Review by fduboo

"There are some great ideas here."

Breath of Fire is an example of how innovation means nothing without the proper care and follow-through. I'll get to this main point in Gameplay, but for now I will start with the story.

It is a dark and stormy night- you (Ryu, the hero) and your friend Bow are travelling through a cave. You are pursuing some large tail, and eventually it leads to a beast that easily defeats the two of you. You awake, confused and alone except for your friend Bow, and your hometown village no longer exists. However, you have managed to discover an existence in another town with Bow as apprentices in the Rangers' Guild (think do-gooders, but as an occupation). The two of you know that something is seriously wrong with the fact that your village has disappeared, but it's not exactly something that they can talk to the town elder about. So, the two set out on small quests to gather what information they can, and eventually become intertwined with a mission to save the world from an ultimate evil because of Ryu's secret heritage.

The visuals in Breath of Fire 2 are a pleasure to see. The colors are rich and make full use of the SNES' capabilities. There are clouds that float overhead every now and then and the trees actually look like trees and not the stumpy blocks found in most other RPGs. The characters are mostly well-detailed, and they range from the now traditional blue-haired hero to a fat frog in chainmail. They are also animated well- each of your many companions has their own attack and magic movements and they help to liven up the battles. The enemies look great and have funny animations at times, like the jiggling of the Blobs. The Boss monsters are awesome- my favorite was the ultra-cool Owlgernon.

The music lacks the polish of other late SNES games, but there are a few nice tunes here that help to make the game more engrossing. The battle music is passable, and the world map theme is great. It just has that innocent, adventurous quality that uplifts you as you trudge to the next town or dungeon. The sound effects are good, just like in the original game. Each attack has a unique sound that really adds some polish to the game.

Standard RPG fare (I will just call it the cancel, confirm, move, menu wade system). There is nothing majorly wrong here, but it is in no way original. However, there is the ability once again to utilize your character at the front of the party to interact with the world and dungeon maps. For instance, Katt (a stick fighter) can hunt for animals like Bo did in the original, and Sten (a Highland monkey) can use his long limbs in order to bridge narrow cliffs. This adds at least some orignality to the game and keeps you on your toes.

The game's main guts are a mixed bag. There are some great ideas here and some poor follow-through that ruins many other ideas. First, there are tons of members to recruit on your quest, and each has specifically different powers to offer to the party. You can only have some of them in your party at once, but you must still essentially build everyone up because there will be times when you need each character to help you through one dungeon or another. The abilities are sometimes well thought out (in the case of Sten's bridging gaps) and others just plain stink. For example, Ryu can use ''Guts,'' which increases his vitality and the chance of him ''auto-resurrecting'' himself if he dies in combat. However, this ability is very random and hot/cold, making you really question the usefulness of such an ability. Also, there is a nice ability known as ''Townshp.'' This involves you setting up your own town (after a certain point in the game) and recruiting people to live there and offer you services that are extremely helpful (such as selling powerful weapons and armor). This came way before Suikoden, and it is a diverse and infinitely interesting aspect of the game. You can recruit a man that makes a casino (time to win prizes!) or different architects that can change the looks of your town. This is carried out very well by Capcom. There is a bad point to balance this, however. Sometimes the game bogs you down in side quests. For instance, when attempting to save Jean, the frog prince who later joins your party, you must do so many distantly related tasks that by the time you finish them, you forget why you did them in the first place. This is a pattern in the game: it establishes a broad problem, then forces you to perform too many tasks in order to slowly unfold the solution. Ugh. On the plus side, the hunting and fishing sidegames have been expanded and improved (fishing in particular get s big boost), and this helps the gameplay out a bit. As of this weren't enough, you can also find hidden spirits throughout the game that can be ''junctioned'' into your character (up to two at a time) and this can alter the hero into a much more powerful being. All of these ideas are great, but as I said Capcom only makes them succeed about 60-70% of the time.

Breath of Fire 2 takes a big hit in the Story department; although the opener that I described earlier was excellent and the storyline itself is above average, the translation is horrible in this game! Seriously, it should be a crime to produce an RPG with dialogue that is so out of whack that you can often confuse the plot! There are incorrect punctuations all over the place and the sentences are sometimes juxtaposed into passive tense to the point that they are incoherent. There is no excuse for mistakes such as these.

Replay Value
Pretty good for an RPG, considering that there is the excellent town-building option and side games galore. Also, there is a hidden character (Bleu) from the first BOF and three totally different endings. You will play this again.

Average (7/10)...Breath of Fire 2 could have been a solid 8 or 9, but translation problems and at times poor presentation really keeps this one from shining like it should. However, if you are a mildly forgiving RPG fan, you will enjoy this one.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/29/00, Updated 02/29/00

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