Written: 1.15.15 Acquired: 2.12.06 Status: Cart with charts Price: $11.82
Capcom, most well known for their Street Fighter and Mega Man series, tried their hand at an RPG back in '93. Capcom published it in Japan that year, but it would take over one year for them to give the unenviable task to Square, an established RPG firm with a penchant for translating Japanese RPGs to an American audience. There wasn't an abundance of RPGs on the SNES back then, thus, Breath of Fire instantly found a fanbase. It wasn't great by any stretch... but it was solid. And for the time, solid did just fine Capcom tried their HAND at the RPG genre... [HAR HAR -Ed.]
FROM DA OUTHOUSE TO THE PENTHOUSE: WINDS OF CHANGE
Growing up, I quite hated RPGs. Well, it was more like I could not care less about them. My brother on the other hand though was *obsessed* with them. He played them all the time it seemed. Why did I dislike the genre so much at the time? I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that there were tons of people who enjoyed this slower paced boring go around town, talk up the locals, walk slowly some more, and then whoop-dee-do, turn-based combat. I was a young boy who wanted instant gratification. Let me press start and start beating up bad guys with no delays. It wasn't until much later, around 2003, that my view on the genre began to shift. Suddenly, the thought of conversing with the locals to dig up clues, or just hear some wacky nonsense became massively appealing. The turn-based combat went from yawn-inducing to an obsession to level up and earn more gold coins to upgrade my weapons and armor. Today, I consider RPGs as one of my most favorite genres. Go figure. So I don't really have any big back stories to share about Breath of Fire growing up. I remember, however, being impressed by the magazine previews. Although I didn't like RPGs then, the game looked quite colorful and even, a bit intriguing. Yet, I figured it to be another in a long list of games I would never play. Little did I know over a decade later I would find my way back home to the Super Nintendo for a second chance at 16-bit gaming redemption
The GameFan preview always stuck with me. It's simply gorgeous
THE STORY GOES...
In order to save them, Sara turned them all into statues
[Whoa buddy. One of the better? More like 'above average' -Ed.]
Heh, man, this one gets me EVERY damn time. Love Super Play!
Love this awesome monster chart. RPG packaging was always #1
Breath of Fire's monster chart was, err, off the charts [*sigh* -Ed.]
A handy world map, item, weapon and armor chart was included
Now unfrozen, you step out into the cold harsh light of the day...
Rather lame indeed this was. You better not make any mistakes...
Once you select the sword option, it opens up even more options from that point on
Check out your stats. Be ready for lots of awkward abbreviations
No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women, NO FUN, NO SIN, NO YOU
Health springs allow you to level up. Fight, free heal, then repeat
It's nothing earth-shattering or anything but Breath of Fire is solid
Little detail such as this always intrigues me and makes me smile
"Let's make a deal. Let me go, and I'll never eat another frog leg"
Unlike a ton of RPGs, Breath of Fire opts for a neat ¾ perspective
Leave it to friggin' Capcom to incorporate energy bars into RPGs
Landing a critical strike in RPGs felt like rolling a 12 in Monopoly
Boss fights can drag on due to their ridiculously abundant health
Early on, what's better than leveling up thrice in one go
Breath of Fire is probably most well known for its day-night cycle
As the game goes along, day passes into early evening before giving way to nightfall. It was pretty cool, especially the first time you see it. Not just cosmetic, too, as there were things you could only do in the dark... giving the game an air of clandestine intrigue...
Quite brilliant, yes, but also at times annoying. More on this later
The front guard of Nanai is vigilant during the day, but he falls prey to exhaustion once the sun goes down... only at night time can you sneak your way through. If a soldier spots you at any point, then it's back to the beginning you go. It was a sweet way to add in a little stealth action to the typical RPG element and if nothing else... you have got to give Capcom a LITTLE credit for that. Love the small details found here, from the guard's snoring bubble to the very atmospheric yellow lights that lends Nanai a brilliant glow. Be sure to explore a bit and not just rush for the exit as there are plenty of good items to be found in chests and large cabinets. Money is tight early on, as with most RPGs, so collect ALL the free items that you can find. Classic RPG stuff Sure, it's rather simple stealth... but it's pretty cool nevertheless
Early on, Capcom makes excellent use of the day-night system
Don't be like Pee Wee, and get caught with your hand in the jar...
OK so it wasn't exactly world-changing stealth action but it's there
By mid 1994 it still looked nice despite being an early 1993 game
I just can't get enough of them. There's a certain magic about 'em
It helps make the game's numerous random battles easier to bear
"COZ THERE'S JUST TOO FUKKEN MANY RANDOM BATTLES!"
Our hero's in no mood to be gentle after so many random battles
The Knight is tough, so use your offensive items to soften that ass
Once again, leave it to ole Capcom to use energy bars in an RPG
Always love how RPGs offer you choices when the choice is clear
For a horror film geared toward youth, it was surprisingly decent
And what UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS must be hiding deep below
Nina is the first of seven allies to join the hero. Head on to Tantar
Ummm, OK. I think you're also the master nutjob, pal. But alright
The variety of skills made each one feel critical to overall success
Capcom sure had their fair share of fun and interesting RPG ideas
Suddenly our heroes have been reduced to the size of mice. Nice
Save the mice from deadly cockroaches, then it's back to normal
[Sometimes... man is the monster... -Ed.]
"Do you come from another world.... or from some distant star?"
Aw sorry about that, Cerl. If only we could go back to the future...
"DID SOMEBODY SAAAY... BACK TO THE FUTURE?!!"
