Day One: Bow-Chika-Wow-Wooooow
Once upon a time a princess was sailing across the desert towards the city of Synestra, the last place that anyone had seen her sister, Princess Elina.
Not a difficult task by any means...
|With a cat-dude for company,|
Although they seem to be making good headway, they run into a little trouble.
|Little trouble... opening sequence of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate...|
Yeah, it kind of looks like a worm from Dune combined with a whale, but I promise it's a dragon.
I like the markings on it, it looks lovely. Apart from the leech like teeth, of course.
Nina is surprised, not just by spotting such a magnificent creature, but because it is attacking them. She expresses her surprise to Cray and the player by saying that she's never heard of dragons attacking people before. Which I bring up as a nice piece of expository dialogue.
As you can likely tell, this does put them in a spot of bother, and ends with them crashing the sandflier into a luckily more-or-less intact mess.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of sand stuck in the parts of the vehicle, preventing them from continuing their story. In order to do that, they need some spare parts.
Of course, leaving their sandflier undefended in a desert is a good wa of getting a valuable piece of machinery stolen, so one of them has to stay behind.
Nina elects to go, since out of the two of them Cray's the one who knows how to fix a sandflier and Nina's the one who knows how to emotionally blackmail him with her sister teasing him for babying her all the time.
Nina would make a fine queen.
So Cray gives Nina the King's Sword (though I'm not super sure why, she's a magic user) and she heads off into a dark abyss.
Breath of Fire IV's map isn't an over world like the first two (I can't remember about III, never played much of it) or Final Fantasy VIII but rather a a series of connected dots that you move back and forth between in order to get places.
This is rather linear, but it doesn't necessarily preclude exploring because of a feature I'll bring up in a moment.
Nina's chosen destination was Sarai, which is also the original name of the Biblical Sarah who was married to Abraham (nee Abram) before god bafflingly decided to change their names. He does this a lot. We're a little worried he'll never get around to finishing his novel.
|"Oh no! I did leave the gas on!"|
Some of these are mandatory, like this one.
But don't worry, this is a fun mandatory one. (Honestly, though, they're not that bad, it's just that this one is super-duper great.)
Once inside, Nina spots a merchant on not-a-chocobo-honest-guv' stuck in a huge crater.
|Well, to be fair there were giant terrestrial birds.|
And it doesn't look like its based on a canary.
Well, at least she's embarrassed about it.
This is where things get a little cool.
|Oh yeah, feast your eyes on- okay, squint at it.|
Can you see it now?
It's pretty unsettling, I like it.
Soon enough, though, the beast reveals itself.
|It's another dragon!|
After Nina is surprised by the lack of attacking, the creature flies off into the sky leaving one thing behind.
Nina discovers what it is after she expresses that she didn't feel particularly scared.
She is, however, very shocked at what she finds in the crater.
|Convenient shadow is convenient.|
(Also, that's some impressive muscle definition on such a small pixel sprite. I'm actually really impressed.)
Thankfully for Nina's blushes, and Ryu's privates, there are some convenient clothes in his size in a chest nearby. Although, judging by the official character art, not in the sleeves.
Once he's dressed, Nina introdces herself and then proceeds to bombard him with questions. She starts with his name and continues on to ask how he got there, where hes going, did he see the monster, what was the monster, where did the crater come from, what's the wind speed velocity of an unladen swallow and if he was with the merchant who fell into the crater.
Unsurprisingly, she doesn't get answers to most of these questions, but she does learn his name, that he wasn't with the merchant and that he's lost and amnesiac.
Since their most pressing concern is getting out of the hole, the do some epic teamwork to get out of it.
|Epic boosting maneuver.|
Which was handy.
Okay, if you've read the second part of my Final Fantasy VIII Let's Play Log, then you'll be aware of exactly how mad I was that the child prodigy and teacher Quistis was only a single level stronger than her student Zog.
This game doesn't try and pull that crap, this game does it right.
This, this is ludo-narrative consonance, people.
Okay, he's stronger than her when it comes to a hitting things sense, but that's fair enough. She's a magic user and he's pretty stacked.
This is good game design and it is a lovely little touch.
Now we have a battle party that isn't going to get absolutely mobbed by slimes, we can finally get into a fight.
Allow me to present my favourite thing in the history of RPGs.
What the Auto button does is set your party to attack the enemy with their basic attacks until the enemy dies.
Which is complete genius because it takes all of the drudgery out of fights with basic enemies that you can easily win. Just hit the Auto button and the game does it for you, allowing you to gain the experience without having to bash the A button over and over again.
You may be sitting there thinking 'but Reecey, doesn't this just rob you of gameplay?'
See, the Auto button has limited use. Any enemy that is resistant to physical attacks, or is strong enough to easily take you out in a few hits, or is a boss, you don't want to use the Auto button against. All the Auto button is there for is fights that do not require a lot of strategy, just brute force.
You can use it in the three aforementioned situations, but you'll die.
'But Reecey, what if it all goes tits up and you desperately need to heal?'
You can escape Auto any time you like, just press B (or the cancel key), then it stops and you can play as normal.
What it's really good for is grinding and going through lower level areas.
It's possibly the greatest addition to turn based combat I can think of because it allows you to strategise when you need to, and to not have to when you don't.
More turn based RPGs need something like this.
Now I'm done praising the one dude at Capcom who came up with the Auto button, back to the plot.
Zog and Nina need to head over some cliffs in order to get to the town of Sarai, and Nina shows us how to jump small gaps.
Before commenting on how high up they are and then promptly slipping off the cliff.
Zog, being a heroic soul, promptly leaps off after her, only to see that she's totally fine.
Nina briefly explains that she can use her wings to fly a little, so falls like this aren't really much of a problem.
Heh, I like this.
As well as demonstrating that Nina's wings are functional, it also has the advantage of setting up an important part of the game.
It starts to get dark, so these two decide to find somewhere to rest until it gets light. They find a cave, Nina reassures Zog that she's sure he'll find someone to help him in Sarai and then they sleep.
Find out next time, in Part Two of the Breath of Fire IV Let's Play Log.