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An interesting RPG, though it falls a bit short on innovation
By Jason Strohmaier, Reader Reviewer
I have admittedly never been a great fan of the Breath of Fire series. In fact, after renting the first two, I never felt the wish to go out and get them in the stores. I looked to Breath of Fire III as a new, hopefully improved version of the original two games. What I found wasn't too far off from my expectation, but the game still suffers from some flaws that keep it from being any more than just a standard role playing game.
Breath of Fire 3 starts off with a young dragon who goes on a killing spree after being released from a prison of chrysm ore, a valuable rock made from the carcasses of dead dragons. In his madness, he rampages through a mine and is eventually caught by the workers. On his way out of the mine, he manages to knock his cage over and escape. He is then rescued in his human form by a kindly young tiger/man named Rei and Rei's friend, Teepo. And so their adventures begin as a crew of poor misfits.
The plot of the game is really nothing innovative, but simply a good versus evil plot with the usual self-discovery twist. Ryu, like many main characters nowadays, has no dialog, which impedes him more in this game than in most because he is the absolute main character, whose background is the main focus of the game. It's not like in Chrono Trigger where Crono was just a character who happened to find a few friends. In that game, Crono did not have many plot twists involving him (except for his death and rebirth), so it didn't really matter that he had no dialog. Ryu, on the other hand, only is able to show his feelings by the exclamation points, question marks, and teardrop things over his head to show that he is showing ANY emotion whatsoever. Another character in the game, Garr, seems to suffer from what I call "big oaf" complex, where he doesn't seem to have a competent brain cell in that big head of his. Granted, he is an interesting character and he does almost always ponder the meaning of life, but he suffers from the fact that he can never really make up his mind as to what he is thinking or doing. I may be a bit harsh on him, but his character just gets nauseating after a while. The game is relatively long though, lasting a good 40 hours or so. The plot, despite a slow start, does have its moments in the second half of the game, where the real quest for the knowledge of Ryu's past begins.
The instant I first saw the graphics from BOF3, two words came to my head: Chrono Trigger. The map of BOF3 is almost an exact replica of the system used in CT, except in this case Ryu is a little bit larger as he walks across the screen. The field graphics look almost the same too, except for the rotation of the screen, which I'll get to later. The battles start almost the same way, with no change to a battle map, where the monsters pop up in front of you. The best part about the graphics are, of course, the dragons. The dragons can be huge and give off a very ominous feel. Many of the bosses follow this trend, but some of the bosses look a little too cutesy.
One problem that BOF3 has that bugs me more than anything is the dialog boxes. When a character speaks, the dialog box will give either two or three lines of text, though the amount given never seems to follow any pattern. The character could be giving an hour long speech, and all you'd be able to see is a mixing of two and three lined boxes. Luckily, the translation in this game was far better than any of the translations Square gave to the other two BOF games. Very few words are misspelled, which keeps the dialog moving smoothly.
The battle system is relatively unremarkable, using the same turn based system featured in previous games. The dragon morphs are interesting, in that many different combinations of genes leads to many different monsters. On the other hand, most of the enemies in the game don't pose much of a challenge. Some gene combinations make the game far too easy (case in point: The Force gene, which makes a superpowered form of Ryu without taking much magic away), though some of the bosses are still difficult even with the genes. The most interesting thing about the battle system is the set of attack sounds the characters make. Whenever a character attacks, casts a spell, dies, anything, the character will give off a unique sound. The sounds range from high-pitched battle cries to agonizing screams as the characters meet their maker.
The rotation of the screen is sometimes a valuable tool, but many times doesn't lead to anything useful. Additionally, the rotation only lasts for as long as you hold a button, and returns to its normal view afterwards. It is used in many situations in the game, but simply turning the camera to see items becomes a bit boring after doing it about 20 times.
In my opinion, the music in a game is almost as important as the plot. Good music can give a sense of the mood in an area, can make you excited at a plot twist, or make you cry at a character's death. Well, BOF3's music doesn't exactly fit those criteria. The primarily jazz music does have its interesting moments, but all in all is just a bit too mellow for its own good. It doesn't give too much of a sense of emotion, which makes the songs seem rather lackluster.
Although BOF3 was not an extremely innovative game, it still had its fun moments from time to time. The character voices in the fighting sequences gives an interesting twist, and the graphics in the game are a good memory from the times of colorful, 2-D games. If a player is ever in a search for a fun game to play, Breath of Fire III would be a good candidate.
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