The original Breath of Fire will always have a rightful place in the pantheon of memorable
SNES RPGs. In the early 1990s, developer Capcom and co-publisher Squaresoft released a game that
would share the stage with the likes of Final Fantasy IV, Secret of Mana, Lufia and later Final Fantasy VI
to name a few, as a pillar of an increasingly popular, but still niche--as esteemed by most Japan-based
developers--North American genre. Though times have certainly changed, Breath of Fire remains a classic,
and its improved Game Boy Advance release marks the first time many gamers may be able to enjoy it.
| The new title screen
Breath of Fire brings to light many of the hallmarks of upper-tier, 16-bit RPGs: colorful, contrasting
and detailed pixel-art; a fulfilling and driven fantasy quest with diverse
environments and myriad dungeons to explore; an interesting cast of player characters; and fluid sprite animations that are sure to tickle the old-school sensibilities of long-time RPG fans. But what
made BoF something special--at least, at the time of its original release--is the way it differed
from the competition. Its unique battle system, a sleek, icon-based interface, a cast of racially dynamic
characters, fully animated monsters, day-and-night time changes, minigames, and a 3/4 overhead battle view,
which provided a 3-D viewpoint rarely used in RPGs of that era, imbued BoF with freshness and originality.
BoF is an RPG that conflates pre-32-bit RPG conventions in some ways, but for the most part it's never afraid
to just be itself.
| New cut-scenes enhance the story
Breath of Fire's story, falling in line with the archetypical mythologies crafted for many RPGs of its time, places the
player in control of protagonist Ryu, a descendant of the Dragon Light Clan, who must stop his clan's evil counterpart, the
Dark Dragon Clan, from unsealing an evil goddess, Tyr. To realize their nefarious ambitions, the dark clan must collect Six
Goddess Keys and unlock the goddess's tomb. BoF has a proclivity for half-human characters, as Ryu is joined by one
of the most eclectic casts in the history of RPGs. Nina, the angelic princess of Winlan, wolf-like archer Bo, man-beast
Ox, slithering sorceress Bleu, and a fish man called Gobi are some of the unconventional characters who lend their talents to the
quest. The plotline/scenario is straight-forward for the most part with a few side-quests thrown in for good measure, but BoF by
no means revels in subplot or diversion to the degree its successor does.
Breath of Fire's turn-based battle system provides players the latitude of substituting a character
between rounds, a feature seldom implemented in even the newest of RPGs. Substitutions can be performed
between any round though only one character can be exchanged at a time. The party size allows for four
characters and a total of eight can be acquired. Also featured is an 'auto' option that forgoes the
usual, turn-based menu navigation in favor of an all-out physical attack useful for blowing through less
challenging, random encounters. This battle mode can be deactivated during the progress of any round
by holding the B button. Menu commands (the standard fight, defend, magic, item and special skill used in
many RPGs) are negotiated via a simple and economical icon system that dominates much of the game's pleasing
interface. Also consider the use of handy HP/MP gauges during battles, and you have a battle system and menu
interface that are serviceable, intuitive, and should give players little to complain about, if nothing to
to be particularly impressed with by today's standards.
| A battle unfolds
In terms of interaction, BoF is not without charm. The game allows players to hunt and
fish, and although these minigames are somewhat primitive endeavors requiring only
basic motor skills and a bit of luck, they do succeed in adding a little spice and (dare I say it) realism to the quest no matter how superficial the mechanics.
On the overworld map, characters can perform specific functions such as breaking through walls or unlocking doors, which can be
necessary towards uncovering secrets or advancing in the story.
Although BoF is, afterall, a remake of an older title and does not dazzle graphically to the degree of other, newer GBA RPGs,
this edition does get a little shot in the arm and looks a bit healthier than it once did. The graphics
look slightly refined and more polished than the original. New character portraits have been added to the battles and
new cut-scenes have also been added to enhance the overall presentation. Additional new features include a save function that
allows players to save anywhere, an improved fishing minigame, and the ability to link-up GBAs with other adventurers to trade items.
Breath of Fire for the GBA is set to hit shelves on December 12, 2001. RPGamer will continue to update you on its
progress as we draw closer to what may be a very merry Christmas for RPG fans.