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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Breath of Fire (ブレス オブ ファイア)

I finally made some headway on catching up on some of the "classic" RPG series in the 90s by beating Breath of Fire recently. The game starts out with premise of a goddess, wars, blah blah, none of which really applies to you and is promptly forgotten. The only thing you need to take away from it all to enjoy the game is that there's some bad guys and they're trying to take over the world. I can't really fault it for being an RPG trope unless there's a good decade or so to become a trope so I'll let the cliche premise slide for the early 90s. It does have a nice, very dramatic beginning with your home village getting attacked, etc. etc.

The rest of the story reveals a diverse set of characters that have interesting premises but are unfortunately barely fleshed out. The most interesting for me was ダンク (Dan-ku) for reasons that have nothing to do with the game but more because he was a grey (purple?) thief with big lips from the town of Bleak. Nintendo of America obviously had to do a bit of "localization" work which I found highly amusing.

ダンク (Dank?): A more innocent (racist) time
The other notable bit of "censorship" was coloring in some pixels purple to make a princess bath in purple clothes(?) unlike those Japanese weirdos who bath naked... I guess? This is really the only small, tiny bit of fan service in the entire game. Thank goodness Nintendo of America was there to protect impressionable kids from this bit of nudity and morally corrupting collection of pixels.

Oh right, POOL, gotcha! Cause that TOTALLY makes sense!

The story overall is pretty thin as there's very little dialogue overall. There were only a few moments where I was really enjoying the story such as what happened with Nina while the rest were just annoying fetch quests on top of fetch quests to the point that you forgot what you were trying to get in the first place.

The gameplay suffers from a common flaw among games of this type in that battle is reduced to pretty much fight and heal. Thankfully, there's an auto-battle option so that you could do something else for a few minutes (such as play another game) and then come back and heal as necessary. Besides the dragon powers, I didn't even explore any of the spells or items because there really was no need. The only difficult battle was the Gremlin, a VERY over-powered boss for no reason I can think of. There is this annoying feature of where certain bosses have a lot of hidden HP left after you drain the bar. In this case, there was a LOT of hidden HP and you had no clue as to how much was left. It felt more like a balancing issue especially since the final boss was so easy.

Given the primitive gameplay, I was at least thankful for the lack of any real need for grinding save for a bit in the beginning and the Gremlin boss. Having experience apply to characters not in the party is a feature it turns out I'll sorely miss in the sequel especially since you can fuse most of the characters into your party anyway.

The only real difficulty in the game is that it's often not obvious where you were supposed to go next. And exploring the world with frequent random encounters is simply too annoying to make it fun. I tried to use a guide as little as possible resulting in over-powered characters purely from the constant barrage of encounters as I was trying to go places. I was also stuck for a while because you need to put certain characters in front to navigate certain terrain and the NPC character said せんとう which can either mean "combat" or "lead". It would have been obvious which if the game used Kanji. Having no Kanji was pretty annoying in general I have to say.

I can't comment on the English localization since I played in Japanese but based on the American Conan box art, I'm sure it was totally fine.

Is that guy supposed to be NINA?!!! SOMEBODY NEEDS TO BE FIRED FOR THIS!
I checked out the GBA version briefly but stuck with the Super Famicon due to the superior sound. The extra exp/gold and run ability would have made the game easier to beat but in RPG standards, it's not THAT long of a game. Certainly not very hard either.

Score: 2/5
Not a bad game by any means but is definitely the type I would play on the handheld while multitasking. Given the fact that this came out 2 years AFTER FFIV, really kinda puts it firmly in the "meh, it's not bad, I guess?" category.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

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