Breath of Fire
Box Shot
Breath of Fire
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Square
Designer: Capcom
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Rupto-pack

If you have a Super Nintendo and you're into RPGs, you gotta play Breath of Fire. It's a classic in the way that many of Capcom's older games like Mega Man or Ghosts & Goblins are classics. They took a simple and established method of gameplay and gave it a style and personality all its own. In fact, some of the houses you visit in this game have what looks like a portrait of Arthur from G&G in his silver armor hanging on the wall. The box has a Square logo on it, but the game was actually made by Capcom and brought to the US by Square. Apparently Capcom wasn't willing to gamble and invest money in manufacturing it for America when RPGs weren't too popular yet, so Square did the legwork. After its huge success, Capcom decided to continue the series on their own. A little confusion has resulted and some people still think the first game was by Square, but the proof is in small print just before the start screen.

The story is very simple. Ages ago a race of dragon-men fought amongst themselves and drove their people seemingly to extinction. Now after many centuries of peace a clan called the Dark Dragons has emerged, and their leader Zog is ravaging the land in search of the keys necessary to awaken the goddess Tyr, who can grant any wish. Will a member of the Light Dragons arise to stop him? Yep! And it's you. By the time it's all over, you'll have seen an inter-species marriage, a golden city, a town where time has stopped, floating castles, an underwater city, and lots more. All the crazy stuff that good RPGs are made of. There are a few twists at the end, but other than that the plot is pretty straightforward.

Though the quest seems simple enough, I had eventually made several pages of maps and notes in order to keep track of where I'd been and what was left to do. There are often many things to do simultaneously, or side-jobs that you'll have to backtrack to each time a new member joins your group. One member can open locked doors, another can smash down cracked walls, another can dig holes in the ground, so certain obstacles can't be overcome until you've got the right person for the job. All the characters are animal/human hybrids, or appear human but can transform into an animal. Eventually certain characters will gain the ability to merge with each other into a more powerful form. Four people can travel together at a time, while four more will remain inactive but can be swapped into your party for someone else at any time. Once you leave a town or dungeon, you appear on the overworld map. A sort of wolfman who joins your quest named Bo can shoot arrows at wandering beasts as you travel, gaining goodies like meat and antlers from the wildlife. It's frustrating to be on the hunt and going for a clear shot, only to be interrupted by the battle screen, brought up by random invisible monsters. In the turn-based fighting mode you can choose action, auto-battle, run, view stats, change offensive/defensive positioning, or change party members. If you choose "action" each member may attack, defend, use magic, or use an item. Fighting happens maybe a little too often, but that makes it possible to level-up quickly and become filthy stinking rich, although how and why critters like underwater sea urchins are carrying around 450GP is anybody's guess. You'll need all that money to outfit your group with all the best weapons and armor at each new town you visit. Even members who are not in your traveling group will gain experience from battles they didn't participate in. Unfortunately there are rarely mid-dungeon save points and you can never be sure when you'll run into a boss, so save in town often.

The Breath of Fire world follows a day/night cycle, so naturally there are more monsters out at night and the townspeople are usually asleep in bed. There's even a point where you need to go into a palace at night and peep at the princess from behind some plants while she bathes, in order to see the markings on her back which are clues to finding a treasure. Also there's a town called Romero where zombies come out at night, named no doubt after George Romero, maker of the infamous Night of the Living Dead movies.

The music ranges from grandiose orchestras to happy jazz, but the problem is that you enter and leave towns or houses or battle with such frequency that the music constantly changes. So you get to know the first 20 seconds or so of each song REAL well. It wasn't long before I was playing with the volume turned down. And how could I conclude without mentioning the fishing sub-game? The hero can equip himself with a pole and various kinds of bait, and stop at fishing holes or on certain shores to cast off. From some of the holes he'll reel in lost weapons or armor, as well as fish that will restore health or cure poison. It's another theme that would be enhanced and expanded in the future games of the unique and enjoyable Breath of Fire series.

ruptopack@moonman.com