Retro Encounter Final Thoughts

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts – Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts - Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Aleks Franiczek

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is a rare RPGs that dares to look outside of its genre for inspiration and hammers it down with a distinct vision. From that standpoint, it’s really the opposite of the rest of the Breath of Fire series, which was content to play within the common JRPG standards of the 1990s—with mostly good results, mind you! 

Dragon Quarter feels less like a sequel to its namesake franchise than a spiritual successor to Vagrant Story, a similarly ambitious RPG that blends tactical, turn-based, and real-time elements to give its heavy dungeon-crawling gameplay a varied flavor. Like Vagrant StoryDragon Quarter also has a focused and confident design—and a phenomenal Hitoshi Sakimoto score—that support its narrative aesthetic. The actual plot is light in content (though not lacking in imagination or intrigue), but the game drags you into its dark and spiritually crushing subterranean world through oppressively claustrophobic environments, tactically taxing exploration and battles, and an ever-present D-Counter that slowly kills you while making use of Ryu’s overpowered dragon form.

Combine this all with an inspired dip into survival horror-esque resource management and a roguelike sensibility that encourages multiple playthroughs and challenge-based runs, and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is an RPG that feels like it could be a modern indie classic.

To See the Sky Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter

Stephanie Sybydlo

Praise for Capcom’s beloved (and basically lost) Breath of Fire series is largely aimed towards its middle entries. Breath of Fire is fine (and seriously playable on Capcom’s website!), but future games would improve upon its formula. Yet a lot of love is lost when Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter gets brought up — even among series fans. It’s a niche game within a niche series.

Dragon Quarter predates the rise of Soulslike and (more mainstream) roguelikes that would become a part of the 2010s-20s gaming zeitgeist; but regardless of fame, the genre is often infamously difficult, and this can be a deterrent to many types of players—and I don’t blame them! Similarly, Dragon Quarter is a hard sell compared to its easier and ‘brighter’ predecessors. However, it must to be said: DQ both oozes and embraces its brooding setting.

This game is a rare RPG gauntlet: to beat Dragon Quarter is to ‘earn it’; the full story comes with mastering the game’s dungeons, enemies, and assessing (and reassessing) strategies on almost a turn-to-turn basis. It’s a dark and difficult title. But now more than ever, I believe there is a type of audience for it, even if it’s the type of game not even series fans find accessible.

The people who do sing Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter’s praises find it’s only gotten better with age. But if the game is just sitting in a storage bin after a ‘botched run’ set you back (which almost assuredly will happen), I hope to convince you to give it a shot again and see if being a little older/wiser will help you play it differently. And if it’s still not for you, maybe try giving that copy it to that one buddy who enjoys the punishment — because both the journey and destination are quite the reward if you’re willing to endure it.

Aleks Franiczek

Aleks Franiczek

Aleks is a Features writer and apparently likes videogames enough to be pursuing a PhD focused on narrative design and the philosophy of player experience. When not overthinking games he also enjoys playing them, and his favorite genre is “it’s got some issues, but it’s interesting!”