Skankin' Garbage's Review of Breath Of Fire 2
Let me cut right to the heart of the matter:
This game baffles me; so many fans of Breath of Fire agree that this game is the best in the series, stating things like story and characters as their reasoning. I will grant that there are some great ideas, and that the game's script was probably funnier and more interesting than it seems (it was marred by a painfully bad translation); however, I doubt it could have been much more dramatically impacting, let alone good.
The story starts with a cool flashback sequence: The main character, Ryu, takes a nap out in the grassy field behind his home town (his sister insists that if he does, he might have dreams about his departed mother). When he returns, his family is gone, and none of the villagers recognize him. After that, he leaves the town, some crazy demon finds him, kicks his ass, then spouts some ominous nonsense to him. The game then fast-forwards to ten years later, where he is a 'ranger' (soldiers that do literally ANY task asked of them) with his friend, Bow, as they do all the things that rangers do.
While this sounds really cool, the game really doesn't go much of anywhere after that. There mostly winds up being a ton of fetch quests - which, by the way, are more absurdly long in this game than any other installment in the series, which is saying A LOT. Along the way, you'll meet people - playable and non-playable - who, while having interesting personalities, don't ever say much. Sure, there are one or two characters that get a fair amount of screen time; but, while those scenes aren't half bad, the fact that they're so scarce - and the few that exist are so undeveloped - that they just leave you feeling unsatisfied and wanting more out of the experience. This is especially true for the villains - all the main villains had a ton of potential to be cool; but, all of that potential was wasted due to alarmingly poor development (although, there was one really cool scene regarding one of the villains later in the game).
The plot winds up being equally as contrived and ridiculous - so much to the point where it's not worth talking about. When you find out the truth about all the things that happened in the beginning flashback sequence, you'll probably feel cheated at how anticlimactic it all was. And, seeing as not much is added to the main story between the beginning and the end, that's a huge thing to mess up - that's virtually the entire plot!
Breath of Fire 2 plays a lot like the preceding game (and a lot like the following games, for that matter): The battle system is very typical turn-based RPG fare; the catch being that your main character (and other characters) can transform into various creatures. BoF2 managed to mess this up big time by having Ryu's transformations be really lame - a summon spell that takes all your AP to use - and having other characters be way too dependant on their transformations to be any good. The transformations for all other characters works by having them 'fuse' with a Shaman - a being with elemental-based magical powers. The problem is, you don't start getting most of the Shamans until very late in the game. This causes even MORE problems, because half of the cast are just plain BAD without the aid of Shaman transformations. BUT! Even THEN, only one person can be fused with a Shaman at a time! So, you'll have to base your party off of which characters are compatible with which Shamans, so as not to have any character be completely dead weight. These things, along with the usual archaic turn-based RPG problems (Slow speed, high encounter rate, far too little Experience points and Gold gained from battles, characters not in your current party don't gain experience), make Breath of Fire 2 a chore to play.
The only other noteworthy gameplay aspect is 'TownShip', which is a town that you have built from the ground up, as well as invite other people to live there. There are a variety of people you can invite to your town, which provide cool things for you (even the carpenter you choose to build the town changes things!); however, only one person can live in a house, and everyone you invite is specified by the game to live in a specific house. So, if you want two particular people to live in TownShip, and they are both specified to live in the same house you'll have to choose carefully which person you want to invite...except:
While the idea was really cool, the execution was REALLY unrefined and crappy.
Other than that, what can I say about this game...The graphics were very cool, and I enjoyed the fluid, colorful look. Even so, I really disliked the character designs - they just seemed a little uninspired to me. Oh. A Dog. Oh. A Monkey. Oh. A Frog. Other than that, the music, done by Yuko Takehara (more popular for working on Mega Man games and 2D Capcom Fighters), is not bad, although some of the music feels really out of place, and almost even inappropriate for the game.
Anyways, the point is, this game takes all of its good ideas, and buries them under a whole lot of very BAD ideas. The game is agonizing to play. The dialogue is so bad that it hurts sometimes, and the characters don't have much interaction - nor much to say, ever. Other than about three particular parts of this game, it was disastrous. It makes me wonder how some people can say this game is so good. Even though it was the pioneer of a few original ideas (TownShip, or, building your own town; and, one of the first, if not THE first RPG to heavily involve religion in its storyline), those two original-yet-poorly-executed ideas do not make this game great - far from it, actually. Do NOT play this game.