Review by Psycho Penguin
"If you learn from mistakes, Capcom must be slow learners."
Sometimes, a game just shouldn't be made. An idea is executed sloppily, and the developers know it. However, they also know that the game could probably sell millions of copies no matter what kind of crap is thrown into it, so they end up taking a chance and releasing the shoddy production anyways. Capcom is the king of doing this, and their most disastrous example of this low-ball marketing plot is Breath of Fire 3.
One step forward, 27 steps backwards...
The phenomenon known as the Breath of Fire series has dated back to the early 90's and has failed to produce a single decent game. That's right, you would think after four tries, Capcom would figure out what it takes to create an enjoyable role playing game. But they haven't. As a matter of fact, Breath of Fire 3 series marks a definite turn of quality for the series. Yes, a series that never produced a game worthy of an above-average score has a black sheep.
Is the most popular game in the series really the worst?
And this black sheep is considerably worse than everyone would have you think. Some games do a great job of masking their flaws by providing quality entertainment in key areas. Breath of Fire 3 does the opposite, instead highlighting its numerous flaws. From the glorified massacre known as the battle system, to the lackadasical music, rarely will you find something to write home about. It's a mass of unfulfilled dreams thrown into one glorified nightmare.
Contemplating suicide as i waded through boring scene after boring scene, I sat in amazement as I wondered how a storyline could possibly be so damn boring. The characters are as dry as a grain of sand in the Sahara Desert. Ryu, the lead character, refuses to say a word throughout the game, instead leaving the player to figure out his emotions through multiple symbols floating over his head. An exclamation point over his head is supposed to signal his amazement of a situation, but words would have properly conveyed these feelings.
Accompanying Ryu in his riveting quest is the daring Princess Nina, who hits her zenith when she escapes from the castle. You think Capcom would have built on this ''daring'' character, but that would have been smart. Instead, she spends the rest of the game trapped in a half-character of boring and meaningless dialogue that never goes anywhere. Perhaps the most interesting character is Garr, who actually develops into something and has a purpose! Rei and Teepo, Ryu's childhood friends, also play prominent roles in the conclusion of the quest, but the ultimate ending desired never happened.
Perhaps the most glaring flaw of the storyline is the fact that the ''thrown in character' of the group is actually the most loveable. Peco is never really featured in the storyline, but you automatically care about him. You don't care about what happens to the other five characters, you care but the one that is rarely talked about. Momo is certainly no slouch in the character development department, as she's one of only three characters that actually has a purpose, but she does not fit into the central storyline.
The actual story only revolves around Ryu, Garr, and Rei to a certain extent later on in the game. Ryu is a member of the Brood, who were involved in a brutal war with the Guardians many years ago. Garr turns out to be a member of the Guardians, which lead to some intense situations in the middle of the saga. Garr wants to lead Ryu to the god of the Guardians, Myria. Along the way, you will encounter many side quests, which is one of the problems. Not unlike games like Grandia, your main purpose is not clear until very late in the game, due to the fact you spend so much time trying to do unimportant stuff.
''But at least it controls well!
Breath of Fire 3 features such impotent controls that Viagra couldn't even save it. Your party can only walk in four directions, and due to the shoddy camera system from hell, half of the time you will not be seen on screen. Unlike Breath of Fire 4, which had a camera that enabled you to change the view you were in at any time, here you can only shift the camera to see where you are, but then you end up in the same old camera angle. The battle system also could use some control work, as I ended up getting the wrong command a lot, despite the fact I knew what I was doing.
Bad battle system: Check. Boring tasks: Check.
If Breath of Fire 3 was a food product, it'd be a McDonald's plain hamburger. Plain, dry, and nothing added to make it seem interesting. The game will make you go through an extreme amount of boring mini games, puzzles, and tasks. From making a nerd think he is the second coming of Brock Lesnar to lighting tiles one by one, Capcom will continue to annoy the hell out of you until you can't take it any more. Each mini game is so horribly contrived that you'd think that it's some sort of joke. The puzzles require little brainpower, instead forcing the player into praying and getting extremely lucky, due to the lack of hints provided.
This would all be better if the battle system was somewhat good, but instead it is the worst part. Never in my life have I loathed a battle system as much as this one. The only good part about it is that it does not rely on special and fancy effects to get its point across. When you run into a battle, your characters disappear and reappear in a battle scene. That's it. No fancy warping of the screen, no ten second loading times, none of that. It's definitely a welcome sight.
So, you would think that due to the lack of fancy effects and loading times, that leveling up would be a pleasure. I thought the same thing. I was wrong. For one, the amount of experience points you need to level up is crazy. Must every Playstation RPG not named Final Fantasy make you battle for ten years just to level up properly? There's better ways to make a game challenging then to annoy the hell out of the player.
Of course, it would be easier to level up if the battles didn't take three years. Your characters will miss a lot. A whole lot. Way more than humanly possible. I had at least one character miss in every battle, it seems. No matter who I used, the character just tended to miss. And it was not a problem of my character's accuracy or the enemy's dodge rate. The problem was simply the fact that the game forces you to miss a lot.
Also, some of the enemy's special effects take a long time to conclude, which got annoying way too quickly. For instance, a little green frog enemy did an attack on me called ''Hypnotize'. He basically sticks his tongue out, then this little swirly square shows up in front of Ryu. For ten seconds. Then it takes another three seconds to work. The whole process takes about twenty seconds, which gets annoying very quickly, especially later on in the game when you are trying to level up a lot.
