Review: Breath of Fire (SNES)

In this review, we check out the RPG game Breath of Fire. We find out how well this series starting game played.

This game was released in 1994 and would spark a video game series that continues to this day.

The series starts with the main hero, a member of the light dragon clan, seeing his village attacked by the dark dragon clan. The main hero can be named anything, but is generally given the name Ryu. In the midst of the attack, Sara, Ryu’s sister, decides to take on the dark dragon clan by herself while turning everyone else in town into stone. When the spell ultimately wears off, Ryu sets out on a quest to save Sara and fight the dark dragon clan.

Along the way, Ryu meets other warriors who share a similar goal. He first meets , and ultimately meets 6 other fellow warriors including Bo, Ox, and Karn. Each character has certain abilities that helps you along in your quest. Initially, Nina’s main contribution to your quest is to act as a healer while later on, she also doubles as air transport. Bo has the ability to walk through forest areas. Karn can disarm chests and detect dungeon traps. Mogu can dig into the ground. Also, later on in the game, characters can be transformed into new entities that are more powerful. Typically, this is through fusion spells, but Ryu can learn spells that transforms him into various powerful dragons. This aspect of the game is definitely a strength because character abilities stretch beyond the typical strengths in battle sequences. At the same time, it isn’t excessively complex.

Also aiding your quest are the standard weapons, armor, and items. Items include Antidote’s for curing poison, herbs and cures to recover HP, life to revive stunned characters (when their HP hits zero in battle), and acorns to recover magic (A). The weapons, as you would expect, gradually get more powerful as to work your way through the game. In fact, this is a major source for your offensive melee abilities as leveling up only plays a minor roll in overall damage you can deal out on enemies. Armor, also as you would expect, gradually increases in power as you work your way through the game. Some weapons and armor can be bought at stores, but a large portion of them are found in chests throughout the many dungeons you find along the way. In addition to this, you can equip 2 miscellaneous items. A lot of these items are rings that seemingly serve no particular purpose while others increase a small amount of certain attributes like offense and defensive capabilities. If there was any particularly powerful miscellaneous items to be had in the game, I really didn’t find them, so it’s nothing to get too excited over.

One feature in this game is the saving system. Typically, you visit a village dragon shrine to talk to the dragon lord. Speaking to the statue that turns into an apparition, you can tell the dragon lord about your journey. In one instance, the dragon lord can be found by speaking to a pot.

The battle sequences in this game are fairly par for the course in an RPG game. In dungeons or the overworld, you simply run into random encounters. Sometimes, though, you run into bosses that you typically speak to before entering a battle sequence. Boss battles are interesting because most of these bosses have these second wind abilities. If you drain all of the bosses HP, the boss will flash briefly and a dialogue will appear indicating that it’s basically a second wind. This is the only case where you can’t tell roughly how much hit points the enemy has by the gauge. Otherwise, you’ll get an idea percentage-wise how much you have to keep pounding away.

A lot of critics point out that the games plot was nothing special. I honestly can’t disagree with that assessment. At one point, an apparition of a kings dead wife appears to convince him to hand over a goddess key. She ends the conversation, awkwardly, with “peace” before flying away. That’s not to say the whole storyline is badly written. I would say it has it’s moments that are both decent enough and wince-worthy.

There is a sense of openness to the game, but this doesn’t really effectively appear until the last portions of the game. An open game can be well executed and poorly executed. I thought that this game could have used improvement on the latter portions of the game. When it came to, say, finding the ingredients, the only way I could actually find them before getting bored was using a guide. Another part that I likely wouldn’t have gotten through without a guide is finding the I.Claw towards the end of the game. On the one hand, it’s nice being able to do whatever you feel like doing, but on the other hand, you have to have some sort of sign-post to continually go to next can be quite nice as well. As a result of some of these moments, I had inadvertently been grinding so that Ryu got up to level 35 (which basically made battles trivial most of the time). Apparently, the Agni power is required to beat the game. Good luck finding that without the aid of a guide the first time around On the other hand, most of the first two thirds of the game was quite easy to follow through.

One element of this game I found puzzling was the seemingly limited character space for everything. Almost everything has a form of abbreviation. Characters are included in this where most names that might come to mind have too many characters. I found this limitation to be puzzling and made things confusing from time to time.

Graphically, this game has plenty of strengths, but a few weaknesses. One of the strengths is that day and night are nicely emulated. The times of the day are reflected in the overworld and in towns, as well as in battle sequences found outside. This, I found, was a real strength in this game. The switches that made walls disappear and turned characters around really added an element of challenge to the game. The occasional short animation sequences for things like the most powerful dragon spells or meeting certain characters worked well. They made their presence known and they went away so they didn’t take too much game time. Additionally, the numerous environments found in this game was impressive. The downside to the graphics in this game was that enemies were seemingly limited. I thought this game had a lot of promise at the beginning in this aspect, but eventually, I saw that many of these enemies ended up being simply retextures. Still, I thought the graphics were pretty good.

The audio was also pretty good. The music was decent enough with the music that you can hear in the first village as well as the music found in the later random encounters. Otherwise, the music was simply slightly above average even though there were a lot of tracks to be found in the game. The sound effects were nicely done.

Overall, this was a pretty solid RPG. It’s not the best RPG I’ve ever played, but it did provide some decent entertainment. In order to complete it, I would say you need about 1 to 3 months to play. The combining of different characters was an interesting and creative aspect of this game, but things like storyline and dialogue was pretty average. If you like RPG games, I would definitely recommend this game. If you’re looking for something different to play and haven’t played this game before, I would say it doesn’t hurt to give this one a whirl. A respectable game.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Ryu at level 35. Died once when hit with the shock spell after getting sucked into a time warp the first time. Beat the game.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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