Breath of Fire 3 - Review

Where a Dragon Should Never Go

By: Jade Falcon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 2
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 5
   Plot 4
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Extremely Hard
   Time to Complete

35-45 hrs.


Breath of Fire 3

   Despite having a small, yet faithful following, Capcom's Breath of Fire series has always ranked as one of the better series of RPGs available. As with most series, there are one or two games which are the black sheep of the family. In Breath of Fire's case, the third game possesses the dubious distinction of the noir lamb. Apparently the jump from Super Nintendo to PlayStation wasn't the best transition for some series.

   What stands out in Breath of Fire 3 in overall gameplay is the battle system. Two main points make the battle system the one of the least enjoyable of any game. Think about taking Final Fantasy 6's encounter rate and doubling it; that is the rate of encounters in many areas the game. Only the short battle transitions counteract the length of the battle, if only by a few seconds. The enemies when beginning an area are wickedly difficult, thus requiring large amounts of levelling up, which, by the way, takes way too long. In mazes, it is very difficult to see where you have been due to the high encounter rate. The other part that just makes no sense is that many of the more useful spells must be "Examined" from the enemies in sort of a fashion of blue magic, but the character must waste an entire turn for examining, plus the spell must be used on that person. This combination makes it extremely difficult to gain any magic from the enemies. The actual system is turn-based, non-ATB, a throwback to its SNES roots. Nothing new was used to freshen up the generic battle system. Another aspect of the game that was carried over from the SNES incarnations was the shortening of all the characters' and items' names which, as always, makes item identification very difficult.

Talk about a word limit...
Two to three-line dialogue boxes.  

   The other salient section of the game is its child-sounding sound effects. Whenever a spell is cast, its name is yelled in Japanese. Though it is great for those few who know Japanese in America, it makes no sense to most RPGamers. Capcom should have at least translated the battle shouts. The sound effects are nothing to write home about, and the music is even less spectacular. After just one day of finishing the game, I found that I had already forgotten the battle theme, though I generally have it memorized from almost every game I have ever played.

   Breath of Fire 3 introduced yet another dragon-forming system called gene splicing. Similar to the Shamans from Breath of Fire 2, the main character finds genes spread throughout the landscape which can be combined to make different dragon forms. Though almost essential to the winning of the game, I never actually used the dragons too much because they consume too much MP. The only useful gene, once found, is the Force gene, which makes an ultra-powerful Ryu at the expense of very little MP. Once this gene is found, the game becomes much easier. Otherwise, everything else in the game is basically ripped off other games. (A princess wanting to become normal, anyone?)

   The story is very vague throughout the entire game. As with Breath of Fire 2, Breath of Fire 3 involves a heavy religion-oriented story. The group is in search of their god, which ends up in catastrophe. However, most of the game is spent simply wandering around aimlessly, guided only by a few circumstantial events. Two of the characters, namely Ryu (or whatever you name the hero) and Nina, who have been present in every Breath of Fire game, make yet another return appearance, accompanied by yet another new crew of supporting characters. Yet again, unfortunately, our hero is mute, which takes away much of the story's potential.

Fishing, anyone?
The ever ubiquitous fishing game.  

   Though not always the in the best spelling, Capcom did do a decent job on the translation. There are many American clichés and other little bits and pieces of pop culture sprinkled in, but the restrictive text box makes some hard to understand. None of the statements' impact was lost in the translation.

For the entire game, the graphics presented were 2D character sprites on a 3D background. The backgrounds were quite pleasing to look at, but they were nothing spectacular. Where the graphics were much better was in the battles. Capcom did a good job using transparencies on the spell graphics. Too bad that that type of graphics wasn't used in the rest of the game. When zoomed in, the 2D sprites become quite pixellized. The field could be rotated when an L or R button is pressed, allowing many items to be hidden behind other objects, maximizing exploration potential. However, the constant rotation required can be a little disorienting at times, and especially in the more maze-like dungeons, some of the areas may need to be travelled more than once.

What the heck is that?
An interesting spell.  

   As already mentioned, the high encounter rate, coupled with the extremely clumsy examine command and ridiculous levelling curve required to make the way through the game, make Breath of Fire 3 one of the most difficult RPGs I have ever played. Even with the Force gene, many battles still take a while to complete, especially boss battles. Some dungeons can take some five or more hours to complete. This may not seem like very much, but when there are no save points to be found, five hours is a large, tedious task to undertake without perishing. Only the most patient RPGamers should even take a stab at this game.

   A good 35-45 hours are needed to complete this game. Most of this time will be spent in battles. There are not many secrets to uncover besides the genes for the hero's gene splicing and the always entertaining fishing mini-game. This with the high difficulty level makes the game scream, "Don't ever play me again!"

   For those RPGamers who have never played a Breath of Fire series game, 3 is not the best game for which to begin the series and make an overall judgment of the series. However, many RPGamers enjoy long battles which are in large supply, and Breath of Fire 3 appeals to those gamers. The series would be much better off without this version to stain its good name. However, a rent will help you discover if you are the type of RPGamer who will enjoy the game.

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