Author’s Note: This review was originally published on November 22nd, 2006.
I will never forget my first PlayStation game: Breath of Fire III. Nearly everything about that game made the number of hours of lost life worth losing. To be able to play the game again on the wonderful PSP sounded awesome, so once again I made the bold move to buy a European import. That money was well spent! Whether or not you have tried Breath of Fire III before, this is one game for your PSP you better not miss!
You should be warned that this is a very biased review because I have played and loved BoFIII before on the Playstation. Then again, all reviews are biased so I didn’t need to bother saying that. Anyways, Breath of Fire III starts off in a mine where a giant crystal holds a baby dragon. After the dragon is attacked by miners, he eventually turns into a young boy named Ryu. Dragons were supposedly extinct; who is Ryu exactly? Why is he the only dragon left? With the help of his friends, Ryu will embark on a quest to find out his destiny, and the nature of the world he lives in.
Even though I have watched the story unfold numerous times, playing it again was satisfying. It mixes humor, fantasy, and a bit of “religion is bad” aspects. The average plot is held together with great characters. Ryu and his friends are a colorful bunch, who express how they feel with emoticons and body language. The NPCs in the world you explore may lack the same development, but they carry the story along at a reasonable pace when it’s their time to show up. One thing that I feel was missing were memorable villains. I still get annoyed with the antics of Balio and Sunder and the cliche, “I want to save my mother so I’m using forbidden sciences!” Palet, but the final villains encountered are very memorable. Overall, the story left me satisfied before, and playing it again on the PSP was no different even though the story was nothing ground-breaking.
However, for some bizarre reason due to its simplicity, the game play of Breath of Fire III kept me coming back for more when compared to everything else. Sure the story was good, but actually playing the store was better. BoFIII consists of the world map, towns, and dungeons. The world map got rid of random encounters; however you can enter a random encounter battlefield by hitting the X button when an exclamation point appears over your head. In towns, you can shop, talk to the numerous townsfolk, and look for masters. Masters look like regular townspeople, however when you become their apprentice, your stats grow differently when you level up. Furthermore, at certain levels you can learn some special skills and magic. There is also a Faerie World in which you can build an entire community similar to that of BoFII, only this time with faeries. The Faerie World is by far the most rewarding mini-game in the game and well worth the invested time. The new areas in which you walk around, that aren’t enemy infested, always have something for you to do before advancing the story and that is very important in any RPG. Finally, the fishing mini-game has returned and it is back in full force. I racked countless hours just by fishing!
Another chunk of time was used for leveling up with the battle system. While the battles are just as basic as the field exploration, they provided me with hours of entertainment. While walking in a dungeon, an exclamation point will appear over your characters’ heads. If it appears over all three members of your party, then you most likely surprised the enemy. However, if you get into a battle without an ! appearing, the enemy most likely caught you by surprise. Your characters can attack, use magic, use items, defend, run away, etc. One cool thing is that you can do is examine enemies. Doing this allows you to learn enemy skills, some of which are very potent. This also allows people like Momo, who mainly use healing magic, to earn some attack spells. Once again, there are dragon transformations for Ryu. In this game, you find Genes. By combining Dragon Genes, you have unlimited potential to turn Ryu into something fierce. He can become an innocent looking whelp, or a giant behemoth who can summon asteroids. A few Genes are given to you in the story, but the majority of them you have to find. All in all, there are 987 combinations. Unlike the previous (and disastrous) BoFII, you are in the dragon transformation state until you run out of MP. Ryu loses a certain number of MP with every turn. The battle ends when all enemies are defeated, and unfortunately you share experience points so it takes a bit longer to level up. Despite this, the battles were fun, at least for me.
Unfortunately, the dungeons weren’t as simplistic. The majority of the dungeons consist of time-consuming, tedious puzzles. In some cases, there were mini-games in which you had to get a certain score or perform a certain way before you were able to proceed. I hated this part of the game then, and hated it now. Most dungeons lack save points, so you have to always be prepared with items for healing. Money can also be a problem in the game, which is unfortunate when you wish you to buy better equipment for your party. Many of the regular foes require certain methods of defeat and can take as long as a boss battle. Fortunately, there is little to no backtracking in this game. Thus, when you finish a dungeon, you’re done with it permanently.
Whew, all of this game play talk. Let’s move onto something easier to describe: the graphics. This game was beautiful back in the day, and this new version thankfully looks the exact same. The PSP’s shiny as light screen delivers to you gorgeous graphics, full of color, detail and expression. Each character was uniquely drawn and has a very distinct look to them. Their character portraits appear in the menu screen, and some characters change their appearance over the course of the game. Magic effects are dazzling, special effects are vivid, and everything else about the character graphics was done well. The same can be said about the backgrounds. While a little boring at times, such as in the desert or in a long dungeon, they were well made for the most part. The graphics were done well overall in BoFIII.
The music and sound don’t get the same praise. The music tracks were uninspiring for the most part. There were a handful of memorable tunes, but the majority of them were unnoticeable. The sound department is a different story. Your characters shout and chant in battles, but they’re in Japanese. I will always think that is super slick. Everything else sounds as it should.
Since this game is a remake, you’re probably wondering if there are any extras. Well, not really. There is a fishing mode that allows you to unlock artwork, and an online sharing mode. That’s all there is. There aren’t any new dungeons or bonus characters or anything. However, that isn’t going to stop me from dropping another 50 hours into a new game. With various ways to have level up your characters and plenty of unique game play options, this is a game full of replay value. I know that importing bites, but this is one that you should consider. I was really upset after losing my original PS1 version of Breath of Fire III. While this is by no means a replacement, it is the next best thing. Pick up this game today and you’ll have an RPG that will last you for a long time.