Game Over Online ~ Breath of Fire

GameOver Game Reviews - Breath of Fire (c) Capcom, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Breath of Fire (c) Capcom
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 85%
Date Published Wednesday, March 20th, 2002 at 10:56 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Breath of Fire is a port of an SNES RPG of the same name. As I've never played Breath of Fire or much of any RPGs on the SNES, I will have to draw on my old experiences with the Japanese NES systems because in truth, Breath of Fire is none too different from a classic Japanese-style RPG. Breath of Fire begins with the story of Ryu, who is part of the Light Dragon Clan. The village Ryu resides in is under attack and as Ryu finds out later, many other cities are also razed because of sinister forces at work. The story begins off with a lengthy in-game cinematic sequence but shortly after that, Ryu is free to embark on his quest to basically save the world.

Originally developed by Capcom, gamers in North America will instinctively get the feeling that this RPG was originally developed for our brethren overseas. Breath of Fire retains all of the idiosyncrasies of Japanese RPGs. The dialogue, for example, plays out much like the sequences we've seen in Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior. Moreover, the items are cryptically titled in much abbreviated English terms and some of the items are downright strange. For example, in the manual of the game, you're told to start fishing whenever you get stuck or are at a loss of what to do. Ryu apparently has a special ability. It's not a combat skill, a special spell or some sort of immediately applicable talent. Ryu's ability is fishing such that, if you come across a funny-looking water or you don't know what to do, you should pull out your fishing rod. How this actually fits into the fiction of the game is pretty odd. You'd think someone of the Light Dragon Clan would have some ability like flying or fire-breathing. But then, so are things like 'V. Potions'.

The format of the game is not too different from regular Japanese RPGs. There is a significant amount of the 'leveling up' phenomenon that occurs in early RPG designs. However, it isn't too painful because Breath of Fire is an excellently paced title. For example, the first dungeon you tackle has a first level with healing water fountains because the developers obviously knew you wouldn't be able to handle more than one encounter with any monster in that dungeon. On the second level, you are given a few healing herbs in a few chests, which carry you over to the 'boss' battle. The first dungeon also has an upgrade for just about every facet of your character, from armor to gauntlet, so much care has been given to make the game more accessible and polish the progression of your character.

Of course, your hands aren't held for the rest of the title. Generally, the story is fairly linear, although you can get sidetracked somewhat by pursuing some side quests. The dialogue is not going to win any Pulitzers but there is enough of it to keep the story going. Like many overseas RPGs, you can use save points so you can resurrect your character easily. However, the GBA version also sports an instant save mode, in case you don't have enough time to trek it back to a save point. Otherwise, the controls and menus aren't too hard to grasp and the game translates fairly well to English. A potential timesaver is the run button, which speeds up the game immensely.

Combat in the title is not too hard as long as you are moving with the flow of the story. There is the occasional 'boss' battle but with the use of save points, death is not a mortifying experience and when you get extra characters, it won't come as easily. There are numerous spells and skills to learn. Coupled with eight characters that can join your party, you have a lot to choose from, even if you can't set Ryu's class in the beginning.

Visually, Breath of Fire retains the trappings of a classic Japanese RPG. It certainly doesn't look like it's flexing any of the GBA's power. But the graphics are generally colorful and vibrant. Ruined cities look convincing, if not a bit confusing to figure out which buildings are 'open' and which aren't. The most impressive technical aspect of Breath of Fire has to be the musical soundtrack. I was swept away by it even though the tunes and melodies are relatively simplistic. They are wholly synthesized and I was reminded of Koei's Uncharted Waters. Unlike the graphic tiles, Breath of Fire features an abundant amount of short ballads that are fitting to the wide range of emotions conveyed in the story.

If you were looking for a classic RPG to keep you busy before any of Square's titles hit the GBA platform, this is it. It's a well-polished RPG that plays out well on the GBA and is none too frustrating. But for newcomers, it certainly isn't as accessible or captivating as the Baldur's Gate franchise. The story, though great for its time, is not as deep as the great epics like Torment or Fallout. As such, Breath of Fire fills a unique void. With the instant save, it's easy to jump in, level up and conquer a few areas before jumping back out. Perhaps this is what the developers were aiming for and if it is, they certainly succeeded.


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