Breath of Fire II- Review  

The Goddess Strikes Back
by Lucky Melchior

20-40 Hours
+ Good battle system and gameplay.
+ Excellent score.
+ Good story.
- Horrific translation.
- Graphics are good, but could have been better.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   In 1995 Capcom released Breath of Fire II in North America. The game was a direct sequel to the original Breath of Fire. This game was different than the first game since Capcom released the game this time instead of Square and consequently handled the translation.

   At it's core the battle system and gameplay are the same as the original. It is a standard turn-based system. The choices for each character is attack, defend, magic and item. Also, again there is an auto-battle function. However, this time you can not switch characters from the back row and the front row during battle. In fact you can only have four characters with you at a time and the only way to switch them is at your home base or at dragon statues. An addition to the battle system is that each character has their own special skill, although many of these are not very effective. The main character can again transform into powerful dragons. Except this time instead of transforming into a dragon for the whole battle, the dragon spells drain all of your ability points for one massive attack. As for the gameplay, again each character has a different skill when they lead the party as well. The fishing and hunting gameplay returns, but is improved. Randomly after battles on the overworld there will appear a tuft of grass or a fish jumping on the coast, selecting either will bring you into a fishing or hunting mini-game. The hunting one is just a separate screen with a few animals that you can shoot at if you have a certain character in your party. The fishing game is the one you will spend the most time in as often there are dozens of fish in the water and they do not flee like the animals all eventually will. Moreover, you can find all sorts of secrets in the fishing game if you do it long enough. One final major gameplay addition is the town building mini-game. At some point in the game you will be able to pick an architect to build houses at your home base and you can find people all over the world to populate your town. Many of them are useless, but some will build stores which sell premium weapons and items. Overall the battle system and gameplay are good and improved over the first game.

Slightly improved battle system. Slightly improved battle system.

   The story in Breath of Fire II is greatly improved over it's predecessor. Unlike the previous game there is no cliche evil empire to fight. Instead the game starts in the past as you take control of Ryu as a young boy. You are in you hometown and your father, the local priest, asks you to look for your sister. You find her and she suggests you take a nap by the dragon who protected the village from an attack many years ago. When you awake no one in town remembers you, your father and sister are missing and there is a different priest in the temple, but he takes you in as an orphan. You meet a fellow orphan, Bow, and the two of you become fast friends. Fast forward to the present, Bow and you work as Rangers, which is essentially a cross between a private-eye and a mercenary. The two of you take on a few jobs, but then a few things happen and Bow is accused of a crime he didn't committ. You set out to prove Bow's innocence all along meeting other allies and getting the sense that something is wrong with the world. You will meet many interesting allies and most of the characters will have well developed personalities and back stories. While the game is a direct sequel to the first game it does not become apparent how it is connected to the continuity until much later in the game. The overall theme of the game has a lot of religious tones, which was rare for early RPGs. It takes sometime for the main conflict to develop and the main antagonist is veiled in mystery for most of the game, but the story is very good overall.

   Like its predecessor, Breath of Fire II has an excellent score. There are plenty of stirring melodies that play during emotional scenes. There is also some variety as there are several overworld themes that change as you progress through the game. A few mediocre town themes prevent the soundtrack from being outstanding. The graphics are also relatively well done. Sprites are much more detailed than in the previous game and the color scheme is very sharp. However, the visuals could have been better consdering how late in the lifespan of the SNES the game was released and the quality of some of its contemporaries such as Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG.

   The interaction suffers from what is one of the worst translations I have ever seen in a video game. There are times when it is almost impossible to interact with the game because of translation errors. Sometimes no means yes and vice versa or you may not be able to understand where to progress to next. It is a shame because much of the interaction and menu were well done. On the field you can use the shoulder buttons to switch which character is leading the party. This is useful because it was annoying in the original Breath of Fire to have to access the menu when you needed a different character to be leading the party in order to perform a specific task. As for the menu it is well laid out and easy to navigate. There is an auto sort for items this time as well as a manual sort. You can also change the formation of your party from the menu screen, there are four different formations. Another interesting addition to the menu screen is a encounter-rate monitor. There is a monster icon at the top of the menu. If the monster is sleeping there are no encounters in the area. If he is moving the speed at which he is moving tells you how high the encounter rate is. The faster he is moving the more often you will have random encounters in that area. The one drawback to the menu is the limited options and lack of customization that was present in the first title. While parts of the interaction and interface are exceptional, the poor translation and lack of customization makes it well below average overall.

Improved fishing game Improved fishing mini-game.

   Unlike it's predecessor, which had little replay value despite having two different endings, Breath of Fire II has decent replay value. First of all there is a hidden character that can easily be missed the first time through the game, moreover there are several small sidequests that can be embarked upon throughout the game, many which will allow you to learn secret spells. Moreover, you can recruit different townsfolk on any additional replays. There are also three different endings that can be achieved. Finally, the game is not that long taking roughly thirty hours to complete, which makes it less arduous to replay the game.

   Overall, Breath of Fire II was a step in the right direction for the Breath of Fire series. It continues to develop key staples to the Breath of Fire series such as Dragon transformations, the town building mini-game and the fishing mini-game, while avoiding a cliche storyline as was present in the first game. While it has its flaws, such as the abominable translation, it is a very good game overall. Those whom have never played the series may want to pick-up the GBA port for your GBA or Nintendo DS.

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