Retro Review: Breath of Fire
By just about any standard this is an old game. It first came out in 1993, and the version that I played for the GBA is from all the way back in 2001. It’s age is definitely showing.

The storyline is fair, but not really above par on anything. Typical of late NES and early SNES rpgs. There are some brief mostly static cutscenes. Most of the storyline is told through text and setting.

There are 8 characters, but only about 5 of them are ones that you would really want to keep in your party. The rest tend to be back benchers as soon as you get someone better, and their only real redeeming quality is that some of those characters can merge into Karn to make him more powerful.

The game’s one innovation over earlier RPGs would be its isometric battle screen and Autobattle feature, and if you want to play the game, you’ll likely make heavy use of the autobattle feature. It’s a member of the old school of RPGs where the skimpy content was spaced out by means of copious amounts of random battles. Unfortunately, unlike newer games like Grandia, and even newer games in the BoF series, the battles are almost always uninteresting. Most of the time Autobattle is the fastest way to bring the battle to a conclusion, and the “fight the enemy furthest left with basic attacks” strategy works as well as any. If you have fond memories of old games with random battles, this will cure you of those.

What’s worse is that while most games build up to a very tough series of final bosses, this one has an all powerful transformation move that you find that essentially makes the last 3 boss fights trivial and uninteresting. Even worse than that, if you DON’T use these transformations in the last battles, you get the “bad ending” of the storyline. The easier bosses of the bad ending are actually tougher than the true form bosses in the good ending!

If you have never played a Breath of Fire game, start somewhere else, 3 and 5 (dragon quarter) both are highly recommended over this one. I bet that 4 is good as well, but I have sadly never finished this one.

That’s not to say the game is entirely without merit though.

For fans of other BoF games, you get to see the first incarnation of Ryu and Nina, the real stars of the whole series. Both are excellent and you’ll likely have them in your party constantly. Other than retro-nostalgia though, this isn’t a great example of a BoF game…

For those with chronic insomnia, this is also a fine choice. It’s portable, you can lay in bed with the GBA or DS, and play through 15-20 minutes of the game. Once you get sleepy, just save the game and set the gba down and it’s off to dreamland…