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Breath of Fire III - Retroview

Mediocrity still persists

By: Phillipe Richer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 2
   Plot 5
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

35-45 Hours

 
Overall
4
Criteria

Breath of Fire III
 

   The first two Breath of Fire games, while not being exemplary showcases of originality or execution, catered to a wide array of gamers with their consistent storyline and decent gameplay. The games weren't bad per se, but compared to other great productions, their merits just didn't stack-up against the competition. The third installment in Capcom's series, Breath of Fire III unfortunately fit this description: nothing horrible, but nothing great to offer either. And unfortunately, playing the game was a medium pain in the you-know-what as well.

   The legend of the ancient Dragon race is back, spearheaded by the young and silent hero Ryu. Many wars were waged in the past against the destructive Dragon Brood and the Guardians, but peace has settled across the globe for hundreds of years. Mysterious forces are gathering, old fairy-tales resurface, and the world's is at the mercy of Ryu's power - a power he has yet to acknowledge.

   Battles in BoF III (Breath of Fire III) are nothing out of the ordinary. A party of three, innate spells learned at different levels, and a plethora of items are your attributes in battle. The only special feature in that setup is the opportunity by every character to learn enemy skills. By selecting the "target" command with an enemy, your character has a chance to learn that enemy's skill. Skills can then be swapped among characters in the camp menu. A big annoyance is that the "target" command serves no purpose other than gaining spells, meaning that your characters will remain defenseless along that process. Battles in BoF III are quite frequent, and quite difficult. You won't be able to afford spending much time trying to learn skills, so you'll probably skip over the vast majority of them, leaving you solely with your innate abilities.


Not the friendliest looking place in the world
Not the friendliest looking place in the world  

   In contrast to many RPGs, where you have many options on how to cream an enemy, BoF III seems to offer very little strategy or option when you're faced with opposition. The only character that can deal decent damage against bosses is Ryu, and only when he goes in Dragon form, using three or less of the dragon genes you found earlier. Regular enemies are also very threatening, and the nigh complete absence of AP restorative items makes dungeons quite fearful. In short, you'll have to do everything in your power to get through a dungeon without using Ryu's AP, which you'll more than absolutely need against bosses. If you don't spend a lot of time learning enemy skills, then your own spells won't make the balance weigh in your favor. Your best bet is to scour the world looking for the many Masters who will teach you skills and show you how to improve yourself according to their personal doctrine. Good luck finding them though, because you'll need to backtrack a lot to meet them.

   The fishing mini-game is reintroduced in a much more extensive way. You can find different rods, lures, and fishing spots to complete your fish compilation. Investing your time in the mini-game seems to be the only way to acquire AP-restorative items, so ponder on it greatly, which I did not do. Another mini-game addition, the fairy village, makes its debut in BoF III, and offers a mildly entertaining diversion to your quest. If you know what you're doing though, the rewards can be stupendous.

   World map navigation in BoF III is done in a very different way than other games. The polygonal world map feels like one giant area, filled with towns, dungeons, fishing spots, and camping opportunities. In essence, it resembles the map of an action/RPG, even more so since enemies can be avoided all together. An exclamation sign will appear above Ryu's head to announce a possible threat. If you don't react to it, your party will enter a small area where they will be faced with random encounters and possible special events. Roaming in towns or dungeons can be a hassle because of the inconsistent camera angles, but menus are decently organized for the most part. The world map really is great though.

   Drifting away from the usual epic and synthesized orchestral sounds, the soundtrack is more light-hearted and jazzy than you would expect. The world map theme is a great example of this change in atmosphere. Some town themes are somewhat enjoyable, as are a couple of event music, but overall it's very forgettable, if not downright annoying. The normal battle and the boss themes aren't very inspiring either. Not a resoundingly bad soundtrack, but lets just say that you won't miss-out on anything should you hit the mute button. Battles are made more dynamic by the good battle cries and spell effects, but that's about it.


When the mini-game is more thorough than the game itself, something went wrong.
When the mini-game is more thorough than the game itself, something went wrong.  

   The plot presents some nice ideas, but there are far too few plot twists to keep us riveted to our seats. There are some characters with secret agendas of their own, and the overly-used "we must battle a God" storyline is actually presented with a fresh spin in BoF III. Although to be fair, BoF III probably started that kind of storyline, well so at that. There is a very small number of genuinely interesting events, but the back story is well depicted in time. Some events drag-on forever, and the awful pacing allows you to forget the game's strongest moments. It's a classic storyline with a few good twists hurt by a terrible pacing of events. Characters lack motivation and originality, and had they even tried. Nina couldn't have been blander, among other characters. Still, my lasting perception of the plot isn't totally negative for some reason.

The best word that could describe the dialogues is tolerable. You know what's expected of you, and what your characters want, but the script lacks emotion and trepidation. The majority of characters exhibit practically no emotions, except maybe for Rei, and sentences are barely adequate. There are a few of good laughs to be had, especially when you encounter that Australian speaking dolphin that has to be translated by a narrator. Given that BoF III is rather old, I'd say the localization is tolerable.

The fishing and fairy village mini-games are about the only things resembling side-quests in BoF III. Obtaining every skills and finding every Masters probably wouldn't drive anyone to play through with the messy battle system once more. You can obtain some powerful items in the infuriatingly atrocious Desert of Death, but that can be done the first time around. Truthfully, once you complete the game (or should I say if you complete it), you'll breathe such a sigh of relief that you won't feel like going back again for a very long time. At about 35-45 hours, your first playthrough should be long enough as it is.


The world map looks awesome at least.
The world map looks awesome at least.  

Visuals have always been a high point in BoF, and BoF III delivers once again. Every location is suitably colorful and sharp, and the world map, once again, is great to look at. The meatiest aspect comes in the battles, which are very fluid and well animated. Since it came out shortly after FFVII's blocky polygons, characters in BoF III definitely look great for their day-and-age.

BoF III is simply a game that I don't feel strongly about. The innovative aspect clearly wasn't part of the plan when BoF III was created. The incessant battling and tedious dungeon treks could rebut anyone, and coupled with the sub-par music and the soul-less characters, the game simply doesn't have a lot going for it. It's too classical for its own good.




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