Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Apr 24th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under RPG, super nintendo, snes, game boy advance, gba, capcom, squaresoft, ubisoft

Role playing games and dragons, name a more iconic duo. Breath of Fire was Capcom's first foray into the realm of role playing games. They made a fairly memorable splash at the time and ended up turning the Breath of Fire series into one fondly remembered among gamers who have been around since the 16 bit generation. Breath of Fire was originally released on the Super Nintendo in Japan in 1993 and North America the following year. Capcom self published the game in Japan, while they contracted Squaresoft to localize and publish the game in North America. A Game Boy Advance port of the game was released in 2001. This time Capcom published the game in both Japan and North America, while Ubisoft would release this version in Europe.

Ryu is a member of the Light Dragon Clan, who has been living a quiet life hiding away from the aggressive and powerful Dark Dragon Clan. The game starts with Ryu's village being burned to the ground. Most of the townspeople are temporarily turned to stone in order for them to survive. However, Ryu's sister Sara is kidnapped by the Dark Dragon raiders. Afterwards, the village has a meeting and Ryu begins his quest to learn about the Dark Dragon Clan, save his sister, and put a stop to their evil deeds around the world. Along the way he meets up with a variety of characters who mostly represent different anthropomorphic animals such as Bo the wolf man, Gobi the fish merchant, Ox the ox, Mogu the mole, and Bleu the naga sorceress. A couple other humanoid characters join the party, Karn the thief, and Nina the flying princess of the Kingdom of Windia.

Breath of Fire has a classic turn based combat system with beautiful presentation. One of the main features of the game is Ryu's ability to transform into a dragon. A high encounter rate sabotages what is otherwise a fun combat system. The game does have an auto battle function to help with the combat. However, long dungeons may take multiple attempts as the time to level increases dramatically as the game is progressed through. Players will basically need to fight every battle if they want to keep up with Breath of Fire's balancing act. This does make resource management of spells and healing items become quite important, and costly. The game can be quite grindy and sometimes frustrating as there are times the player will feel like they're getting into fights every few steps. In this way the game is a complete product of its time. Movement only exists at one speed, slow as molasses. No dash exists. The game could likely be quite a bit shorter with an ability to dash and with a more normalized encounter rate.

Breath of Fire features beautiful 2D sprite graphics. Combat is actually animated unlike almost all other role playing games of the time. It wouldn't be until the Saturn and Playstation era where fully animated character and enemy sprites and models would become the genre standard. This makes Breath of Fire a few years ahead of its time in terms of presentation. The game also features a smooth day and night cycle, among the first major console games to include this feature. This makes the game stand out even more and is technically impressive for its time, as every environmental graphical resource in the game has multiple colorations based on the time of day. Time does only advance on the world map, and resting at an inn does take the player to the next morning. The game's soundtrack is one of the best features of the game. Five members of Capcom are credited for the soundtrack of this first Breath of Fire game, Mari Yamaguchi, Minae Fuji, Tatsuya Nishimura, Yasuaki Fujita, and the wonderful Yoko Shimomura. This team delivered truly classic Super Nintendo music.

Breath of Fire is a fine game with wonderful strengths and a few rather annoying and time consuming weaknesses. The game's localization is quite weak as the game did not support a large number of characters to display in its user interface. Many items have extremely short abbreviations and include a nearly worthless description. This could imply that the developers really wanted players to test items both inside and outside combat in order to learn their effects, or that plans for an international release came too late in development to expand the interface. One of Breath of Fire's biggest surprises is that its price has been largely rock solid for a long time, its one of the most affordable of the major Super Nintendo RPG releases. Loose copies are abundant online for between $30 and $40. The Game Boy Advance release is also quite affordable, with loose copies selling for less than $30. As usual, complete in box prices vary wildy based on the individual item's condition. With prices seemingly spiking at an insane rate across the retro gaming market, this game might well be a hot breath of fresh air for a gamer looking to finally crack into the world of enjoyable classic 16-bit RPGs without breaking their bank account. However, its best to stick with the original Super Nintendo release, as the Game Boy Advance port suffers from downgraded graphics and worse audio quality, negating two of the biggest strengths of the SNES original.

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Thank you for the insightful article. Breath of Fire has been on my backlog for a long time, and this gives me push to finally try it out.
Might pick this up on the 3DS now!
I've had this game since I was a kid and never completed it.  All I remember is getting really frustrated at a point fairly early in the game.  I have no idea why.  Maybe I should give it another try now that I am an adult with much smart.

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