Breath of Fire 2 - Retroview

A Great Game Plagued By Inconsistency

By: TheShroud13

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 8
   Plot 5
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

20-50 hours


Title Screen

   1995, the SNES era of video gaming was heading into its final stretch. One of the later RPGs for the SNES was Breath of Fire II, Capcom's second entrance into the activities of the Dragon Clan. In an era full of classic RPGs, anything less than a classic seems disappointing to the player. Breath of Fire II almost reached this plateau of greatness, however, it is a rose bush of a game. Beautiful in full bloom, but painful in its downtimes. Breath of Fire II is a difficult game to review because its shining moments are so wonderful, it screams for you to love it, but it continues to push you away with parts of the game play that makes you feel ashamed of playing the game. However, if you can battle through its poor stretches, you'll find a pretty good game in Breath of Fire II.

   One of the major things in a game is its battle system; unfortunately, Breath of Fire II's does not please. The battle system uses a menu based battle system similar to most 16-bit RPGs. Attack, defend, run, switch, item, magic, all of the standard RPG commands are here, as well as a specialized command unique to each character. It is pretty much your standard RPG battle system. With no real innovations to it other than the dragon system, the system would have to run exceptionally smoothly for it to work, but it does not. The pace of battles is sluggish, and some enemies have some pretty high HP totals, so you will probably spend a significant time fighting the boring battles. I mentioned the dragon system, the only real unique trait to the game's battle system. If it was handled better the score for this game's battle system could have been much higher, of course, it is not. The dragon system was handled much better in the original, and the loss of all your AP for the use of a single dragon power, of any class, is ridiculous. It is a pretty poor battle system, but there is definitely worse out there. The battle system has the power to make you wretch while playing the game, and the game's high encounter rate will make those feelings all the more frequent.

   With such a desolate battle system, at least the game has a pretty good interface. The menus are once again average, but unlike the battle system, provide the needed service, without making your hairs split. While there are no real innovations in the menus for Breath of Fire II, it does have a few parts in its interface that make it quite good. First is its Shaman System. With the game's Shaman System, you have the ability to merge your characters with different Shaman Spirits to increase your powers. There are numerous combinations you can make with Shaman merges, and finding out which combinations yield the most powerful characters is one of the most fun aspects in the game. On top of that, if you characters' HP reaches a low level, the Shaman Spirits will be disbanded, giving you even more motivation to protect your characters. The second positive addition to the interface is the improved hunting and fishing system. While it is still relatively primitive, it is much better than the original's hunting and fishing, as you now actually have some control over what goes on in the fishing area. Your spoils in the hunting and fishing game can yield useful items, or bait for sales. The final, and perhaps greatest addition to the interface is the ability for you to build your own city. As you advance through the game, you will find wandering citizens looking for homes. You can offer these people homes in your city as buildings become available. In return, you will get services from your citizens including unique shops, and even a music test. The only problem to the interface is relatively slow movement, but you eventually get used to it, and are able to respect the game's relatively unique and user-friendly interface. In addition, the little onion man, which alerts you to the density of the monsters in the area, is a big plus.

These Graphics Aren't Half Bad...
These Graphics Aren't Half Bad...  

   One of the most inconsistent areas of the game is its sound and music. The sounds were generally unimpressive throughout. If you were to lose the graphics of the game, you would not be able to determine what you were doing by the sound alone. As for the music, some of the musical scores are magnificent, and there are some that are absolutely awful. However, even the better songs are very short. All of the songs play basically are the same basic melodies repeated over, and over, and over, and leads to a very irritating score in some areas. On average, most of the music is above average, but there are quite a few genuinely awful tracks in the game, and they really get on your nerves after a while.

   The game is not amazingly original, but its relatively unique interface additions are quite original, and add a taste of the original to a normally average game in original. The hunting, fishing, shaman, and town building abilities are all pretty original. In that respect, the game is one of the most original games around. However, in the respects of plot, it is relatively average on the originality aspect. Its characters, and music are all average in this respect as well.

