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Breath of Fire - Retroview

Nostalgia or not, it ain't very good

By: Phillipe Richer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 2
   Plot 3
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

25-35 hours

 
Overall
3
Criteria

Breath of Fire
 

   In a further attempt to cash-in on the ongoing nostalgia frenzy, Capcom released a remake of their first classic (initially published by Square) in the winter of 2001. Actually, remake is a pretty strong attestation as the game has been ported with more or less no changes at its core. With no further improvements to the game, it is clear that Capcom was counting solely on nostalgia to increase its total sales. Nostalgia or not, improvement or not, Breath of Fire has very little to offer to anyone but the most bored of gamers.

   For thousands of years, the Dragon Tribe reigned serenely over the world, overseeing the population with its mighty power and decency. The evil goddess Milia disrupted that peace and contributed in splitting the powerful united Dragon Clan into two separate factions. After the advent of eight heroes who sealed away the evil into six keys, the two clans shared a different view upon the future of the planet. Once again, eight heroes are bound to be reunited to vanquish the surging evil forces of the world.

   The battle system dates back to more than 10 years ago, meaning that almost no intricate feature can be found. The usual HP and MP gauges are present, as well as the normal commands. Magic spells are available to four of the characters, while the others can use some inner abilities, including Ryu's ability to transform into a Dragon for a certain time. You may also switch one character or even your entire line of combatant in combat. The charge option, which tells all four of your characters to use their normal attack, is very useful. You can also gain the ability to “fuse” two characters together to create one more powerful persona. Aside from those few quirks, it's the epitome of normality, but at least it's well executed. What could have gone wrong anyway? On the other hand, exploration in towns or dungeons is made more enjoyable by the inclusion of specific character actions, such as pushing crates, breaking walls, or digging into the ground.

   Characters will have to move towards their target to deal their blow, and they won't come back to their original position. If an enemy, or an ally, is surrounded by friendly characters, they will remain untouchable by physical assaults. The big consequence of moving-in to attack is that some spells, offensive or restorative, now have an area of effect - and the friendly-fire is on my friends. Since selecting a rune spell will cause your other character to move towards the enemy, you must always be aware of what you're doing in order to prevent sudden death. Most characters will move away from a spell an ally casts, but the chance of them staying in the radius of damage is still quite existent. That one simple procedure of allowing only three commands per turn sufficed to bring a lot of strategy into Suikoden III's battles. The game's relatively high difficulty level is also very appreciated compared to the pool of easy-as-pie games.


If at least it was harder you'd have more of a reason to play.
If at least it was harder you'd have more of a reason to play.  

   World navigation is made a little easier by the inclusion of a world map available on demand. Menus in battle are easy to navigate, because frankly there aren't any. On the map however, equipping your party can prove to be a little problematic because of a lack of information for every item. You can at least sort your items quickly by selecting the command of the same name, although items are only packed in groups of nine, a stupid and annoying feature. Not much more can be said here.

   Musically speaking, the game is very uninspired. Yes, the compositions date back to the early 1990s, but obviously the game has never been perceived as a symbol of enjoyable music. The battle music is acceptable and some compositions may get you humming for a while, but that's it. The sound quality is decent though, and it's still pretty tolerable on the whole.

   What little plot the game presents is almost entirely summed up in the manual. Being the old school RPG that it is, there are very little plot twists and very little character development. The game still offers more personable characters than the first few Dragon Warriors or the very first Final Fantasy. Regardless, most of the game is made up of scouring blindly from one location to the other, losing your path from time to time and getting bored figuring out who you have to talk to in order to advance through the game. There are a couple cut-scenes present to depict the more important events, but it's simply a futile attempt at proposing an intriguing plot.

   From what I can tell, no additional work was made on the localization, which isn't to condemnable because there are very few dialogues. The characters themselves rarely speak, and NPCs only babble to give you hints to your next destination. Bad hints at that. A very transparent and strictly utilitarian localization.


Oh boy! A still red dragon. Scary.
Oh boy! A still red dragon. Scary.  

   There is a fair amount of items and special skills to be found in the game. Ryu can acquire some more powerful dragon transformations after reaching certain levels and undergoing clan trials, and Karn's spells will be worth your efforts. Ryu's ability to fish at certain places won't keep you entertained for very long either. Still, everything can easily be found the first way around, and there are no alternate routes to take or options to choose from in the plot.

   The graphics are decent even for the game's rerelease on the GBA. Special effects are alright and towns look sharp thanks to the ageless 2D graphics. The color palette could have used an overhaul too in a variety of places. The biggest surprise is found in-battle, as characters and foes' attack animations look very fluid for such a venerable game.

   Your playthrough should not take you less than 25 hours or much more than 35 hours. Your time depends mostly on your awareness and cleverness at figuring where you should be headed next. Furthermore, the game doesn't present the challenge that we usually associate with old games. It offers more plot than most Dragon Warrior games (which isn't saying much), but it doesn't provide the mildly amusing and endless level-building quirks of older classics.

   In the end, there is nothing good to be said about Breath of Fire. The battles don't offer anything, the music is underwhelming, the plot nigh nonexistent, and the localization cruelly bland. I don't care for nostalgia; be it the classic SNES game or the vastly untouched GBA version, this game is nothing less than the apotheosis of normality and conformity. Only the most bored gamers will be satisfied.




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