Breath of Fire 3 review

The most tragic thing about this review was that I shattered my previous image of this being a wonderfully great game forever.

Have you ever had a fond memory of a book, movie, or game from when you were young? Ever revisited it, to find that it wasn’t as great as you remembered? I think that’s what I did with Breath of Fire 3. I played it as it came out - I must have been only 12 or 13 years old, and remember loving it. I’d already played it three times when I replayed it for this review, and, while the game is not bad, perhaps some memories are best left untouched.

Combat in Breath of Fire 3 is turn-based, with a few neat twists. For one, there is no screen transition for random battles which is cool; also, random battles on the world map are completely optional, which is cool for exploring purposes. For two, you can ‘examine’ enemies during battle and learn their skills, which you can then swap between party members. To expand on that, there are ‘Masters’ all around the world - people who will make your characters as their apprentice, allowing them to learn skills from their masters as they level up. Different masters also alter how your stats will go up as you level (I.E, a mage Master might give you more intelligence, but less power). You need to go meet with your Masters after gaining levels to acquire the new skills.

The coolest thing about the new combat engine is Ryu’s ‘gene’ system: All around the world, Ryu finds different genes, which allow him to transform into dragons. You can choose three at a time, all with different properties. You can use them to make dragons with particular elemental properties, and even specialties in strength or magic. There are even a few ‘special’ dragons, for you to figure out if you take the time to mix and match your genes. The only thing that sucks about the ‘special’ dragons is that over half of them require a gene that you won’t be getting until you’re about 3/4 through the game, which sucks. Still, even without that, it’s the best Dragon transformation system in the series by far.

However, there are a lot of troubles with fighting in Breath of Fire 3, and it all comes down to game balance. Breath of Fire 3 has one of the most arbitrary difficulties out of any RPG I’ve ever played.

For starters, You never get enough experience or money (Even though random battles are just a bit too frequent), and worse yet, party members not in your current party STILL do not gain experience. This sucks, because you will be forced to use certain characters from time to time.

Also, Ryu´s dragon transformations are so powerful that you don’t have to level up your characters at all. This would be fine, if grinding wasn’t necesary; but, the game clearly expects you to be leveling up. You can get through the majority of the game just fine like this; but your mage characters will get their asses handed to them during random battles, and boss battles will be nigh impossible without dragon transformations. Unfortunately, it will catch up to you in the final parts of the game - just wait and see.

Lastly, without the use of Masters, some characters are completely useless, either because they don’t have good stats or lack good spells. The problem is, there are so many points in the game where you’re confined to a certain part of the map that you might be stuck with a master for much longer than you had anticipated. This is troublesome, because your character’s stats might level up undesirably as a result, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The most baffling thing about all this is, the easy solution is to rebalance the characters so that the master system is optional. Here’s what I think is the best way:

  1. You could totally remove one character, Peco, from the game, as he is completely useless without using Masters to buff his stats anyways (He gets High HP and absolutely nothing else; in fact, his defense is as low as a caster’s!). Besides that, his role in the story is small, inconsequential, and even kind of dumb.

  2. You could make Rei, the thief, physically stronger, so that he doesn’t completely suck outside of boss fights.

  3. You could make Momo the dedicated Healer (she already learns most of the healing spells anyways) instead of Ryu, who desperately needs all his magic points for dragon transformations.

  4. Finally, you could give Nina, the black mage, better magic power, and give her all the offensive magic spells that Momo, Rei, and Garr (the powerhouse) learn; What the hell are Rei and Garr learning powerful magic spells for, anyways? Their magic power is so low that it’s never a good idea to use their magic.

The simplicity of this blows my fucking mind. Why would they make four out of six characters severely deficient without using the Master system? It’s theoretically possible that you might never meet a master throughout the course of the game, so why make the game so dependant upon it?

That being said, I have to admit: the game’s system works just fine as it is, and it’s still fun. It just sucks to see a bunch of good ideas, all of which could have been pulled off so much better.

