Breath of Fire III - Reader Retroview  

Gem of the Series
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

30-60 Hours


Rating definitions 

   The Breath of Fire series, though still far from the best, has come a long way over the years and Breath of Fire III is the best it has to offer from the Playstation era. BoF3 offers classic gameplay with a few original ideas, such as the dragon gene system, and claims nothing more. It also features improved minigames such as the fairy village and fishing game. BoF3 once again follows a dragon boy named Ryu as he travels to discover more about himself and his race.

   BoF3's battle system makes several improvements over its predecessors. Most abilities no longer have fixed power which means they grow in power along with their users and they no longer pierce enemy defenses. It is possible to re-equip characters in battle to gain the upper hand as well. In addition to the standard attack, defend, special, and item commands, it is possible to observe enemies in battle in hopes of learning their abilities. Masters can also be found throughout the world to teach an even larger amount of abilities leading to a high degree of character customization. There are six formations to further improve the effectiveness of the party as well, each with its own unique effect. Attack power increase in one, power is sacrificed for defense in another, and a speed chain is formed in yet another, to name a few. Speed has a larger effect thanks to the Ex turn round which allows fast characters to go twice as many times as slow enemies, though it is still far from matching the ATB system from the Final Fantasy series. The dragon gene system has been improved substantially as well. The player is allowed to select and combine up to three genes to create custom dragons to fit their needs. There are thousands of combinations from Whelp to Behemoth each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Playing around with this system can be quite enjoyable for those that enjoy customization. This vast array of improvements creates an excellent battle system, but AP is a bit too scarce to allow these improvements to be used to a large degree in normal battles until late in the game.

I spent a lot of time doing this... I spent a lot of time doing this...

   There isn't very much difficulty in BoF3. The few puzzles it has are solved easily and battles are simple despite a high encounter rate. A small exception to easy battles are the few enemies that know spells such as death which have a very high chance of working on party members and cause some battles to become slightly unbalanced if the player is unlucky. As if to make up for this, characters will often have a hard time being KOed due to willpower which will leave them with a single HP instead. This is activated surprisingly often and makes it difficult for the entire party to be KOed.

   The menus of BoF3 are easy to travel through and well-organized. The battle interface is especially good due to shortcuts that allow the player to select their action with a simple double-click of the directional arrow. The battle skill menu splits up abilities into categories to prevent unnecessary search time and scrolling. Unfortunately, this is partially canceled out by the Localization. While there aren't a massive number of errors, they are still noticeable and some of them are placed in critical places. An example of this is the desert that appears late in the game and takes 1-2 hours to cross as it is without the translation error which tells the player to take both a left turn and a right turn by different NPCs. This can be very frustrating as if the player makes the incorrect choice they won't know it until they've wandered for about another hour of real time. Errors that are this large shouldn't be allowed to make it to the final version.

   BoF3 has classic gameplay based heavily off its predecessors, yet it still manages to be fairly original. This is partially due to the large number of improvements that have been made to the battle system such as formations and the custom dragon gene system. The ability to use weapons and such out of battle has been seen before, but BoF3 allows the player to rob people if they wish to for some reason. Another new feature is the clinic that allows characters to be inoculated against status effects or elements for small amounts of time. The master system and its effect on level-up stat growth and skill learning is new as well.

What RPG would be complete without killer robots? What RPG would be complete without killer robots?

   The storyline is broken up into several different parts. The first half flows smoothly for the most part and is relatively well done, but the second half seems disconnected somewhat. It is filled with several tasks which are often unrelated and appear to be sewn together loosely. The worst example of this is a very large desert where the player is forced to walk in a straight line for an hour or two with the occasional turn. Thankfully, the final stage features a good deal of story that helps make up for the rest of the second half. There is also plenty of character development to be found, even in the second half of the game. While it does have its problems, the story is still a bit above average overall.

   Even with tasks such as the desert to slow the player down, it is possible to complete the game in about thirty hours. Players that attempt to learn all of the enemy/master skills and enjoy the addictive fishing minigame or build a massive fairy village will likely take twice as long.

   Some of BoF3's soundtrack can get a little repetitive at times, but that is more than made up for by a number of excellent tracks. There are several dungeon tracks that prevent them from becoming too individually repetitive and multiple overworld tracks as well. The same can't be said for the normal battle theme, but there are plenty of excellent boss tracks to help make up for that. Sounds are well done as well, especially in battle. Spells are chanted in strange languages and each character has their own voice and battlecry.

   BoF3 retains classic sprite visuals with 3D environments. Each sprite is well animated, detailed, and can appear in a number of different angles. Ability effects, though not breathtaking, look good and don't waste a lot of time. The 3D backgrounds blend in well as the same style of artwork is used for background textures. There are plenty of enemy re-colors, but even the enemies are well-animated so this is easy forgivable. While the visuals aren't great, they're still a bit above average overall.

   Breath of Fire III features an excellent battle system, plenty of minigames such as fishing and the fairy village, a decent storyline, and classic gameplay. BoF3 ends up being superior to its predecessors despite its flaws. Though that may not be saying much, it is still worth checking out if you enjoyed other games in the Breath of Fire series or want to play as a dragon for once.

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