Breath of Fire
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • JP 04/03/1993
    • US 10/10/1994
Score: 70%

This review was published on 09/23/2007.

After having developed a million Mega Man and Street Fighter games, Capcom decided to create its first role-playing game on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was published in North America by SquareSoft, so there was a lot of hoopla over this title. Unfortunately, SquareSoft had nothing to do with the actual development of the game. That's a crying shame, because the game sure could have benefitted from SquareSoft's RPG expertise. If it weren't for the future entries in the series, I would have been convinced that Capcom had no business at all in developing RPGs. This game is the very definition of mediocrity, and I'll be delving into why that is in this review.

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The protagonist of this painfully generic story is none other than Ryu, kind of like the fighter from Street Fighter. Oh, Capcom, I see what you did there! That was awfully clever of you. Ryu is on a quest to search the world for his sister, but obviously becomes entangled in events that are far larger in scope. The hero and his hapless band of warriors butt heads with a cliched evil empire that is referred to as the Dark Dragon Clan. As you can probably guess, Ryu and his friends are the only people in the medieval world of Breath of Fire who can stop the evil empire from realizing its nefarious ambition. What is this nefarious ambition, you ask? Why, to take over the world, of course! Along the way, Ryu and company will make a few startling realizations, though none of these realizations will be startling to anyone who has played a video game before. Breath of Fire is a tale of no surprises.

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I have no idea what they were thinking when doing the localization. When the dialogue isn't nonsensical, it's bland. When it doesn't lack personality, it's confusing. It really is terrible, and if this were a decent game, it would certainly ruin the experience. This isn't a that good of a game, though, so it actually doesn't change much. Something else that's incredibly annoying about this low-rate localization is how they shorten the names for items and equipment to save space. This was a common practice in early era RPG's, but Breath of Fire took it to new heights. The localization to Breath of Fire not only impacts the story, but the game play, as well. There are many instances when you won't know what an item is, or what it does, and there isn't a darn thing you can do about it. Here's an example of the awful naming conventions in Breath of Fire; Mrbl1. I have absolutely no idea what the heck that means. My guess is "Miracle Blow 1," when you consider that its effect is to instantly grant a critical hit. I was only able to come to this conclusion upon using the item in battle. This particular problem became a sort of tradition for most of the Breath of Fire series, being that it existed for a few of the future games. In any case, the localization to Breath of Fire is truly atrocious.

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While the localizational efforts are so bad that they can be seen as humorous, the game play is no laughing matter. Playing this game is rather painful. No, this has nothing to do with its difficulty. It's just that the game is so bland and repetitive, your very soul may cry out in agony. Random battles are extremely frequent and they take forever, the menus are slow and clumsy, and your characters travel at a snail's pace. This moves it from merely being a poor game, to a poor game that's frustrating to play. There's not much of a story, either. It's just a bunch of boring errands strung together, sometimes haphazardly. Not to mention the dozen or so times you're required to revisit a boring dungeon or two, as if to intentionally prolong the player's suffering. Tedium is the name of the game with Breath of Fire.

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All is not lost, for there are some good things about this game. The graphics in battle are simply amazing. Breath of Fire sports a remarkable art style with tons of detail crammed into every sprite. The vibrancy of the background colors makes it seem like this game isn't limited to a 16-bit color palette, even though it most certainly is. RPG's seldom had killer visuals like these back in the day. The animations are great, too, which was another oddity for RPG's in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Incredibly good graphics and lots of fantastic animations put this game ahead of its competition in the visual department. The graphics outside of fights aren't too bad, either, though they're considerably less impressive than what is seen inside of battle. Another thing that shines about Breath of Fire is its music. These are some rockin' tunes. If only the rest of the game was as good as its presentation and music.

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Some things were done to try and spice up the experience, though they all failed. For one, bosses would sometimes survive even when their life bar has been completely depleted. This would be surprising if it weren't for the fact that it happens in almost every single boss fight. Beyond that mechanic, the boss fights aren't anything special. It just comes down to generic tactics like using your most powerful attacks and healing when your health gets low. Then there's the little exclusive field ability that some characters can use outside of battle when placed at the front of your party. This concept had potential, but it ultimately didn't go anywhere outside of becoming an annoyance. It would have been cool if Capcom decided to use this concept to do a few puzzles reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda, but that's honestly expecting too much. You'll need to lower your expectations if you want to enjoy this game, no doubt about it.

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Breath of Fire has great graphics, animation, and music, but that's where the good things come to an end. The plot is dull, the combat is monotonous, and the poor localization further hampers an already subpar experience. If it takes more than good graphics and catchy music to impress you in an RPG, then you should avoid this one.

Word Count: 1,062

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