Breath of Fire II - Reader Re-Retroview  

The Destined Child
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

20-30 Hours
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   A boy from Gate Village has a vision of a horrifying demon, with his family disappearing and all memory of them being erased after an inexplicable event. He befriends a fellow orphan named Bow, with the both of them traveling across the world and joining a hunter's guild that ultimately leads them into several events involving towns haunted by demons and the church of St. Eva. Capcom's Breath of Fire II originally saw its release on the Super NES yet would receive a port years later to the Gameboy Advance. Despite a few flaws, the sequel proves to be both a decent sequel and port.

   Like its predecessor, Breath of Fire II features randomly-encountered turn-based battles. In the game menus, a dancing sproutling indicates whether the current area has monsters, with the speed of its movement indicating how powerful the monsters are. The speed of the sproutling also seems to influence the encounter rate, which, when it's dancing fastest, can be fairly high, although an item can reduce encounters, for those who don't like to fight.

   Combat in many ways resembles that in the first Breath of Fire, albeit with some significant changes. First is the introduction of party formations (with up to four characters active in combat), with various effects on each character's attacking and defensive power; characters closer to the enemy will have better attacking power but take more damage, while characters farther from the enemy will have lower attacking power but better defense.

   In addition to attacking normally, using magic, using items, and defending, moreover, each character has an innate ability, such as the protagonist's Guts, which recovers some of his HP, although it has greater effect when used sparsely. As with before, moreover, the protagonist can obtain dragon powers; rather than transforming him into a dragon, however, these powers hit one or more enemies with a blast and consume all his AP, with the amount of AP used determining the attack's power. Furthermore, as with other turn-based RPGs, the player inputs all party commands and lets them and the enemy beat each other up in a round.

Satan's second choice is root beer! "Get Satan a cherry pop!"

   An interesting twist on the battle system are shamans, with the player able to find up to six throughout the world and fuse a maximum of two to each character (except the hero and secret character), although certain combinations of shamans can fail. However, successful fusions can have various effects, such as increasing a character's stats or changing their appearance completely, in which case stat increases are greater, and they sometimes have a different innate ability in battle, some of which are actually far more useful than their normal innate skills.

   Battles normally don't last forever as long as the player makes use of abilities such as magic, and items that restore AP (although at the expense of some HP) can be handy for long dungeon treks if necessary. The high encounter rate will certainly bother some, although as mentioned before, an item the player can purchase in stores can reduce random encounters. There are certainly some problems with the battle system, such as the absence of in-battle character-swapping present in the first game. Fortunately, the game, like its predecessor, is nice to players when they die, taking them back to the last save point with no penalty. All in all, the battle system has many things going for it despite its flaws and doesn't detract too greatly from the game.

   The interface has many things both going for and against it, with the menus being easily navigable, although as in the first installment, the names of many menu options and items are compressed, with the descriptions of the latter in some instances being a bit ambiguous. One improvement in the Gameboy Advance port, however, is the addition of a dash feature, which significantly speeds up the game. Shopping for new equipment is also fairly easy since the player can while doing so trade in currently equipped gear for more powerful gear. Granted, the game does restrict inventory space (despite many stackable items), and the player can only change party members at save points this time around, but interaction doesn't severely hamper the game.

   Breath of Fire II retains enough features from its predecessor to feel like a logical continuation of the franchise such as a blue-haired protagonist, winged princess, and the general setup of battle, but also has some new features such as the shaman system and by extent the idea behind the storyline to make it feel fresh.

I'm melting! Candlewax wings

   The story of Breath of Fire II was in many respects revolutionary in its time given its religious themes, although an abysmal translation, bequeathed from the Super NES version, mars this plot, with endless punctuation errors, most character names not being longer than four letters, some dialogue not making sense and/or being poorly written, a choice of yes meaning no and vice versa at one point, and so forth. Actual character development and backstory, however, are actually decent, although the translation could have certainly been improved in the Gameboy Advance port.

   Fortunately remaining intact from the Super NES version, however, is the soundtrack, which is one of the sequel's high points, with its quality not suffering as much as that in the first Breath of Fire, although it is still noticeable at times. Nonetheless, most tracks are solid and even change sometimes throughout the game, in the case of the battle and overworld themes. The sound effects are sufficient, as well, and overall, the game is reasonably pleasant to the ears.

   The sequel is easy on the eyes, as well, with decent character sprites, scenery, colors, and so forth. The Gameboy Advance port also adds some rare anime stills during a few story scenes. The battle visuals, however, shine the most, with both the player's characters and enemies being animate and well-designed. There are some occasional rough spots and a few palette-swapped enemies, but otherwise, the graphics are well above average.

   Finally, the sequel is about as long as its predecessor, taking somewhere from twenty to thirty hours to complete. All in all, Breath of Fire II is a fairly enjoyable, sometimes challenging, sequel, with solid combat, music, and graphics. While the Gameboy Advance port of the sequel is better than the port of the first installment, moreover, it unfortunately still suffers from the same lousy translation as the original. Nonetheless, the Gameboy Advance version, given its minor improvements, is an ideal way to experience the second Breath of Fire.

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