This fifth installment in the Breath of Fire series was developed by Capcom and released exclusively on the PlayStation 2 in 2002. Dragon Quarter is notable for deviating away from the traditional JRPG combat of its predecessors and featured a drastic change in the tone and setting. It features a new turn-based battle system built around using Action Points to both move and fight in a 3D space.
Much of Dragon Quarter centers around the D-Counter mechanic, a meter that fills up slightly every time an action is performed. If the D-Counter hit 100%, it will force the player to restart the game from a previous point in the game (though with some character progression maintained). Dragon Quarter puts heavy emphasis on playing through the game multiple times, even revealing new cutscenes and new areas on subsequent playthroughs.
The reaction to the game has been divisive both from critics and fans. At the time of release, it received generally average to positive review scores and has since gathered a sizable cult following, but there exists many fans who are dismissive of the changes brought to their beloved franchise by Dragon Quarter. Some blame this title for bringing an end to Breath of Fire, as Capcom has yet to release another game in the series since.
With the surface of the world desolate and barren, humanity has fled underground to survive. As a huge class divide develops, society has hit a crisis point. As the lower levels become increasingly polluted, only the rich are able to afford to move to higher areas away from pollution. The game follows protagonist Ryu, a low level citizen, as he endeavors to save the life of his friend Nina, who, following experimental surgery, is unable to survive underground. To save Nina's life, Ryu must rebel against the tyrannical government and escape to the surface of the world.
Dragon Quarter features many new gameplay elements that differentiate it from traditional Breath of Fire titles.
Dragon Quarter is unique within the Breath of Fire series in that the protagonist, Ryu, is restricted to only one dragon form. The dragon form allows Ryu to use Dragon abilities to unleash fast and powerful attacks that can kill incredibly strong enemies in a single blow. The Dragon Counter limits the use of this dragon form with a percentile timer that slowly ticks up to 100%. A very small percentage is raised for walking around and engaging in battles, but the devastating Dragon abilities raise the D-Counter by a huge percentage. If you reach 100% before a certain point in the game, the dragon form takes over Ryu's body and kills him. Therefore, it is important to greatly restrict use of Dragon abilities in order to ensure that you can progress through the game.
A rank that determines how likely one is able to link with a dragon. It is used within the world largely to determine social status, with higher D-Ratios likely to be wealthier and more powerful. It can be increased by playing the game and ranges from 1/8192 (the hero's starting point) to the highest rank of 1/4, the "Dragon Quarter". D-Ratio restricts access to new areas that cannot be explored when you play through the game for the first time and is another mechanic that enforces replayability. You must complete the game multiple times in order to achieved the highest rank.
Scenario OverLay (SOL), is another method enforcing the replayability aspect of Dragon Quarter and comes in two different varieties: SOL Restart, which will restart the game from the beginning, and SOL Restore, which will restart the game from your last save. Whenever you hit a Game Over screen, either from losing a battle, giving up, or having your D-Counter reach 100%, you are given the option to make use of SOL Restart or SOL Restore while keeping party experience, skills, equipment, and any items in storage. SOL will also unlock new hidden areas and cutscenes if certain conditions are met. Unfortunately, while making use of SOL is necessary to complete the game without extreme difficulty, it can be quite exploitable if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
The SOL system would later be reused in Capcom's Dead Rising franchise.