Breath of Fire - Reader Re-Retroview  

The Other Dragon Warrior
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

15-25 Hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   A hero lives peacefully in a town inhabited by descendants of the White Dragon Clan, which survivors of the Dark Dragon Clan invade. The hero's sister, Sara, fights to protect the town, but is kidnapped, and thus, her brother travels across the world to stop the Dark Dragons and rescue his sister. Capcom's Breath of Fire, originally released on the Super NES, marked the company's foray into the RPG genre, and would see a port years later to the Gameboy Advance. While the GBA port does have some issues, it proves to an enjoyable start to the series.

   Battles in Breath of Fire are randomly-encountered and turn-based, with the player inputting all commands for the party and letting them and the enemy beat each other up in a round. Each character can attack normally, use magic, use an item, change front/back row placement, defend, or switch with a reserve character. Turn order can vary, and the escape option doesn't always work, although healing magic, fortunately, gets the first priority in each round of battle. Moreover, party defeat doesn't result in a Game Over, but rather the player being transported back to the last save point, with no penalty.

   Certain characters have special abilities that can literally mean the difference between victory and defeat against bosses; the protagonist, for instance, can gain the ability to transform into various kinds of dragons, while another character, Karn, can fuse with other allies for a more powerful character. It's a solid battle system overall, and while the encounter rate is a little high, battles normally don't drag on forever, and since money isn't a terrible problem, the player can keep plenty of healing items on hand for those long dungeon treks.

Or turning into a dragon for that matter Better chance of this than winning the lottery

   The interface is above average, with a relatively easy menu system, easy shopping, characters having field abilities sometimes necessary to advance the game, and the like, and even some new features in the Gameboy Advance version such as an auto-dash and a quicksave option, although there are some flaws such as compressed menu option and item names. There are also some times where advancing the main storyline can be difficult without a guide, but nonetheless, interaction doesn't detract too heavily from the game.

   While the original Breath of Fire does have some things going for it creatively such as the hero's dragon powers, character fusion, and characters with field abilities, it did feel very much like an RPG did at the time, with typical turn-based combat and even some elements derived from other RPGs such as the day/night system from the Dragon Quest/Warrior franchise. Still, the first installment did in its time have some sense of uniqueness.

   The story starts off decently, but somewhat staggers throughout the course of the game, with some characters receiving a little development but others being largely neglected, and most of the antagonists being fairly unmemorable, as well. The translation is also as spotty as it was in the original version. There is some general backstory, too, although the Gameboy Advance version could have certainly bettered the plot and improved the localization.

They're...rocs Birds in this game love rocks

   The Super NES version of Breath of Fire had a great soundtrack, although the Gameboy Advance port, lamentably, butchers its quality somewhat, with annoying blips and duts plaguing the music often, although the sound effects mostly remain intact. Still, the music isn't horribly painful to listen to, and certainly isn't a repellent from the game.

   The visuals, though, were very well above average for Super NES graphics, with decently colorful scenery, character sprites, character designs, and so forth, with the battle graphics shining the most, with both the player's characters and the enemies being animate; the Gameboy Advance port also adds some rare anime stills. There are a few enemy palette swaps, but the visuals are great nonetheless.

   Finally, given the addition of a dash feature, the Gameboy Advance port is shorter than the Super NES version, taking somewhere from fifteen to twenty-five hours to complete. In the end, the Gameboy Advance version of Breath of Fire does have its flaws, such as an underdeveloped plot, lackluster localization, and weak music quality, although it is a decent way to experience the first installment of Capcom's (formerly) flagship RPG franchise, given the port's enhancements, and enjoyable title in its own right.

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