|By Jason Vincion||Monday, 30 Mar 2009|
It seems like I’ve always enjoyed RPGs. I remember all of the time I spent adventuring in Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, and any other RPG for the NES that I could get my hands on. Once the SNES came along, a whole slew of outstanding RPGs came out for it over the entirety of its lifespan. Among these are Breath of Fire and Breath of Fire II, the prequels to the game I’m about to review.
I must say that I haven’t been quite as enamoured with games that have come out after the end of the 16-bit era, so it takes a special kind of game to keep my interest from beginning to end, let alone properly follow up two solid RPGs. This game does both in spades.
The plot: “An ancient legend speaks of a powerful Dragon Clan, but no explanation exists of why the clan vanished. The Legend follows the clan’s history only up to the point where their inner power had reached a point where they had the power to destroy the world. The clan’s presence can still be felt in everyday life, however. The remains of the Dragon People appear in the form of chrysm ore, a tremendously beneficial form of energy. Imagine the suprise of the miners when one day a dragon youth is discovered in the chrysm ore mine.”
Of course, the dragon youth is your character. He doesn’t really realize he’s a dragon until a little later in the game, but once he does, the floodgates of the plot burst open. It basically follows along the lines of finding out why he’s a dragon and finding out what happened to his people. If I go into it any more, I’ll be throwing in some major spoilers. The plot is pretty deep, and while not the best, it certainly keeps the game moving.
As far as graphics go, PS1-era polygons are not especially impressive to me. Thankfully, this game has none! The graphics look to be of the hand-drawn ilk and they look like SNES graphics with more polish. The palettes are very colorful, the backgrounds are pleasing to the eye, and it looks like a lot of time was put into the overall graphical package. The effort definitely paid off! The game looks great and has aged well.
Another bright spot of the game is the variety of music found in Breath of Fire III. From the calm, yet intense dungeon music, the rockin’ battle music, the equally groovy overworld and fairy village music, the somewhat ominous forest music, to the absolutely ethereal Yggdrasil music, there is no end to the variety. The instrumentation was chosen well and gives the game a peaceful feel. However, there are two places where the music falls flat. The fishing game music is horrid (unfortunately, because the fishing game RULES), and the vast desert is an endless loop of John Cage’s 4’33″.
One thing you rarely have to worry about in RPG’s is the play control department, and Breath of Fire III is no exception. You can walk in eight directions and pressing the circle button down while moving lets you run. On the overworld screen, the square button calls up the menu. Battles are easy enough to work with, because you are given an icon menu when it is your turn to fight. The X button and a direction on the pad will let you choose an action (or just press X to fight), L1 will let you auto-attack, and R1 will let you run away. The triangle button cancels an action, should you choose to change your mind. The controls are easy to work with and that’s all I ask.
Breath of Fire III has a standard learning curve (like stronger weapons in later towns and all that) and the game isn’t too difficult to complete. There are some enemies and bosses that are pretty vicious and they take a fair amount of strategy to beat. A little bit of challenge is good, but it doesn’t quite have enough to make the game that much more gripping. In the end, the game will probably take 30 to 40 hours to complete. I don’t really know for sure, because my clock reads 99:59 from fishing so much! The aforementioned time is pretty good for an RPG, so I have no complaints.
As far as PlayStation RPGs go, this is one of the best ones. The game is definitely fun and the fairy village & fishing game bonus features are great! You can also learn under a master (there are 18 of them) to hone your abilities and learn new skills, you can draw skills from the enemies in battle, and you can choose to fight in random encounters on the map (rather than being forced into them). All in all, this game is definitely one that adds on to the Breath of Fire legacy rather than detracting from it.