Fortunately, there is a little light at the end of the dark tunnel. For one, the Masters system found in Breath of Fire 4 made its debut here. While it is not as refined, it still gets the job done. When you find a master, you will have to fufill a certain requirement to apprentice under them. For instance, you need to give Mygas all your gold, and you need 15 different kinds of weapons to gather the knowledge of D'Lonzo.
Each master gives you certain skills, which are gained as you level up. When you start to apprentice under a master, certain stats will be raised and weakened at level up. If you have a character with a high amount of HP and low amount of AP, you can always apprentice them under someone who gives a high amount of AP at level up. The masters system is definitely unique, but the level up process makes it a tad tedious. It's a good start, though.
In addition to learning skills from masters, you can also pick up skills from various enemies located throughout the game. When an enemy does a certain skill, you can have a character ''examine' the enemy. If it works, an exclamation point will appear over the character's head, and they will learn the skill. If they cannot learn it, a question mark will appear. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but quickly gets annoying due to the sheer luck factor involved. You need to examine an enemy and then hope they do the skill, and then hope you learn it.
The fairy village is the most fun, and most rewarding part of Breath of Fire 3. You start off with a little plot of land, and you tell your fairies what to do. As they complete their tasks, new things happen. For instance, the more you hunt, the more food you get, and the more fairies are born. The more you clear land, the more room you have to build. And the more room you have to build, the bigger the village can become. As the village gets bigger, you can have fairies do jobs for you. You can get everything from a cheap inn that tells you how much battles you have been in, to a copy chop that allows you to copy items! It's a whole lot of fun, and a hundred times better than the lousy game it came with.
Finally, the world map featured in the first two Breath of Fire games is gone, replaced with a weird map where no random battles are fought. You can camp on the world map, and every once in a while, an exclamation point will appear over your head. In these areas, you can fight random battles and pick up an item left off on the side.
Where's Ricky Martin when you need him?
Capcom has never been known to put good music into their only RPG series, but this is borderline crazy. It's inhumane to force a game player to listen to music as crappy as this music is. For one, the music tends to fit the feeling of the stage, like a 'electric' feeling for a factory, but it quickly gets annoying. Plus, the same music tends to repeat from time to time, adding to the annoyance. The world map theme is placcid and dry, and the boss theme could have used some fine tuning. The battle theme was great the first 1,500 times. After that, a new battle theme would have been appreciated.
There is no voice acting in the game, unless you count some of the ''voices'' heard during the battles. Like in the 4th game of the series, you will encounter a fair share of enemy and character sounds throughout battle. None of them get particuarly annoying, but they're not exactly the cream of the crop, either. There are some nice sound effects featured outside of battle, however, especially the sound of breaking glass.
IT'S NOT 3D!1!!!1!!11111111!!!!
When I first saw pictures of Breath of Fire 3 in a magazine a few years back, I was blown away by the quality of the graphics. Upon completing the game, however, my feelings changed a lot. While the game still looks pretty impressive, it's not as amazing as it could have been. The character designs are great and varied, especially the way they change in appearance as they grow up. The enemies look wonderful, despite the fact that the same old RPG rule of ''You must repeat the look of the enemy four times throughout the game, changing the enemy's color each time, and then renaming the enemy each time'' applies here. The boss designs are also quite impressive.
Why did I even waste my time on this game?
That's what I asked myself when I finished it. I spent 47 hours getting into battle after battle, learning skill after skill, trying to level up enough so i'd have a chance against the final boss. I must have spent ten-plus hours alone towards the end of the game just trying to level up enough. And what do i get for my troubles? An anti-climatic final boss and ending. Figures as much, though, it's not like any of the Breath of Fire games have decent endings. All hope is not lost, however. The fishing mini game provided some fun, and building the fairy village is the most satisfying part of the game . However, would you really want to replay a game that has The Desert of Death in it? I think not.
I need a challenge!
Breath of Fire 3 took the wrong approach from the very beginning. Instead of making the game challenging by forcing the player to solve tricky puzzles and fight tough bosses, like Legend of Legaia did, they made it nearly impossible to level up, and threw some bogus puzzles in the way. Most of the puzzles provided vague hints, and I already described what a hassle it is to level up. Also, the final boss was way too easy for me, all I used was one dragon power and I won in about four minutes. I realize it is much tougher if you go about it the normal way (believe me, I know, it took me an hour to beat her on my stepdad's file), but the game just isn't challenging enough. Well, besides the Desert of Death...
If you learn from losing, then why hasn't Capcom learned?
Capcom almost got it right with the incredibly fun Breath of Fire 2, so why they felt the need to take fourty two steps backwards is beyond me. Between the incredibly annoying battle system, and the redudant tasks the game makes you do, the game makes you feel like you are wasting your time. Right when you think the story may be starting to pick up, it drags on with boring dialogue scenes that add nothing. The music is total crap, and the graphics could have used a bit of fine tuning, although they are solid. Capcom continues to prove that odd numbered Breath of Fire games suck the fun out of you. Hopefully #5 breaks this pattern, but I am not holding my breath.
Weber State does not reccomend Breath of Fire 3. We value your sanity.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/02, Updated 04/16/02
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