Review: Breath of Fire III (Playstation)

In this review, we learn about the power of the genes in the Playstation game Breath of Fire III. We find out how well this RPG game plays.

This game was released in 1998. It is the third game in the main series.

We have some familiarity with this series already. Previously, we tried Breath of Fire for the SNES. That game got quite the solid score. Next up, we tried Breath of Fire II. That game also got a very solid score. So, we thought we’d try the third game in the series to see if it continues on this positive streak.

Once again, you play the main hero. By default, the name is Ryu, though you can change the name if you like. You start in your dragon form inside a giant boulder of chrysm. Some miners attach explosives to it and blow it up. When you emerge still alive, the miners are shocked and decide to try to kill you. After using your fire breath attack to burn them to a crisp, you make your escape from the mines. You eventually make it close to the surface only to be captured. The miners decide to carry you off on a train to who knows where.

While on the ride there, you manage to knock the cage over into Ceder Woods, a nearby forest. Rei, a thief, finds you in your human form and carries you back after some thinking. You eventually meet Teepo and find out that the whole area is in the middle of a famine. So, you do what you can to help scrounge around for food.

This game plays a lot like your standard late 80’s to early 90’s RPG game. As you wander around various areas, you can encounter random turn-based battles. Winning frequently nets you money (in this case, Zenny) as well as experience points (assuming the enemy doesn’t escape on you). As you build up experience points, you can gradually work towards levelling up the characters. A level up gives you various stat increases. On occasion, you can also gain a spell as well.

Battle sequences has an additional strategy you can take into consideration. By default, you have the standard triangle attack. This nets you no battle bonuses, so ideally, you’ll want to pick a different formation in the menu. You can go for a defensive position (which is what I wound up using for pretty much my entire play through) which cuts down on enemy attack power. At the same time, it will hamper your attack power as well. There’s also an attack strategy which boosts the attack capabilities of the character in the attack position. It’s really player’s preference in the end.

As you get deeper into the game, you’ll also have the chance to get more positions which can help you hone your strategies in the different fights.

Another capability all characters have is the ability to observe the enemy. While that sounds like a wasted turn in fight, characters have a chance of obtaining an enemy’s special move. Sometimes, it takes a few tries, but it’s possible for specific characters to learn those special moves. Influence is one such move. The trick is to observe the enemy as it performs that special move to get a chance to learn it. If it attacks normally, then you won’t learn that move at all.

In various towns, you’ll encounter a number of different shops. There is the item shop (often signified by a sack or bag). You can buy various items for later use such as a medical herb (restores a small amount of HP).

Another shop is the weapons shop. This can be signified by a sword, but sometimes, the game combines the item shop and the weapon shop. So, sometimes it’s just the sack sign you are looking for. These shops sell various weapons and armour. These shops are critical for beefing up your attack power and defence power.

One thing to note about the gear you can buy is that agility plays a pretty big role in your capabilities in this game. A lot of gear can greatly enhance your attack and defensive capabilities, but some will also reduce your agility. If you have a high agility, it is possible to get an extra turn in battle. If extra turns is something you are into, pick only the lightest gear (denoted by weight). Alternatively, if you want to build up your characters like tanks, you can just purchase the most expensive and heaviest equipment. That way, it’ll be easier to take punishment from enemies and you can deal out a great deal of pain in the process.

Additionally, agility also helps determine the order of your turns. If a character has a high agility, then that increases the chance of earning initiative (as far as the order is concerned that is). The lower the agility, the greater the chance that that character will end up taking their turn last. So, there is some strategy involved here that really boils down to, once again, player preference.

Going back to the various shops, a third shop is the inn. You can rest (for a price) and recover as well as save. Very standard stuff, but the important fact is that you can restore your max HP in these locations (more on that later).

A final location of note is the hospital. In these places, you can get an inoculation. These inoculations cost Zenny, but grant you temporary additional resistances. While I never used these places myself in my playthrough, it is worth noting that these shops exist for players who might be more interested in trying these out.

If a character falls in battle, that is generally quite bad. Still, if you win the battle anyway, then the fallen character will actually be given 1HP after. This allows players to simply use normal healing items to restore them. While that sounds like something that makes the game significantly easier, there is a pretty big penalty associated with this: your max HP drops. It usually is about 10%, but this can hurt your chances of future battles. If you recover a character before the battle is over (either with a spell or ammonia for instance), then that character won’t take the penalty. So, you may have to weight the pros and cons of reviving a character in a fight (and it’s not a slam dunk case for one way or the other in all instances either).

One interesting feature found in this game is the ability to camp. You can only camp in general overworld locations. Camping allows players to do a number of things. The immediate feature is the ability to talk to your characters and get hints as to what to do next. Another feature is the ability to rest and recover your HP and AP. Be warned, if you have an HP penalty, you won’t restore this. You can also save, manage skills and party formations among other things. Very useful, especially if you are cut off from inn locations.