The last gameplay aspect is ‘fairy colony’, an expansion of Breath of Fire 2’s ‘Township’. Basically, you find a colony of fairies, and instruct them on how to build and sustain a town. In doing so, you can build many shops - some containing the best equipment in the game - and even a shop that makes copies of items! The village ‘updates’ after a certain number of fights.

The only problem is, the village has ‘Culture’ rating - which makes the village update faster - that you can raise. The problem is, no one tells you the purpose of Culture in the tutorial. So, if you skip out on raising the Culture level, your Fairy Village will be pretty much useless. Besides that, the Fairy Village can be really cool.

The story itself is kind of ‘broken’ too. It’s hard to talk about it without spoiling a whole bunch, but I’ll try. First off, the game is separated into two parts: One where Ryu is a child, and one where he is an adult.

The game starts off with Ryu as an orphan, living with his friends, Rei and Teepo. Due to certain circumstances, they are separated, and Ryu embarks on a journey to find them. Upon doing so, he learns about his origin and the fate of his people, and seeks a certain important person to find out why his people suffered such a fate.

I can tell you that the game is very interesting and exciting up to the point where Ryu begins his search for the ‘important person’, as the action doesn’t stop, is always relevant to the task at hand, and the task itself is everchanging. This will take you through almost half of the game time (about 17 of 40 hours). After that, though, the story becomes mind-numbingly boring. For about the next five hours of game time, you’re doing random shit unrelated to the task at hand. Afterwards begins the hunt for the ‘important person’, which is an exercise in futility on purpose - it’s very clear that this ‘important person’ doesn’t want you to meet them. However, after prefacing this part with so many pointless tasks, it just makes this aspect all the more frustrating. It’s too bad, because without the ‘pointless tasks’ section of the game, trying to reach the person would be more fun. But, because the story at that point purposefully makes you feel like you’re going nowhere, it feels like you’re adding insult to injury. That, combined with a lot of filler dungeons, and very poor, contrived attempts at character introspection really bring the story to a halt until you get to the final stretch of the game, where it picks up a little more at the end.

The biggest problem, obviously, is that the game just has too long of a period where nothing interesting happens. This charade of ‘nothing happens’ goes from that 17-hour mark right up until you’re in the last few hours of the game. Sure, it gets better, but it’s too little, too late. There’s a lot of fat that needed to be cut out of the story, but wasn’t.

Other than that, the characters are all pretty static. There is an alarmingly good attempt at character interaction via ‘camping’, where you get to talk to each character and see how they feel about what’s currently going on. This, and the fact that your party actually talks to and acknowledges each other makes it feel more like a ‘party’ and not like a bunch of people that only talk to Ryu. Still, in spite of this, all the characters have their inner struggles, but you never see the characters actually consider or question their actions until the end, and so they never have a chance to become dynamic characters.

Just like the gameplay, though, the story works just fine as it is; it’s just dissapointing when it could have obviously been better.

What else…I love the fluid, colorful graphics style, and the 3D maps with 2D sprites is a really nice touch for the dungeons. Nothing too flashy, but it suits the game perfectly. The music is not bad - it takes a lot of themes and uses them well. There is a huge emphasis on jucuzzi jazz/jucuzzi funk - for the uninitiated, that’s the kind of music you might hear in the elevator in a department store. Most people dislike this soundtrack heavily, but I liked it a lot. I’ve always felt that this sort of ambient jazz was the cornerstone of the music in the first three games - also fitting, since the first three games are supposed to take place in the same world and timeline.

Anyways, that’s Breath of Fire 3 in a nutshell for you: Every single aspect of the game is fully functional, and, in the end, not bad (and, though it’s not saying much, it’s a HELL of a lot better than the first two installments). Still, there’s a very good game staring you in the face the whole time, but you have to play the version of it where your party makes pointless excursions and the character roles in combat are poorly defined. With some finetuning, this game could really be excellent; but, I guess that’s a pipedream now. Some things are better left as memories: that was Breath of Fire 3, a memory I ruined for the sake of writing a review. What a curse it can be, to be a critic.

My feeling for BoF3 is that it didn’t age well. 10 years ago, I really loved this game. You should’ve mentioned the fishing because I think they did a good job for that. I appreciate that you mentioned the music, I too thought the soundtrack was really good. Its style was unique and its refreshing to see people try something different.

