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Capcom's third installment appeals to younger and older gamers alike
By Brian Glick, RPGamer Writer
Back in Breath of Fire I and II, you were surrounded by dragons. Dragons here, dragons there; the stories involved a plethora of dragons in various scenarios, and conflicts. In Breath of Fire III...the dragons are no more. They have died out, believed to have been extinct for hundreds of years, while their remains solidify into an energy source known as "chrysm ore", mined heavily by the people of the world.
The game begins in a mine built up around a graveyard of dragons. Miners toil away day after day in the dark caves, extracting chrysm ore from the earth. Two miners set a charge of explosives to release another deceased dragon, but when the charge goes off, they discover that the dragon trapped within is still alive. The baby dragon, in confusion, kills off many of the miners until he is finally captured. You are that dragon, and so your journey begins to discover your heritage, while eventually maturing and growing towards adulthood.
Breath of Fire III seems geared towards children with its cartoonish atmosphere, simplistic dialogue, and obvious puzzles. The clues that people give you in the game to direct you where you should proceed next, and what you should do seem aimed towards a 12 year old's level of comprehension. Yet, the game was certainly interesting enough and varied to hold my attention (please, keep back the comments about my maturity level...that's best suited for the Editorials section).
The translation of the game was executed excellently, with a great deal of humorous "Americanisms" (and in one hilarious scene, "Australianisms"). Although, I do wonder about one line in the game: "Oh, Mina...you're so beautiful when you play with the chickens." One might wonder if a stray programmer put that line in as a gag, and wasn't caught in the debugging process. But I digress.
Overall gameplay is one of the most impressive features of this title. The battle system is your standard turn-based fare, round by round. For me, however, battles were not a frustrating experience. The frequency of battles appears reasonable, and there seems to be a pre-defined pattern in some areas where battles always occur, and thus are avoidable. Battles menus pop up instantly after comical exclamation points rise out of your characters' heads, reducing load times. While in combat, your characters shout spell names in Japanese with childish voices, giving battles a sometimes-annoying-yet-cute-feeling. An auto-battle feature also adds a nice touch for gamers who hate pushing the same button endlessly.
The dragon gene system in battle, however, is one feature that stands out in Breath of Fire III. By collecting genes throughout the world, you can splice up to 3 genes at a time to create hundreds of combinations, and the resultant dragon form that your main character takes matches this splicing. You can mix and match depending on your enemy's weakness, and defeat the bosses in surprisingly little time compared to the marathon-long battles of previous Breath of Fire releases.
Other gameplay touches make this game one that is simply fun and enjoyable to experience. Similar to previous games in the series, there is a fishing mini-game, although this version has been carried to greater complexity. You can spend hours trying to get a rare fish to bite, and when you do, your line could snap in the ensuing battle for the lure. Catches can then be used as status items in menus or battles, or they can be traded in with a half-fish, half-man merchant named Manillo (whom you also must catch). Another fun mini-game is a town-building scenario in a faerie village. You must assign the faeries to jobs and help them expand their town and population. The game eventually wields items and secrets, of course.
The plot is fairly standard...no real innovations or twists that haven't been done before, but sufficiently fresh and original to keep you interested. However, the hero is plagued by the mime disease going around protagonists nowadays. You fail to feel a great deal of attachment for the hero and his companions when the hero says nothing and others must provide one-way conversation in his place. The ending, as well, might leave you a tad disappointed.
Graphics in the game are based on a 3D isometric view with sprite-based characters, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics and other games. While this type of visual is certainly nothing new, an added twist is given to the game by allowing the player to rotate the screen almost 45 degrees all directions. This allows the player to uncover secrets between two buildings, for example. Personally, I feel the game's designers took advantage of this far too often, and I became almost compulsive and searched every area which wasn't totally in view.
Are there major flaws in the game, though? There aren't any glaring annoyances in the game, but certain elements do stand out. Capcom isn't widely known for their musical skill, and that certainly shines through in Breath of Fire III. While not bad enough to send you racing for the mute button, the tunes in the game aren't anything you'd want to buy a soundtrack over, to say the least. Another grievance that you may get used to are dialogue boxes. Even on the fastest option, text scrolls far too slowly for my liking, which is made even worse by large text and a long graphical transition effect between dialogue scrolling. Additionally, despite the game being geared towards younger audiences, sometimes you wish you could reach out and throttle some brains into characters who seem a bit lacking in the intelligence department.
Overall, however, Breath of Fire III is a well designed and well made game that will surprise you with about 60 hours of gameplay. The plot gets more interesting towards the end, and the world is vast with hundreds of secrets. The involving gameplay will more than make up for any minor flaws you may encounter. And with a dragon on your side, this game will certainly breath some fun into your RPG'ing experience.
(I just had to fit that pun in somehow...)
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