A returning feature is the transformation capabilities. Some characters actually boast of an ability to transform. Initially, it is only Ryu via the Accession skill, but other characters will later have transformation capabilities as well.

The most in-depth transformation, however, belongs to Ryu. You’ll be given a menu of gene’s you’ve collected. A couple of genes will be automatically collected by defeating certain bosses. Most gene’s, however, are collected in different locations. What makes this system complex is the ability to mix and match gene’s. You can mix up to three gene’s to get some pretty interesting results. Be warned, however, that the more gene’s you mix together, the more AP you use to perform the accession.

The other big thing to remember with gene splicing is the fact that each turn will hit Ryu with an AP penalty. If you use one gene, your AP penalty per turn will be lower. However, your enhanced abilities will be more minimal. Alternatively, if you use all three gene spaces, you can obtain the most powerful dragon characteristics in the entire game. The big pitfall is the AP penalty per turn is much greater. If you run out of AP, then you’ll automatically be transformed back to your normal Ryu character.

Lastly, how powerful your accession capabilities depends a lot on Ryu’s main character statistics. If Ryu has a lot of HP, for instance, then the HP gauge will likely be greater when Ryu transforms. So, it’s not necessarily all about gaining as much AP as possible.

One thing that is new to the series is the masters. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter a number of different NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) that offer to take you under their guidance. This affects a number of aspects about your characters. When you level up normally, you get just the normal stat raises associated with that character. However, if you level up under a master, then that master will give characters either added bonuses or introduce penalties. What those boosts and penalties are depends on the master in question.

After a certain number of level ups, your master will give you a new skill. Sometimes, it’s just a special move. Other times, you can earn a new spell. Generally, you only earn about 3 or four skills before depleting what extras that master has. How many levels, what your skills are, or how many there are available under the master isn’t actually described in the game. Because of this, you’ll probably have to resort to looking up this information in a guide to get a better understanding. What’s more, what your stat bonuses and penalties aren’t always clear. Bunyan will tell you, but other masters may not be so forthcoming. Again, a guide is your friend at that point.

As you venture forth in the game, you’ll quickly realize that you can only have a maximum of three characters in your party. This may not sound like that big of a deal at first, but after a while, you’ll discover just how limiting this can be. The main limitation is that only characters in your party can level up. Additionally, 99% of the time, you have to have Ryu in your party. This only allows you to have two slots available.

Strategically, you might look at the strengths and weaknesses in your party and just advance what best suits your attack capabilities are. Unfortunately, throughout the game, you are forced to bring different characters along. If you didn’t level up one character because you found a more comfortable formation, it will likely bite you later on in the game. So, mixing things up as you go along is actually a very smart strategy in the long run.

There are also some mini-games you can encounter in the game. The first mini-game is fishing. If you have a rod and some bait, you can play this minigame. Just find a fishing spot on the world map and start fishing. Like actual fishing, you’ll have to use the right bait. Otherwise, the fish simply won’t bite and you’ll just be pulling the lure back to shore. When a fish dos bite, you have to balance how fast you pull the fish in and not letting the fish get away. You do have the risk of breaking your line if you pull the fish in too quickly.

Another mini-game found in the game is the fairy village building. This is only accessible a good portion into the game. You have three different types of activities the fairies can perform: hunting and gathering, clearing the land for crops, and building houses. You need to visit periodically to get an update on the situation. Each fairy you have in the village will have different strengths. So, place them into suitable roles and get that village built.

Another optional feature in the game is various fields. While you don’t actually encounter enemies on the world map, you can enter small battlefields. When you enter them, you’ll be placed on a large square of open wilderness. In this area, you’ll have random encounters. Additionally, you can find zenny and even the occasional bag of items. If you need to grind and are hoping for some additional bonuses, this might not be a bad place to visit.

Finally, most characters have a special move. Ryu, for instance, can swing his sword. This is useful for cutting down shrubs if you want to hunt down zenny. Rei can pick locks. Teepo can kick rocks. Momo can shoot weak walls and wooden barrels. Nina can activate crystals. Other characters have special characteristics. Not all of them can be activated with the action button, but most do have a special contribution to offer.

For me, when I got into this game, I was actually quite excited for this one. I enjoyed the first two Breath of Fire games. When I found out that this series actually continued on from the SNES, I knew I had to check the next games in the series out. A lot of feedback elsewhere said that 3 and 4 were both better than the SNES titles. So, my hopes and expectations were quite raised with this one.

After playing it, I found myself disappointed. What sticks out to me is that the writing is a bit all over the map and, at times, somewhat disconnected from the rest of what could have been a cohesive story throughout. Normally a small issue, but this wound up being the beginning of things to come.

