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Breath of Fire - Review

The GameBoy Advance Gets Some Fire

By: Ourobolus


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 5
   Plot 7
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

10-20 hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Title Screen

   With the poor selection of portable RPGs available, it’s quite a blessing that Capcom has decided to remake the original Breath of Fire (originally on SNES) for the Game Boy Advance. This game is the first in the Breath of Fire series (so far, there’s talk of a 5th!) They didn’t just smack an old game onto a new system, they added some improvements that help the overall look of the game. The graphics have been touched up in some areas, and the interfaces in and out of battle have improved. Even in the age with beautiful games such as FFX or Chrono Cross, Breath of Fire still manages to dish out its own charm (and nostalgia) for those who have no need for flashy visuals and the like.

   While the battle system remains the same from the SNES version, welcome changes have been added to improve the battle interface. Instead of those god-awful pictures which leave you guessing which one is the one you want, Capcom implemented a simpler interface, one that pops up in the center of the screen and uses words instead of pictures. The battle system, however, is incredibly simplistic, and lack any special features other than the typical "Fight," "Magic," "Defend," and "Run." You can also change party members during the course of the battle. One thing should be noted, however, and that is Ryu can change into a Dragon (after earning them) in battle, and do much more damage than his human form. The battle system flows well; all the commands are inputted in the beginning of the turn, and then executed according to each character’s ACT (action speed). It moves quickly, but you have to anticipate the enemy’s attacks, so plan ahead.

   Earning magic in the game is nothing more than levelling up. That’s it. No special finding of Espers, no Materia to be attached to armor, nothing. Each character learns a preset spell at a preset level. The only exceptions to this rule are Ryu and Karn, who each have to scour the world in search of their spells, Dragon Transformation and Character Fusions, respectively.


We've got crabs... Uh... That didn't sound right...
We've got crabs... Uh... That didn't sound right... 

   Outside of battle, the game is very user-friendly. The action button communicates with all of the people, searches barrels and such, and also performs each character’s personal action. For instance, on the world map, Bo can fire arrows at the deer and pigs that roam the land for items, and Ox can demolish cracked walls on the field screen. The menu is also very easy to use, for the player can heal the characters, change the battle lineup, and equip Ryu and the others with marvelous ease. One hiccup in this regard is that items can only be organized into groups of 9, so if you buy 36 Cures, then you will have 4 groups of 9 Cures each. This gets annoying when you start running out of item space. (There are also some items that take up one space per item…I had to spend a lot of time selling items like Antlers and such that did this.)

   The game moves at a quick pace, although many of the quests are just deviants from the main goal of saving the world. The game never really leaves the central point, but going from point A to point G and hitting everything in between gets rather annoying.

   The music in this game is definitely a high point. Although in the dungeons a lot of the tracks are repetitive, it never really gets to the point of becoming tiresome. The quality of the music is also great for a Game Boy. The sound is of par quality, at best. The magic attacks all have crisp sounds that match the type of spell, but some of the regular attacks leave a lot to be desired, especially Nina’s attack (in the beginning). It’s just this…"tch." Nothing grand. But because of the good music quality, I’ll give this an 8.

   Ah…originality…this game initially came out in 1994, in the age of the SNES, and was good then. But…even then, the whole story of saving the world (and receiving that quest in the first minutes of the game) while gathering party members was already becoming old. Now, with the re-release of the game, the originality factor drops even more. Oh well, sometimes developers don’t mess with the "tried and true" formula. Everything, from the battle system to some of the character’s dilemmas (the whole princess running away thing…village destroyed, must find the perpetrator…you get the idea) have all been done before (and better).


Bow before me!
Bow before me! 

   The plot isn’t bad, it just isn’t very original. As Ryu, you are a member of the Light Dragon clan, and your village has been destroyed and your sister has been taken by the Dark Dragon clan, who hopes to rule the world. Time to save the world. Yay. The plot, although unoriginal, moves quickly, and RPGamers are rarely stuck in a scene with tons of dialogue and no battles. The game progresses in the "Get the quest, do the quest, get reward, get the quest, do the quest…" manner, and after each quest, you receive either a character or an item, and then you are directly moved to the next plot twist. In between plot segments, you are able to explore the world and find items, spells, and whatnot, and then head back to the story. Characters enter the story seamlessly, and join your party on the grounds that you have helped them in some way or they have been affected by the evil and want some revenge. As far as realism goes, the game never leaves the fantasy world for some high-tech mumbo-jumbo.

   Localization…nothing to it. They merely brought the story from the US version of the original. I don’t recall any changes… Replay value is definitely not the reason to play this game. After you beat it, that’s it. Nothing more. I suppose if you missed a dragon or an item or two (which is pretty hard to do) you could go back to get it, but once you beat the game, there is nothing more. The game is extremely linear, and offers nothing in the manner of side quests.

   The graphics, for a GBA, are excellent. While they are mainly ports from the SNES version, there are a few new things added to this version. The title screen looks a heck of a lot better now, and there are also some animated cut scenes scattered throughout the game. Also, some of Ryu’s dragon transformations display a nicely hand-drawn pic of the dragon. Although while not as good as Golden Sun, the enemies do look better than those cardboard-cutouts of FF fame, for they actually have animation instead of merely flashing and attacking.


Presto-change-o! Rudra, ahoy!
Presto-change-o! Rudra, ahoy! 

   This game was not made for people who like a challenge. While some of the bosses are a wee bit harder than others, they are nothing against Ryu’s dragon form. One annoying aspect of the bosses is that once you have depleted their HP bar, a message pops up saying something like, "Goddess is becoming angry!" and then the boss gains a whole slew of HP, but now you are unable to see the HP bar. This becomes veeeerrrryyy tedious. Also, in regular battles, unless I ventured off into some part of the land that I wasn’t meant to go yet, I never died in a random battle. Some quests that are given to you are sometimes vague. For one, I needed a "C.Nut," which, after hours of searching, I realized was a Coconut! It could’ve been Cashew, for all I know! I nearly went bald.

   While this game does have its low points, (boss battles, no replay value, as well as fairly short playing time…there was no in-game clock, but I probably beat it within 10-15 hours) they are few and far between. Overall, it is an excellent game if you are in the mood for a good story, with a little bit of nostalgia thrown in there, (or if you are just waiting for the Golden Sun sequel) and some good, old-fashioned, portable RPG goodness.





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