Breath of Fire III review
Breath of Fire III


Let's start with the characters. Unlike most RPGs, which have the hero as a moral righteousness from start to finish, Breath of Fire III has Ryu more unsure of his destiny. I felt Ryu's uncertainty through the characters around him and through his choices (which is pretty impressive since he does not speak). By not having Ryu speak, the trials of Ryu fall directly on the player. Other characters, such as Rei, are very well written and unique and contrast well with other straight characters such as Nina (self-motivated vs. duty bound and selfless). This creates a nice mix in your characters. Granted, some characters could have been developed stronger, but overall, the group holds up. One of the best features of this game is the in-camp dialogue. Much like Final Fantasy 3 and 7, the character can converse with other characters and discover things such as clues to the next location or input on the characters feelings. However, unlike Final Fantasy 3 and 7, where you have to find an airship to use this feature, Breath of Fire 3 lets you talk to your characters at any time. Your characters will often change their positions in camp to reflect their personalities. This is another nice touch, since Final Fantasy 7 characters were pretty stationary. Much of the beautiful 2D animation helps define the characters, which personally I think we need to see more of!

As far as story, Breath of Fire III is a story of discovery. Right from the beginning Ryu is thrust into a world of confusion. The player is revealed small details throughout the story until all the secrets are revealed in the end, and an extremely hard choice must be made. Most people never comment on the ending, but I truly believe that the last 10 hours of this game are the most amazing and unique plot twists presented to an RPG story. The player is literally going to decide the fate of the world, and it won't be an easy choice. Often, the player goes after the bad guy because he's insane, powerhungry, or vengeful. Time after time we see these same elements recycled OVER and OVER to the point where the player becomes neither intimidated nor interested in whatever happens at the end. However, when one gets to the end of Breath of Fire III, he or she will ask the question, "Who is the bad guy?" Yes, there are slow spots around the middle of the story. Sometimes it seems you just live to run into two annoying unicorns. But I felt the last 10 hours were worth it.

The writing itself is actually pretty good! With RPG fans who think Square has had a recent bone-dry translation attitude, this game provides writing that is humorous (one absolutely must see the dophin scene!) and energetic, but not overkill like Albert Odyssey. I liked the overkill, but RPGs players who don't will find this writing balanced and more to their liking.

As far as gameplay, this game is full of secrets and games, which will often make the player forget he's even on a quest! I have a friend who wants to buy this game just for the fishing! The fishing is very detailed, with various fish to catch, various lure to use, and various fishing techniques to catch fish. However, the control (aside from the fishing techniques) is pretty easy to understand. Thankfully, fishing spots can be found all over, so if you need a break from the quest, you can fish almost anywhere! Much like the wonderful innovation in Final Fantasy 3 and 7's coliseum, the player can trade fish for extra special items, including one that lowers the number of enemy encounters! Very fun! The Master System is the other truly innovative feature. Players can have different characters train under different masters found throughout the game. Doing so increases certain stats while lowering others! No longer must you live with mages with no attack! Even neater is that you can learn techniques and spells too. Aside from these very neat features, there are many other fun side games such as building an engine and making a sushi recipe (I'm not kidding. You actually follow a recipe that you can mess up.) The final innovation is the Dragon Gene system which allows the player to combine genes to create various dragon powers! Players can combine with many different combinations making many different kind of dragons. This greatly improves over previous Breath of Fire's where you learned Dragon forms in a very singular linear fashion. Overall, all of these features will have you exploring over and over again trying to unlock all the secrets.

The battle system is fairly standard, but it's great seeing innovative battle animation! For those unlucky people (including myself) who may never see Grandia over here, Breath of Fire 3 offers great battle animations fitting to the character and progression of the story. For example, Ryu will start off very unsure of himself and thus will swing his sword rapidly and carelessly. Later on he will have a more confident stance. Spells are nice, and final spells are some of the best 2D spells I've ever seen. My only complaint is that some final bosses could have had more original spells than recycling the player's spells. True, one might say that the battle system isn't very original, but originality isn't everything. I was very happy to come to a familiar setup which has always been my favorite kind, turn based. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. As with most Breath of Fire's, battles can be difficult, but nothing some periodic level raising can't fix.

Puzzles are also very challenging throughout the game. Some won't give you much of a clue at all, but be very difficult to solve (the Desert of Death). Those that enjoy a challenging quest, enjoy!

Sound: Again, most reviewers look poorly on the soundtrack. But I enjoyed it alot. It reminded me a lot of Chrono Trigger with a more upbeat style. A soundtrack doesn't have to be orchestrated to be pleasant to the ears, and this one holds up nicely. The sound effects are also very good.

Control is also traditional and easy to grasp. There is the overhead map upon which you travel and enter areas as the story progresses. You can adjust the color of the text window, and the game even has an autorun feature so that you won't have to hold down the run button like most RPGs and suffer a sore thumb. My only slight complaint is in a 3D world, you can't rotate the screen very much, only slightly with the upper R and L buttons. This can be a problem if you need to find something to proceed on your quest, and it could be just about anywhere!

Overall, this is a quest like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Albert Odyssey. Lighter and less serious for most of the story, most diehard RPG fans look poorly on these games because they lack the bash-you-in-the-head impact of a more serious life-threatening quest. This is a game for the RPG player looking for a break from these deep impact RPGs. Being a lighter game doesn't make games like Albert Odessey and Breath of Fire any less enjoyable. I happily passed up Granstream Saga, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Saga Frontier for this game and was happily impressed. Let's face it. The more mainstream reviewers that yell, "Kill tradition!" the less traditional RPGs you are going to see. If you like 2D beauty, a familiar set up, a lighter yet complex quest, and lots of mini-games, this is the RPG for you.

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