Breath of Fire
Earlier installments:
· Breath of Fire
· Breath of Fire 2
· Breath of Fire 3
· Breath of Fire 4
· Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Last seen in: 2003
Publisher: Capcom

Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire

One of the first Super Nintendo RPGs I played was Breath of Fire II. I immediately took an interest in the series and played through the first (and, at that time, only) two games. I enjoyed them so much that I picked up the later installments as they released, as well as the GameBoy Advance ports of the first two titles. While subsequent entries increasingly diverged from the original, they all shared some aspects that tied them together. Players took control of Ryu, an adolescent boy able to transform into a dragon. He sets off on a journey to save his world from the forces of evil, always accompanied by a winged girl, Nina. Outside of these similarities, many game aspects were different. The nature of the "evil force" changed. The world environment changed. The method by which Ryu channeled his dragon powers changed. Though the games were largely linear, they were entertaining and eventually evolved to a point where linearity did not matter.

Out of the entire series, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the fifth and final installment, stood out the most from its predecessors. Environmentally and mechanically different from the other games, Dragon Quarter took Breath of Fire in a new direction that made it stand out as one of the strongest series entries. Where the other entries were in bright, open environments, Dragon Quarter was in a dark, closed-in subterranean tower. Where other entries had no set limit to exploration and the use of dragon powers, Dragon Quarter enacted a sense of urgency by having a game-critical timer that increased with every action. In previous entries, the only consequence of using Ryu's dragon powers was a loss of MP or, at worst, entering a berserk state. Dragon Quarter gave Ryu tremendous dragon powers, but also attached a harsh consequence &mdash once the timer reached 100%, the game was over. Where the vast majority of RPGs allowed, and encouraged, exploration of everything their worlds had to offer, Dragon Quarter's added a level of strategy and tension that no other game in the series had.

Unfortunately for Breath of Fire fans, the outlook for the future of the series is grim. During an interview in 2008, Keiji Inafune, one of Capcom's head honchos, stated that a new entry in the series would be highly unlikely. While Inafune cited Capcom's lack of available manpower as a main reason, the drop in sales from Breath of Fire IV to Dragon Quarter, especially when compared to the more prolific Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, probably had something to do with that decision. By keeping to strong core concepts and strategically evolving the game system, Capcom created a series with lasting appeal that maintains a strong fanbase to this day. &mdash Ken Staples

There are few series that deserve a revival as much as Breath of Fire. While few of the early Breath of Fire games brought anything new to the RPG genre, they were solid games with a unique charm. Where many other RPGs had generic fantasy worlds populated by elves or dwarves, the Breath of Fire series stood out with its strange mix of wolf people, ox people, winged people, monkey people, robot people, and, of course, people who could turn into dragons. The only thing stranger than the characters' looks were their powers, with unusual but fun gimmicks like characters fusing together to transform to unlock new powers or characters transforming into giant animals to be used as vehicles. The game's iconic dragon transformations were ultimately a minor part of most of the games, but they were always fun, especially as the games experimented with more complex implementations like the Dragon Gene system from Breath of Fire 3. Other elements like the fishing and town-building minigames, or the master/apprentice and skill learning systems also helped to make the games more memorable.

It may have not been terribly innovative, but by the time of Breath of Fire 4 the series had established a unique identity for itself. Because of this it was incredibly surprising when Dragon Quarter challenged genre conventions in an almost frightful manner and boldly rejected the look and tone of the previous games in the series. Dragon Quarter threw out almost all of the conventional wisdom of the RPG genre, and created a game that gave the player options and drawbacks unlike those found anywhere else. It combined gameplay and story in a remarkable way to tell a story of people desperately fighting against a hopeless situation. It was grim, challenging, and frustrating, but it was also one of the finest RPGs ever made and my single favorite RPG from that console generation.

If Capcom were to continue the Breath of Fire series, I don't know what the company would do with it. Would it continue on with the style of the first four games? Would it try to make another Dragon Quarter? Neither option seems like it would work perfectly. The original games were fun, but they were never exceptional. Dragon Quarter was a masterpiece, but it was too inaccessible for many players and most of the elements that made it great wouldn't work with a different story. However, a game that could combine the innovation and powerful storytelling of Dragon Quarter with some of the more lighthearted quirks and charm of the older games would be a great thing to see. &mdash Nathan Schlothan

Can a new game happen?

Series Highlights

Not likely

Breath of Fire II, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

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