic, it is possible to create magic of great power by combining in a certain order, or casting the same kind of magic multiple times. Moreover, it is possible to create super special magic attacks by combining strong magic. Combo attacks have much variation, as you can combine different elemental magic, or even cast the same kinds of magic consecutively. Magic Attack

When the combo attack is started, the combo gauge is shown on the top right, and shows hit number, and the types of magic cast. Using the four elements of magic (fire, wind, water, and earth), a character creates new magic combinations after casting them in a certain order. When the spells from the same magic element are cast multiple times, serial magic is created, in which many hits are possible to be pulled off. For example, if a character casts fire continuously, the hit count of fire will be increased. Depending on the way you connect magic, a character can cast very powerful attacks. Street Fighter?

Characters will also learn "skills" from enemies that they encounter in battle. These can be learned any time, simply by defending in battle, and waiting for an enemy to use its special abilities. Moroever, a skill is like an item and it can be passed from character to character.

Another method of gaining skills is to gain apprenticeship to folklorists, who are wandering teachers around the world. By accomplishing certain tests, these characters will teach you new skills. An ability characters will acquire through folklorists is "Will". Depending on the teachings of your master, characters will follow their doctrine. For example, if a folklorist believes that the weak should always be helped, a character will protect a weakened character in battle. A skill can also be used like magic, by combining them with other spells for attacks. Quick! Change characters!

Battle formation will be crucial for succeeding in Breath of Fire IV. Called "Slick Rotation", there will be a rotatable front and back row. The front will be designed to attack enemies, and the back to recover hit points and ability points. An example of a typical battle in the game would be: a character in the front row is severely wounded, and has used up all his ability points. By sending him to the back, he can recover and be supported by the rest of the party. His replacements can now perform an all-out attack on the enemy. As one can see, some strategy will be needed for hard battles.

On a further note, the latest issue of Weekly Famitsu has given Breath of Fire IV a silver, with scores of 8, 8, 8, and 7. The translations of the verdicts of each reviewer are as follows:

Score 8: Like the previous games in the series, it is orthodox, but it is made thoroughly. Yet, it does not show originality that much, as it is the basic type of RPG for all sorts of users. One is left with a feeling that there are too many event scenes, emphasising the story too much. The battles are simpler than one would think.

Score 8: It's conventional. Its linearity makes you feel like you're being played. Because it is full of events and scenes quickly change, you can enjoy it without getting bored. This is helped by the system of skills and folklorists, which reflects the player's personality. What is disappointing is that you are forced often to change viewpoints.

Score 8: The graphics' lightness is warming. You are pulled into the story from the beginning. I am happy that there are many minigames prepared. Even though the battles are orthodox, it becomes enjoyable once you start to increase combos and skills. I was surprised that the promised fishing game was supported by the fishing controller.

Score 7: The graphics, which are unified by eye-capturing pastels, small characters moving in clear and detailed animated motions, strongly attracts visually. But, it accumulates stress with overly long cutscenes and battles with weak enemies. Minigame-like events make you feel immersed in the game. But I am a fan after all.

Breath of Fire IV will surely please fans of the series, and those new to it as well, with its involving story and gameplay. The game is scheduled for a US release sometime in September, so those eager for it will have to be a little patient.

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