Breath of Fire - Staff Retroview  

A Breath of Fresh Air?
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

25-40 Hours


Rating definitions 

   This reviews is based on the SNES version. The first game in the Breath of Fire series... Although it isn't a particularly wonderful game, in fact it's barely above average, it shows the potential for future games in the series. Breath of Fire attempts many new things, some are good, some bad. The ability to turn into a dragon is a new and interesting ability that really makes this series stand out. Who doesn't want to control the power of a dragon instead of slaying dragons for the millionth time like in other RPGs that came out at the same time? A lot of effort appears to have gone into the design this game and while most parts are only average or slightly above average, the game is still fun.

   The battle system is the same as in most games despite their attempt to disguise it somewhat as a card game. The boomerang weapon is somewhat unique and attacks all enemies, but isn't anything special. Spells do what appears to be set damage no matter how powerful you are which I found to rather annoying. Items can be used to cast spells as well, but that's been done before too. Unique to Breath of Fire is the ability to turn into a dragon and to do certain fusions. One on one battles early on in the game tend to be incredibly boring though since you don't have access to any special abilities. They turnout to be hack and slash fights that last quite some time. The final dragon form's ability turns some later boss fights into the same kind of thing.

How can he sleep through that? How can he sleep through that?

   The music is slightly above average, but I especially enjoyed the battle and overworld music. What makes Breath of Fire's music system even better is that they refresh the battle theme and overworld theme several times during the game so it doesn't get old or repetitive which was a really big plus. The visuals aren't that impressive though. The higher dragon transformations and a few very nice looking backgrounds are the only things that keep things looking above average.

   Cure spells gain priority in battle making it very difficult to die if you have a healer in your party. The powerful fusion ability and the ability to turn into a dragon make many battles easy as well. Once you've obtained the highest dragon forms, not even the last few bosses can do much more than scratch you. Most of the enemies aren't much of a challenge either. Breath of Fire is a fairly long game and you'll find yourself spending quite some time on it especially with the large enemy encounter rate and lengthy plot. Despite its originality and slightly above average features, the high enemy encounter rate combined with the poor random battle system will probably kill any desire you have to ever play this game again, especially the first few levels.

   Breath of Fire has some decent Localization. Although there are some weird names and such, it's quite good in general. The main problem is probably due to the fact that only a few letter slots were allowed for certain items, names, and spells which is fine for Japanese, but doesn't work well in English. The interface is good, but the crushed spell/item/etc names can often get in the way of what you're looking for.

How did they burn down a town made of stone? How did they burn down a town made of stone?

   The story starts out average at best. Your home is burned down by some bad guys so you go to fight them. There are some twists such as you gaining the ability to use dragon powers and several spoiler-worthy twists as well making it slightly above average as a whole. The plot seems to be rather stretched at times though. You often have to complete very long quests in order to proceed which slowly things down considerably. While the story is only slightly original, a lot of the things you can do in the game such as turn into a dragon, open your own shop, fly on a giant bird, and fuse your party members together to create more powerful ones. Overall, a rather original game.

   Although it started out slowly, Breath of Fire was a decent game. It had a lot of flaws, but it made up for them with some interesting and original abilities. The story evolved as the game progressed as well and although it didn't flow very well, it turned out quite nicely in the end. Luckily this is just the beginning of the series. They have plenty of time to learn from their mistakes and luckily, they do. I recommend this game to Breath of Fire fans who want to see how the series began or anyone who wants to play as the dragon for once. I give Breath of Fire a six though most of it is from originality.

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