When I replayed it with my GF, I had just finished FFXII and that’s when the game really hit me. The gameplay was so slow that I couldn’t stand it. The slowness is further worsened by what you described as the inherent inefficiency of everyone in your party. I think what we also need to take into consideration when we look back at these things is that a lot has happened since then. What we liked 10 years ago isn’t what we like now. Gaming in itself has evolved tremendously and we only notice this by playing games like BoF3 that while good in terms of classical RPG standards, aren’t good in modern standards. The truth of the matter is, classical RPGs aren’t cutting it anymore, in a world of interactivity, good design, storytelling and cinematography.

Yeah, I really agree on all of those points. In fact, I will make a revision to at least mention the fishing, which I told myself to do several times while writing the review, lol.

But yeah, the game didn’t age well, exactly how you said. It was pretty damn good when it came out, but I think it was released sort of at about the end of a time when people stopped taking such problems for granted in games. Nowadays, we don’t really expect to see those problems, and so you kinda feel the punch moreso now than you would have back when it first came out.

Actually, I think if the game was tweaked a fair amount, the game could be good. Like, obviously make balance changes, like make it so that Nina doesn’t go 25 levels without learning a single-target offensive spell (Seriously! Iceblast at level 12, and her next one is MYOLLNIR at 37!) and so on. But, also, if they just took out a bunch of the dungeons that were just THERE, or at least used them for all that character introspection crap so they didn’t just throw it all in at the end, it could have been a lot better.

For example, something that really got me when I played this game was After Ryu becomes an adult and meets with the party again, people are really not as…shocked? surprised? as maybe they should be. It feels like they’re like “…Oh, damn! Hey there, Ryu! Good to see you!” This is weird, because the relationship between Ryu and Nina when they are kids is so well-developed, like a genuine good friendship between two very young kids. No matter how long you are seperated from that person, I would think that their memory, and their impact on you as a person, would necesitate a more powerful emotion when you finally reunited with them. If they had gone more into this stuff at the part where you’re doing shit that doesn’t really matter, like talking down the Syn City mob, or taking down the Chrysm-enhanced crop plant, the game would not have felt so painfully slow.

And that, I think, is what hurts the most about Breath of Fire 3. Like you said, it was written at a time where everything about it was acceptable, and even great; however, even now, there is a game that may damn well be a masterpiece staring you right in the face, and there’s nothing you can do to change how mediocre it is. :confused:

Ahh, the BoF3 soundtrack, that WAS a good one. Haven’t played the game itself in forever, but thinking back I can certainly see how it wouldn’t have aged well.

The timeline always confused me a bit. I never played 4 or 5, but it seemed the first three took place in the same world, but what order? I’ve heard theories that puts the games in almost every chronological order, actually, except for none of them put 2 first.

But yeah, the OST, it was nice. Even if the forest track sounded a little too much like the forest theme from Chrono Trigger. But the boss battle track was one of my overall favorites. Which is good, considering how many damn times you hear it in the game.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Capcom try to revisit the series again. Even if it might be best if they left well enough alone. Ah well, don’t that just beat all?

I think the Syn City part is essential to tie up loose ends, but I agree, the part about the Chrysm plant wasn’t necessarily essential or it could’ve been modified and tied together with other parts of the game (energy, technology, etc) to make it meaningful.

Overall, as you said, how we see BoF 3 now is thanks to changes in game design. This is obvious when you look at a lot of other games, like Halo 1 vs GoW vs Halo 3 for example. You need to think of how you use your environment, your setting, your themes, how you tie things together, etc. These are relatively novel concepts, to the point where a game like Bioshock, which honestly is very good but I believe overly hyped, has people rave over it. Or GTA IV for its writing. Gaming as an industry is maturing and were seeing that happen.

Another great review, SG. Though I wish you would start by pointing out a game’s flaws and then its good points; I think it’s more fair that way, since doing it the other way around leaves the reader with a (possibly unfair) bad impression. But that’s up to you, of course.