Good point. Kooky old wingbat. Endearing son of a gun, though
At night time the game takes on such an atmospheric feel. Sweet
[I believe I've uttered that exact phrase to you a time or two! -Ed.]
I even remember thinking back in the day how cool it all looked
There's nothing better than battling a mammoth, grotesque boss!
Another cool feature of this game was the hero's ability to morph
The folks who made this game had a twisted imagination. Love it
Meet the Goddess of Destruction. Meet Death herself... meet TYR!
This gives ya a good perspective on JUST HOW BIG Tyr really is!
MOST RANDOM YET COOLEST USELESS EASTER EGG EVER?!?
This has no bearing on the game but it's a fun fan service for sure
SOME INVALUABLE TIPS FOR THE LONG JOURNEY
Don't forget to do both. Failing to do the first will drive you crazy
I kept a pad while playing this to jot down notes. It was a lifesaver
As you add allies, head back to use their skills to open new areas
BREATH OF CONFUSION
Not uncommon to get stuck if you are playing sans guide
Late in the game an old man tells you about the I. Claw. You need to find it or else your quest comes to a screeching halt. Well, great, you know what you have to find but there is no clue WHATSOEVER as to where this elusive I. Claw could be hiding. Combine that with a massive world, and well, you get the idea. The game forces you to do a ridiculous back-and-forth letter exchange between a weapons' collector and an old lady stranded on some obscure tiny island in the middle of frigging nowhere. Discovering this without any help was pure dumb luck and trial and error. While I like to play my games as "pure" as possible, after a while it just makes sense resorting to the guide. The game didn't even give you a damn clue like... "Hey, I heard there's a lady living somewhere on the east region who loves weapons... maybe we should pay her a visit." It was just "You need an I. Claw" and "good luck finding it on the large world map, mwahahahaha!" Brutal. While RPGs like Super Mario RPG held your hand TOO much, Breath of Fire was a little TOOobscure at times. I like a happy middle ground... not too obvious but not too obscure, either. A game that did an excellent job of that was Earthbound. You always got a sense of what to do next but you were never 100% sure. But ya always had a sense. Those are the best RPG experiences. Sadly not the case here
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Capcom's Breath of Fire was met with rather strong reviews. Despite the near year-and-half delay from Japanese to American soil, it was able to stand toe-to-toe with any other game that came out in the late summer of '94. It was a testament to how good the game looked then, as it still more than held its own when it was finally released here in the US. EGM gave it scores of 7, 8, 8, 8 and 9, praising it for its excellent visuals and sound. GameFan rated it 90, 90 and 94%. It was praised for its artwork and animation, its length (50+ hours, supposedly) and its stunning music. SuperPlay was less enthusiastic, giving the game a respectable but not mind-blowing 80%. They called it lightweight. Leave it to those Super Play cats to calm the rest of us down. They did not hand out 9s and 90s like EGM and GameFan did
Wil Overton's art covers were AMAZING. This was one of my faves
Nintendo Power ranked Breath of Fire as # 82 on their Top 100
CLOSING THOUGHTS + A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Breath of Fire is a solid RPG. It did many things right, such as brilliantly animated sprites, amazing sound and music, a unique day and night system and certain skills unique only to a certain character, making all eight truly invaluable and at some point *key* to furthering the quest. But... with the good comes the bad. Namely, while the game starts out on a high note, introducing you to each new ally in a meaningful way, allowing you to hunt and fish for health items, shrink down to save a family of mice from deadly cockroaches and even a cool little stealth action, the game begins to drag A BIT in its second half. And damn, is the game long. It took me 40 hours to beat and lost a little steam in the latter half of the journey. The random battles happen far too often. There is no run button, so our heroes move like snails. The lack of character development in the latter half was disappointing. Sometimes clues were a bit far too obscure, leaving you wandering around wondering what the hell to do next. The day and night system while it was promising early on, later proves to be a slight pain as to advance in certain areas you had to talk to a certain figure in town who only appeared at a certain portion of the day (or, rather, night). This actually ended up hampering the gameplay experience in my opinion, making it a bit tedious to play at times. Sure, the day and night engine starts out as a fun quirky novelty, but it can quickly morph into an annoying hassle. This is definitely not the kind of RPG that holds you by the hand. Some will like that sort of Sherlock Holmes shit, but I prefer a balance. You won't find much of one here
Nevertheless, for all of the blemishes I brought up, I really did enjoy Breath of Fire. It's got a charm to it, with its bright and colorful visuals that really melt my 16-bit heart. The music is haunting. The melodies fit each region of the game, from soothing to ominous to action-packed. I enjoy using the eight characters' unique skills, such as Ox smashing through barriers and Karn opening locked doors. It's just too long at 35-40 hours and at times a bit too obscure with its clues on what to do next. So, be sure to have a guide by the ready. Also, I didn't like how too many of the NPCs repeated the same phrases. I know they were trying to save memory, or maybe they were just lazy, but it took away from the game ever becoming immersive when too many NPCs said the same thing I just read from someone not two feet away. Having said that, while the sequel's vastly superior, I would recommend Breath of Fire to any RPG fan with a Super Nintendo. It's *far* from a classic, but it is an enjoyable adventure with a few unique twists along the way worth going through once
Graphics: 8.5 Sound: 9 Gameplay: 8 Longevity: 8
Remember how COOL game store ads were, once upon a time??
It's not the best RPG by a long shot but it is solid and fun enough
The sequel's notably better, in particular, the retranslated version