Breath of Fire (GBA, SNES - GBA version reviewed)
Breath of Fire was Capcom\'s first RPG for the SNES(which was published by Squaresoft at the time), and quickly started a popular series of console RPGs. At the time of this writing, there have been at least four sequels. This game has been re-released for the GameBoy Advance. You play the hero, whose name is by default Ryu, and you guide him and up to seven other party members to save the world from the Dark Dragons. Ryu is himself a member of the Light Dragon clan, and with the encouragement of his sister Sara, begins his long journey to save the world.
How does this Game Play?
This game plays similarly to other console-style RPGs. You control Ryu with whom you can move around the map and enter villages, dungeons, castles, etc. In any area that has hostiles, you have a chance for a random battle where you fight opponents appropriate for the area you are fighting in. Your characters gain power and experience by fighting battles, and gaining levels as a result. The movement throughout the world is in a typical top-down fashion, while battles are in an isometric \'3D\' perspective. Breath of Fire has some innovative features (for 1994 when it came out) that few other RPGs possess. Though you can have a party of up to 8 people, you can only control up to 4 at a time. Their solution to this problem? You can change out any part member during their turn at any time to someone else who is not currently fighting - so if you need that heal spell, or perhaps need to pack a bigger punch, there\'s nothing stopping you as you can change out that unneeded character at any time - even if they have died/passed out. Another useful feature is that you can set a battle to \'auto\' from any character\'s command menu. This allows you to skip the monotonous \'click click click\' of the accept button when all you plan on doing is attacking with everyone to the next enemy. This is especially useful for weaker, random battles. Anther really fun innovation is the ability later on to \'fuse\' with other characters. Karn, and later Ryu, can join with certain other characters to make one, much more powerful team member. This also helps alleviate the 4 member surplus late in the game. ;) All in all, I found the first few hours of the game less engaging, but as the characters started joining your party, the game really picked up variety. It became much more stimulating as you had many more options in battle and otherwise. There are certain secrets/locations that can only be accessed (or unlocked) when a certain character is in the head of the party. Since you can change at will, once you get certain characters a lot more options become available to you. Also, you need to be attentive to each scripted conversation, because though the story elements are relatively simple (see next section), if you\'re not paying attention you may not know what to do next. There is nothing like a diary at all.
How engaging is the story?
This is one area where the game is regretfully weak. Though the story is coherent and can be more or less followed, it\'s hardly engaging. It\'s not that it\'s bad, it\'s mostly that those story or emotionally filled dialogs that you expect in many RPGs are simply missing. Character development is also really light. You get the idea that Nina is a princess and all, but her personality is unclear, as an example. And she\'s one of the more developed characters. That\'s not to say it\'s all bleak. There are some sections of the game that are carried along well enough. It\'s just that overall, it\'s not all that engaging on the storyline front alone. Fortunately, the game makes up for it in other areas, like the gameplay mentioned above.
How are the Graphics?
The graphics in this game are of exceptable quality. The character portraits are redone a bit for the GameBoy Advance version, which gives the characters an anime-like look. The in-game battle and map/town screens are virtually identical to the SNES version, with the exception of a slightly reworked interface which works better for the portable screen. The enemies look reasonable, with many character models being recycled with different color schemes, which is not uncommon. All in all, the graphics are okay, but nothing exceptional.
How is the Sound and Music?
The Sound effects and music are pretty much identical from the SNES version as well. The sound effects are pretty simple, and somewhat low quality, but none of them are out of place. The music is a bit better, though it doesn\'t really do it justice unless you wear headphones. The music comes out much more clearly that way.
How appropriate is this game for Christians?
This game has similar problems to many other RPGs. There is magic in abundance, including the ability to transform into other beasts and \'merge\' party members. There is also mention of a goddess Tyr, who in this case is quite the menace. Nonetheless, there is painted a polytheistic view of the game world.
Overall & Conclusion
I enjoyed this game, but I also happen to enjoy many RPGs of varying style. If you are looking for the best RPG on the GBA, then this is probably not it. If, on the other hand, you find this game for a bargain or you are looking for an \'old school\' RPG, then this one may be for you. It also sparked a series of RPGs, so if you have interest in the Breath of Fire series, then I suggest you see where it all started. :) But as always, we encourage you to only play games that fall in line with your convictions; if magic or polytheism are offensive to you in a game, then you may want to avoid this one.