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ASK WHEELS
Breath of Fire: Q&A Quarter
  March 1st, 2013

03/01- 7:00PM EST

Welcome to another episode of Ask Wheels! These week we've got lots of Breath of Fire talk, as people seemed to express many wide ranging opinions about various entries in the series. That was a good way to distract myself from continuing troubles in Elminage.

Anyway, time for the letters!





The Letters
Arguments of Future Past

"Didn't like Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter? Tell me why and we can argue in Q&A. E-mail me at wheels@rpgamer.com"

@AskWheels I humbly submit my 5.0 review in EGM, which does not appear to be on the Internet

@ShaneWatch


Wheels

Well, after extensive searching it seems that you are correct, and your old review is not on the internet... until now. My good friend @fanboymaster has a collection of old issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly and he was able to track down the issue with your review of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and kindly transcribed it. So on that note, let's argue (by the way you actually gave it a 6.0)!

"I've played through a lot of RPGs  over the years so it's awfully hard for anything in the genre to surprise me. Well, Dragon Quarter did just that, throwing me for a loop and leaving me for dead with its obscene difficulty and whacked-out gameplay innovations. Be prepared--this game is obscenely and unfairly difficult by design. Normal enemies will overpower you, healing items are a scarce commodity, restorative spells are nonexistent, and even saving your game is an arduous prospect."


Wheels

Well, there's one part of this I absolutely agree with, that being that the game is challenging. That said I wouldn't call it unfair by any stretch. Rather, the issue is the game doesn't emphasize enough that players are inevitably going to have to use the Scenario Overlay System (which we'll discuss shortly). Had it done so more players would likely have taken their first run or two as more a different form of grinding. This would make careful use of Ryu's dragon powers less of a necessity and alleviate early difficulty. Once players get a hang of the game mechanics the difficulty lessens considerably. I can see that the game can be perceived as having unfair difficulty, but it's just that, a perception. Dragon Quarter gives you all the tools to complete it by making careful use of the Scenario Overlay System. I don't think forcing players to use it makes the game unfair.

"Chalk it up to the blasted Scenario Overlay System (SOL), wherein you restart the game from scratch and keep all your experience and items after you die, The game doesn't force you to SOL, but realistically, you'll have to do it in order to beat the game. You even get rewarded with extra cutscenes when you replay via SOL! In my opinion, it's a cheap trick that ekes extra replayability out of a fairly short (less than 20 hours) RPG."


Wheels

I see it a bit differently. RPGs are notorious for requiring grinding, which usually means revisiting previous areas and fighting the same monsters over and over again. So rather than being a way to force in extra replayability, it's a different way to incorporate grinding. The benefit here is that instead just aimlessly wondering around the same areas over and over, the game provides extra story scenes and the opportunity to try different paths from previous playthrough attempts. As for the length of the game, a lot of RPGs of Dragon Quarter's era tended to be way too long, so a game that doesn't overstay its welcome was very welcome. The SOL does add some extra optional replayability in varying ways players can challenge themselves to reach the top rank, or just challenging themselves to try and beat the game in a single playthrough. It's not a perfect system, but none of its aspects are a major detractor to the game.

"It's a shame that the game is so damned tough, because I genuinely like every other aspect of it: The attractive cel-shaded visuals are cartoony yet dark and edgy, the soundtrack rocks, the bleak plot unfolds nicely, and the strategy-heavy battle system is among the best I've ever experienced. If only all of these elements could migrate over to a normal, more fun RPG, I'd be in heaven. As it stands, Dragon Quarter remains a broken attempt at changing the RPG rules. Try before you consider buying."

- Shane"


Wheels

I agree on the visual, story, and battle system. All were fantastic and well outclassed previous games in the series. I think the structure helps to enhance, rather than hurt these elements though. Dragon Quarter would not be as good a game if its story and mechanics were put in a more generic RPG frame. Much about the story and battle mechanics are great because of how they're integrated with the unconventional SOL system. Really, Dragon Quarter's only sin is that it expects players to play it in a way they aren't used to. It's a shame we never got to see the developers expand upon this game's ideas in another RPG.

