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Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, known in Japan as , is a PlayStation 2 game released in 2003. It is the fifth RPG in the Breath of Fire series.

Story

An unspecified amount of time before the game begins, humanity fled the desolate surface world to the underground in order to survive. Now, the world lies in a state of turmoil; polluted and stagnant, only the upper classes are able to escape to higher levels with better air. The game follows Ryu, a low level citizen, who rebels against his government in order to save the life of Nina, who is unable to survive underground, due to an experimental surgery performed on her in order to convert her into an air purification machine. According to Breath of Fire tradition, dragons play a large role in Dragon Quarter, and Ryu himself is able to transform into a dragon. Despite this tradition, however, the main influence of Dragons is felt in the storyline of the game and not the gameplay - unlike every other installment, Ryu can only transform into one Dragon form. The focus of the story is on Ryu's escape to the surface with Nina, accompanied by the ever-watchful Lin. A majority of the game simply focuses on Ryu and company's ascent from over a kilometre below the surface to ground level, traversing dark underground passageways and fending off the encounters they find. On the lowest levels one can find those with low D-ratios; as one ascends the levels, the D-ratio of the inhabitants increases. As the name suggests, D-ratios are expressed as a fraction with a numerator of 1; lower numbers in the denominators indicate a higher D-Ratio. As one can see, D-ratio is the main determinant of social status in the world of Dragon Quarter. The highest D-ratio a human can achieve is 1/4 - this is the Dragon Quarter of the title, which represents a one in four chance of linking with an available dragon.

There are two main subplots in the game; the first one concerns the five mysterious rulers of the entire underground world, who seem to be ubiquitous in their ability to gain information and their ability to act on this information. These rulers also reveal the storyline via a legend passed down that says a boy with the power to become a dragon will bring the world back to the surface.

The other subplot is introduced almost at the outset of the game: a rivalry between Ryu and Bosch, the latter of which is portrayed as an entitled, monomaniacal elitist. Bosch eventually wishes to use Ryu as his lackey in order to attain a higher rank, due to his (Bosch's) high D-ratio of 1/64. Early on in the story, Bosch inadvertently releases Ryu's ability to become a dragon when he tries to kill Ryu; after he has seen this power, Bosch's will to beat Ryu in battle drives him to undergo experimental dragon fusion, eventually resulting in his ability to become a dragon as well.

Ryu's entire struggle comes to a head as he is forced to invade the upper levels of the underground to lead Nina to the clean air she needs to survive. Three of the five regents which govern the entire world Ryu knows fall beneath his blade before he comes face to face with Elyon.

Elyon acknowledges Ryu's power, noting that none have ever come closer to reclaiming the surface world than he. He then summons two pieces of himself he banished away to extend his life, using his newly rediscovered power to attack Ryu, Nina and Lin. After a fierce battle, Elyon lays defeated and Ryu notes that Elyon was "Odjn's first", heavily alluding to the fact that Elyon was directly responsible for Mankind not reclaiming the sky hundreds of years ago because he feared to push his power to the limit.

With their final obstacle out of the way, Ryu, Lin and Nina venture forth to the hatch itself. There Bosch catches up with them, now containing his own true dragon instead of a mere construct. He and Ryu clash for one final time before Bosch is truly defeated. Seeming to give up, Bosch gives himself over to Chertyre and allows the dragon to manifest himself fully in the world again.

Ryu, faced with a true dragon and Odjn's power ready to kill him is forced to ignore the possibility of death and use his own D-Breath attack to channel Odjn's power against Chertyre. It is important to note that this brings his D-Counter to 100%, something to be avoided at all costs during other points in the game.

From this point, which should kill him, Ryu channels more and more of Odjn's power, his D-Counter rising far above 100%, and finally defeats Chertyre and opens the way to the surface. As he lays dying, Ryu tells Lin and Nina to go on ahead, that he'll catch up with them in a moment.

As Nina and Lin walk up the spiral staircase to the surface, Ryu dies. Odjn comes to him then, asking if Ryu has any regrets. Ryu replies that he has none, stating that reaching the surface was his only goal. Odjn exhults, telling Ryu that it was not his power which brought Ryu this far, but his own determination. As Lin and Nina grieve, Odjn restores Ryu's life to him. What the three of them would do for the rest of their lives on the now pure, lush and green surface world would remain a mystery.

Playable characters

  • Ryu is the blue haired, sword wielding protagonist who is a member of the Sheldar Rangers. He has one of the lowest D-Ratios (1/8192) and thus is looked down upon by the other members. Despite this, he's a hard worker. Later on in the story, he gains the ability to utilize dragon powers. Unlike other Ryus in the BoF series, he is a human, and is not a mute hero.
  • Nina is a mysterious "winged" female who can use potent magic. Nina lost her ability to speak during the operation that grafted wing-like air filters to her back, and can only manage to say her name once she meets Ryu. (This, ironically makes her the "mute heroine" of the game, though she gets additional spoken lines through the SOL system.)
  • Lin is an agent of Trinity, a group that is opposed to the current government. Because of this, her D-Ratio number has been erased. She meets Ryu shortly after he rescues Nina and joins him in protecting her as they climb to the surface.
  • Bosch at first is Ryu's partner and "friend" in the Rangers, but later becomes one of the principal antagonists throughout the game. He comes from a rich family (he is the son of Vexacion, one of the Regents) and has been raised to fight in a manner similar to ancient Spartans (a particularly disturbing SOL sequence shows a prepubescent Bosch killing a Genic five times his size at the demand of his father). This means he possesses a great deal of both political and physical power. He fights Ryu a total of three times in the game, each time growing more and more obsessed with defeating his former partner. He has a D-Ratio of 1/64.

