Breath of Fire - Review

Where No Dragon Has Gone Before Part I

By: Jade Falcon

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

20-40 hours


Breath of Fire

   Capcom's first foray into the RPG scene was credited to the RPG giant SquareSoft because Capcom sold it to them. Due to this, the later installments of the Breath of Fire series are not as well-known because SquareSoft did not publish them. Is the game given less credit than what it deserves?

   Like virtually every RPG released in the first half of the 1990s, the turn-based ATB system was employed. Each character has his or her own speed which determines the order in which the characters go. The game introduced the "auto-battle", which is a command that automatically has every character target the head enemy with a physical attack. Each character has his or her own special ability, such as the dragon morphing or a bird transformation. There is also an option to switch out characters, which is especially helpful when a character gets KO'd. However, this makes the RPGamer level all the characters up, which is a lenghty process.

   The menus are about five years or so ahead of their time, due to the fact that there are few text labels. The menu is basically an icon-driven system. It is very handy because it is easy to see what each menu is specifically used for. The item and character names are extremely limited in length, some as short as four or five letters. The world map allows the lead character to use a special ability, such as a bird, reaching across chasms, hunting, and fishing.

A big bird.  

   Of the four Breath of Fire games released, the original has the least memorable music. The tunes fit the scene, but they just are not catchy enough to be remembered. The sound effects are good for the time when it was released, but there just is not a large variety of them. One effect could be used for up to four different actions. However, they are not bad enough to necessitate the turning off of the sound.

   Innovation is key to Breath of Fire's success. When compared to other RPGs of the time, this game is one of the first to feature a completely diverse cast of characters. The hunting and fishing games are the two of the most innovative mini-games ever developed. In battles, there is a gauge for the characters' hit points which can be helpful to determine the amount of hit points an enemy has.

   Breath of Fire possesses a very linear plot with few deviations from the main story. The only time when many sub-quests appear is near the end of the game. Like most "classic" RPGs, it is set in medieval times and is full of swordplay, sorcery, kings, and castles. Any fan of "old-school" medieval settings will have a blast with this game.

   The translation of the actual text of the game is remarkably good for the time when the game was released, but the flaw in the translation is the abbreviation of the item names. For the most part, the item names had between four and six letters, then two letters that classify it. (Silver DR is a silver dagger) The icon menu system makes up for this, but it is still quite frustrating when trying to remember which item is which.

A battle.

   If the RPGamer concentrates only on the main storyline, the game is very tedious and boring. There are more secrets than the game lets on from the surface. Levelling up is a must to keep the difficulty down, and to make the game more pleasing to replay. If a good amount of levelling up is not done, the battles become ridiculously difficult. The average time through the game varies on the amount of levelling and secret seeking, from 20 hours blowing through to 40 hours looking for everything possible.

The age of the game aside, the visuals are quite amazing. The character sprites are amazingly detailed and the backgrounds are lush and rich in color. Every character has its own set of animations which make the sprites look more real. The spells, especially the dragon transformations, are quite impressive. Layering effects are excellent, and the day/night cycle is well-implemented. Dungeons have a dark, eerie feeling and the houses have a happy, cheerful feeling.

Breath of Fire is a stereotypical innovator. Why the oxymoron? The game has elements that were the standard at the time and introduced many things to the genre. The game is worth a play to see an excellent example of a classic RPG, especially since it is being re-released on the GBA. Super Nintendo owners, the game is a cheap grab on eBay. The game may not appeal to the "new age" RPGamers because it does not feature ground-breaking graphics or other elements, but any fan of classic RPGs should have already played the game, or should play it in the near future.

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