Old RPG Review #13: Breath of Fire III

NuMetalManiak And we continue the Breath of Fire series! So far, I've played the first three games, and enjoyed each one quite differently. Oh yeah, this is the first Breath of Fire game played on the Playstation, and I found it to be the best game out of the first three.

Gameplay: A lot of the stuff in Breath of Fire III is brand spanking new, but there are some things that older games have used. The movement is 3d instead of 2d, but retains 2d sprites as well as the turn-based combat. Now you can only have 3 members in battle instead of 4, and again, Ryu is always gonna be in the party. Battle mechanics are pretty standard, with at least two twists. You can see how much experience you need after a battle is over, which is new, but if you have a certain character under a master after that character levels up, the stat gains can be very different. Another new thing is the Examine option, where you tell a character to watch an enemy closely. If that enemy uses a learnable skill, the character that examines it gains that skill! This can be pretty useful. A lot of different skills are in this game, from completely useless ones to very strong attack skills. In earlier games, your enemies could miss you by failing an attack or your characters dodging it. That now can apply to your characters as well. Taking a page out of Final Fantasy, there's a chance that you or the opponents could have the initiative. If a character dies in battle, they will suffer a new condition after the battle in which their max HP is less than what it's supposed to be. This can be remedied by resting.

Two of the more newer things here are the dragon system and master system. I was very pleased with how BoFIII handled it's dragon system as opposed to BoFII. You find certain dragon genes in places, then when you want Ryu to become a dragon in battle, you choose Ascension and then pick up to three different Dragon genes. Different combinations make different dragon forms, and I just loved the variety. Now the master system is also varied. Like the dragon genes, masters are in many places, and sometimes you have to fulfill certain requirements before getting a master. You talk to one of these masters and put one of your characters under that master. As a result, that character gets different stat gains upon level up like I said earlier. Also, certain skills can be taught to your character after a set number of levels have been obtained with the character.

While Breath of Fire III uses the same random battle mechanic of its predecessors, you don't see that when you're on the world map. But you can still battle enemies on the overworld by roaming until Ryu has a ! sign above him, so you can enter a random field there. With a lot of strategy, many of the battles in this game can be won easily (hint, use healing spells on undead enemies to damage them). I'd recommend the random battles in this game, as leveling up and getting the right skills can make certain bosses a total breeze to beat. By the end of the game, I was pushing level 48. And there is a New Game Plus if you beat the game by the way.

Man there sure is a lot of new gameplay stuff. No dragon statues are available for saving the game anymore, but you can save in two types of places. One is at an inn. Another is by camping, which you do on the overworld. The scene shifts to nightfall and your characters are either outside or in a tent. You can talk to them, as well as examine the journal to save games. This is also the place where you can exchange skills between your characters (using a rare item known as Skill Ink). Breath of Fire III no longer has hunting, but it has changed the fishing mini-game into something a bit more friendly. If you know what to do then it's not difficult. Speaking of mini-games, most of the ones you have to do in the plot of the game are actually quite annoying, and prevent BoFIII from being a truly perfect game. That as well as some devious puzzles in some of the dungeons can really stress out a new RPG player. Some of these puzzles require field abilities by your characters (e.g. Garr pushes stuff, Momo shooting things with her gun, etc.) There's also a faerie village you can set up in the game, but I've never used it. If your stuck playing this game, I recommend consulting DavidK519's Walkthrough on GameFAQs, which covers pretty much EVERYTHING. Gameplay grade: A

