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Capcom's third RPG proves that you don't need to be Square to make a good game
By Carl Morris, Reader Reviewer
Breath of Fire 3 is the latest, and possibly final, installment of Capcom's long-running RPG series. Its predecessors both appeared on the SNES, and were smash successes, and for good reasons. BoF3 does little to distinguish itself from the other two titles in the Breath of Fire trilogy, but once you play it, you won't care whether or not it's original.
Graphically, Breath of Fire 3 excels. The camera is fixed at a 3/4 position; it's rotatable, but it goes back to its original position when you're done moving it around. The backgrounds are composed of texture-mapped polygons, ala Final Fantasy Tactics. I personally love the appearance of the backgrounds: they're so well made(the polygons that compose the backgrounds never break up, even when you rotate the camera, and they're beautiful to look at) that they look 2D. The characters themselves are sprite-based, thankfully. Since characters are 2D, they have an unbelievable amount of detail and animation packed in. However, the sprite-based characters get pixelly when viewed close-up, or when they're on a higher ground than you are.
Breath of Fire 3's music has recieved a mixed reception; a lot of people feel that the combination of light jazz and muzak should never show up in a videogame, even if it fits with the game's situations. Actually, the only parts of the soundtrack that are questionable show up near the beginning, and they aren't played that much during the game. The rest of the tracks are very well composed, and have a high sound quality(the CD is a miracle, I tell you). You'll find yourself humming away to a lot of the tunes, even if you hate them. Overall, most of the tracks define the way that music should be - enjoyable and memorable.
When you come down to it, an RPG is nothing without two things - characterization and storyline, and I'm pleased to say that Breath of Fire 3 delivers both in a gift-wrapped package. The storyline may be a bit general - it's the typical "Let's save the world!"-type story that is present in many an RPG, but it's presented flawlessly. You play as Ryu, the seemingly last living member of the Brood(or Dragon Clan in BoF1-2), a very powerful race of people with the ability to turn into dragons, although Ryu doesn't know that. In the begenning of the game, Ryu befriends two good-natured theives who steal to survive. After stealing money from the local town's greedy mayor and giving it to the citizens of the town, called McNeil, the three are attacked and separated by a large criminal organization which the mayor belonged to. During Ryu's search for his missing friends, he discovers his power and develops a desire to know about how his race died, and who he is. The story is truly one that belongs in a novel.
As in Breath of Fire 2, the past plays a heavy role in Breath of Fire 3, and the world where the BoF games take place have enough history to go around. For example, when magical beings die(like the Brood), their bodies fossilize, and are slowly transformed into the ore known as chrysm, which powers machines and robots; machines themselves are a mystery, as the machines that are used are found originally as scrap, and are repaired and put to use for different applications. Another mystery present in the game is the size of the world - it seems very small to everyone, but it is unknown whether or not there is land beyond the vast and violent ocean, called the Outer Sea - there is no boat that exists that could be able to enter the ocean, let alone sail across it. Mysteries like these get solved by your party as the game progresses, and figure heavily into the story.
One very intersting thing in Breath of Fire 3 is its battle system. When you get into a battle, there is no psychedelic effect that signals the start of a fight - enemies simply fade onto the screen, the battle menu appears, and the fight starts. The battles menu is similar to the one in Lufia and the Fortress of Doom(remember that old SNES title?) - there are 5 icons lined up in a plus-style fashion, and each one represents a different action, be it attack, magic, defense, items, or Examine. "Wait a minute... Examine? What's that?" you may be thinking. Well, Examine is a command that has the character you selected the Examine option with observe the enemies for one turn. If an enemy uses a special attack when a character is observing it, the character who is observing will learn that special ability, if it is learnable. Also included in the battle menu are two icons that are not directly selectable - auto-battle and run - that must be shown by using the L1 and R1 buttons, respectively.
One of Breath of Fire 3's most original features is its Master-Apprentice System. The MAS is a system that allows your characters to learn special ablities not attainable by any other means. The system works like this: there are certain people in the world who will teach you their abilities, either for free or for a price. These abilities can either be worthless or invaluable depending on how you use them. However, this sytem has some flaws - some abilities that you can learn can be learned from enemies simply by observing them. Also, some abilities that you can learn are learned naturally by your characters. For example, Garr learns most of the fire-based spells in the game, including one called Inferno. I had him apprentice with Deis, an ancient sorceress, and Inferno was the first skill he learned. Ah well, nothing's perfect. Another high point is the inclusion of mini-games that don't distract from the main quest of BoF3. The two really noticable side parts are the fishing sequences, which make you want to run out to the nearest ocean and catch a whale yourself, and the ability to build a fairy village that has many things you won't find anywhere else, like a 40-track sound test and an item copying shop.
In closing, Breath of Fire 3 can be summed up in a few words: "Damn, this is good!" Capcom has really created one of the best and most fun RPGs ever, also doing some technically impossible(or at least things believed to be technically impossible) things with the PS' limited RAM and 2D capabilities, besides making some damn good- looking backgrounds with polygons. This is truly one of the best RPGs on the PS, if not one of the best RPGs ever. While some people will find the music questionable, it really doesn't matter - you'll be so immersed in the game that you won't care. This is the kind of game that belongs on everyone's game shelf.
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