BoF3 is also a nostalgic game for me; it was my 3rd RPG video game ever (after Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy 7). All three of these games were radically different from each other, which helped me come to like the whole RPGing experience due to its variety.

I also replayed the game not that long ago. Unlike you, I wasn’t disappointed. Of course, I tend to like old-school games the most, so it’s a different case. Though I agree it does feel old in that I wish it had the more modern features that I’ve come to get used to in recent years (like an auto combat feature for repetitive monster fights.)

Storywise, I enjoyed the game very much. I liked how it started with Ryu as a child and then continued with him as a young adult; you rarely see that in most RPGs. I was also surprised by the occasional sobriety of the otherwise happy-go-lucky story; events such as Ryu being forced to kill some of his foes, or the not-too-clear morality of the final choice (with two possible endings- another new twist for me at the time!) In fact, to this day, I’m not sure if what the “Goddess” was doing was really bad; only the testimony of the Yggdrasil Tree helped point out that it was wrong. Ironically, now that I’m older I realize that even THAT wasn’t 100% proof. How do we know that a world determined by the will of Nature TRULY is better for humanity? Sure, it’s the romantic thing to assume, but where does that leave progress? Isn’t mankind’s eventual purpose to become independent of nature? Heavy questions, indeed. Not that I cared back then, of course! :stuck_out_tongue:

I do disagree with you in that I feel every subplot presented HAD a point, mostly precisely establishing out some fact for the characters: Rei dealing with his vengeance, Momo dealing with her father’s scientific legacy, Nina dealing with her domineering parents, etc. I’m not saying they were handled well (indeed, I wanted to see more about them, even back then) but their purpose was clear to me.

As for game balance, I never had much trouble anywhere. Of course, as I usually do, I read the guide first, so, for example, I could plan ahead who would learn what from whom, or how to develop the Fairy Colony. I found the party well balanced most of the time, though I agree some of the characters were too weak in certain areas (Momo’s poor aim really annoyed me.) Also, I only used things like Ryu’s Dragon Forms on Bosses, so he never really made the rest look useless. My only complaint was that I never learned all the skills from the last Master, because I needed too many levels. Didn’t beat the (way too strong!) optional bosses either.

I have a tendency not to remember the music in games, and I don’t do so here either, other than feeling it was appropriate. I did like the graphics, which I felt were the most Anime-like in a game I played for quite some time (though I wish the sprites had better defined faces.)

In general, while the flaws you mentioned were there, I sidestepped them both times I played the game for the most part. And even when I noticed them, the other game elements- the variety of Dragon Forms, the Faerie Village, etc.- more than made up for it.

So, BoF3 is still one of my all-time favorite games, though I agree that it could’ve been even better with some tinkering.

I think I tried playing it again about a year ago. I have fond memories of hating it while I was playing it, then looking back on it afterwards.

I thought the characters were fairly balanced, even though Peco is fucking useless as shit.

I agree the pacing in that game was terrible. There were like 3 or 4 points where the game should’ve ended, but it kept going. Also, that desert bit is the single most boring bit I’ve ever encountered in any game, ever.

I still like it for nostalgia, however.

Hey, just wanted to say I loved this game at the time.

Personally I developed the culture level of the colony a lot cause it sounded cool.

Also, Momo was an insanely overpowered powerhouse in my game with the best attack power, magic power, and speed (well, except Rei) of anyone. I never took her out of the party, though, so maybe that’s why.

And I love Peco because he starts at Level 1 so you can really go anywhere with him if you wait to level him until you find the right master. For me he never got KO’ed because of his massive HP, defense, and regeneration, so he was dependable as a moderate attacker and item user. And I like the Momo plot connection.

The only useless one for me was Garr. He’s like a slow Momo with no magic power.

And Nina was pointless with Momo around, for me.

One thing that always bugged me was, just how much time passes when Ryu grows up? 10 years? 15? Wouldn’t Momo and Rei be pretty old afterwards, assuming they were in their 20s to start with?

Nice review, but I haven’t replayed the game lately so I still have warm feelings for it.

I don’t even remember the optional bosses. What were they?

waru, you just touched on everything i said was bad about the game :stuck_out_tongue:

But it doesn’t tell you, right?