Other characters

The Regents - Regents are high ranking officials who act like a board of directors to govern the underground world. All of them possess high D-Ratios.

  • Deamoned is the former leader and oldest of the Regents. He met his match when he lost an eye and was defeated by Elyon. When he learns of Ryu's powers, he leaves the other Reagents to deal with him by himself. He is very skilled in hand to hand combat
  • Cupid is the youngest of the Regents. He's very skilled with magic and can sense a "good" or "bad" aura amongst people, and beyond this "aura," he can glimpse the future. He also can summon an invincible monster to his aid. (Cupid is male in the Japanese version, but female in the US version)
  • Hortensia is a sorceress who is said to be able to manipulate time and space as she pleases. She speaks of a prophecy that "Man will grow wings and reach for the sky". She specializes in mind game-like tactics
  • Jezuit is a smooth talking Regent that specializes in swift hand to hand combat. Since he has the lowest D-Ratio among the Regents, he is opposed to the idea that D-Ratios should be used to determine everything. He likes to flirt with Hortensia and doesn't seem to take anything seriously. His specialty is able to tansform into an invisible wolf-like monster
  • Vexacion is Bosch's father and a master of sword fighting skills called "Beast Skills". He is one of the longest serving Regents rivaling Deamond and Elyon. He has the twins Ryked and Nalaka as his apprentices. He is known as Kensei (or "sword saint"). His specialty is using powerful attacks such as kirin flight and twin wake.
  • Elyon is the leader of the Regents. He was the first to be Chosen by Odjn, and as such has the nickname of "Origin". He gave up on opening the gate because he was too worried that he wasn't doing it of his own free will, and that he might be doing something that could risk the lives of all the people in Shelter. Afterwards, he broke the link with Odjn, and decided to become a Regent and waited for the next Chosen. Since he gave up, his link to the dragon was severed. By the time Ryu appears, he has watched numerous Chosen link to dragons and then fail to reach the surface. He's dying, and worrying what will happen to the world if he dies, he gives Ryu one last chance, even though Ryu isn't a Chosen. Elyon was responsible for Odjn linking to Ryu, and it was his command that Nina be surgically altered (probably to help fulfill Hortensia's prophecy).

The Dragons - There are a total of three dragons who reside in the underground world:

  • Odjn is Ryu's linked dragon and is nicknamed "The Thousand Year Destroyer", to indicate that he'd destroy the underground world of oppression and bring humans to freedom. He is named after a form of the Russian word for the number one
  • Chetyre is Bosch's dragon and is malevolent, wanting the sky for himself and to keep the humans out of it. He appears to either be enemies or rivals with Odjn. He's named for the Russian word for the number four.
  • Dover (Dva in Japan) is an extremely old dragon that lives at the bottom of Kokon Horray. He is dubbed "The Anti-Dragon" for his ability to easily defeat anyone with a D-Link (anyone who is linked with a Dragon). Although he's not a part of the story, he is placed in the game as a hidden boss. His proper Japanese name is the Russian word for the number two.

Other characters

  • Captain Violet Zeno is a high ranking officer of the Sheldar Rangers and Ryu's mentor. She expects total compliance to all orders and does not accept excuses. She's also very skilled with a pair of short swords and has a trademark skill known as "Violet Death". She has a D-Ratio of 1/128. She is killed by Ryu during a battle to bring him to justice and kill Nina.
  • Mebeth a former regent, he is the leader of the anti-government organization Trinity. He is apparently one of the few people with the D-Ratio of 1/4. It has been hinted that he is secretly working with Elyon, and that Trinity is nothing more than an outlet for the frustration the people of Shelter feel, to keep them from turning effectively and destructively against the government. He gives Ryu one of the four keys required to leave the underground and tells him he'll need three more to make it.
  • Tantra the Dark Ranger has the bizarre ability to absorb the strength and abilities of the dead. He is thought to have originally been a fairly high-ranking Ranger. Geegagis and Deegon, who have undergone treatments - ones using the bodies of Deecs as a base - to increase their strength serve under him.

Unique characteristics

The Breath of Fire team at Capcom has said that Dragon Quarter is based in a world separate from the other installments. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is notable for its deviation from the typical style of previous Breath of Fire games. The first four games in the series were very traditional RPGs; Dragon Quarter includes several inventive features that distinguish it from its predecessors as well as other games in the genre.

Scenario Overlay (SOL)

One of these features is the Scenario Overlay (SOL) system. This system encourages the player to return to previous points in the game, restart the game, and/or replay the game in order to unlock hidden areas, view additional story scenes, and make the characters more powerful so that the player can deal with the game's considerable difficulty level. Unlocked scenes from this system will have the letters "SOL" on the bottom right to indicate that the event is a SOL unlocked event.

