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Breath of Fire III: An Ideal First RPG

Heath Hindman

Like many video games, an awful lot of positive and negative things have been said about Breath of Fire III. Also like most games, loving or hating most aspects of BoF3 is a simple matter of taste. Even folks claiming objective points of view visibly slip into heavier subjectivity than anything. I will now speak as one who fell upon Breath of Fire III as his first RPG ever, back in 1998, and describe why, if nothing else, Breath of Fire III is an excellent introduction to the genre, and in fact, might be one of the best out there for this task. This is a bit of a dive into my experience with it and how it affected me as a gamer.

In anyone's first RPG, the player will immediately be greeted with new concepts. As a player of primarily adventure, platform, and sports games, I had not been exposed to a game carried by a deep story. Most games had simple conflict and resolution, but no game I had played had something comparable to the situation with Balio and Sunder, Garr trying to kill you, Teepo turning to the side of Myria, Emitai's true motives, and other such plot landmarks in BoF3. While I would experience similar things in other RPGs newer and older than BoF3, these were new to me while nothing extreme, and helped seal my addiction to this type of game.

I was familiar with numerical stats by way of sports games, but those were not used in they way an RPG was. Breath of Fire III presented these and their functions to me with very user-friendly menus and I was able learn how things worked with no problem. Stat-affecting items and spells, level ups, and other things that any RPG would have further captured my interest, but one thing unique to Breath of Fire III that put extra power in the punch was the master system. This allowed me to tinker with a character's growth by assigning him/her a "master" to study under. It's somewhat comparable to Final Fantasy VI's Esper system, but that's a loose comparison. The master system was another factor that got me hooked on BoF3, and in effect, RPGs in general.

I found myself enthralled with the game, finding fun in battling monsters, fishing in the rivers, building up my fairy village, and progressing the story. After playing several other RPGs, I have taken note that a number of things in the story and battle system are not exactly original ideas.

Just the same, on my second trip through Breath of Fire III, I was still entertained with things on about the same level I was before. This is not intended as a "review" of Breath of Fire III, but when I take note of the game objectively and subjectively, I can't really find any huge, glaring flaws, even after years of playing mostly RPGs since I first encountered it. The way Breath of Fire III did things was good enough to seal the deal.

In recent evaluation, I concluded I would not have felt the way about very many other RPGs as my first, as I did of BoF3. I would not have reacted to the genre the same way had I played certain other of my favorite RPGs as my first one. Among the titles available at that time, I'd say only FFVI or VII might have had a similar impact as my first. Additionally, with the bulk of games that came out later, I picture myself playing them as a first, and just can't see them having the same effect on me–even ones I love dearly.

Breath of Fire III didn't change the RPG genre in any way. It did not mark the beginning of a new chapter in RPG history or anything like that. But I'll be damned if it doesn't serve as a top-grade "first RPG." I say this because since then I've let RPGs invade my game library more than any other type, and in fact, write for this RPG website.

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