RPGs of Future Past

Dear sir,

I read your column every week. I very much look forward to it. I decided months ago to write in but have neglected to do so until now.

I'm somewhat new to RPGs. I've been a gamer since the Atari days, but avoided games like Zelda (which I know is RPG-lite) and Dragon's Warrior, which my friends played. That continued pretty much until this most recent generation. I can't say why. I pretended I didn't like turn-based combat, but that wasn't really it. Anyway, I've been catching up.


Wheels

Glad to see you finally wrote in! Hopefully you'll continue to do so.

Better late than never to get into RPGs! I feel like it's a perfect time to catch up to old RPGs given the presence of Virtual Console on Wii, PS1 classics on PSN, etc. There's many different ways to enjoy the classics. You certainly won't be needing to blow into an NES or reset carefully to make sure you don't lose your Zelda save!

But in going back and playing the old titles, I find that while they do have a certain charm to them, I like modern RPGs much better, both Western and JRPGs. I like, for instance, the option to choose difficulty levels. I like checkpoints. I like non-random encounters. What are some modern features in RPGs that you enjoy? Any that you don't like?


Wheels

RPGs have evolved a lot over the years, in many good ways. While many of these classics still play relatively well today, some, such as Phantasy Star 2, just have not aged very well. Thanks to the features of modern consoles like the two screens on a DS and the technical ability to render much larger worlds, RPGs have been able to expand significantly. You really have chosen a great time to get into RPGs!

As for modern features in RPGs, my favorite would have be increased usage of maps, especially in dungeons crawlers. These games have a tendency to use many generic looking rooms so it can be hard to figure out where you are going without a good map. Thankfully drawing your own maps (except in the Etrian Odyssey games but it's a good thing there) is a thing of the past. I also enjoy games allowing for multiple difficulty settings, as I find some modern RPGs tend to be more on the easy side on standard difficulties.

What do you think of the pricing of Persona 2 on the PSN? It's $10 vs. the typical $6. It bothers me. I don't see any reason except they know they can charge more. Also -- do you recommend it? I have played some of P3, but have yet to touch P4, even though I have the Gold edition for my Vita. Really what I'm asking -- how challenging is it? I find I don't have the patience for overly challenging games.


Wheels

Well, there's been other $10 releases in many instances. Heck, the now very poorly aged Tomb Raider costs that much! I'm not sure what the determining factor is there. Still, it's cheaper than what a physical copy of the game typically goes for by a long shot. I'd rather pay more to a smaller publisher than have to pay for something that already made a ton of money like Tomb Raider.

As for the game itself, I do recommend it, with some caveats. Stick to P3 and P4 for now as they are more modern and easier to dig into (and in my opinion far better than the earlier games). Also note that this is the second part of Persona 2, the first being Persona 2 Innocent Sin which is only available on the PSP (digitally or on UMD) in the US so you would want to play that first to get the complete story. Finally, the earlier Persona games are very much products of their times so you're going to be dealing with some PS1 era graphics and gameplay mechanics that haven't aged well. Still, they're very much worth putting some time into at some point.

And this is only kind of an RPG, I guess, but have you played Silent Hill: Downpour? I thought it was fantastic. Scary, moody, smart -- and I loved how it emphasized exploration. It kind of just plunked you in this haunted city and said, "Go. Figure it out." I loved that.

-- Sam V


Wheels

Sounds like a neat game to me! I've actually never played any Silent Hill game outside of the dungeon crawler for Vita (which I reviewed). I've always been meaning to give the series a try, though I'm not a huge fan of horror games (because they freak me out, thanks Dead Space). Is this a good one to start with? Look forward to hearing from you again!

Mega Man Soccer... of Future Past

Dear Wheels,

As I've given you a bit of break from these recently I think it's time to get your brain working again. Because I'm nice, however, I will only demand the answering of one, although there will be disappointment if you wimp out and do that :P

Defend the Indefensible - I have no interest in the PS4 until a HD remake of Blazing Souls is announced.


