Old RPG Review #9: Breath Of Fire

NuMetalManiak Holy Moly! This isn't dead!

Finally, after what apparently was a long break of not doing this series, I come back to it. I just finished playing one RPG, it's not the one on the title of this review though. First, an itinerary of the RPGs that I have completed and will hopefully get to:

Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire 2
Breath of Fire 3
Tales of Phantasia
The Guardian Legend
Sword of Mana
Phantasy Star II
Golvellius: Valley of Doom
Secret of Evermore
Faria: A World of Mystery And Danger!
Majin Eiyuuden Wataru Gaiden

Promises (I have not played these yet):

Chrono Trigger
Secret of Mana
Lufia II: Curse of the Sinistrals

So, Breath of Fire. It was Capcom's first traditional RPG, and was released for the SNES. It was also ported to the GBA, and I played the GBA ROM. In fact, this was the first game I played on a ROM, and I picked it completely at random too. It plays, very much like any turn-based RPG system would, smack an enemy, they smack back, until one party is down, and experience and $$ are gained. It's absolutely nothing to write home about, but if you like turn-based stuff this really isn't too terrible.

And yes, there is magic, ailments, equipment, and stat gains. All characters and enemies seem to have very different types of magic (or not at all in some cases). Ailments aren't really too diverse thankfully. One interesting one is the zombie status which, in this game unlike the rest in the BoF series, is just a status reducer. I don't understand why there is a status ailment called Stun when it basically is the exact same thing as losing all your HP (a.k.a. dead). Plenty of healing items and spells too, and even some items that can be used against enemies in battle. Battles in this game are the random ones, where you take a few steps before a battle commences. Towns are dispersed well enough, and the only means of saving a game here is to go to a dragon statue, usually in a town. Very, very traditional stuff.

Overworld stuff and dungeons are again not much to note, as they are pretty standard. You can change your party's formation to have a certain member be in front; useful for field abilities. Sometimes after a battle, animals appear on the map and if you have Bo (or the Shin fusion) you can shoot arrows. Hard to hit them with though. There's an interesting thing regarding chests in this game, and that is some of them are booby-trapped. Don't laugh, these are a pain in the ass, especially in the crypt dungeon. The character known as Karn can help open these booby-trapped chests without penalty. Gameplay grade: B
Characters: We have eight playable characters in Breath of Fire, and a small number of characters playing as villains and other NPCs. In battle, you can have four characters at a time, but you can swap one out for another one if you desire. That's neat. Playable ones are listed below.
Ryu: The main character and one of two staples in the series. You can actually name him something other than Ryu by the way, but none of the other characters you can rename. A member of the Dragon clan, Ryu is capable of transforming into a dragon, which is of course, wicked cool. He has to get them of course, and that is not easy. Ryu has blue hair and is good as a fighter with a sword and even a boomerang. Above average in attack, and even better in a dragon transformation. He has a field ability of fishing, which becomes a recurring thing for later BoF games and is used for food and stuff. Now if only Ryu was a talkable character (he is mostly silent, MOSTLY). Grade: A
Nina: The other staple, the girl character, and the princess. WITH WINGS. I like that. Too bad that she obviously isn't an attack-type of character. I ended up using her for attack items when I did not need healing. She becomes the main healer of the party with all of her healing spells. In fact, she knows the status-cure spell right when you get her. No field ability at first, but when she's in a blue outfit, she is capable of flying anywhere. Great. Grade: B
Bo: A wolfman of sorts, he specializes in archery, and is a really good character when you get him. He has a slew of offensive magic which helps as well. I liked him quite a lot, but he sort of loses touch by the end of the game and is a bit inferior. His field abilities are hunting with his bow & arrow and walking through forests (required, I believe). He becomes more of a Karn fusion (read below) later on. Grade: B
Karn: He's a thief, so expect the usual thief stats, low attack, defense, etc. You'd probably hate having him at first. There's a catch, and it's an awesome one! He gains fusions spells, taught by certain NPCs. Like Ryu's dragon spells, you have to find them though. There's four available, and they have some sort of combination of Bo, Gobi, or Ox. They all give insane stat boosts to Karn, which helps a lot. Shin is great, lots of power and hunting ability. Debo sucks though because it can only be used in the underwater portion and you have already completed that by the time you get it. Doof is the heaviest possible combination, capable of pushing things even Ox can't. Puka is very weird-looking, but has the highest stat gain and a rather unique field ability. Karn's main field abilities involve opening doors with locks and disabling booby-trapped chests. Very useful. Give the thief the credit he deserves. Grade: A
Gobi: A Manillo (read, large fish who practically is a merchant) who attempts to bargain the heroes for money, later joining the cause. Not a good character in my book. His attack is sub-par at most, and his magic can only be used in the underwater portions. I left him as a Karn fusion tool for much of the game. He does have two field abilities. One, if underwater, he can become a giant fish and swim faster avoiding random encounters. Two, since he's a merchant like all in his species, you can set up a flea market of sorts in at least two towns and possibly find interesting items. Grade: C+
Ox: You save this guy from death and he joins you. Ox is a large, powerful character, capable of dishing out damage with a mighty hammer and also capable of busting walls and moving heavy objects. His major downfall is his horrible speed, but what can you expect from a really heavy hitter? Also comes with two healing spells (like Nina, Ox comes standard with the status-cure spell). An okay character, also being more of a Karn fusion. Grade: B-
Bleu: Also known as Deis, this girl is the other magic user, knowing all the offensive spells. Her attack sucks though, and she doesn't have a field ability. Still, I like her a lot. Offensive magic is capable of dealing the most dynamic of damaging outputs. Grade: B+
Mogu: The last character you get in your party is this mole dude. Like Gobi, he's not incredibly useful, but is pretty resourceful, as his ability involves digging through dirt patches for stuff. Overall, his stats are low, but his attack is okay. A last resort character. Grade: C

In addition, there are 2-3 soldiers who help Nina at one point in the game. They're basic attackers, so they are not special, but better in physical combat than Nina.

