Review by Psycho Penguin
"Despite all the fame, it is still just a lame game. But it got better."
Breath of Fire was a game released by Squaresoft but produced by Capcom way back in 1992. I should have known something was up right off the bat. The official excuse I keep hearing is that Capcom was too weary of selling a RPG in America, so they licensed the king of all that is RPGing to publish the game. While this makes sense, I have also heard an interesting theory that said Capcom didn't think the game was all that great, and therefore let Square handle it in a last-ditch attempt to sell copies.
While an interesting theory, I tend not to believe it, despite the fact I absolutely loathed the original Breath of Fire on SNES. The music was awful, the battle system reeked, and everything just felt second-rate. Weapons were named stuff like KingSD, and it just didn't feel like a great RPG. So, when I heard Capcom was porting the game over to Game Boy Advance, I wasn't terribly thrilled with the prospect of playing the game over again.
Then I played the game. While it's not suddenly one of my favorite RPGs of all time, it showed lots of improvement. First, the whole game seems more polished. The battle system has improved ten fold, and everything just looks crisp and neater. Now, I can actually see what weapons will boost my stats, and I can tell all the weapons apart. It's still not the best RPG out there, and still has some annoying flaws, but it's at least a playable game, and somewhat enjoyable.
The story is one of the most underlooked and underappreciated aspects of Breath of Fire in my opinion. Many moons ago, a tribe of dragons roamed the earth freely. An evil goddess descended upon the earth and split these dragons into two separate tribes. The dragon tribes then proceeded to get into a devastating war that spanned centuries. A hero and seven people came along and defeated the Goddess, and peace was restored to the land.. until now. The white dragon tribe became humans, but the black dragon tribe has now returned and wants to do battle again.. first by destroying Ryu's hometown. Ryu goes on a mission to restore peace to the land... and discovering the truth about himself along the way. I really felt this storyline was terrific and very original. Too bad it barely develops throughout the game, and there's little character development, as well.
The thing I hated most about the original Breath of Fire was the battle system, which used this odd logo-based system that was poorly implemented. Capcom, much to my delight, decided to scrap this and go with the much more unoriginal yet much better basic battle setup. You see how much HP and AP you have your characters have in little boxes at the bottom of the screen, and when it's your turn to fight, you get a list of options (in words) to choose from. You get all the basic battle options here, so don't expect anything too original here.
Everything else just is a basic, normal role playing game. You level up by getting experience points, you gain money in battle to buy weapons, items, and armor, everything is the same. The major innovation Capcom brought to the table was the unique abilities each character brings to the table. One character can dig holes in the ground, one can fly high above, one can turn into dragons, each character has an unique ability both on the overworld map and on the battlefield. Hunting with Bo is fun, and digging holes with Karn is even better. Plus, each character's unique battle ability separates them and actually makes you feel like you have to use a certain party.
Sadly, despite these innovations, I just couldn't get into Breath of Fire much at all. I think it had all the potential to be a great game, but I just couldn't find myself compelled to move forward enough. I know a lot of people loved the game, and I can see why. It's the average RPG with a great storyline and good characters. plus the battle system has improved. But, I still think there are so many more fun RPGs out there, and I don't know exactly why. Maybe it's because there's no mini games in this one, but I hate mini games usually, so I have no idea. I know it's bad to put this in a review, but I just didn't have tons of fun with this game, and I can't really explain why.
It takes too long to level up, which is my main beef with the game. Like any other Breath of Fire game, enemies give you way too little experience and GP, and you and your characters will split the experience. While Capcom apparently made it easier to level up in this game (I could barely tell, as it still took me a long time), I was still disappointed majorly in this aspect. Plus, the lack of originality is a definite concern. The game isn't fun enough to be unoriginal, so it definitely gets some points taken off there.
The dungeons can prove to be long and tedious, too. Puzzles are few and far between, and the puzzles that were included were largely boring and/or tedious. Plus, the middle parts of the game can prove to be annoyingly stupid and boring due to the fact you have to travel to places several different times, and you're not often sure exactly where you have to go next. So, you're often stuck in one place of the game, trying to find where to go next because the game will give you little help and clues. Combine all this together, and you have a game that tries too hard to be boring at times.
Fortunately, the game sure does look a lot better on Game Boy Advance then it did on SNES. Sure, the actual in-game graphics are largely the same, with minor touch ups here and there. I felt the in-game graphics in the SNES version were fine, however. But, the main beef I had with the graphics before were the ugly ass menu designs from hell. So, Capcom obviously agreed with me, because Breath of Fire features awesome menu designs and an easy to use battle system. I am very impressed with the graphics in Breath of Fire now, and feel it can compete with GBA games released now, which is great considering this game came out in 1992 and looks largely the same now as it did then.
I disliked the music on the SNES version to a certain extent, but for some reason I find myself liking it more on the GBA, despite the fact it sounds the same for the most part. I know that sounds odd, and I still don't love the music, but at least it sounds better. The battle theme is still one of the most annoying battle themes of all time, though. It made leveling up even more of a chore. Fortunately, the boss themes and victory theme are pretty good. The rest of the music is a blend of melodic crap and decent dungeon themes, so it's pretty much a hung jury when it comes to the music.
I could never find myself getting too much into Breath of Fire. Maybe because of the simple fact that I am a battle freak and therefore a game with cheap enemy AI, bad battle music, and lack of experience points is not my type of game. It is just an average RPG. You can find much better games to play on the GBA, like Lunar Legend, Phantasy Star Collection, and the far superior sequel to Breath of Fire, and I love all of them much more than I like Breath of Fire, so therefore I don't find myself wanting to play this one too much. The lack of secrets doesn't help much, either. Breath of Fire simply has a lackluster replay value in my eyes, which is sad because it could have been great.
Those looking for a good challenge can do far worse, though. The battles are tough early and stay that way for a while. The bosses can prove to be annoying and challenging if you don't know how to handle them, and you won't want to level up a lot in this game, so that increases the challenge as well. The enemies can prove to be cheap from time to time, making you miss a lot and then beating you senseless. This is certainly no 7th Saga or Dragon Quarter, but it is still an above average challenge. Sadly, it can be challenging for the wrong reasons at times, and that makes it even more disappointing in my eyes.
So, there you have it. It has a lot of good points. It's a much stronger game than the SNES version was, with an improved battle system and the much smoother menus. But, it's still a barely above average game with annoying enemies, lack of level ups, and long and tedious dungeons. Capcom was new to the RPG genre when this game came out, and you can tell while playing this game. It's a fine RPG, but it's nothing special. Their crowning jewels always seem to come in odd numbered games of this series (2 and 4 are far better than 1 and 3, and I don't count DQ as being the official #5)
I'm glad this remake came out, though.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/23/03, Updated 06/23/03
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