   The game's plot is very inconsistent as well. During the game, there are some moments of great character development and story. Unfortunately, there are stretches that are absolutely dreadful in the plot department, leaving you with nothing but battles to fight. The religious overtones in the game are handled very well, and there is some good depth to the plot when you find it. Unfortunately, the stretches of dreadful plot aspects are quite long, and quite frequent as well. Because of this, the plot feels jagged, and almost incomplete. If the game was consistent with its plot there could have been a much better plot in this game, unfortunately, it basically all sums up to a relatively sub par plot that seems almost identical to the original, only adding a few new twists. On the plus side, the characters in the game, with the exception of one (you know who I mean), are brought into the story in a good way, and feel as if they truly fit in the game.

   The game isn't terrible in the localization department, but there are some pretty bad grammatical errors at points, and the overall translation seems like a pretty lackluster effort by Capcom. The translation is nowhere nearly as good as the other games available on the SNES system, and basically disappoints you. The dialogue sounds very bland and dry in English, and is probably the work of the translation department. There are so many moments that could have been so much better if only the English was better, but such is not the case with Breath of Fire 2.

Get Used To This Place, You'll Be Here A LOT.
Get Used To This Place, You'll Be Here A LOT.  

   The replay value is another value that is great in some departments but dragon god awful in others. The entire idea of creating your own town makes you want to replay the game just to see what other improvements you could make to your town that would be different from your first run through. Other than that, however, there is nothing that is going to make you interested in playing this game again. The plot doesn't offer enough to make you want to come back and clarify anything you didn't understand, and the droning battle system isn't very good either. The game also tends to be built like a marathon. You spend a vast amount of time traveling back and forth, and less experiencing plot, action, or really anything else. Until you get additions to your party, your traveling capacity is very limited, and that makes the game very irritating, and makes you less inclined to play it again. The game also sports poor level design, so poor that it is boring the first run through, and even more boring the second. I played this game two times through for the sake of building my time, and I probably wouldn't do it again. The game is pretty long, 20 hours at a low, 50+ hours maximum. Not only is it long, but the lack of action and plot makes it seem much longer than it is, and that is a pretty good indicator of how poor the replay value is. As great as the town-building mode is, it cannot make up for the falters in replay value the rest of the game and this is perhaps the game's worst area.

   Visually, the graphics were pretty good. While they don't measure up to Chrono Trigger, they are definitely better than the average game on the SNES, and are definitely one of the better offerings in graphics that have been on the SNES. The monsters are beautifully created, and the character models are quite well done. The backgrounds of towns, dungeons, and forests aren't all that good, but they are still very good. The battle animations, especially the dragons, are quite good. While there are some less than excellent magic animations, the overall visual feel is wonderful in this game.

   The game can be very hard, or very easy based on your preparations. If you come in 100% prepared then you will breeze through the game, and not experience much difficulty. However, if you come unprepared, you are going to get wailed on. This game is very good at punishing those who aren't prepared. Because the dungeons are long, and monster filled, being prepared with a balance of the items you need is essential in this game. If you enter unprepared, you are going to get yourself in a heap of trouble. The monsters will weaken you up just enough to let the boss eat you up. Fortunately, if you spend the time leveling up, which is tedious thanks to the battle system, you will end up just fine.

Your Best Friend.
Your Best Friend.  

   The sad part about Breath of Fire II is that almost everything in the game was bad, but with only minor tweaking could have been great. This is one of those games that seems impossible to be average. It can either be great, or awful, and strangely the line in a game such as this is not bridged by an average level, but by simple minor tweaks, and consistency. The makings of a great game were in Breath of Fire II, and the first time, I realized what I liked about this game, but after one more play through, the game's shortcomings really show through. Even worse for the game, I found it to be worse than its predecessor. Two years later, and worse in virtually every area is not a good sign for a game. Granted Breath of Fire II isn't a terrible game, but with so many batter games from the era, Breath of Fire II does not provide the needed to break the plane of average, and instead fills the SNES with one of the few mediocre RPGs I've played. If you can respect the game for its good parts, then it is among the ranks of the great SNES games, however, the bad parts are so tedious, it makes it hard to remember the good parts.

TheShroud13's Bottom Line: If you've played a lot of games, and are looking for an RPG to fill your time, the Breath of Fire II could be the one for you. If you can see through its flaws and inconsistency, you may enjoy this game a great deal. However, I would finish whatever Role-Playing Game you're working on now first.

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