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

Posted on May 22nd 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under RPG, capcom, super nintendo, snes, game boy advance, gba, virtual console

The first Breath of Fire game was considered a nice success for Capcom, enough to not only warrant a sequel but to also localize and release that sequel internationally once again. This time, they would do it themselves instead of contracting Squaresoft. They probably should have, as the game is notorious for having a bad translation. Breath of Fire II would release in Japan in 1994, with a very late 1995 release in North America. This time, a small, obscure, and seemingly German publisher named Laguna Video Games would also publish and release the Super Nintendo game in Europe in 1996. The Game Boy Advance port of Breath of Fire II also followed in 2001 in Japan, with a 2002 release in North America. Ubisoft also handled the European release of the Game Boy Advance port and also released it in 2002.

Breath of Fire II's story starts with Ryu and his sister Yua being cared for as orphans in the church of a small village called Gate. One day Yua walks up the mountain and Ryu follows her but is unable to bring her back. Once Ryu returns from the daunting mission he experiences a strange phenomenon where the villagers remember nothing about him or his sister. The game then jumps forward in time where Ryu and his dog man friend Bow are working as low level adventurers for the Rangers Guild in Home Town. Bow is known as a former thief and is approached about one final heist, which he takes and is captured for. However, he proclaims his innocence, despite being at the scene of the crime and with intent to steal what was stolen. Ryu must then believe his friend and work to prove his innocence before moving forward in the story.

The similarities between the first game and second are quite noticeable at first. And that feeling never really goes away. These similarities include couple of important recurring characters, but with slightly differing details and characteristics. Ryu himself is the standard silent protagonist, and he also contains the ability to transform into a dragon. However, these are more like spells that consume all of his AP for one turn of high damage output. Nina also returns, this time with black wings and is ostracized as a result of an ancient prophecy among her people. Is the overall series metanarrative playing around with the idea of multiverse theories? Or is this game a direct sequel set in the far future and merely has a few characters with the same names?

Most of the gameplay is the same as the first game. There are some marginal improvements but the user interface still deals with most of the same problems as the first game. Short item names and vague descriptions means figuring items out by trial and error. The game also still suffers from the high random encounter rate as the first game. The hunting and fishing minigames return in Breath of Fire II, and are also marginally improved. There is a random chance for fish to appear in designated spots after a battle or leaving town. Random animals wander on the world map after the same triggers. The biggest addition to the game is a town building element. Early in the game Ryu and Bow will help an old man named Niro to rebuild his house, and the town will expand from there after finding a couple architects during the main story. Other characters can be recruited to move to the burgeoning Town Ship, and they will open shops or give direct access to fishing and hunting spots, as well as a few other features. There is also a bonding ability unlocked by recruiting a clan of witch like Shaman, this allows characters to be fused with the spirits of the younger shaman women and unlocks different abilities and affinities for specific combinations.

These are the results of successful bonding.

Breath of Fire II is easily one of the best looking 16 bit games for any console not made by SNK. The day and night cycle returns and the added details to the spritework really make the game and its world pop in a way that every other game, especially role playing games, from this same era can barely even compare to. The soundtrack for Breath of Fire II is a solo work, being entirely composed by Yuko Kadota, one of Capcom's female composers who would later marry and take the surname Takehara. She was quite prolific in this era, working on some of Capcom's big arcade games from The Punisher, Street Fighter Alpha, Star Gladiator, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. She also worked on a number of other Super Nintendo games such as Final Fight 2, Aladdin, Mega Man X, and Mega Man 7. She does a great job of following in the footsteps of the full team that worked on the first game, and the game's soundtrack remains one of its most powerful features.

Breath of Fire II is a bit of a mixed bag overall. While the game looks and sounds better than the first game, the lack of work done to fix the flaws of the first game make playing it the same sort of combat fueled tedium as the first. The game's story and characters are also rather flat overall. It feels like it wants to introduce interesting and unique narrative ideas and themes but never really follows through with them. What could have been an interesting and really unique story ends up feeling like any other more generic role playing game from its time, with the added bonus of exquisite production quality. Every character that gets built upon gets their own chapter and then largely sits by the wayside, with only Bow and Nina really providing long term development over the course of the game. The others are just sort of combat dummies players bring with them, when they're not in the spotlight and forced upon them.

Breath of Fire II is much more expensive to obtain than the first game for the Super Nintendo. Prices are starting to push towards the $100 mark for just the loose cartridge. Complete in box examples do vary based on condition, but are quite regularly selling for between $150 and $250. The Game Boy Advance release is much more affordable, and can be found between $15 and $25 loose, with complete in box copies found for around $100. The Super Nintendo release is the one to play, and there are Virtual Console releases of the SNES version priced at $7.99 for both games available through the Wii U and 3DS if either of those is an option.

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