Hello, friends. I’m here to tell you a story. It’s a story about a young boy who enjoys video games. His entry to the video game world began with a Nintendo and simple titles like Mario, Tetris, Contra and Mega Man. Then, he got the Super Nintendo. He lavished Mega Man X, fought with his brothers in Samurai Showdown and continued to get his butt kicked in Act Raiser II. It wasn’t until the young boy turned the ripe age of 10 and got his first RPG as a birthday present: Breath of Fire. At first, the boy was confused. Angry, even! “No down-to-forward attack moves? No jumping on enemies? Why does the screen go black and change views? What’s all this stuff that came with the game? A map? A monster chart? Just what is going on?!” It took a few tries, but the boy came around. Like an ugly duckling, Breath of Fire turned into a beautiful swan and allowed the boy to become a full-fledged fan of the RPG genre. Since his tenth birthday, the boy hasn’t looked back.
Yes, that boy was me. Now, as a grownup, it’s time that I payed homage to my initiation RPG: Breath of Fire. It’s a game I played countless times, and it’s a game that will always be near and dear to my heart. This review is for the GBA version of Breath of Fire due to it being the better version.
The story is simple, but it’s important to remember the game’s era. It tells the story of two dragon clans. The Light Dragons fought years ago against the Dark Dragons to seal a goddess named Tyr using seven magical keys. Now, years later, the Dark Dragons are under control of Zog and are searching for the keys to gain the goddess’ powers. As a member of the Light Dragon, Ryu must find the keys before the Dark Dragons and stop Zog’s ambitions. It’s as simple and endearing as anything the RPG world has seen. The conversations are awkward and most of the characters lack any sort of development. There are no surprises. There is no pretense. The sprites are colorful but lack expression. The character portraits have an anime inspired look. Battles have the best look, especially when you get some of Ryu’s awesome dragon forms. The music is excellent. You’ll be listening to a variety of battle tracks, town music, shop music and a variety of world map themes. Each one is great.
Breath of Fire’s progression route is straightforward from start to finish, but it does introduce you to the massive world that became a classic RPG franchise. Ryu, Nina, various anthropamorphic tribes, dragon transformations, fishing, hunting and a variety of characters all make their debut in Breath of Fire. Many fans of the Playstation Breath of Fire games (numbers III and IV) never got the chance to play the original title and see the world of Breath of Fire from the beginning. As basic as it is, there’s and undeniable nostalgiac charm that is attached to the original.
The story is basic, and the game play follows suit. You start the game with Ryu and follow his linear quest to save the world. Along the way, you’ll recruit friends for your party, explore towns and dungeons, buy equipment to make your team stronger and battle monsters in random encounters. Random battles are a nuisance, just like they are in most RPGs. However, Breath of Fire provides you with a certain, inexpensive item that lets you avoid all random encounters for a short period. RPGs of the future should have taken a cue from Breath of Fire and provided a similar item in their games. It’s a lovely thing being able to avoid all random encounters when you’re not in any mood to fight.
But, when you do fight, it’ll be SOP. Up to four characters can be in your battle party. You can switch members in and out as you please. All characters have access to a variety of weapons and magic. Nina will never strike with mighty attacks, but she has the best healing magic in the game. Ryu will be able to transform into dragons as he finds hidden shrines of the Light Dragon tribe. Fan-favorite Bleu is a master of attack magic. As you can see, all of the characters have their strengths and weaknesses. Well, except for Mogu. He’s lame. Him aside, battles are easy as pie. They’re turn based, have an auto-battle option and rarely take longer than they should. Bosses can be tricky. Once you drain their energy meter, most take more hits to get destroyed.
Breath of Fire doesn’t have any substantial side-quests, but there are secrets to uncover as you acquire more abilities and characters. You’ll encounter a cracked door, but you’re going to have to wait to see what’s on the other side until Ox joins your team. If you see a locked door, come back to it with Karn so he can pick the lock. Certain areas are only available with the power of Nina’s flight. There is a hefty amount of game time and stuff to do before you finish the final boss. Speaking of which, there are multiple endings. As the RPG to get me hooked on the genre, Breath of Fire delivered it all.
Overall, 8/10: Despite it’s age, I’m still able to go through it again and again. See the origins of a classic franchise! Play Breath of Fire today.