Characters: Guess, what, the playable characters have voices!
Ryu: There's always a blue-haired Ryu in the BoF series. He is a member of the Brood (which is apparently the new name for the Dragon Clan now) with the ability to transform into powerful dragon forms in battle. Other than that, this Ryu is pretty good as a regular attacker, and doubles as a healer in this game as well! This game has both a child and an adult Ryu, and you'll actually stick with the child Ryu for quite some time before he becomes an adult. Grade: A+
Teepo: Teepo is another child just like Ryu, taken into the orphan care of Rei. At the beginning of the game he has no memory of his past, and after a certain event is no longer in your party. While he's there he's an okay attacker with some good offensive magic spells. Grade: B-
Rei: Not related to Ray from the second game, Rei caretakes both Ryu and Teepo and trains them as thieves. And that's essentially what Rei is. He's the best attacker at the beginning of the game, but his speed is the best asset later on. He also has one special battle ability after Ryu is an adult called Weretiger where he becomes a powerful beast. Grade: A
Nina: There's always a Nina as well. This one is also one of the characters that is both a child and an adult in the game. Like the Nina from BoF2, she's an offensive magician, and learns the best offensive magic, while her HP and physical power are naturally weak. I use her a lot, but she ends up being used to get skills more than anything. Grade: B+
Momo: She's got a knack for machinery, and her weapon of choice is a giant bazooka. Big drawback to that though, and that's absolutely horrid accuracy. Besides that, she has a couple of offensive magic spells, and some actually decent support and healing magic. Quite useful. Grade: B+
Peco: Some onion thing that is really weak when you get him. With the right type of training he is sort of a wildcard character. Overall, his HP and defense are good, while he's lacking everywhere else. A weird character. Many players use him to get certain skills from masters, dubbing the term "skill slave" for Peco. I used Nina as one more though, just saying. Grade: C+
Garr: A Guardian who is the largest and overall strongest character on the team. He's a hefty character, dishing out the pain and taking it, although his speed is slow to compensate. Plus, he has a natural immunity to fire, as well as a few good fire spells (but with low AP). Garr's actually my favorite character in the game, even though I don't use him too much, I like him because of how he changes through the course of the plot. Grade: B

Other characters are around as well, mostly NPCs. I found Deis (originally Bleu) is now a master in this game instead of a playable character. Most of the other NPCs in the game don't have anything memorable namewise. However, the last boss of the game is named Myria, and it seems that this is the same final boss as the one from the first Breath of Fire!

Plot: The game starts in a mine, where something goes out of control and you control a small dragon nymph for a short period of time. Eventually, it gets captured and set on a train, but breaks free soon after. The dragon then transforms into a naked boy (Ryu) who is found by Rei and is taken to Rei's home. Teepo is also here, and the thieves start, well, being thieves to the nearby town. They get caught by some big guy, and then journey to a mountain where they kill a monster, earning the favor of the town because now the townsfolk can get food. A shady guy confronts them and tells them the town mayor is corrupt, so the three stage a sneak-in. Ryu and Teepo confront several ghosts of the McNeil family before taking the money from the mayor. However, he really is a con-man because they find Rei's house burned and two horse-men Balio and Sunder attack and defeat them (this is an unwinnable battle).

Ryu wakes alone and then journeys to find his friends, only to confront the horse-men duo and actually get stabbed in the back with a sword. He transforms into a nymph again and the horse-men take him to Wyndia (once again with the name changes, even if it's just one letter). By then Ryu's back to being a kid and everyone is locked up. Nina comes and frees everyone but Balio and Sunder con her and you fight them again (hopelessly, but this battle is one you don't have to lose either). The kids lose them and try to run, but are caught again and taking to the Arena town Genmel. Once again, these kids run away, and later meet Momo in her tower. Still with enemies on their tail, they all escape and run to the Plant where some sort of greenhouse thing with machines working is going on. You enter a landfill, defeat a mutant, and Peco appears, where he becomes a party member. Trying to get back to Wyndia means trouble again as one of the horsemen finds you and transports you back to Genmel. Nina trys to bargain and wants the party to enter the contest, and you go to three different arenas. In the last one, Ryu fights the champion, Garr, alone. This is another hopeless boss fight where you're forced to lose, but after it's over, Garr sets you free, and since he's better than Balio and Sunder, he gets what he wants. The horse-men are still opposed to the idea, so Ryu, Garr, and whoever is your third member finally finish off the horse-duo.

