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Capsule Review - Breath of Fire

Title Breath of Fire
Developer Capcom
Year 1994
Platform SNES
Capsule Rating
Capsule Review: At one point in '94, Capcom decided to take a stab at the RPG genre. The result was a thoroughly mediocre game called Breath of Fire, which nonetheless went on to spawn three sequels over the next seven years.

As far as technology goes, Breath of Fire introduces nothing new. The battle system is rather banal, differing from countless others only by using little icons instead of saying "Fight," "Item," etc. and by using colored bars to represent HP instead of numbers. The graphics aren't much to write home about, but they're not terrible (although there is one noteworthy touch, the day/night cycle); the score would have been better if it wasn't so repetitive (your typical loop lasts thirty seconds; compare that to about a minute and a half in Final Fantasy VI). The menu system is inferior to other RPGs (for example, you can't see how much EXP you need to gain a level), your inventory space is woefully limited, and the game overall is annoyingly slow-paced (your characters move slowly, which is doubly annoying because of the high encounter rate). The magic system is equally hoary (you learn spells as you gain levels), although your main character's ability to transform into different kinds of dragons was rather a good idea.

But all those things would not have been issues if there had been some semblance of a good storyline. There isn't. You're from the Light Dragon clan, you have to beat the Dark Dragons because they killed your sister. That exposition takes place in the first five minutes, and not much is added onto it in the course of the game. Sure, in the beginning that much seems all right, but approximately after you leave Winlan (after a rather-cool-for-the-time vista that you see from a bridge), the story begins to fall apart. Admittedly, some of the characters that join you are an original bunch (particularly the four animal characters), but since they get no development it really doesn't matter. Their backstory doesn't go far beyond "I also want to defeat the Dark Dragons. If you help me with a fetch quest, I will join you." And although you visit many different locations, the lack of any cohesive storyline other than the assurance that no matter what happens, the Dark Dragons are somehow behind it, makes the game seem like a disjointed, haphazard pile of fetch quests that are completely, bewilderingly irrelevant to each other. And seeing as there were plenty of other RPGs of the time that did so many more things right, there is utterly no reason to play Breath of Fire.

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