Breath of Fire III - Reader Re-Retroview  

I Am Legend
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

35-45 Hours
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   In a chrysm mine in a far corner of the world, powerful minerals are being harvested from the remains of dragons known as the Brood. When a large deposit is cracked open by dynamite, a baby dragon breaks loose and escapes the mine, eventually transforming into a young boy taken in by a thief named Rei, who has him help with his thieving operations. However, the boy will ultimately embark on a long journey to discover who he is and what exactly became of the Brood. Capcom's Breath of Fire III marked the franchise's debut on the Sony Playstation, proving to be a lengthy, if also long-winded, adventure.

   Battles, as in previous installments, are randomly encountered, with fights taking place directly on the fields in which the player's party encounters them. As was happening with party sizes of most RPG franchises in the game's time (likely because of technical restrictions), the player's battle party is down to three characters, with the player, outside battle, putting these characters in a number of different formations with different effects such as increased attack power for the front character. In an interesting twist, the size of the enemy party encountered typically depends upon the size of the area in which the player encounters them, and mercifully, encounters never occur at unusual points such as conveyor belts and ladders.

   As with most other turn-based battle systems, the player inputs commands for his or her party, letting them and the enemy beat each other up in a round. Although there typically isn't any telling when enemies will execute their turns, which can throw off things like healing characters low on HP, in another interesting twist, the order in which each character's command menu appears is always the order in which they'll take their turns, regardless of when the enemies take theirs. Characters have the typical commands of attacking normally, using skills that consume AP, using items, or escaping.

Ho, ho, ho, green dragon In ancient times, dragons had game logos tattooed on them

   There are, however, many other interesting twists to what at first seems like typical turn-based combat. Rarely, if a character's agility stat is high enough, that character will gain an "EX turn," allowing him or her to execute a command without the interruption of enemy attacks. Moreover, the player may occasionally encounter Masters across the world, who can apprentice the player's characters, both affecting stat increases upon leveling and allowing them to learn extra skills upon advancing a certain number of levels. Characters can also occasionally obtain skills from enemies by having them "Examine" certain enemies in battle, sometimes learning skills the enemies execute. At camps, the player can exchange skills learned from Masters and enemies among characters using Skill Ink.

   As with previous Breath of Fire titles, moreover, the blue-haired protagonist gains dragon powers, which in the third installment come in the form of Dragon Genes found throughout the world, three of which he can combine in battle to morph into different types of dragons. While in dragon form, the protagonist is naturally more powerful than in his human form, and then has a new arsenal of skills at his disposal. Remaining in dragon form, however, gradually drains his AP, so liberal use of these powers usually isn't a good idea.

   Given the typical low scale of battles throughout the game, they normally don't take a long time to complete, as long as the player uses the party's skills effectively, with some normal fights sometimes having some semblance of strategy, as well. Granted, there are some shortcomings in the battle system, such as the fact that the third installment, unlike its predecessors, now just dumps players back to the title screen when their party dies, and that going around the world to check with Masters to see if characters learn new skills after leveling can be somewhat annoying. Still, combat is by no means a deterrent from the game, and has plenty of positive aspects.

   The interface is clean in many respects, with easy menus and shopping, as well as far more generous inventory space than in the game's predecessors. The overworld also poses few problems, aside from the mentioned trouble of revisiting Masters, with monster encounters there mercifully being optional. There is some issue with save points, however, which are largely nonexistent in dungeons. There are, moreover, some decent mini-games such as fishing and the fairy village. Generally, interaction doesn't leave a terrible amount of room for improvement, although there are certainly some rough spots.

Buy my book! Buy my book! The Master system at work

   Breath of Fire III isn't a terribly inventive game, either, although it certainly has plenty of things going for it creatively, such as the Master system and various tweaks to its battle system. The long-winded story of self-discovery, however, very much doesn't help the game's creativity, and is easily the third installment's low point. The first half of the game, for instance, seems utterly unnecessary towards the title's narrative, with the general pacing of the plot through the game's forty-hour course being sluggish, as well, alongside largely weak character development. Overall, the story hurts the game more than helps.

   The music isn't of great asset to the game, either. The third installment's music mostly consists of techno and jazzy pieces, such as the overworld themes, which sound like something someone would hear on a PBS radio station. The soundtrack isn't bad, although the soundtrack at many times really doesn't fit the fantasy setting of the game (though it certainly does have a technological aspect, especially later in the game). Battles have voice clips, as well, left in Japanese for the English release, which are okay, even if incoherent. All in all, the aurals don't detract from the game yet certainly aren't a repellent, either.

   The same goes for the graphics, as well. Scenery makes the leap to three dimensions, although character and monster sprites still remain two-dimensional, with a decent anime style, even if they sometimes appear pixelated, depending upon how close they are to the camera. The scenery itself often appears pixelated, but still decently-colored, and in the end, the visuals could have been better, yet could certainly have been worse, as well.

   Finally, the game's quest is fairly lengthy, taking somewhere from thirty-five to forty-five hours to complete. Overall, Breath of Fire III is at best an average game, with decent gameplay but average presentation and a story that takes forever to unfold while largely heading nowhere. Regardless of its shortcomings, it has proven to be the best-selling installment of the franchise, earning a port many years later to the Playstation Portable, as well. The game certainly isn't as bad as some have claimed, although it could've been better, and whether or not it's worthy of experiencing is very much up to the player.

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