Provided you play the game using masters, Momo is broke as hell, cos of her relatively high stats in everything. Of course, if you don’t, she’s a mediocre healer with mediocre spells and an attack that misses a lot…

Also the same thing: Peco is good if you use the masters; otherwise, he has high HP, but such terrible attack and defense, due to not being able to use good equipment, that he might as well not be good at anything.

I actually found Garr very useful. He has the second highest HP, but unlike Peco, he actually has high defense. Not to mention, he usually has the best attack power, and you get his strongest weapon just past the halfway point of the game, making him pretty much uber. Also, his slow speed makes him useful, because if you can anticipate having to use a healing item after a turn, you can make sure a character begins with plenty of HP.

In other words, a serious game design flaw, where Nina should have really learned all those attack spells learned by other characters, and should have had comparable intelligence to Momo.

Sorry to bring up the things you said were bad, but the one thing I didn’t understand about your review was how you complained about the master system. Yea, using it makes the game easier and the characters a lot better. But that’s a good thing right? It’s like the sphere grid system or esper system or anything else RPGs use. And I don’t think it’s possible to go through the game without finding a single master. At least one is in the main storyline or at least really obvious, if I remember right?

Also, I didn’t use any walkthroughs or FAQs, I just used the Masters that I happened to find in the ways that seemed best. So I jacked up Peco’s Defense cause I thought he could become a good tank, and I pumped up Momo’s intelligence.

And, in Momo’s defense, all you have to do is give her two Artemis Caps (use the fairy to copy one). She doesn’t need any other accessories anyway cause her stats are so good.

Now I can’t recall if fairies copy equipment… but I’m pretty sure I ended up with two Artemis caps.
But missing’s kinda fun. It’s like, is this enemy going to be utterly slaughtered, or get absolutely no damage? =p

Missing is never fun and Momo misses a lot.

With two caps her accuracy is 80 or 90.

And I just remembered, not only was Momo always in the party, but I used Monopolize with her a lot. That’s why she was way overpowered, too. :hahaha;

Now that I think of it, I probably would have found parts of this game frustrating (especially back then) if I had not read the guide first, because, like SG said, the game just doesn’t tell you some important things. Like the fact that there are at least three skills in the game that are TOTALLY useless (as in, they do nothing. Period.) and quite a few of very little use. I can imagine someone getting those skills (some of which you get from a Master!) and then trying them over and over in battle saying “surely, this must do SOMETHING!” ::dekar!::

Also, since you don’t know WHEN each Master is going to give you a new skill, going back to him or her repeatedly can be frustrating, especially if you happen to have already learned the next skill -from monsters- in which case you get nothing from the Master until the NEXT skill comes up! Not even a “Oh, you already knew that one?” :thud:

So yeah, check a guide or FAQ first.

  1. No, it is not like the sphere grid or the esper system. The sphere grid is hardly optional, as it is the way you level up in that particular game. The esper system is a way of learning magic that is explained to you and shown to you; in other words, it is impossible to beat the game without having any espers.

In Breath of Fire 3, Masters are optional, and you can miss them. There are a few that you meet in the storyline, but you have to go back to them afterwards to get them as Masters, so it’s possible, and even plausible, to miss them.

Also, don’t forget what else I said about the master system:

  • Some characters are useless without masters. Others are barely functional.

  • Because you get confined to certain parts of the map from time to time, you might get stuck on a master for several levels more than you want to. This is VERY possible, especially in the beginning of the game.

Nevermind some of the things I DIDN’T mention in my review, like the fact that gaining several levels under the same master can be obnoxious - like, you might not even want to use that master. Or, how masters can have weird, poorly explained criterion for becoming their apprentice (Hondara, anyone?).

So, yes. Using the Master system makes things easier and better and such. That is not bad at all; however, making it optional, doing a poor job of highlighting the master system, and making the game such a chore to play without them…that’s what makes the master system poorer than it could have been.

And besides, what I’m saying is not necesarily that the Master system sucks. My point was that most of the cast is mediocre or worse WITHOUT Masters - a very bad design flaw. The game should be supplemented by the Master system, rather than depend on it.