Another problem I have with this game is that the difficulty curve is very jerky. There are points in the game where I found myself completely overlevelled after a small amount of grinding. Bosses were no sweat and things were humming along nicely. So, I would advance the storyline only to get hit with a ridiculously hard boss where my levels were only just barely sufficient to limp through to the end of the fight. So, figuring out if I was overlevelled, underlevelled, or doing just fine is almost impossible to figure out.

Additionally, this game suffers from too many ideas being thrown in. A lot of ideas clearly came from other games. You can almost hear one of the developers say, “Hey, I really liked picking up money by cutting down grass in Legend of Zelda, maybe we should incorporate it into the game somehow!”

Then, another developer chimes in, “Well, I played this game called Might and Magic III and they had NPC’s that taught you new things. How about adding something like that into the game!”

A third then points out, “well, we should probably stay true to our roots and include all the features in the previous games as well.”

So, which features do they stick with? All of them of course. The level of complexity in the end is bumped up significantly. The practical side effect of all of this? That once somewhat simple game ends up having a pretty large learning curve in the end. The concepts in the game just wind up being just a random loose collection of ideas with little cohesion. After a while, I just wound up filtering things down to what I needed to more critically focus on and largely ignore other features. So, it can be quite overwhelming after a while.

A final gripe I have with the game is the sloppy controls. I get that just changing a characters direction based on whether or not they encounter a wall might seem reasonable. Unfortunately, this gets in the way when trying to perform actions. The game is surprisingly finicky when trying to whack bushes for a few zenny.

Generally speaking, this game just ends up being a big disappointment in the end. Too many almost completely unrelated features wind up being overwhelming after a while. The jerky difficulty curve and somewhat steep learning curve is also annoying. Sloppy controls didn’t help matters any. With pretty mediocre writing thrown into the mix, I wound up just switching the game off after a while. This is because the game wound up feeling more like work than entertainment to me after a while. Seeing how strong the previous two games were in the series, discovering such a mediocre effort in the third game in the series is surprising to me.

Considering how many people seem to praise this games graphics, I was shocked by how bad they were. The thing is, you have to remember this game was released in 1998. Think about what other games have been released on the same year: Banjo Kazooie, F-Zero X, The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time, and Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA. Some might say that it’s unfair to compare Playstation to the N64. To some degree, I agree. The N64 is, after all, superior to the underpowered Playstation from a quality standpoint.

So, let’s narrow things down and only compare this to other Playstation games: Gran Turismo, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, and Spyro the Dragon. By every measure, all I see is a game with last gen graphics. So, comparing this game to the last gen SNES from years earlier, there are games like Super Mario RPG: Legend of the 7 Stars, Kirby’s Dream Course, and Super Mario World 2 – Yoshi’s Island. At that point, the game starts to hold its own. Other SNES games do have stronger points like how there’s better colour saturation, though the subtle 3D special effects does make up for some lost ground. Unfortunately, all this points to very outdated graphics in the end. The slight tilting of the camera is an interesting feature, but beyond that, it’s hard to really justify the graphics of this one. It’s a console generation too late.

Audio, meanwhile, is a big disappointment to me. Routinely, this game series music is a massive strong point. It has that cool rock music making appearances throughout that pushed the consoles capabilities. It also boasted of orchestral elements in the music. This game, however, has pretty much nothing that is really all that memorable in the end. The huge variety is enough to keep the game from slipping into the realm of repetitive and boring, but that’s about it. Sound effects and voice samples are OK, but nothing special. I found myself asking, “What happened to this game anyway?” when I heard the audio.

Overall, considering the fanfare and how good the other games in the series is, this game wound up being hugely disappointing to me. The touch and go writing, jerky difficulty curve, and large learning curves all made this game feel more like work than entertainment. The layers of complexity almost didn’t fit together at all and just gave the impression of this game being a random collection of ideas thrown in. Sloppy controls didn’t help matters, either. The graphics are badly outdated and the audio is just non that memorable. In the end, this game is one of those games to just skip over. A barely passable experience.


Furthest point in game: Defeated Gaist. Made it to level 27. Got bored of the game shortly after and quit.

General gameplay: 13/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 52%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Review: Breath of Fire III (Playstation)”

  1. Strongly disagree with this review. Breath of Fire III is one of my favorite JRPGs, and the story and gameplay to this day stay with me and kept me engaged. I’d elaborate, but that’ll mean spoiling the game to the uninitiated. I’m sorry you didn’t like it.

    1. It’s OK to disagree with me. I fully respect that. When you find yourself reviewing hundreds of games, unless you are giving positive reviews to everything just for the sake of not ruffling anyone’s feathers (as opposed to offering an honest review of what you thought), then you’re going to stumble on a game that people thought was great and you end up not liking. It’s not a question of “if”, but “when” in that regard.

      I had originally intended that the site would employ multiple writers including reviewers by now that can respectfully disagree with each other and even respectfully disagree with me and offer well thought out reasons for why their assessment with a game is different. That, sadly, didn’t happen, but maybe someday, that ideal would be realized and someone can go back to this game and offer a glowing review.

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