Because of how this system works and the game's difficulty, it is implied that the player is encouraged to not finish the game on the very first run and, instead, continuously restart. As enemies become stronger at a faster rate than the player characters, returning to earlier points of the game is a necessity to complete the game. The player is literally expected to lose difficult encounters and retry with additional capabilities. When the player loses, obtains 100% on the D-Counter, or uses an option called "Give Up" (to be used only when the game is deemed impossible to continue), the player is given two options -- SOL Restore and SOL Restart. SOL Restore allows the player to restart at the last save point with the characters at the same level in which they were defeated, while SOL Restart restarts the game entirely. Either option allows the player to retain any equipment equipped, any skills obtained, any Party XP earned, and any items and Zenny in storage. The SOL system would be later re-used for Capcom's Xbox 360 game Dead Rising ; both games share some development team members.

Positive encounter and tactics system (PETS)

Dragon Quarter also incorporates a combination of real-time strategy and turn-based combat in what is called the Positive Encounter and Tactics System (PETS).

The real-time strategy portion, or "Positive Encounter", the player and enemies can move about in the environment together at the same time. During this time, the player can set up traps to hurt the enemy or lures to occupy the enemy. If either the player attacks an enemy or the enemy touches the player, the actual combat initiates. The actual combat portion, or "Tactics", is a turn based battling system based on tactical RPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics. Any traps and lures not used up will still be effective. If the player attacks the enemy and the characters can easily overpower the enemy, the enemy is instantly defeated and the player is awarded Party XP equal to the amount of regular experience points earned.

Party XP is bonus XP that is stored and can be used on the characters out of battle as regular experience points. Party XP is usually awarded after battles. During battles, the player is rated based mostly on the tactical advantages the player has before the battle (such as attacking first or using traps) and how fast the player defeats the enemy and is expressed as a percentage as high as 300%. This is multiplied by the regular experience points awarded to determine how much Party XP is earned.

D-Counter

The Breath of Fire series took a leap and restricted Ryu to one dragon form, and he is limited in its use through the "Dragon Counter", a timer of sorts that slowly goes up to 100%. It has been calculated that you gain .01% for every 20 steps (though late in the game it may decrease to 9 steps), .01% per turn in battle, 1.0% for D-Diving (transforming into the dragon form), 1.0% for using the weakest attack (10AP), 1.25% for the medium attack (20AP), and 1.5% for the strong attack (30AP), as well as 1.0% per turn in battle for staying as a dragon. Ryu also has access to a D-Breath attack which rapidly fills the D-Counter while also rapidly increasing the damage done to the foe. Given enough time and sacrificed D-Counter, even the most powerful boss can be killed in one blow.

If the D-Counter reaches 100% before a certain event in the game, the dragon within Ryu takes over his body and soul and the game is over. The dragon form itself is extremely powerful, easily capable of defeating most boss characters with frightening speed. It is therefore a challenge among players to have the lowest Dragon Counter rating by winning the game as quickly as possible without using the Dragon abilities. (If the player chooses "End" after reaching 100% on the D-Counter, a disturbing cut-scene shows Odjin erupting from Ryu's body.)

D-Ratio

Finally, there is an element of replayability in the form of the D-ratio, which is a rank that in the story is determined at birth, but in the game one can increase his or her D-ratio from the base of 1/8192 to as high as 1/4 (the dragon quarter), which makes certain areas of the game accessible. The highest "lock" in the game is 1/256, while the Dragon Blade you find in replays (which is based on your D-Ratio) maxes out at 1/8, so getting 1/4 is simply for show. In the game itself, D-ratio is a measure of the chance a person has to "link" with a dragon; the higher, the better. Therefore, people with higher D-ratios are wealthier and more powerful than those with lower D-ratios. In addition, the low-Ds are forced to live on the lower, more polluted regions of the world. In any event, the story doesn't change even when your D-Ratio changes (the game's characters will still refer to you as a Low-D, even when you have D-Ratio 1/4).

The D-Ratio for the replay mode is calculated at the end of the game by determining the player's rating. Some factors that determine this rating are time to complete the game, percentage of battles that were initiated by the player, number of treasure chests open, and percentage of maps explored.

Other

It is interesting to note that Deis (Bleu) plays no part in the gameplay or story of this game. Moreover, several signature features of previous games in the series are absent. Fishing and hunting are both absent, as is a world map. The creators say they were planning a fishing game, but ultimately ruled it out. There are almost no creatures from other tribes (Lin is a Woren and a few characters - Hortensia, Cupid, and Zeno - have animal-like ears, but they are not said to be from other tribes. Notably, both Ryu and Nina are human). Masters, one of the more interesting gameplay features in earlier games of the series, are also absent. One of the few aspects that has carried over is the Faerie Village. The absence of other features reflects its general departure and disconnection from the general Breath of Fire series. Additionally, even though there are dragons in the game, very little attention is paid to their relevance, which is also a departure from the other games.

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