Breath of Fire III Retroview
Objectivity is something that should be looked forward to in a review. A person putting aside their own opinions in order to give information that’s as accurate as possible is an admirable goal. So, it is with some happiness that in the case of Breath of Fire III, being objective and being subjective happen to be the same process for this reviewer.
When the philosopher stated that all stories share the same themes and are merely varying viewpoints of the one omnipresent story, the development team of Breath of Fire III was evidently on hand to consult on the matter. In general, some thematic and story threads will often pass from one game to the next in a series, however Breath of Fire takes this a step too far in that it perpetually reuses the exact same characters and story for each game to be spawned in the saga. As if the game didn’t make you wish enough already to play its far better predecessors because of the similarities between them in terms of plot, the basis of the story is very nearly as rehashed and cliché as it could possibly be; spiky-haired hero with a special ability unique to him must regain his heritage / save a princess / slay a dark goddess / etc. ad infinitum.
Although the game gives off as much luster as a lump of blackest coal in terms of its story, the plus side is that you probably won’t feel any need to throw the controller at the television due to any faults on the side of game dynamics. The menu system, although not revolutionary or interesting in the slightest, is functional and relatively speedy in terms of loading, and the transition from Japanese to English, again not terribly noteworthy, could have been far worse. In much the same fashion, the battle system isn’t anything that hasn’t been done better before by a more interesting game, but it does serve its purpose with a minimum of issues.
One of the few aspects of combat that needs explanation is the Fusion system. Ryu, the aforementioned spiky-haired hero, has the ability to combine Dragon Genes in order to transform himself into dragons of varying types and abilities. For example, by fusing with the ‘Flame’ gene alone, Ryu becomes a young dragon whelp with all the powers one might expect from the fire elemental properties contained in the gene. However, by combining multiple genes the size of dragon you transform into increases rapidly, which not coincidentally also rapidly increases the power level of the skills you gain from the genes you use. Each gene requires a set number of MP to be spent each turn in order to maintain the dragon form associated with it. It’s in this way that the game somewhat restricts the amount of major ass-kicking you can do in the more powerful dragon forms because by using more than one gene to achieve a certain type of skill set and power level, you must pay the cumulative cost of each of those genes plus a bonus cost if you become an ultimate dragon such as Tiamat.
Admittedly the game’s soundtrack isn’t too bad. For the most part the songs aren’t overused, are fairly catchy, and tend toward the mediocre and unmemorable otherwise. One of the most blessedly awful things about Breath of Fire III on the other hand, is the voice acting. Thankfully none of the characters talk for long periods of time or carry on internal monologues with a voice attached. What they are guilty of is screaming mightily throughout each battle any time you use a skill other than their basic attack. If you don’t feel compelled to mute the game during an extended boss battle or two due to Ryu and Nina continually hollering in offkey Engrish about fira, heero, and thundaa, it will be quite an amazement.
The upshot to all of this utterly wretched crap is that the game can easily be completed in a couple of days worth of effort. You also have the opportunity to take time out of your hectic save-the-world schedule and do a little mini-game fishing should the desire strike you like a battle axe to the face. Any RPG that can only claim goodness because it’s short and you can go fishing is far from a winner, and Breath of Fire III doesn’t even go so far as to add a decent challenge to its list of up sides.
If you’re one of the unfortunate souls that has lost thirty plus hours to Breath of Fire III, keep in mind that there are always worse things you could have spent that time doing. Examples include gouging out your own eyes, flaying off your skin and taking a swim in the Dead Sea, or playing Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Should you choose to act on any of the above in order to purge the memory of this atrociously awful game from your head, I won’t blame you, but I also accept no responsibility; that problem lies with Capcom.