After playing through Breath of Fire 2 a few months back, I quickly played through the first one. I meant to post a review about it, but my computer died. So, without further ado:
When I first played Breath of Fire, I remember enjoying it. Of course, I was also in a phase of my life that I like to call “Any-RPG-is-automatically-fun” phase, so I probably enjoyed many games back then that weren’t so hot. Finally, I’ve replayed it, a good nine years after its release. Two thoughts that crossed my mind the majority of the time I spent playing it: “I really LIKED this game?” and “I can’t believe they made MORE games after this one!”
So, here’s what’s up: The Dragon Clan used to be all-powerful; but then some goddess named Tyr appeared that granted wishes. The dragons fought for control of her power, and almost wiped themselves out. Fast-forward to an unknown amount of time later: The Dark Dragon Clan, led by Zog (his parents must have really hated him to name him ZOG, by the way), having recieved cool powers from Tyr, are trying to take over the world. They decide to kick off the party by killing off the Light Dragons. The main character, Ryu - a Light Dragon - vows to take on Zog and the Dark Dragons, and goes off to find them. Another thing that Ryu does is to try and collect all the goddess keys - keys used to seal off Tyr long ago - before the Dark Dragons do.
This is pretty cliche to begin with; but I’ve seen cliche things pulled off well. The problem with this story is that NOTHING is pulled off well AT ALL.
Where to start? I suppose the biggest thing that sticks out is the plothole concerning the goddess keys. At the beginning of the game, Jade, Zog’s right hand man, boasts that they already have the goddess keys. This would make sense, seeing as the Dark Dragons already have the power of the goddess. However, Ryu and his band of merry men find only find two of the six keys in the Dark Dragons’ posession. How have the Dark Dragons gained power from the goddess, Tyr, without unsealing her with the goddess keys? And, if they’re so much stronger than every other nation, and are working to subjugate ALL of them, why wouldn’t they have found the keys yet? None of them were particularly well-hidden. I suppose I’m beating a dead horse here, but the final nail in this coffin is that Ryu never set out on his journey with the goddess keys in mind. Why would he, anyways? The Dark Dragons are supposed to have them all! This makes it even stranger that finding them would wind up being such a large part of the story.
What else? Pretty much every hero and villain is lame. Many of them join you JUST because they also want to stop the Dark Dragons, which is reason enough; but some characters join you for virtually no reason at all. Almost none of the heroes have any personality. We know the Bleu, the magician, is blunt and rude; but, that’s about all. We know that Gobi, the merchant, likes money; but, that’s all there is to know about Gobi. Sounds a bit lame, huh? Here’s the kicker: Those are the most well-developed of all the heroes. There are six characters of whom there is even LESS to know about, if you can even imagine that. The same problem is true for all the villains of the game. Sure, there’s flashes of inspiration in the villain, Cerl; but, since you only talk to her about ten minutes before you finally fight her, it’s hard to give a crap about her.
The last bothersome, trifling detail about the story is the pace and flow. There are many times when you’re given no indication of what to do/where to go next; and, if you have THAT information, you never understand WHY you’re doing this thing/going to this place. Ryu never gets any information about where the Dark Dragons are located, and sometimes it feels like he’s not even looking for them at all!
You might be thinking, “Oh, well then, Ryu’s primary goal is probably to retrieve the goddess keys!” Well, never mind the fact that Ryu didn’t set out to find them in the first place, Ryu is never pointed in the direction of the keys, either. Many keys are obtained through some lengthy, boring, fetch quest. The only thing that makes these fetch quests relevant is that you find out that the Dark Dragons involved. After solving someone’s random, absurd Dark Dragon problem, a key somehow winds up in Ryu’s posession. Ryu and co. then trek along the path of least resistance to their next location, and do it all over again until the end of the game.
I saved that particular point for last because of its effects on the gameplay. And oh my, what a game this is to play! Breath of Fire is your typical archaic turn-based RPG. The only really cool thing about it is that two of your characters can transform into cool monsters - one of them by fusing with other party members. Everything else about it is so jurassic that it’s hard to believe that this game was green-lighted for a release. Slow walking speed, high encounter rate, mandatory level-grinding, and limited inventory space are bad enough, but Breath of Fire takes it even further by using picture icons for the menus instead of words (which sucks, cos the pictures don’t always make sense), not showing you how much experience is necessary to level up, and making half of the cast useless in battle. Yes, Breath of Fire goes that extra mile to not only make you FEEL like you’re playing a game released in 1987, but to do things that would even be unacceptable back in 1987 - let alone 1993, the year of this game’s release!
Other than that, the graphics are pretty mediocre, the character designs are fairly original. The music, done by Yoko Shimomura (Super Mario RPG, Street Fighter 2, Kingdom Hearts, Legend of Mana) and a few other composers I don’t know, is alright. There’s nothing about the visual or aural experience that makes this game stand out too much.
There’s not much else to say. This game was unnecesarily backwards and primitive long before it ever came out, and it was released anyways. It goes without saying, then, that by the time of this review (2008), it’s pretty much a waste of time to play. Unless you want to see the beginnings of a series which - thank GOD - got much better over the years, play something else and save yourself from an absurd waste of time.