Retro Reviews: Breath of Fire
The 90’s saw the release of some amazing RPG’s. Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger are still two of my all-time favorite games. Unfortunately, with Squaresoft consistently claiming your game time, there may be several other great RPG’s you missed. Over the next couple weeks I am going to review/suggest some old school Role Playing Games that deserve your attention but may have fallen off your radar.
In all fairness, Squaresoft was involved with Breath of Fire as well. BOF was developed by Capcom for the Super Famicom in 1993, but was licensed for release in America by Square. The game was met with good reviews from the likes of Gamepro and Nintendo Power and has garnered a cult following since its initial release. Four sequels later (each getting progressively worse after BOF 2, in my opinion), the original still stacks up well against famous RPG’s of the era.
The game is also significant for being one of Capcom’s earliest major US localizations. Squaresoft mainly dealt with English translation as Capcom had never imported a game with so much text. Interestingly enough, the development of Breath of Fire for North American release is the primary reason that Final Fantasy V was not seen in the US until 1999.
In hindsight, Breath of Fire did not revolutionize the genre. No new ground was broken, and the game will probably not change your life. It is simply a solid, well-made, good time of a game. The plot involves a boy named Ryu who is searching for his kidnapped sister only to discover he is the missing member of a warring dragon clan. He and his friends must collect six keys in order to seal away an evil goddess bent on world destruction.
The game play is standard but solid. You have a world map which your character navigates to get from town to town or dungeon to dungeon. Within towns you will meet humans and anthropomorphic animals which you can talk to and interact with. Items and equipment insure that your characters can continue to defend themselves. As far as battles go, you have four characters at a time each with specific attacks and magical abilities. For instance, Ryu can transform into a dragon. Karn is a crafty thief, and so on. As you fight random encounters you gain experience and coinage which allow you to progress through the game. And, as usual, if your HP drops below 0 you lose.
On a related note, BOF is one of the first games in my memory that featured a night and day that change with the passing of real-time. Events or characters may change or move depending on the time of day. Can anyone think of an earlier example of this? I cannot.
Again, Breath of Fire will not alter your opinion on RPG’s in the 90’s. Nor is it the best game ever. It just seems to me that we sometimes focus so much on Final Fantasy that we overlook less praised, less promoted games. Breath of Fire is a colorful, entertaining experience that will provide you with 30 hours of mindless fun. Also, Capcom recently rereleased BOF for the GBA, so you don’t have to spend time and money searching for the old SNES cartridge. If you missed it the first time, go to your local game store and check out Breath of Fire!