The optional bosses were The Berzerker (a robot) and the Archmage. Both appeared as random encounters in a room in one of the last dungeons. They were pallet swaps of regular monsters types, so it was very easy to assume they would not be hard to beat- but each is like level 90 or higher. You can run away from them, though.

I had a few paragraphs typed up, and then B.S.O.D.

So I’ll just input these:

Rei(Resist) + Chain Formation = Win. EX Attacks all around.

Also, using Peco to gain Deis’s and Ladon’s skills, transferred over to Momo = also win.

Towards end game, I put everyone I used (which was always Rei, Momo, Ryu as soon as I got Rei, never swapped out) on Haicho for the HP and AP gains. It always worked out fine for me.

Bof3’s soundtrack and sound effects quality made it one of my favorite Capcom soundtracks.

That sounds sweet. I really felt like I was cheating with Momo in the party. Her stats were literally hundreds above everyone else in the party (except def). Her strength just made everyone else’s laughable. I couldn’t stop making her monopolize, which only made it worse. And I kept making the fairies copy all the stat increasing items and then using them on Momo. I just can’t say no to bazooka-using genius inventors. Like this one, too: :victoly: (well, not a bazooka in her case, but gun-wielding inventors)

I might as well take advantage of this thread to ask some questions regarding the plot of BoFIII that still bother me to this day.

(Spoilers, obviously: )

[SPOILER]1- Ryu first awakens in a crystal underground. I assumed he was hidden there by the Brood. But I read somewhere that it was actually a Brood Egg, meaning he was “born” there. Is that right?

2- Ryu had a dream early in the game that ended up being a prediction of future events (meeting Teepo as an adult, and also Myria, though neither is revealed for who he is at the time.) Why did that happen? He’s not seeing dreaming the future anymore.

3- Why did the Nue Chimera’s pups die?

4- If Myria did not want to allow technology to develop so there would never be Weapons of Mass Destruction again, why allow any technology to reach the outer world at all? Some of it was indeed used for weapons, such as Momo’s bazooka, or for dangerous experiments (the Chrysm plant experiments.)

5- Mikba seemed to hint that his powers were a matter of fate. Does that mean Myria gave him his powers? Why would she do that?

6- The Brood did not use their “Ultimate Power” to defend themselves, out of fear that they would destroy the World, and were nearly exterminated as a result. Yet it was OK for Ryu to use it against Myria? Wasn’t that really risky?

7- Does Nina have wings or not? She seems to, but they might be part of her dress (in previous versions she did, but in here none of the Windians had wings. She’s also never shown flying.)

8- Was Peco an Yggdrasil Tree sapling? I thought he was just a random creation of the Chrysm Plant, and that his link to Yggdrasil was something he forged by visiting the Yggdrasil tree. But I read somewhere that he is meant to grow into such a tree himself (we do see what looks like a buried Peco sprouting at the end of the game.) (along that same line: was Yggdrasil the mind of one tree or many?)

9- What did Momo’s mother (and father) die of? Is it ever mentioned?

10- Lastly and most important of all: What was Myria doing that needed to be stopped? Sure, she ordered the Brood destroyed because they had a power that could destroy the World (which even they admit was true) but that was 400 years ago; she seemed to have mellowed since then. She even sounded sincerely sad over the Brood’s deaths, and she did offer Teepo and Ryu the option to live if they stayed with her (which we know she did intend to keep if you play the alternate ending.) Other than that, her only other current action was preventing the development of technology… though actually she seemed to be doing the reverse (as mentioned above.) I’m not sure if there’s a chunk of story missing, but Myria simply didn’t seem to be a threat anymore. In fact, by creating the ocean (assuming that was true) she kept the Desert from expanding all over the world. Her only threat seemed to be that she would not let Ryu go free, and that Yggdrasil didn’t agree with her shepherding the world. Was that worth killing her, especially after Ryu regretted killing so many people to get there?
I realize many of these questions simply may not have answers. But if anyone knows of a citation anywhere (from some official BoF book, for example) or even simply an informed opinion, I’d like to hear them.