Wheels

Why would do this to me?!?!? You know what, I can complete this challenge! So the PS3 had a good number of PS2 HD collections, and for the most part they seemed quite popular. So I expect, and would like to see, a much more expanded collection of HD updates on the PS4. I would love to see PSP games, PS1 games, etc. collected and updated. So, I have no interest in the PS4 until a HD remake of Blazing Souls is announced because that will mean the number of HD updates and remakes as reached such a critical mass that you'll be able to find just about any old game with an HD update or remake on the PS4.

RPG Characters As... - In honour of Inazuma Eleven 3 being announced for Europe, what is your starting eleven for a football/soccer team based on RPG characters? Not including any Inazuma characters obviously :P

Enjoy :D
- Severin


Wheels

Well, I haven't played Inazuma so you need not worry about that! This should be fun...

Sonic (from Sonic Chronicles) Goalie - What better person to have in net than someone who can move faster than anyone can kick the ball?

X (from Mega Man X Command Mission) - His robotic ancestor has his own soccer game, so imagine X will do just fine!

Wakka (from Final Fantasy X) - Blitzball seems close enough to soccer that Wakka should be right at home on this team.

Chie (from Persona 4) - She specializes in kicking so I have no doubt that she could easily take to the game of Soccer.

Robo (from Chrono Trigger) - Yeah just try getting past this guy on defense...

Bahumat (from the Final Fantasy series) - Oh you wanted to try and score did you?

Mario (from Mario and Luigi and Paper Mario) - Having appeared in a soccer series himself, I think Mario and his special kicks are a perfect fit for this team.

Layle (from The Crystal Bearers) - His gravity manipulation powers on either offense or defense would make winning quite trivial.

Jean Grey (from X-men Legends) - She would have the same use on the field as Layle with the additional benefit of being able to look at the thoughts of the opposition and see what they're planning.

Ryu (from Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter) - I guess he could use his dragon powers or something? Just figured I should fit him in given it's a Dragon Quarter themed week.

Wolverine (from X-men Legends) - He would be awesome on offense and you never have to worry about him getting injured!

There you are, try and beat that team!

Breath of Fire of Future Past... OK I've Taken This Joke Too Far

All this talk about the BOF series has made me think of BOF 4 and how underrated it is, in my opinion. I rarely if ever hear it mentioned but I thought it was a terrific game. The plot was interesting and took some pretty dark turns that I didn't see coming. The second act in particular was early video game storytelling at its finest I thought. Yes Nina, Cray, and Ryu are still insufferably boring, but characters like erschin, fou-lou and mamie (their tragic story was quite moving) brought something interesting to the table.


Wheels

I've seen a good number of people praise it, but not nearly as much as the other games in the series. Perhaps it just got lost in the shuffle of later PS1 releases? I haven't gotten to it myself but what little I've played of it seemed far more interesting than the earlier entries in the series. As far as being dark, I've always felt the series had a darker edge to it, but it sounds like perhaps this one is even more so? I'll have to find the time to dig into it. The setting at least seems more interesting than the typical fantasy type locals of the previous entries.

The camera was awful, but the gameplay overall was fun. I also liked that it didn't rush through locations, like say when you were stranded in the marshlands, or the several days spent on a ship, stuff like that you don't see in games too much. The soundtrack also is very good. It's just one of my favorite games and it always loses the BOF spotlight to 3 which I thought was far inferior.

-Brian


Wheels

Well, so long as the gameplay is fun I can't complain too much about a bad camera in a turn based game. I like interesting (as you can tell by my love of Dragon Quarter) so perhaps this entry will resonate well with me. We shall see! I was mostly bored by Breath of Fire III so it doesn't exactly have a high bar to reach. Since you are a fan of IV I'd be curious to see what your opinion of Dragon Quarter is. Feel free to write in again to talk more about Breath of Fire!
IN CLOSING

See you next week!

-Wheels


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