Breath of Fire - Dragon Quarter is a challenging RPG that features gorgeous graphics, especially in the cut scenes. You also learn a lesson about power and consequences.
The game is very Final Fantasy-like with a character running around a map, solving quests and learning things as he builds up skills. Your party here contains up to three characters. This is a futuristic world where humanity is living underground. As in every story from Metropolis on forward, it's the dregs of humans which are living down at the lowest levels. They are so far from the surface that they don't believe there is a real "sky" up there.
Like many other RPGs, when you clear a dungeon, the enemies stay dead. That makes sense to me :) It does mean, though, that you can't "bulk up infinitely". You are given a certain number of potential XP and have to best develop your character based on that.
When you become advanced enough, you gain the ability to turn into an uber-dragon. You might think this would make the rest of the game easy. But with great power comes great responsibility, or so says Spiderman. The balance here is that using that power hastens the end of the game. If you wimp out and just use your dragon powers too much, the timer counts down and the game ends.
Some people complain because they get their hands on that dragon power and want to just use it to blast through the harder levels. But the whole point of the dragon power is that it is an ultimate power that should only be used for the final bosses. If you can't resist using that power all the time, then you pay the penalty. I think it's a brilliant lesson and find it fascinating that a number of gamers aren't understanding it.
The characters and plot are very well done, and really get you to understand how trapped and doomed the "lower classes" are. The cut scene graphics are great anime style, and the in-game graphics are quite nice too. The music varies from area to area and really gives a sense of the atmosphere in the game. I enjoyed both the roaming-around gameplay and the battle gameplay as easy to understand but full of strategy. Battle especially gives you a lot of customization so you can tweak your characters to best match your gameplay style.
Yes, this is NOT an easy RPG. People who try to take the 'easy way out' (i.e. dragon blasting everything) will not be able to finish the game. Players who try to race from start to finish will simply not finish. But players who put in the time to customize the characters, and who work on developing their skills, will find an amazingly fun RPG that is quite replayable. Each time you finish the game, you can restart with even more ability to explore the world.
Well recommended for serious RPGers!
Buy Breath of Fire - Dragon Quarter from Amazon