There are a few villains to watch out for. The big bad they talk about is some guy called Zog, and then there's some general called Jade, who apparently has four henchmen of different species. Also there's Sara, who is Ryu's sister apparently. My endgame party consisted of Bleu, Karn (in Puka fusion), Ryu, and Nina. Every character in the game is capable of speech, even Ryu, but there are only a select few instances where he actually speaks (this pissed me off). Overall grade: A-
Plot: I really did not follow the plot of the game when I started, but here's what I know. Again, prepare your spoilers.

Okay, so from what I can tell, the Dragon Clan is the most powerful in the land, but they are in some sort of civil war. It all resulted because of some discrepancy over being granted a wish by a Goddess (named Myria in a later game, and for some reason also goes by the name of Tyr in this one). There's the Dark Dragons (you can guess what they're up to) led by Zog. Then there's the Light Dragons, whose prior hero locked the Goddess away and scattered six elemental keys. The Light Dragons is where Ryu and his sister Sara are at.

When you start, Ryu (or whatever you named him) is awoken by the attack of Dark Dragons in his hometown of Drogen (this name changes in later games). The Light Dragons have given up their power, except for Sara, who seemed to be the only fighting chance, but she disappears in a confrontation with Jade.

Afterwards, Ryu sets out for the keys, before Zog can get to them first (and we all know that Zog is a villain who is bent on world domination). Ryu gets the first elemental key and then journeys to Winlan (this name also changes in later games). This is where the story sidetracks and you control Nina for a while. She wants to bring her father back after he had been poisoned, so she sets off on her own. It is there two soldiers accompany her. It gets really bad for that particular party when they reach the remedy for the poison (culminating in the only forced loss in the game) and Ryu, accompanied by another winged soldier, to help save her and get the remedy. Ryu does exactly that.

So after that is done Nina officially joins Ryu's quest. In a later town, they seek to remove an impostor figurehead and around that time they meet the wolfman Bo who also joins the quest for the keys. After getting another key the party goes onward, but just before the next big city, Ryu is tested at a dragon shrine and gets his first set of dragon powers. At the next big town, they discover the Dark Dragons took the Light Key, in response they get the Dark Key (around this time Karn's in the party). Things get nasty and ships are sunk. Gobi offers to help them, but he ventures off alone in order to get the party to breathe underwater (this part could be very tough if you don't have Mrbl3's in your inventory). He comes through and joins, and then later you save Ox from a grim reaper and he also joins. The relentless Dark Dragons try terrorist tactics to stop the heroes, but obviously they foil the plans, tagging Bleu to help them while at it. They fight off one of Jade's four henchmen, then free Mogu from some sort of dream world to get him to join. The party restores peace to a town haunted by dreams, and another town that stands still, by fighting off two more of Jade's four. The time segment had a negative impact and Nina gets sucked in. They find her later, under amnesia and in a blue garb, and then restore her.

The party then reaches the Dark Dragon capital and kills Zog. However, Sara has been brainwashed by Jade, and they take the keys. Jade then releases the Goddess while Sara fights the party, which results in her death. The final objective for the party is to kill Jade (and the last of his four, by the way) and then here's where it gets interesting.

The overall plot isn't really all that notable. You have your hero journeying, his companions backing him up, several attacks from the enemies, gathering keys, killing a big bad guy, losing keys to another bad guy, a tragic loss, and then you kill that other bad guy only to confront the biggest bad of all. Yes, the Goddess is the final boss, but in the Breath of Fire series, there are multiple endings. In this game it's two. If you have the Agni Dragon spell (which actually fuses all of your party members into one almighty dragon), use it to get the good ending, but then you reveal Myria's true form which ends up being the hardest boss in the game. Otherwise, battling Myria in that form will give the bad ending.

Plot Grade: B+, mainly for the multiple endings.
Music: It's pretty fantasy style, which is quite traditional. One thing I liked is that the overworld and main battle theme changed as you go on. There's about three or so overworld themes and two battle themes. I like that a lot. Rest of the music works just fine, and some towns have unique themes. Grade: B
Overall grade: B+
I enjoyed Breath of Fire, even if it wasn't anything overly spectacular. There were quite a few interesting tidbits when it came to gameplay, plot, and what not. That kept my attention, and the overall gameplay for me was quite reasonable. I read about the game, and I found the biggest criticism about it (and BoF2, by the way) was the poor translation. I didn't think it was too much as a problem, as gameplay is an important aspect in a game, right? I guess play it for yourself to see if it's worth it.