Garr wants Ryu to learn more about the Brood, but first they send Nina back home. She comes back, after Momo's little robot assistant Honey goes missing, as Nina finds Honey in Wyndia. The party reaches Rhapala, where they plan on taking a boat to Angel Tower. This culminates in having to train a wimpy librarian against a strong man and then entering a lighthouse soonafter. You then save a few faeries from a dolphin, and then cross a volcano to reach the Urkan region where Angel Tower lies. At the top of the tower, Garr betrays Ryu and attempts to kill him, but here, Ryu defeats Garr.

And then it fast-forwards ten years, back to where it started. Garr is at the same mine where Ryu was in his dragon form as a child. He confronts a dragon which turns out to be an adult Ryu, but this time, he will join you again, this time, wanting answers as to why the Guardian race was hunting the Brood. On the way back to the tower (yes they are going all the way back there), they confront the Weretiger. Back at the spot where Rei's home was, Ryu finds Rei is alive, and he runs off. Ryu and Garr then find Nina arresting the mayor of McNeil village, and she rejoins the party. At the black market town, Rei confronts Mikba, but is defeated, and you defeat Mikba and Rei rejoins the party. Nina suggests to check out the Plant in order to solve troubles there, and they reunite with Momo and Peco. They go down into the underground lab and confront Momo's friend Palet, who plays the mad scientist role and you have to fight him. The party reaches Wyndia, and Nina journeys with Rei to get new passports for reaching the eastern lands. Although they get the passports, the authorities are on to them and they flee.

So they all reach Angel Tower again, and Garr explains somethings, and find out that Deis/Bleu is imprisoned there. To free her, the party goes to Cliff to find the Guardian Gaist. Gaist challenges Ryu, and when defeated, he dies, and with that they free Deis. She gives Ryu something for his eye (?) and now they need a boat to cross to find God (this is what Garr's talking about). Although you get the boat necessary, you need a bigger one, and have to do a mandatory side quest (WHY?) just to get that. The party invades the Black Ship (that's what it's called) and you cross the sea to the new land.

Eventually, the party reaches the Brood town, Dragnier (first Drogen, then Dologany, now Dragnier. These guys can't make up their minds). There is a lot of storyline in this area. You are accompanied by some guy called Horace, and have to cross the Desert of Death. The ruins of a lost city exist on the other side, and the party reaches Myria Station. As they fight their way through, they meet an adult Teepo, whom has sided with Myria. Keeping with the tradition, you fight Teepo in a tragic fight, and like Sara in the first game and Ray in the second, he ends up dying, and his wish is to see his family.

When that is done, the party reaches Myria at last, and she presents Ryu with a choice. Like in previous games, this culminates in multiple endings. If you choose not to fight her then you get the bad ending, as always, and if you do choose to fight, one of your party members, Peco, can actually talk now (being channeled by the tree spirit Yggdrasil) and tells Myria that the children should make their own paths through life. She is then the final boss of the game, and after winning, your group has to leave Myria Station before it is destroyed. Garr stays behind, turning to stone, while everyone else flees. Deis is revealed as Myria's sister and she joins her in the fall of the station. The good ending, well, it's not too great, but Ryu and friends are pretty much free at that point, as they head for home.

And you get a new game plus. I quite enjoyed this plot for knowledge. Grade: A

Music: The music in BoFIII is much different than other games. There's a more jazzy feel to the music than other ones, at least in the calmer music tracks. I love the forest theme song here, as well as the Steel Beach theme. Grade: B

Overall Grade: A

So far, BoFIII is the best game in the Breath of Fire series, with it's very customizable skill set, masters, and dragon genes taking up the fore of the new stuff. The plot's decent, not harrowingly sad unlike the second game, and there's a bit more character interaction as well. With the proper strategy and level ups, many of the random battles in the game can be won with ease. If you have to play one BoF game, make it this one. I'm not saying that the previous games are weak though, as they do have some excitement in them as well. But BoFIII so far is the best game. Wait till I play the rest.