Breath of Fire IV : Part 1
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Hello! Read carefully (or not) as we enter a world of Non-Dragons, inane dialogue, slutty dresses, white screens, blue hair, and a nonsensical plot. And that's just in the first hour. Seriously, Breath of Fire IV is one of my favourite RPGs and all, but I must question the pastimes of the omnipotent Game Designers: do any of your hobbies involve smoking gargantuan amounts of crack and taking happy pills before writing down your hallucinations and integrating them into your games? No? Well, you certainly had me fooled. I began this game hoping that I would be presented with a vast array of interesting, original characters. Were my dreams fulfilled? In a word, no. The characters here have come straight from the Cookie-Cutter Character Factory: We have the silent hero, the grumpy strongman, the naive, annoying princess, the useless comic relief, and the chick-with-an-attitude, all mixed in with a liberal splash of general Japanese weirdness. Great.
Well, let me begin where every good recapper should: the introduction sequence.
The intro begins with a white screen. It's nice to see that Capcom have gone for originality in this game. We see some more very interesting whiteness, and hear some muffled growling noises. Could these noises be from...GASP! A dragon? Surely not.
|Meet Mary Sue with wings.
After about five minutes, during which the white screen has been permanently burned onto my retina, we fade in to see a nice anime movie depicting a...creature. I say creature, because although the floating thing is meant to be a dragon, it sure doesn't resemble any dragons I've seen. Not that I've seen a live one, but you know what I mean. At least I hope you do. For some reason, this Non-Dragon reminds me of Lugia from Pokemon. Only less dragon-like.
|"Does my hair look okay to you?"
Anyway, we get a close-up shot of the Non-Dragon before some nice exotic music begins to play. I think it's Indian, but I'm not too sure. Look, it's exotic, okay? I'm a recapper, not a Professor of Exotic RPG Music. Suddenly we see another Non-Dragon from below (don't take that out of context), followed by a young man with cool blue hair standing on a cliff. Could this be our hero? It sure would be funny if he were just a random NPC. He opens his eyes and smiles as we go in for a close-up. Meanwhile his spiky blue hair blows gracefully in the breeze. We see said hair in the middle of the shot for about ten minutes, which makes me come to the conclusion that Capcom have struck a secret advertising deal with L'Oreal. Blue Hair Guy lets his hair blow around some more, because he's worth it, then we finally switch to another scene. Thank God.
We are shown a bunch of anime-rendered scenes from the game, although on my first play through I don't remember the in-game scenes being quite as dramatic and exciting as these ones. We see a few more characters, including a mean-looking chick with a gun and a fox tail, and a ten-feet-tall dog man wielding a sword. No, I haven't been smoking anything.
|What I want to know is, where the hell are Squally and Seifer?
We now see Blue Hair Guy standing with a blonde chick with wings (Mary Sue alert!), talking to yet another Non-Dragon, this time one that looks like Quezacotl from FFVIII. I wonder if Capcom just edited characters from other RPGs and hoped that we dumb fans wouldn't notice. Their conversation sounds really interesting, but unfortunately I can't make head nor tail of it because it's completely in Japanese. Why the hell couldn't Capcom have translated the intro voices, when they've translated everything else in the game? It may be 'cute' to leave in the Japanese speech, but it's also annoying when the average player doesn't know whether Blonde Chick is saying "I like Oreos" or "Fuck you, Non-Dragon bastard". Anyway, I'm sure James Arnold Taylor would love to play the part of Blue Hair Guy. Anything would be better than Tidus.
Eventually we see a bunch of characters, including those mentioned above, standing together, so I assume this is our party. Well, I already KNOW, seeing that I've already played the game, but I'm just trying to keep an air of mystery around this recap. I know I'm failing miserably. We see a guy dressed in red with long white hair, who shouts a bunch of Japanese obscenities (which would be really funny if it were true), then summons a sword from a ball in his hand. A ball of LIGHT, you sick perverts. It's safe to assume that this man is a bad guy, although I think it's a tad foolish of Capcom to tell us this before we've even pressed the Start button. For fuck's sake, haven't they ever heard of suspense? I consider turning the game off now in case the major plot twists are handed to me on a silver platter before I've even named the Hero. Speaking of the hero, we are rewarded with YET ANOTHER close-up of him and his friggin' blue hair. I hate him already.
Ahem. Rant over.
Eventually the into ends, and I finally see the title screen, which is comprised of the title and logo superimposed on a white background. Hmm, this really reeks of creativity. I select 'New Game' because...well, because I'm starting a new game. When I hit the X button, I hear a nice menu select noise which is never again heard in the game, then I finally get to start playing.
But wait! First we must name our hero, aka Blue Hair Guy or Ryu, his 'real' name. Since I can't fit 'Blue Hair Guy' in, I choose to call him Ruley. Why, I hear you ask? Well, just now I've noticed that the guy bears more than a passing resemblance to the heroes of the first two Wild ARMs games, Rudy and Ashley. So I've created a hybrid of their names. Yeah, stupid, I know, but so is this game. Now perhaps I can finally begin.
But wait again! First we must sit through the obligatory Exposition Intro Cutscene. We see a
black screen...for, like, half an hour. Geez, this is even worse than the white screen in the intro. Capcom's staff sure like to stretch their imagination. Now we see a lot of white text against the dull black background.
"It all started on the third day after we had left the castle..."
Oh, I get it. It's supposed to look like a diary entry. Except, well, it doesn't. We see more meaningless (for now) text, which harps on about crossing the desert on a sandflier, whatever in the blue hell that is.
Eventually we see a nice panoramic shot of a desert at dusk, before the screen pans round to show two figures standing upon the deck of a vehicle I can only describe as a cross between a plane and a boat, which glides across the sand. In actual fact, the vehicle looks nothing like a plane or a boat, but it's the clearest way I can describe it. This is the aforementioned Sandflier. As if you couldn't work that out -- it FLIES over SAND, see? I think Capcom kept the name simple to avoid confusing their pre-pubescent fanbase (a policy which is pretty much abandoned by the end of the game).
We zoom in slightly and notice that the two figures are the blonde chick from the intro, and a beastman wearing a loincloth. The blonde girl, who is called Nina, suddenly points at the sky and lisps "Look, Cray! A shooting star!"
For a minute I think that Nina and Cray (loincloth man) are going to have a moment, but then I realise that, if Nina is the leading female, surely the only man she's going to have any moments with is Ruley.
Nina then mentions something about finding her missing sister, Elina, who, in contrast to every other RPG in history (or not), also happens to be a princess. A missing princess? Wow, I'm speechless from this game's sheer originality.
Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.
Nina shows her determination by vowing "We'll find her..." She then ruins this display of determination by adding meekly "....won't we, Cray?" Cray shows his gruff manliness by growling "Don't worry, Nina. We'll find her....I swear it."
I think we're supposed to be impressed, but I just laugh. This script is only just higher than school-play level, and I'm being generous. From now on, Cray is called 'Clay', as he appears to have all the personality of a ball of Silly Putty.